It's rare that we depart from printer, art, or productivity topics for the blog, but in the spirit of giving this holiday season, we needed to highlight something unique. We often keep up-to-date on the latest technology and business blogs, FastCompany being one of our favorites. The other day we came across a story about a man who posted his home address online, asking for birthday cards to cheer up his sick wife. After receiving so much positive response, the personal experiment spawned a website Ask.io, which allows the Internet to fulfill small favors you have.
Putting Your Trust in Strangers
We generally like to caution people against putting too much trust in the Internet. With all the cases of identity theft, particularly around the holiday season, you have to be careful about what information you make public. But this story of Mike Carson, who is the CTO of WizeHive, shows a decidedly more positive side of random Internet interactions.
After his wife was diagnosed with an illness around her birthday, Mike was reminded of a quote by Mother Theresa, who said, "Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love." When his wife's condition didn't show signs of improvement, he built out Ask.io, asking strangers to send well wishes to his wife, hoping to cheer her up. He event posted their home address online. Soon after, cards came pouring in.
At first, his wife was a bit confused. Expecting cards from friends, the fact that people from Australia, the U.K., and India were sending positive messages came as a bit of a shock. But the shock quickly dissolved, as she began sharing Mike's sentiment that you can feel so much joy in realizing how interconnected the world is. She also began sharing the sentiment that compassion rules over negativity in our culture.
The Success Of Ask.io
The basic layout of Ask.io is simple. There aren't any graphics, and the black, white and orange accented layout lets the favors speak for themselves. Anybody can ask for favors, though Mike Carson recommends telling a specific personal story and offering something that people can act on easily. They even have a FAQ page that provides answers the most basic questions, including, "How are feature favors selected?" and "Where can I see past favors?"
One of the stories we found most touching was a woman who asked that her sister with MS who is unable to travel get postcards from all over the world. As the woman said, "I’m grateful for the people who have taken some time out of their day to send my sister a postcard." People from Mexico, Germany, and across the US ended up sending in postcards.
When it comes to the holiday season, it's easy to get lost in a slew of material gifts, the frenetic pace of holiday gatherings, and the quiet reflection that comes as 2013 is turning ot 2014. But occasionally you come across stories like the making of Ask.io that cause you to stop moving and take an opportunity to do something selfless for others. It might be making a charitable donation, volunteering at a soup kitchen, or making winter crafts for a local women and children's shelter.
Whatever you prefer, know that these gestures go along away in brightening up somebody's holiday season. Feel free to share your own ideas for how to give back as we head into the new year.