My STRENGTH is gone.

our RAOK bag for the homeless.

our Austin RAOK bag for the homeless.

I try and do one daily random act of kindness.

Most days it’s nothing big (holding the door for someone. helping a stranger carry groceries to her car.) & I admit the helpers high *I* get is a strong motivating factor.

That and watching the surprise and joy on the other person(s) face when she realizes something has been done for her without expectation of anything in return.

Following in the footsteps Facebook status updates of many, I decided to do 44 RAOKs in honor of my birthday tomorrow.

Following in Jewish tradition (the highest level of giving being anonymous) I havent shared my RAOK’ing process—except for today.

And only today because I ended up giving away what I r-e-a-l-l-y wanted to KEEP.

Which, I realize, is the point of the 44 random acts of kindness (giving freely) and a kinda big indicator Im a little bit of a selfish misfit at heart.

But Im getting ahead of myself.

A few months back I blogged about seeing this GOLD-man on the streets of Oakland:

gold bike, gold boom box, gold helmet, gold balloons.

gold bike, gold boom box, gold helmet, gold balloons.

I spied him as I sat outside my office and seemed to be the *only* one who noticed him.

  • I asked my Oakland expert if she knew his ‘story’ & she’d never heard of him.
  • I asked the husband to poll his people at Pandora & none of them had heard of him.
  • I asked around the playgroundparents & none of them had ever seen my guy in gold.

I began to wonder if he were a vision of sorts. 

Something only I could see.  (<—-which is a post for a different day.  maybe when we have coffee?)

And then Monday, as I walked to work, I spotted GoldMan ambling ahead of me.

He stopped, parked his GoldBike, and stood outside a coffee shop.

As I walked past I longed to ask what his story was…why all the GOLD…if he purchases new balloons daily or if they’re given to him etc.

He, in turn, spotted my backpack, perhaps sensed a kindred spirit (?), and shouted he liked the colorful spikes.

In true misfit fashion I seized this as a sign to stop and chat.

And I did.

After a lengthy conversation — one I feel intuitively is not mine to share — I told him I wished I had something to give him but I had nothing on me.

(I opened my freakflag backpack so he could see it was, indeed, empty.  He then informed me he had 20.00, needed 40.00 for a hotel room, but now thought he should share the 20.00 with me.)

And then I remembered I had my strength to give.

Wrapped around my wrist was the giving keys bracelet Id purchased & planned, when I was ‘finished’ with it, to pass on to someone else.

And I knew–as much as I wasnt ready to part with my strength–it was time.

For the past few months this is what I needed.

For the past few months Ive needed this.

Im woman enough to admit it was with a selfish heavy-heart (& a mind already pondering purchasing a HOPE pendant) I slipped off the bracelet, showed him how to re-size & told him it was really all I had to give.

He considered the key in its semi-almost gold state, put it on, and cycled off on his GOLDENway.

He's OAKtown unique.

He’s OAKtown unique.


I was left pondering the point of my forty-four random acts of kindness when it really was only this where I gave of something which really ‘cost’ me anything: time and something–however superficial—I treasured.


  • Have you done the birthday RAOK?  What act was most powerful to you?
  • Do you feel RAOK are more powerful when continuous & intentional not merely kindness scattered haphazardly?





The Giving Keys is an amazing group who works with the homeless offering them jobs to aid them in their transition out of homelessness.  This is not a sponsored ANYTHING and I urge you to check them out.


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  1. says

    Pretty cool, Miz! I’ve never done a RAOK for my birthday but I do try to do something at least do the little things each day. It never fails to put a smile on my face for the rest of the day when I’ll pay for the person behind me in line at the coffee shop. When it happens to me I’m giddy the whole day. It feels good to pass it along to others.

    • says

      I don’t drink coffee but a co-worker came in one day with Starbucks and was so happy because the person in front of them in the drive thru bought her coffee. It really does make someone’s day. That simple act, even when it cost only a few dollars, can spread happiness. This is a great story and very inspiring.

  2. says

    This is a GREAT story. I enjoyed reading it and appreciate you sharing. Thank you for helping me start my day with such uplifting spirit. If nothing else, you’ve made me remember THINK about random acts of kindness again. Happy freakin’ birthday — so glad I found your awesome space on the internet :)

  3. says

    This is a great post Miz, loved the story about your gold man and really admire that you gave him your strength. True acts of kindness like this are amazing – the secret to living is giving :)

  4. says

    The reason I went into Psychology was because I find people so innately fascinating. I love when the opportunity presents itself to get to know someone like that. I wonder where your bracelet is at now – and how many time’s he’s looked down at it and thought of you?

  5. says

    well done miz. your random act of kindess has touched me and you did well for what you have done for that man!

  6. says

    what an amazing gift. I sit here, bday approaching, and i can’t help but think of this. I must ROAK. STRENGTH. xxoo

  7. says

    I love reading about RAOK, but this is the best! We found a prepaid parking stub in the machine a couple of weeks ago…

  8. Bea says

    Interesting point.
    I agree that the RANDOM acts are nice but targeted might be better.

  9. says

    Now we’ll have to call you “MitzvahFit”… Good for you, I think that bracelet was like Dumbo’s feather… the strength is within you all along.

  10. says

    I’m teary-eyed and nearly speechless. I think the most precious gift you gave him was your time, attention and caring.

  11. Terry says

    I’ve never heard of the helpers high notion.
    I’ll try this today and each day in Boise!

  12. says

    I love this story. And you’re so right about giving something that costs something- that means a whole lot more than the giving that we hardly even notice. Beautiful lesson.

  13. says

    I want to write so much yet also at a loss for words.. I have said before but as you weave the web of your story, I am with you!! Felt like I was there! Such an amazing writer Carla & such an amazing story all around… I do wonder if you told him the story behind your strength key….

    I think any RAOK is great – no matter intentional or not!

    I did one over the weekend & like you say, you feel so good.. mine was unintentional & glad I was the one cause this lady handed over her purse to me! 😉

  14. says

    Wow how awesome is this! It reminds me of that movie – the Soloist – so touching to stop and get to know someone instead of judging. I find it hard when I see how many times I’ve been duped into giving out money but sometimes its about more than that!

  15. SinnerElla says

    Your strength is not gone, though the physical reminder may be. You are by FAR, one of the strongest people I have had the pleasure to meet. (If only for 30 or so minutes among the chaos of FitBloggin’ 12 that was AWESOME!) Your spirit and convictions and morals are stronger than anything most people will ever know. You are a wonderful mother, writer, and inspiration. You are what SO MANY OF US aspire to be like.
    You. Are. AMAZEBALLSANDOVARIES, Miss Carla Birnberg.

  16. says

    OH MY MIZ! This is more inspirational than any thing else you could have done or given him……and what you have given all of us who read your posts!!!

    Thanks so much for sharing (in more ways than one) and for your RAOK!

  17. says

    so we have a large number of homeless in our area, for whatever reason a couple approached me the other day and said they needed food. I didn’t even pause, just took them in to Publix and bought dinner. I can’t do this for everyone, which bothers me and so sometimes I think we don’t do it for anyone because it feels useless…but in that moment it felt totally right.

  18. SinnerElla says

    And if I had ANY money at all, every cent would go toward purchasing one of the keys from their site. Alas, being currently unemployed, separated, and having absolutely $0 of income makes this a far away possibility. I have, however, bookmarked their site for future possible purchases and I will be adding a couple of their items to my wishlists for all to see! ?

  19. says

    Thank you for sharing this beautiful story and your RAOK! You have inspired me daily and! We all have days when it may falter a bit but it is always there. I am off to look further into The Giving Keys!

  20. says

    Well, I gave this dude at the grocery store two tens for a five, but that was less an RAOK as it was a trick. HE TRICKED ME!

  21. Shelley says

    I’m so glad you’re my friend. this post captures who you are, completely. Love it.

  22. says

    Beautiful story. I admire how proactive you are about your RAOKs. I do kind things, I’ll give change to a beggar if I see one, etc., but that’s not the same as seeking out folks to help. Good onya!

  23. says

    OH how I love you. You have inspired me. It looks like 54 (!?!?) RAOK will be coming up in August!

    Do you do them all in one day?! Or spread them out. I shall commence NOW and hope to finish by 8/14/13. oxoxo

  24. says

    I’m glad you got to talk with that man, and I’m equally glad you’re choosing not to share his story here. I think sometimes it’s good to keep some tales, even if you weren’t specifically asked, closer to the heart than the mouth.

  25. says

    I have chills, this is wonderful beyond wonderful.

    I do RAOK often, and I do follow the tradition of doing so without declaring so. During the cold winters, we drive around with gloves, scarves, coats, warm soup.

    Portland has a large homeless community, and your Gold Man reminds me of some of the more colorful personalities we have in our homeless population. When on these outings I help anyone I can find, but the ones who stick out in my mind are the ones who also want to give of themselves, are full of life!

    Portland recently mourned the loss of one such bright personality – “The Trumpet Man” – Kirk Reeves wore a bright white suit and played the trumpet from his regular spot on one end of the Hawthorne Bridge… he touched many, and many came together for a candlelight vigil when he left us:

    just wanted to share that, he always made me smile.

  26. says


    One friend and one family member have taught me that on your birthday, you should have RAOK for yourself. The rest of the year can always be devoted to others. :-)

  27. says

    I love this. I’ve never heard of doing the birthday RAOK, but now I will most certainly be doing it. And Kenzer too!

    You are GOOD PEOPLE. Salt of the earth.

    Thank you for inspiring.

  28. says

    Again, you’ve taken me from inside myself to outside, at just the right time. 50 is next month. RAOK planning starts now.

  29. says

    I’ve never done RAOK for my birthday, my RAOK are far more random but I love love love this story, and you. Happy Birthday!! I know its a day early but you should be celebrated every day <3

  30. says

    I am imagining your bracelet telling a story. Do you remember the movie ’20 bucks’? It chronicled the journey of a 20 dollar bill as it was passed from hand to hand.
    I LOVE that you’ve been doing all of these acts NINJA-like! xo

  31. says

    WOW!!! I love this post and the fact that you do a ROAK every day and then made a purposeful effort to do 44 in honor of your birthday!!! I’m not good about being purposeful in my efforts to do ROAK but I have noticed that on days where I’m having a rough time, doing something unexpected and kind for someone else always makes me feel better.

    Happy birthday tomorrow!!!

  32. says

    Love this, as always. I believe that you can simultaneously be a little selfish and still 100% selfless. Way to pass your “strength” on to others.

    And I’m a HUGE fan of the RAOK movement. The little things always get me.

  33. says

    I love the idea of purposeful RAOK. But actually doing a RAOK that involves truly giving of yourself, is something that means so much more. And something all of us should do at least once. Imagine what an amazing world we would live in then…

  34. says

    I’m not kidding this made me cry. It’s so wonderful and it inspired me to want to do this more. I just hope the people I choose to help are willing to accept it. People in my area tend to be a little less than friendly.

    But thanks for this beautiful post! Keep on extending that hand!

  35. says

    You are amazing Miz! What a beautiful gesture! Early happy birthday wishes my blog friend. Wish I was in Oakland to take you out for coffee to celebrate!!! Hugs.

  36. says

    I randomly practice ROAKs. My own “rule” is that most of the time it must be totally anonymous. I cannot know the recipient, and they don’t know me. (to the point that handing change out my window to the guy by the freeway doesn’t count. He has seen my face.)

    Sometimes, however, it is the interaction that is the act -and the token that is the reminder of that act.

    Such was your day yesterday. Whenever Golden Guy looks upon his STRENGTH he will be reminded of when someone saw him as a human. That was the true gift.

    Did you find out why gold?

  37. says

    You have shared such a beautiful story here. I love your giving attitude and the fact that you have shared that it is not always easy to truly give of ourselves.
    I HAVE seen your gold man. I actually have a photo of myself with him. I see him in SF sometimes when I am there satisfying my nephews need to visit the wharf while on vacation.
    I’m glad you had the chance to meet him and learn something about him. I’m sure it was an experience you won’t soon forget and I’m sure it did you BOTH a lot of good.

  38. says

    Happy Birthday! I am dying to know more about said gold man, but it’s not my tale to know. I will ponder him today. I have done ROAK’s but not to the level I should. I need to take some energy and ponder how to be a better human.

  39. says

    love this story. I may be getting too old to do that many RAOK on my b’day. I don’t think I see than many people in a day :-)

  40. says

    RAOK is something I think we all need more of. I know for me I have a great feeling even when it is something so simply. The world could use more RAOK!

  41. says

    I loved this story, you are such a caring loving person. On my Birthday I kept wondering what could I do 46 of an honestly giving never crossed my mind (thought of biking miles, or walking miles, etc) but next year it will be my first thought, thank you. Love ya woman for the great person you are!

  42. says

    I’ve heard of random acts of kindness but never in the way you talked about. It sounds pretty interesting and think that it’d be great to start with my kids.

  43. says

    What an amazing story and love that you shared your strength. I haven’t done a birthday RAOK but now I want to make sure I do it next year. I try to do little things but clearly not often enough. Happy Birthday my friend.

  44. says

    What a beautiful story. I’ve never heard of the RAOK for your birthday. Sounds like fun. I had someone pay me a random act of kindness today. I was at the grocery store unloading my extremely full cart onto the checkout belt when an elderly lady shopper behind me in line reached down and began unloading the big things off the bottom of my cart! I was surprised, amazed, and truly grateful!

  45. says

    First, happy birthday.
    Second, what a lovely idea!
    Third, minor quibble: the highest level of giving in Jewish tradition isn’t anonymous. That’s the second highest, as long as the anonymity is in both directions. The highest level of giving, according to the Rambam (Maimonides), is giving someone a job or loan so they are no longer dependent on charitable handouts. (source)

  46. says

    This is the best thing I have read this week! A birthday RAOK is a beautiful idea. I love to talk to people and hear their story. Thank you for sharing this personal story.

  47. says

    You’re the best! What an incredible gesture. I have not done a birthday RAOK but I want to, and I am always doing as many acts as I can on a daily basis.

  48. says

    Way cool! I have not done the RAOK for my birthday, but it sounds like something I could really benefit from! I realize typing that it reads pretty selfish, but giving to others always lifts my spirits and reminds me of all the blessings I have been given.

  49. says

    Hi Carla! What a lovely story! Once someone rang my doorbell and said, “Do you remember the bus money you gave me one day? Well, I got that job!” She didn’t offer to pay me back or anything, but still it was nice to know when you do something good for a stranger. 😀

  50. says

    What a great experience! Definitely encourages me to get out and do an RAOK… Or 30! It’s amazing that you can give something up that isn’t money, and yet means more. Nice work!

  51. says

    I so very much love RAOK and how they bring joy to people. How that spreads. I think it’s fantastic to be conscious of it especially on your birthday. To look for opportunities to help, especially when it may be something that pushed you or something that is not as simple as it could be…it makes the world a better place. My Momma always told me that to be able to make people happy is in itself a gift that should be given freely. It makes me smile to know you do the same.
    Thanks :)

  52. says

    I think the post itself is a RAOK. What I mean is you’ve just very effectively put the concept to the front of many people’s minds, which can only act to help them increase their sharing through RAOK.
    It’s like a ‘good’ bomb just exploded (may sound corny, but I mean it)- and the world needs more of that.
    I know the helpers high you are referring to and hope that those that haven’t experienced it are inspired to do so from your post and those who already do RAOK are more motivated to continue.

  53. cheryl says

    It’s a lifestyle- just as fitness is.
    And it becomes real and easy and part of you when you do it every day, and don’t seek it (or write about it) anymore.

  54. says

    What a great story. Misha Collins has a group called Random Acts which inspires people to do acts of kindness individually and in groups. It’s a great charity and it’s something worth incorporating into everyday life.

  55. says

    I think I could do with one of those strength keys. When I have finished I will pass it on. That is a wonderful idea. x