On a cool day in January, Jared Hoyer spotted some on-duty police officers and bought them donuts.
A week later, he pushed his neighbor’s trash cans up the driveway.
In February, he took a moment to shut a car trunk that had been accidentally left open. And on March 10 he bought his mom some flowers.
Suffice to say, Hoyer has been piling up the benevolence in 2018, making good on a vow to perform one random act of kindness every day for the entire year.
His one-man campaign has been affably chronicled through his Instagram account, where he’s posted daily photos and brief descriptions of his goodwill, each punctuated by the #kindness1billion hashtag that’s tied to OCDE’s One Billion Acts of Kindness initiative.
And that’s how we found him.
“The reason I decided to post on social media was because people were telling me that they wanted to follow it,” he says. “When I was looking for hashtags to include, yours popped up.”
Turns out, Hoyer is a 21-year-old native of Green Bay, Wisc. who currently resides near the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he’s finishing up his undergraduate studies in actuarial science.
Wisconsin winters are sufficient to explain the blankets of snow visible in several of his Instagram photos, and snow is occasionally part of the story.
He shoveled his neighbor’s driveway back on Jan. 3 for kind act No. 3, and for No. 35 he removed snow from a couple neighborhood cars in addition to his own.
As the summer months approach, snow-related favors are becoming less likely. But the kindness keeps coming. He recently hit No. 100 by graciously taking the time to answer our questions over the phone.
So what prompted Hoyer to commit to a year of altruistic acts? He says he got the idea after a friend on Facebook was surveying others about their New Year’s resolutions. After giving it some thought, Hoyer dedicated himself to daily doses of kindness.
“I think it was just the fact that, last year, it felt like you really just couldn’t avoid the bad news,” he says. “I was just trying to figure out how I could help get away from that and put positive thoughts in people’s minds.”
So he began 2018 by initiating a New Year’s Day FaceTime conversation with his sister. Afterward, he posted a photo of the chat on Instagram, along with a nice note saying he’d like to talk to her more often.
From there, he was off and running — buying Girl Scout cookies for troops serving overseas (No. 34), bringing hot chocolate to an elementary school crossing guard (No. 37), helping an elderly woman load groceries into her car (No. 6), picking up trash on the sidewalk (No. 38), sending a Valentine’s Day card to children at the hospital (No. 11).
Then there was the time he won $4 on a Powerball ticket and used the proceeds to buy 11 cans of soup and vegetables for a local food bank. He may have missed out on the $559 million jackpot, but the consolation prize — including the reaction of the staff at Paul’s Pantry — offered a windfall of intrinsic rewards.
“I felt really good for the rest of the day,” he says. “There have been a lot of moments where just that reaction can be such a great feeling and there’s such a value that you can’t put a price on it.”
Of course, not all of his deeds went according to plan. On more than one occasion an act of compassion was politely declined — like the time he was buying gas and offered to let a family cut ahead of him.
“I’ve had a couple instances where I tried to do random acts of kindness and they haven’t worked out,” he says, “but I posted them anyway because it’s not necessarily about the act itself. It’s more about the feeling it brings and what you’re setting in motion.”
Hoyer says he’s determined to complete his 365-day mission, and he hopes to inspire others to consider carrying out random kind acts as well, no matter how big or small.
In that spirit, he applauded OCDE’s One Billion Acts of Kindness initiative, which was kicked off in 2016 by Orange County Superintendent Al Mijares. The campaign has since encouraged the sharing of more than 10.5 million acts through the kindness1billion.org website and a smartphone app.
“I think that’s awesome,” Hoyer says, “because I think that’s how you need to change the world. Even though you can change a lot through small acts, being a part of such a bigger movement I think is great. Whether you know it or not, everyone behind that hashtag is supporting you.”
Including one Wisconsin man who will continue to do his part for at least another 250-plus days, whether it’s returning a wayward beanie or surprising his roommate with fudge brownie bites.
“After the is year is over, I might not be posting anymore, but I will keep doing this in my life,” he says. “Even these little things can make all the difference in the world.”
Don’t forget to log your kind acts on the kindness1billion.org website, or download our free app for iOS and Android devices. And be sure to listen to “Exploring Kindness,” the latest episode of The Deeper Learning Podcast, hosted by Orange County Superintendent Dr. Mijares.