Mommy said this to my sister and me when we were growing up more times than I can count:
"Pretty is as pretty does."
In other words, you can look pretty and get all gussied up but it is your actions and behavior that really matter. She definitely led by example.
Actions speak louder than looks in a number of ways.
One day Margaret Finnegan wrote a blog post about turning 50 and vowed to do 50 good deeds between Feb. 1 and March 1.
I was so inspired by her words that I decided to challenge myself. Fifty seemed like too big a leap, but I figured doing 28 good deeds in February was doable.
From working for free for six weeks one summer in a clinic on the Navajo reservation as a teenager to serving as a mentor to high school students as an adult, I have always been actively involved.
Last month was the true test: Could I really do a completely different good deed for every day in February? This became a happy discipline that made me think outside myself and open my eyes wider to the surroundings wherever I was.
On days when a good deed opportunity didn't present itself, I made online donations to nonprofit organizations.
Here are the 28 good deeds, which I list not to seek approval or compliments but simply to inspire others:
1. Tucked a folded $5 bill behind a can of soup at Vons.
2. Provided pro bono review of marketing materials for a big event scheduled in a couple of months.
3. Waved another driver into a parking spot I was going to take right in front of Whole Foods Market in Hastings Ranch.
4. Gave five quarters to a woman for an hour's time at her parking meter next to City Hall after I saw her digging deep into her handbag and coming up empty.
5. Dropped a $20 bill in the donation box at the Pasadena Museum of History.
6. Made an online donation to the American Cancer Society in memory of my Uncle Hugh who recently passed away.
7. Agreed to do a pro bono writing project for a local institution.
8. Made an online donation to Villa Esperanza Services in the amount of the ticket price for their Feb. 28 A Day at the Races event because I couldn't attend (I serve on the board).
9. Sent Valentine's Day cards -- the snail mail kind -- to several supporters of Villa Esperanza Services.
10. Provided words of wisdom and encouragement to a friend's friend who is having trouble dealing with the new reality of an ostomy bag.
11. Gave pro bono communications counsel to a nonprofit executive director who reached out to me.
12. Agreed to speak to fourth and fifth graders at Aveson Charter School in the near future about Pasadena history and community issues.
13. Donated a few dress-for-success items I don't need anymore to the Acts Thrift Store because my used items are someone else's essentials.
14. Wrote a note to a person in our community whom I admire, thanking her for her ongoing leadership.
15. Donated a Cup of Joe for a member of the U.S. military.
16. Agreed to be a panelist for a March 5 League of Women Voters event about transparency in government.
17. Gave double the ordinary tip to my mow-and-blow guy who always goes above and beyond by hauling my waste bins up my very long driveway to the curb every other week.
18. Made a donation to Mothers' Club Family Learning Center in honor of my daughter Becky. (I served on that board and was president of the board for two years.)
19. Made a donation to Villa Esperanza Services in honor of my daughter Jessica.
20. Tucked a $1 bill inside each of five books I chose randomly on shelves throughout Pasadena Central Library.
21. Brought a plant and a DVD of "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World" to a neighbor who has been having a hard time lately and deserves a good laugh.
22. Gave $5 to Girl Scouts selling cookies outside Vons. I didn't need the cookies.
23. Gave my Peet's Coffee prepaid card with about $4 remaining on it to the woman behind me in line at the Hastings Ranch location.
24. Filled in at the City Hall information booth for regular volunteer Duane Allen who was out of town.
Around the middle of February, a bronchial infection got the better of me and forced me to bed for a few days. My friend Merrilee Fellows said I had inspired her with my good deeds and volunteered to be my proxy while I was down for the count.
* 25. Merrilee picked up some glass and trash on a trail at the Oak Grove area of Hahamongna Watershed Park.
* 26. She made 8x10 prints of some photos she took of a charro and his family at the Loma Alta Park equestrian arena in Altadena and gave them to the family.
* 27. She participated in the Great Backyard Bird Count, which originally she felt too busy to do but did it anyway in honor of yours truly and another friend.
* 28. She took photos of runners in the Rose Bowl Half Marathon and posted some on Facebook for the rest of the world to see.
I heart Merrilee!
In thinking back to the number of times friends, family members, colleagues and others have done good deeds for me over the years, these 28 good deeds in February seem like a pittance.
But this wasn't about repayment. This was an organic ripple effect that started with Margaret Finnegan and continues with a few people who recently have told me I inspired them. They will inspire others.
What good deed can you do today?
I'm not suggesting that anybody must do a good deed every single day; that was a personal challenge on my part.
But if you're not doing some sort of volunteer work by way of mentoring, serving on a commission or community board, helping your neighbors or whatever, why not?!
No matter who you are or where you are, you can make a difference.