Lessons from Doing Something Stupid

So, this is the year of doing New Things. And although, as a category, doing stupid things isn’t new for me, this particular thing was.

I hardly use Facebook these days, except to interact with people via Messenger, to share articles, and to creep on people I went to high school and college with. Mostly, it’s a distraction or a handy way to procrastinate on cleaning the bathroom. The other day, though, I was scrolling through my newsfeed and I came across a post by an acquaintance. I sat next to this person during one of my gen ed courses in college, but we haven’t talked since then. However, her post piqued my interest:

Calling out to people who are bookworms, book lovers, and bibliophiles from all walks of life! We need at least 6 people to participate in a book exchange! You can be anywhere in the world. All you have to do is buy a book you love and send it to one person. You will receive approximately 36 books back. If you are interested, click “like” and I will message you all the details. Happy reading! #savetheculture

I mean, I love books. And the culture does, at times, appear to need some saving. So I liked it.

I received a message from my friend a little later. Basically, she gave me the address of the person whose bookworm status she had liked. I was to send that person a book, post the same status, and then give the people who liked my status her address and tell them to send her a book. The chain would continue, and the people who liked the statuses of the people who liked my status would send me books. Follow?

I read it and immediately thought, “That doesn’t sound like something I would do.” Then another voice, the one belonging to the person who’s been watercoloring and doing yoga and learning HTML said, “That’s a stupid reason not to do it.

Now, I’ll admit, mailing a book to a stranger and posting a status on my otherwise dusty newsfeed felt odd. It felt like a risk. It felt, in a lot of ways, stupid. I understood the concept of the thing, but there were so many ways it could break down. But I did it anyway. And then I waited anxiously to see what would happen.

(This next part is in no way shaming anyone mentioned. If you are one of these people, please don’t feel like I’m trying to make you feel bad. I’m not. To each his or her own.)

I got a couple handful of likes on my post. And I dutifully sent them the message that had been sent to me. Some of those people posted the status within minutes. Some of them seemingly ignored it (and my message) completely. And some of them responded. That’s where it got interesting.

One friend was like, “Whoa, intense!” But I basically said, “Give it a go; what do you have to lose?” and she agreed to participate. Another opted out, saying that she had only wanted to participate if it was a small circle of people. Another said the status sounded like a pyramid scheme and had just wanted to find out if it was.

Here’s where I have to pause. It is. It is a pyramid scheme. I’m aware of this. I’m not stupid, even if I do stupid things. (Ooh, now there’s a realizations that’s been a long time coming…) It’s one thing to trust your livelihood to a pyramid scheme. But sending a book to a stranger isn’t going to ruin my bank account or my life. Just because “pyramid scheme” has a bad connotation and just because pyramid schemes have been used in slimy ways before, does that make the entire concept worthless?

Now, you may think I’m dumb. You may think this is a stupid thing to do and I’m naïve for participating. But here’s what I think.

I think I am stretching myself to have faith in humanity. I knew that I might not get a single book from anyone. But there was also the possibility that I could get several. Would I know these people? No. Was trusting the “success” (at least personally speaking) of this venture to strangers easy for me? No. But was it bad? That brings me to my next point.

I think I had nothing to lose. You may think, “Yeah you did, Amy. You paid for a book, sent it to someone you don’t know, and you may not even get any books out of the thing.” Okay, so I let’s say I had $13.23 to lose then. If I even got one book, I would have not lost anything. And, if I didn’t get any books, I got to share one of my all-time favorite stories with someone I’ll probably never meet or even talk to. I don’t view that as losing. That’s kind of awesome.

I think I am facing a fear. I live so much of my life worrying that I look stupid. I stress out like you wouldn’t believe about sounding dumb or making a fool of myself. But I announced to the [Facebook] world that I was participating in “something stupid.” And some people might sit on their smart phones and think, “Oh, wow, Amy is so stupid. Why would she do that?” But who cares? Well, I do, but I shouldn’t.

Those people who bowed out or called this thing a pyramid scheme made me feel stupid. My blood pressure went up and I thought, “Oh, crap, I shouldn’t have done this.” But I don’t think that’s true. I’m glad I decided to do something stupid. It’s not easy to put yourself out there, to try something that might not work, to look less that savvy, to put a little trust in humanity. But I’m glad I did. If nothing else, it’s made me think. And I’ve come to the conclusion that I don’t want to live a safe, polished, look-at-Amy-she’s-so-smart kind of life. So if that means sending a book to a stranger and perhaps never getting anything out of it for myself, then happy reading to that stranger.

Oh, and I did get two books so far. That might be all I ever get. But it was fun to have the mailman knock on my door and hand me a package I didn’t order. To feel the excitement as I opened the box and tried to guess what kind of book it would be. To see the sender’s name and know that I’d probably never meet them but if I read the book they sent, we would share some kind of connection. To know that they took the time to share something they loved with me. That’s not stupid.

So let me pass on the challenge to you. Go do something stupid, something you wouldn’t usually do. Put some faith in humanity, take a leap. Don’t hide behind needing to be perfect or always having to “get something” out of it. I think even smart people should do something “stupid” every once in a while.

And no, you don’t have to pass this message on to six other people.


2 thoughts on “Lessons from Doing Something Stupid

  1. Two books? I’d call that a win! I participated in a dish towel chain letter once. I got one dish towel that had a pig on it that said something about bacon. Made me laugh and I had a new dish towel. Win!


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