Shannon Schultz is a real estate agent, mother of three, homeschooling parent, and active community member in her town of Cedarburg, Wisconsin. Yet somehow, every week for 45 straight weeks, rain or shine, she finds time and energy to perform a random act of kindness for strangers or neighbors.
© Shannon Schultz Get inspired by her incredible Kindness Countdown.
Five years ago, shortly before her 40th birthday, Schultz took a step back to reflect on ways to commemorate this milestone birthday. “I recalled a friend who counted down to her 40th with some bucket list items,” Schultz says. “While I appreciated the countdown aspect of it, I realized I preferred to turn the focus away from myself and use it to do some good.”
In the 40 weeks leading up to her 40th, Schultz decided to mark each week with a unique act of selflessness. At first she did her thing under the radar, but soon wanted to cut through the negative news cycle with some positivity. So she started her own Kindness Countdown, creating a blog and Facebook page to document the experience, inspire others, and spread some cheer.
Flash forward five years, and Schultz is at it again—only this time it’s 45 acts of kindness over the 45 weeks leading up to her 45th birthday. And this round of goodness feels especially welcome as it coincides with the heightened need for kindness amid the pandemic.
Right around March 15, as local and federal mandates to self-isolate and social distance ramped up, Schultz aligned her good deeds with the times and completed her first coronavirus-focused activity. Through her favorite kickboxing gym, Schultz has made longtime friends, many of whom are ER doctors and nurses.
“Because of this, I was aware and focused on the impact this would have on them from an early time,” Schultz explains. “I dropped off shamrock cookies to the hospital where they all work with a note that read ‘We’re so LUCKY to have you caring for our community! THANK YOU!’”
To date, Schultz has completed six pandemic-related acts of generosity and gratitude, one per week since the quarantine began:
“Cookies for the ER staff; crafting and mailing bracelets to brighten the days of those young and old quarantined at home; assembling and distributing care kits for 100 of my neighbors; crafting a large ‘thank-you’ sign and sending dozens of packets of calming chamomile tea to the ER staff during the worst COVID-19 week in Wisconsin; making a paper chain for a medical care worker and her husband (also a medical professional) as they count down to a special reunion.”
Pandemic aside, Schultz has branched out to help her community in myriad ways. Some of her favorites? Using a portion of her real estate commissions to purchase grocery store gift cards and giving them to hungry families. She’s also loved putting together kits for the homeless, building a home with Habitat for Humanity, picking up litter in local parks, and consistently donating blood every eight weeks.
Inspiration comes from all over, she says. “There are always people who could use a little more joy in their lives, and not just during this time of the pandemic,” reminds Schultz, who’s also responded to natural disasters, sent items to military members overseas, and lent a helping hand in the inner city of Milwaukee.
Kindness, Schultz explains, is her preferred tonic for the pandemic (and any) blues. “When feeling anxious/worried/sad/stressed/depressed, the most efficient, effective, and reliable way to cheer yourself up is to do something nice for someone else. It never fails.” What’s more, she often gets to share these experiences with her husband and kids, making them that much more special to her.
“I miss people—they’re invaluable. I miss the sense of community we usually experience this time of year after the Wisconsin winter,” Schultz says. “[So] the care kits for my neighbors were my favorite coronavirus-related week so far. It was fun to have neighbors yell across the street how much they looked forward to planting their seeds, or to say ‘hi’ and ‘thank you’ for the tea.”
She not only loves the direct happiness she’s providing for recipients, but also that her efforts are inspiring others through her website, social media, and beyond. “My favorite thing is when people message me that they were inspired to replicate something I’ve done with their own family, in their own community,” she says of the amazing response she’s gotten from followers and fans. “The ripple effect of the Kindness Countdown, tied with making these memories of doing good alongside my family, is my favorite thing to come out of this project.”
What’s next? “I had a few acts of kindness planned for my remaining 10 weeks that, unfortunately, will no longer be safe options,” she says. “But my mind is always racing and the ideas have shifted with the times.” This week’s agenda includes donating masks to healthcare professionals, and next week is all about DIY May Day baskets to drop on quarantined neighbors’ doorsteps (heartwarming basket contents TBD!).
“I hope when this is over that we all take the simple, slowed-down improvements we’ve made at home and carry them into the future with others we love and miss right now,” Schultz says. “Until then, I hope to inspire others to connect and be the reason others smile—from a safe distance.”