The Mitzvah Challenge

Photo credit  Petr Kratochvil

I have found that something really helpful for me is finding things that give me a sense of childlike wonder.  I didn’t get to experience that as much as I should have as a child, but I can experience it now.  And it is very healing.

I experienced it recently at a Yo-yo contest that an acquaintance had told me about.  Wowzer! They do some amazing things with yo-yo’s these days.  I sat there with my 6 yr old on my lap and whispered in his ear, “Look at that! It’s like magic!”

From this experience, I decided that I wanted to be watchful for other events that might give me that sense of awe and childlike wonder.  So I started looking on an “events calendar” on-line.  I discovered that this weekend Seattle University will be hosting a Book Festival on the Search for Meaning.  Forty plus authors will be there, all authors of books related in some way to spirituality and religion.  And it’s free!

I knew immediately that this was something I wanted to do, and started browsing the speaker/author list.  That is how I came across Linda Cohen and her wonderful book 1,000 Mitzvahs:How Small Acts of Kindness Can Heal, Inspire, and Change Your Life.

When Linda Cohen’s father died, she took a “spiritual sabbatical” from her home-based business.  She decided to take some time to grieve and heal.  Somewhere along the way, she decided to honor her father’s memory by doing 1,000 Mitzvahs.  Her husband suggested she create a blog and write about it to help keep track.  It took her two and half years, but she did it!   The blog and the experience turned into a book.  You can learn more about Linda, her blog, and her book at

Immediately, I loved her idea of doing acts of kindness as part of her healing.  Remember I mentioned in a previous blog post that one of my heroes is Admiral James Stockdale.  He was a POW in Vietnam, and one of the things that so amazes me about him was how even as a POW he looked for ways to strengthen and uplift his fellow prisoners.  I decided that if he could do that in his situation, then I could find ways to serve also even in the depths of my pain.  I have tried to do that, and it does help.

So when I read in Linda’s book (and heard in her TED talk) that she would love for this idea to catch on, for other people to “copy” it.  I said, Ok.  I’ll do it!

I’m taking the challenge to do 1,000 Mitzvahs–acts of kindness, small or large.  In the book, Linda shares a funny story about changing a roll of toilet paper in a public bathroom and a philosophical discussion that followed with her husband about whether or not that counted for the challenge.  Her final Mitzvah was to help a local food bank by asking for 1,000 bags of food.  They accomplished well over her goal.  She was/is a busy mom.  All of us are busy too…but if we count small acts of kindness like changing a roll of toilet paper, we can all find time to feel the joy that comes from helping others.

So what do you think? I have a journal that I am going to record my Mitzvahs in, but I’ll update here periodically too.  Who’s with me?

Photo attribution/credit HERE



  1. What a great way to become more mindful of the good that comes of acts of kindness, including the good in us. I agree with her that we often do kind things on a daily basis but don't think about and enjoy that good feeling that comes if we let ourselves think about it. It seems more likely that I might notice those opportunities that I totally miss sometimes. I think I'll join you!

  2. I like it. My wonderful Mother would pick up trash no matter where we were, at the beach, on the sidewalk, in someone elses car, she whould have a plastic bag in hand and clean up the area as best she could. (never saying a word to us kids, and sometimes we would help)love ya and your IdeasCharice

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