You’ve probably seen the bumper stickers asking people to “Practice Random Acts of Kindness.” The message is good, but how many of us actually make the effort? One organization, called “Thank You Ninjas” is doing just that with a simple mission: to secretly thank the world. How do they do this? By sending anonymous Thank You Cards.
Ten years ago, Sarah Carmichael, who lived in downtown Toronto at the time, began sending Thank You cards to random strangers. Important to Sarah, known as The Original Ninja, was that each card was sent anonymously. For 10 years she had never been caught. Only recently, when the Toronto Star caught up with her for an interview, was she exposed.
One initial concern of Sarah’s was how could she be sure her cards were going to someone who is worthy of thanks. In a May 13, 2004 interview for the Toronto Star, The Original Ninja said, “Everybody has done something, or some good, in their life. Maybe it motivates them to do better and more good things, maybe it doesn’t. But there’s always a chance.”
Earlier this week I had the opportunity to question Sarah, to shed a little light on being a Thank You Ninja.
Ten years ago you began sending thank you cards to strangers. What inspired you to do so?
I had been hearing a lot about gratitude. There seemed to be a growing focus on living a life of gratitude and I felt like that attitude needed to be extended to other people. It was an endeavour to acknowledge people and feel connected to those beyond my personal experience.
How many people did you initially send cards to?
I used to send up to five cards a time, a few times a year. Over the past decade, it’s safe to say I sent upwards of a hundred cards. I didn’t keep track, though; I just sent them when I felt moved to.
Where did you get the names of people to send cards?
Initially, I got names from the online phone directory. It was completely random. I didn’t know a single person I sent a card to. Later, I started to send cards to people in my neighbourhood and community. Those ones often only had an address with no name.
Why send cards randomly, rather than to people you know?
I never sent a card to someone I knew for a number of reasons. The most compelling reason was that I wanted to reach people who may not have someone in their lives who appreciated them. If people were feeling lonely or discouraged, I wanted them to know that they are worthy – I didn’t have to know them to know that. The other main reason was that it was something I did quietly; no one knew about it and I wanted to keep it that way.
Why do you choose to send your Thank You’s anonymously?
The anonymity is the key element to Thank You Ninjas. I choose to send anonymous thanks because there is no expectation of response or reciprocity. The moment is all about the recipient.
What are the most common messages you send?
For years, all I ever wrote was “Thank you for all the good you offer the world.” Now, the most common messages are “Thank you for raising the next generation. It’s no easy task!” and “Thank you for everything you do for other people. It does not go unnoticed.”
When you first started sending cards, did you expect you’d still be doing so ten years later?
I didn’t think too much about it in the beginning. I definitely never thought it would become what it has, a movement inspiring other people to send anonymous thanks!
How did you come up with the name “Thank You Ninja?
I came up with the name Thank You Ninjas a few months ago when I started thinking about how I wanted to share it with the world. Ninjas are masters of stealth. Because anonymity is key, I wanted a name that represented that.
How did your idea become a movement across Canada and the U.S?
I have been blown away by the support I have received. Less than two weeks after I launched http://thankyouninjas.com, The Toronto Star wrote a story about Thank You Ninjas and posted a video of me on torontostar.com. That garnered the movement a lot of attention and exposure and it’s been growing steadily since then. People from all over Canada and the USA have been ordering postcards to send around the world, use in their workplaces, and place in gym lockers.
If some of our readers want to become Thank You Ninja’s, what should they do?
I’ve been excited since hearing about this organization and am happy to say I’ve become a Thank You Ninja. The beauty of it is that it’s so simple and yet can make a big difference in someone’s day, or longer. I urge everyone to become a Thank You Ninja as a way to practice random acts of kindness. As it says on the Thank You Ninjas website, “Together, we can thank the world… and, perhaps, make it a better place, one moment at a time.”