Doing Good With Small Acts of Big Kindness

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All photos courtesy of David Sexton.

It's easy to lose sight of the little things, yet we often credit little things with a life well-lived. So, how does a hat or scarf make a difference?

Carrie Sexton isn't aiming to singlehandedly eradicate poverty; nor is her work devoted to solving complex social issues.

Carrie does what she can for people who need a little extra something, upholding that everyone has the power to do something, anything, any little thing, to brighten a stranger's day.

Carrie started Chase the Chill of Central Georgia in 2012. She plans and oversees the Big Event every January, heading a team of volunteers whose small acts of kindness make a big impact. Carrie and her crew take to public spaces, yarnbombing parks and green spaces with hats and scarves.

The items are free to take, no strings attached. Throughout the year, Carrie collects donations of handmade and storebought hats and scarves. Near the banks and basin of Georgia's Ocmulgee River, Carrie ripples motion into pools of love in a message both simple and profound: she just wants people to be warm.

Winding around limbs, hanging from branches in rainbow displays, Georgia pines knitted in tree bark, spun in yarn. It's a cheery site to bleak winter eyes spotting tags with messages: "This is for you. Take it. No strings attached."

This is no "gotcha" gag, just a small act of love. Warmth is love, grabbed off a tree, wrapped around us when the nights get lonesome, long and cold.

Recently, I interviewed Carrie about her mission to chase the chill:

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What experiences in your own life inspired you to start a Chase the Chill chapter in your local area?
I've been crocheting since I was a teenager, and I love giving people things that keep them warm. In 2014, I saw a picture of a scarf that a kind soul left on a statue in Canada. It had a tag on it that said "I AM NOT LOST! If you are stuck out in the cold, take this scarf to keep warm!" When I saw that picture I thought, "I can do that! I want to do that."

Talk about how Chase the Chill works, and explain its overarching purpose.

Chase the Chill is a wooly random act of kindness. Scarves and hats are collected throughout the year that people from all over the Central Georgia area donate. Once a year volunteers and I hang the items collected in a public place, like a park, for 24 hours. The items all have a tag similar to the one I originally saw explaining that the item is free to take--regardless of income, and without any qualifiers whatsoever. If you want a scarf or hat (or both!), simply take it. It also gives the volunteers and I an opportunity to create a little art in the process.

Your take on your work with Chase the Chill is more of a ministry. Why?
I see this as more of a ministry because I just want to make someone's day a little better. That's it.
We are overwhelmed by fear, anger and despair all over the world. What about doing these acts of kindness cultivates compassion and creates a community engaged in a purpose for good?
I think that performing random acts of kindness gives people hope; that there is still good in the world; that not all is lost. I am very excited to see this movement by the media to seek out the good stories and share them with the world. We need to hear the good stories, too.

Have you later heard from anyone who took the items you and your team placed?
Yes, in a way, I have. One brave lady brought some items that belonged to her partner that she lost to brain cancer. She hung them up in the park herself. The next day she posted on Facebook that she saw a homeless woman wearing one of the hats that she donated and the overwhelming joy that moment brought her.

Do you peek in on the process, as people discover the items?
I have to admit that I do! I always hang around the venue for a little while after everyone else has gone. Partly because it really is like walking through an art exhibit, and I don't get a chance to see the whole picture while everyone is hanging and placing the items. I also love to just watch people discover it. You would be surprised how many people cannot believe that there are hundreds of scarves and hats just hanging up, and they are all free to take with no strings attached.

How quickly does word spread, and how soon do the items disappear?
The word spreads very quickly! We did help it along a little by calling the 2 main shelters in town and asked them if they would let their clients know where to go. There was also some local media attention, so I'm sure that helped as well. Every single one of the 400 items that were hung this year was gone in 24 hours!

What about the actual aesthetic intention of taking time to place the items is meditative, exciting, or special for you?
It is incredibly exciting for me on the day of The Big Event. I am like a child on Christmas morning! I had so many wonderful volunteers this year. I only hung 2 or 3 items myself. It's just inspiring to watch everyone run around, having fun and hanging up the items in creative ways. Walking by and catching bits or stories being swapped about certain pieces, or just seeing how wonderful the experience is for them. It's like seeing humanity at it's very best.

Do you find that helping provide a basic need for those who struggle to stay warm in winter benefits you in your journey of compassionate living?
Oh, yes! It fills me with such gratitude for all the blessings in my own life.

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