How I turned grief into giving
We all remember our first love, and Cole Allen Smith was mine. We dated for three years and even after we broke up a little over a year ago we remained best friends. But then all of a sudden, he was gone. At the age of twenty-one Cole died in a car accident on his way home from work, when he fell asleep at the wheel and was ejected from his car onto the freeway. I remember getting the call at 3am, and, since then, my outlook on life has changed.
A month after Cole’s passing, I sat in my car in the drive-thru of Taco Bell and cried my eyes out, wondering why Cole’s life had been taken so soon, and then it hit me. If I couldn’t make myself happy at that moment, I would do something to make someone else happy, or do something to make me smile, just as Cole did for me. So I decided to pay for the food of the car behind me and told the worker at the window to tell them “It’s from Cole.” From then I started a campaign called “#21ActsofKindness.” This campaign serves as a challenge to me, to Cole’s friends and family, and to those involved in Cole’s Compassionate Community (a non-profit organization his mom and I recently started) to perform twenty-one acts of kindness in honor of the twenty-one years Cole was on this earth. This is how I would keep his love, his light, his smile, and his legacy alive. What a beautiful snowball effect the #21ActsofKindness has had! From paying for someone’s Starbucks, leaving flowers on neighbors’ doorsteps, to donating blood, and even giant beach clean-ups all the way in Santa Barbara, which was Cole’s favorite place to surf. My favorite story is that of five-year-old Olivia, who wrote notes to the soldiers in Afghanistan and donated all of her Halloween candy to them.
Although it might be a while until I see Cole again, I think of him every time I perform an act of kindness. I have learned to never suppress a thoughtful act. Acts of kindness can be given to complete strangers or to those who are closest to you. They don’t have to be big, because even the smallest gesture of love and kindness can turn someone’s day or even life around. I hope Cole’s story has inspired many to give selflessly to those in need, especially during the holidays when we are inundated with copious amounts of food, gifts, and love that are meant to be shared with others. Albert Einstein once said, “Only a life lived in the service of others is a life worth living.” Now go have a wonderful day and start on your acts of kindness!
Want to be more involved in Cole’s Compassionate Community and their #21ActsofKindness? Email us at