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Let's, let's get this party started and we are here with pirate broadcast and I'm excited today to talk about a few smiles a little kindness you know a little bit of just have some generosity in the world around, helping others being helpful to others and enjoying what you're doing while you're doing it. And today I have Michael Ray. Good morning Michael how are you today.
Good Morning brother, I am sincerely thankful for having me on. Good to see you smiling.
Well, it's nice to have a new live resident on the #piratebroadcast. Now you're officially a pirate.
You know it's so funny because we were talking about this because I've been expanding my brand with the pirate broadcast and as I have my coffee mug here.
And I'm looking at the idea because the pirate it's a two-fold meaning it is one it's because, back in the days when you needed permission to broadcast in and announce your name and be on line and do live broadcast if you didn't have a license you were considered a pirate broadcaster.
Amazing never. Well I learned something.
Yeah. And so that's kind of the seed of opportunity that I started this broadcast. Yes pirate broadcast and then also pirates are known to be. Pirates were actually very organized and if you everybody had a job and everybody knew what their job was
Yeah. And you know they had a treasure and you go after it right.
That's exactly right.
You have to be somebody else's treasure.
I guess that's how you're more successful your organized right?
try to get organized. And so I want to talk to you about what is the seed of your your your whole mission your smile initiative in some of the things talk a little bit about how you arrived at doing what you're doing with this right now. So I'm fascinated by this. And you know my one of my tag lines is #smilesarefree and it's like hey it doesn't cost anything to make somebody's day a little better.
You're exactly right. So. So for me the genesis probably really started years ago before I even as you just said being a pirate kind of organized things and really wanted to start making a difference and inspiring others. Was the relationship I had with my 20 year old daughter who has Down syndrome. What's unique about her is that obviously most with Down's syndrome can speak she is non-verbal, now non-verbal to us meaning 98 99 percent of the time it's either gibberish or she doesn't speak. But I've often felt the love and emotion through how we interact in smiles and laughter and really on that journey with her I would always ask her in playful moments you know because I never heard the words I love you which you always want to hear from your children. I've never heard those three words from my daughter so I would ask her you know do you love Daddy. How much do you love Daddy? And it was the moments we shared in which as I was going through challenges in life it was that affirmation but it was the affirmation through the simplicity of a smile. So that had carried on for years. I found myself going through some continued challenges a couple of years ago and it kind of then you know I had a moment in which I was able to take this moment in kind of marry it with where I was in my life with my relationship with my daughter and that moment happened to be of all places going through a fast-food drive-thru in which you know as we do in the course of our daily lives,
you know we don't realize that most of the time as we're navigating through the city and doing things we have these short interactions with other human beings and that particular late morning as I was rolling through the Wendy's. That interaction touched my heart. It touched it enough that I actually pulled, into a parking spot and I guess I had an epiphany where I really felt like you know if you have faith in your life that God was trying to tell me something and I was like what do you want for me. And I wept and as I took a couple of minutes to reflect on that.
I felt compelled to get out of the car and go back to the window to tell the girl what that interaction meant to me. So I did. You know I laugh about it now. I guess that was that creepy dude. I mean you never really want to be the guy walking back to the drive-thru but I did I was waiting for the cars to pull through I walked up to the drive-thru window and of course, her natural reaction was what's wrong. And then I was like Well that's the beauty in this absolutely nothing is wrong.
But I felt compelled enough to come back and tell you to thank you, thank you for that short less than 1-minute interaction. Brought some beauty the smiles and laughter and energy to my day.
So at that point, I didn't know what to do after complimenting her. I said I feel compelled to take my picture with you. So I did. I actually held the camera up right there at the drive-through and took a picture with Shantrell.
And you know at that point even though my journey was smile project Louisville started there was no name I really didn't know how I was going to organize it. It was just you know a moment in which it made a difference in my morning so as I had an opportunity to go home later and kind of reflect on it I said OK you know what. That made a difference in my day I'm going to start taking pictures with random people throughout the city. And that's the journey I started going OK. If my daughter can make a difference in my life smiling I'm going to start smiling with random strangers throughout the city. And that carried on for about six weeks and then it kind of hit me going Well this is some kind of smile project I kind of really mulled over the name only because I didn't you know for me there wasn't going to be finality and sometimes when you think of project it's like OK there's a start and an end date but there wasn't and then you know Louisville happens to be I say one of the biggest small cities in the country it's kind of a hidden gem. Oh.
Even though I had aspirations of going this could be much bigger than Louisville I stayed with Louisville because of what it has meant to me and my life. So that's what it was like called it smile project Louisville. I continued navigating throughout the city taking pictures of random strangers and really as I introduced myself and gave them my elevator pitch. I told them you know I was trying to really spread love through changing attitudes and behaviors through smiles and I would tell them briefly about my daughter and you know I'll always ask them for a couple of really cool things about them. So then when I posted my pictures on social media somebody would learn something about a stranger and they would see two total strangers hugging and smiling so you know that carried on for about the first year until you know and really I have a couple of taglines the first thing is you know "be the reason someone smiles today" and that you can also "be so happy that when others see you they become happy too".
So I decided that I was gonna be a little bit more intentional now and I was going to introduce kindness that we were going to deliver smiles through random acts of kindness and never knowing you know kind of as my platform and the ability to inspire, you know, and really touched the hearts of so many strangers. As we were growing and really gaining momentum never knowing the element of kindness and really the impact it could have on others.
It's amazing and a lot of you know what we do wraps around actually giving small gifts to strangers. But I tell people you know kindness is free. It's again you know when you talk about the simplicity of a smile it's the simplicity of the Act in which you know it's holding the door for another human being.
And you know then you could choose to smile and say hello. It doesn't mean you have to have a 20-minute conversation with somebody. But again I'm just engaging with people to let them know on some simple level you care.
And it's the simplicity of it that really makes an impact it's the uncomplicated transaction of here is some generosity for this moment or just an act or a smile or just something to make your day a little brighter. Like you said it doesn't have to be it doesn't have to be complicated. It could be opening a door. It can be you know moving a shopping cart out of the way. That's one of the things that I always go back to is like you know the parking lot is full of shopping carts if we just took one back with us that wouldn't be that big of a deal, you know we would be helping a few people right.
You know and you're right in a lot of times we think of kindness that it actually has to be you know something when I say more value it's money related but more often than not it has nothing to do with money. You know as we navigate through you know through our daily lives and the ability to make people smile through these random acts of kindness exist every day you know in our lives.
And one of the things that I find so fascinating is that because we're on social media and there are so many things to distract us with, that it's oftentimes you know the people we care about most are the ones that are searching just for our time. It's now certainly more than that. You know and with your daughter it's you know she's just she's full of joy, just being your daughter you know just being there and I know that you know we all have struggles we all have challenges in life and, if you have someone around you that you know will accept you for what you are and who you are and you are fully engaged in the opportunity to have some time together. Yes, that is a huge benefit. And you know I always say every day is a gift. You know every single day is a gift and we don't know you know tomorrow is not promised and we don't know when you are. Our time is over. So we have to understand that there are people out there aching in starving for just a little bit of time. And you know you can actually you know find a way to provide people with that every day or you know surround yourself with that.
Yeah I mean you said something that you know that makes total sense and that is you know kindness does really start at home. It starts with your family starts with your friends and you know when you brought in my daughter for me and that's you know as I have shared the smiles and the kindness and my relationship with my daughter I've tried to really want to call it preaching but just to inspire people to understand. And here we use the same term again simplicity. Now you know we have a tendency in life to really overcomplicate things and when we do that we find stress we find all of those emotions and I've never seen that in my daughter. You know she has you know she'd been given this gift through this disability that even though she can't communicate with really other human beings outside of her smiles that she finds joy and happiness, in just the simplicity of life.
Yeah yeah. There is a lesson for all of us in that there's a lesson in that and it is just amazing to watch in and like the people that are joining us here you know Michael I mean I just want to give a shout out to everybody out there. Because I have so much gratitude for everybody that comes and listens to these conversations.
Rachel thank you. Good morning. GABRIEL I always appreciate you being here. Wendy thank you so much. Vicki, I love that you're here. I listened and I listened to Zach's Episode 51 yesterday we're talking about Zach. She has a podcast Vicky O'Neill has a podcast. Arcot, Yeah. Namaste Arcot. Sheri Lalley. Glad you're back. Your starting to feel better, I hope you well and also you know this is what it's about Lori Knutson. Good morning. I love having Derek Monroe, also Kenyatta. Thank you, Kenyatta. You're awesome. Appreciate you.
And if you're not connected to Michael connect with Michael tell him Russ sent you so you can actually have a few more connections there Sherry there is another Sherry Filsinger your daughter's beautiful person she says
These are some of the things that the simplicity of all this Michael is is what I really love and enjoy and you know I, I'm here in Arizona and I'm you know helping my parents out.
You know my dads 91 has dementia and my mom's you know got some health issues she's 83 and I moved from Texas to be here. I have a son in Houston and it's really about you know enjoying the people you have around you and the fact that when you wake up in the morning, and you're here and you know you have the basics of life and it's and there are so many people that are hurting right now and if you turn on the news and watch anything you know there's nothing worth saving. And it's just like let's overwhelming. And so it's not to ignore it.
However, let's acknowledge it with a bit of kindness. Let's acknowledge it with combating this, you know bad news all day with something that is going to make it matter even if it's just one or two people a day. And so what's the longer-term goal for the smile project Louisville and how do you see this evolving or is it just is it something that just kind of moving along at its own pace in its own rate. because I've seen some of the videos you know you're giving gifts and the release of the balloons and you know some of that stuff it really touched my heart.
And I want to know how people can get involved or engaged to the degree that they can or what. What kind of structure do you have in place like that?
That's a great question. You know I think the first 14 months you know I started in, I guess it was like early April 2018 as I was taking pictures before I really started introducing that kindness element which was late last summer. It was just casual slow momentum.
You know that.
I guess the one thing that I've learned on this journey and that I'm going to answer that question and that is one person can make a difference.
But I was patient. I used to tell people on my journey I used to be one of the most impatient human beings on this planet.
And I think the mortgage industry I guess in the industry for a long time but yet again I often talk about the things that I have learned from my daughter. Yeah.
And that's something else. Patient. So as far as the direction we're going, I guess I never knew then that that momentum where maybe we went from crawling to a casual walk,
would actually start running and sprinting and a lot of them had to do when I made a decision to try a random act of kindness, you know and then kind of share with the world and then it's really picked up some steam and then I guess in the back of my mind I thought that if they ever got big enough we would turn into a non-profit. So I have all these really good problems now to where I'm trying to figure it all out but I probably should try to figure it out six months ago. So I can't lose you know the will and the love to inspire people. But people keep reaching out so it's having the conversations now of turning into a non-profit so people and companies can get involved on a bigger level. It's like why don't I have a Website, but that was never really you know some of these things were never really the end game it was sharing the relationship I had and really trying to inspire and change one person at a time. So it's now trying to do these small things and never really thinking that even though I had a presence on LinkedIn up to three or four months ago I was a virtual nobody you know because I really focused a lot of my time and energy more on you know Facebook and Instagram. Even though that platform existed and I occasionally posted things but it was more professional and then I realized and started consuming a lot of incredibly valuable content, you know from people like yourself that started really inspiring me and that's the beauty of LinkedIn, that I was like this is slightly out of control.
So a lot of it is really now trying to figure that out at first all of this was self-funded. So when I would go do random acts of kindness that I would give strangers you know 50 or 100 dollars it was me but then as people will see this locally they're like how do I get involved. Hey if I send you 50 bucks can you go to so-and-so because they're you know they're struggling you know.
And I often tell people you know we smile because life's hard, it's not easy. You know so I'm really actively trying to figure out how I deliver the smiles to people who are not as less fortunate.
You know that they don't need money. You know so it's continuing to evolve and these are great opportunities. You know as I've connected with people on LinkedIn and as I meet with strangers around town to sit down, I just try to take one idea every time connect one more dot to build something incredibly special.
And I think you have it's unique because there are a lot of people that are willing to share and they just don't know how to do it. Sometimes people need permission and they need an example like yourself to say I don't know if I want to put myself out there and they see you putting yourself out there and maybe they'll say hey Michael here I want to share this with you so you can help someone else. I don't know who it is I don't. It doesn't really matter who it is. I just want to share this with you so you can go deliver it to somebody to make an impact on their life.
It's OK to be vulnerable. Yeah, I'm here to make mistakes. You know look none of us are perfect. I decided for the first time because as I've done now dozens and dozens of random acts of kindness I sometimes have to decompress because of the moment, really moves me and I had when recently I went and took balloons and a gift card to a young lady with Down's syndrome,
and I didn't cry at the moment but then when I got to Starbucks and I was put it all together and I really had a chance to watch it again for myself I started just sobbing, absolutely sobbing and I knew at that moment I wanted to be vulnerable and put it out there because it's OK to cry you know when these moments move us now. You know it's it's a beautiful thing.
It's a beautiful thing. It's a beautiful thing you know and I know yesterday I had a hard day. Yesterday was hard. I recently lost a son to suicide in and so it was his birthday you know.
And that's part of the reason that's a part of the motivation that I have in my life is the fact that life is short and you don't know how long you're going to have it. And so this has made a difference in people's lives and I just want to applaud you and I want to commend you for doing what you're doing. And we all have an innate ability to help others and we have to find that vulnerability and the opportunity to actually be, in place and do what we feel is necessary at the time in order to accomplish those goals and help others. I mean it doesn't cost us anything that you know like you say smile going to the grocery store lift something off the top shelf for somebody that's you know not able to reach it. It doesn't. It could be simple things at best. I think to make it so complicated like you said it doesn't necessarily require a non-profit to help someone on the street.
It really doesn't I know if people asked me to because I've got to a point within this community that, I'm a little more recognizable now because thousands of people you know locally so one of the first questions I get asked when I run into somebody is when don't you smile you know. Do you find those moments that are hard? Of course, I do I find those moments I'm a human being.
Yeah but I do find myself because you know again a lot of times we talk about that mindset is that I've just created this mindset where maybe at first it was more intentional with strangers and now it's just natural. You know so for me even if I don't take a picture. It's like checking out at Kroger's it's a local grocery store I'm going through a self-checkout and as I turn when the lady who works at that area looks at me I find myself giving her a high five or a fist bump and then she smiles. Again you know It's not even about taking the picture but has a moment she likes Who is this Goober. We're just laughing but again it's just the ability from one stranger to another, yeah to just make a small difference and, as I've told people and part of the reason why I started is that we don't know what those strangers are going through with life,
No, and that small interaction or having someone else observe that small interaction can make a difference in their day that could make a difference. And I believe in this whole idea that we're all connected. I mean we're all connected and that's certainly an effort and that that that investment in and making someone else a little bit happier today is going to travel. You know it's traveling right now and it just like this conversation you know we have an opportunity. You know I don't know there's probably a few people here watch you today and you know I don't have thousands you know I'm not a big political or you know celebrity or anything like that, however, if we make a difference in somebody's attitude in how they go throughout their day and they think about OK how or what can I do to contribute and the seed is planted you know so it's like let's water it a little bit let's watch this grow. And just because you don't know where you're going right now doesn't mean that you can't carry other people along with you down the road.
You're exactly right. Yeah, you're right. I often tell people too. Thankfully that I feel like I am blessed with a personality that I don't really have many comfort zones you know.
So with that being said my heart is open to constantly engage with strangers and sometimes that's hard for people you know that may be introverts and opening up.
But again it goes back to that one person making a difference and you know just saying hello smiling. You know it's all these simple acts that we do through the course of our lives. In.
It's every day
Vicki O'Neill asked a great question and I want to talk about this before we get away here Michael, because there I think there's a lot of people choose not to smile and.
And for myself and my experience I know there's a lot of people that are either bitter or cynical.
Very much so.
And I think that you know they've been hurt in some way and those are the ones that need the most kindness because they have they've just made a decision to be bitter rather than better.
You know anytime something happens to us we have an opportunity to either you know to learn from it or own it and have it to us up on the inside
Most certainly. and it can chew you up at it.
Yes absolutely I've seen it firsthand and it's tragic and it's toxic and I as much as I love people sometimes in that situation I have a tendency to avoid a lot of toxic people at you know for extended periods of time because it's I don't think it's healthy.
Well no you're right. And look the reality of it is I often say you know smiling and kindness is contagious but so it's toxicity. You have to continue to put yourself in that environment you're going to grab ahold of it at some point. You know it's going to start to become you.
So yeah it's not worth it. Life is too short. That's the way I look at it life is to short to be bitter. Let's be better and let's share that with other people and share a few free smiles. Right.
They are Free brother. FREE. I can take one down pass right now out and the next thing you know I got another one all over my face.
It is you know it's the beauty, you know I'll go back to the same grocery store. I had a situation a couple of months ago as I was walking out and again you know for me a lot of this is faith-based and I feel like I'm getting taps on the shoulder by the Holy Spirit tried to talk to me and as I was at the parking lot I happened to look over and I see these two African-American women chatting, and I said Oh my God what do you want me to do, do you want me to go up and say hi. Give me a high five. You want me to go up take a picture and all of a sudden as I walked up.
Within those few seconds, all it was is that I put my arm around a total stranger and I looked her in the eye and I said when's the last time a white guy put his arm around you.
And then she looked up at me and she said never and it's about damn time. And then she looked back at me and smiled and laughed and goes. And at least he smells good.
And truly I gave her my name and I and I said thank you and walked away. And it probably wasn't even 30 seconds but it's just you know I feel like I have this ability I mean God has blessed me with an opportunity, to touch people's hearts and I don't know what journey that lady and her friend were on but you know it's OK
And to change the trajectory of their day for sure and not just for you to tell forever
Because you know she's going to go home or go you're never gonna guess what happened in the parking lot of Kroger's.
Oh, that is. That's a beautiful story. It's so Michael nice to meet you.
It Touched me to you know the ability to connect again regardless of skin color you know just to connect with other human beings you know that's why
I'm one of those people that starts a conversation in the line of the grocery store. I'm at Kroger talking to strangers.
I'm very bad. I'll look up to the person and say "What's up" It's like a tabu. Like you're in an elevator.
You know there's no reason not to start a conversation and people begin to like social anxiety in a place like just bam the same sunshine landed on me.
That's all it is. And you know it was a few weeks ago I was in Boston and I was in an Uber and as my son and I were getting out you know I took a moment to process it but it was like This is so true. The guy turned around and smiled at me and said: "Have a nice life". And I got in the car a lot of thing and I looked at my 13-year-old son I'm like You know what.
We'll never see that guy again and I really appreciate that. Have a nice life.
Yeah exactly. Yeah well, Michael, this has been a pleasure and honor and I'm so grateful for you taking the time out of your day and sharing a few smiles, a couple of stories and a little bit of laughter today just to brighten the day up a little bit more. And so if there's one thing you want to leave with people today you know to plant a seed share the message what would it be today.
I think the biggest impression that I'm trying to make to people now is going back to the singular thing and that is one person, one person can make a difference because it's you know I'm blessed that I have a platform now that I can spar hundreds or thousands. But really it's about touching the one other human being. And if one person can do that and then it's the ripple effect. So one person can truly make a difference.
Thank you so much.
Thanks for having me on, I really appreciate it.
Yeah. And all the gratitude in the world for everybody that joined in. Wendy, Arcot, Sheri, Lori, Angie, Gabriel all of the people that show up every day and support the #Piratebroadcast all the gratitude in the world and it means a lot to me. And I want to make sure that I continue to share these messages and these conversations because it's important and go about your day because
And Michael you enjoy your day.
We love you.
Love you back now. Take care brother.