"You've got to accentuate the positive/
Eliminate the negative/
Latch on to the affirmative/
Don't mess with Mister In-Between"
The lyrics above may be from the Bing Crosby and The Andrews Sisters song "Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive," but Evanston resident Ronn Harris has applied them to his life.
Harris, who identifies as a member of the LGBTQ+ community, goes about rewarding people for good deeds they dousually with a $10 or $15 gift card for Starbucks, Subway or McDonald's (although he recently gave a cleaning woman cash).
Back in 2019, "I started doing this because I was changingfor the worse," Harris told Windy City Times. "If you look at a lot of things on television, YouTube or social media, a lot of the language is combative. Even the body language is combative. And I fell into that trap.
"But I knew I was in control of myself, and I needed to find out how to get back in control. I just saw so many negative things."
However, one small thing turned Harris' life around. "One day, I held a door open for a woman, and she thanked me for doing that. That was the catalyst that sent me over. I thought, 'If that interaction can affect me that way, what can I do that can affect other people?' It's easy to say, 'Oh, yeahI'm going to change the world'. But what about the day-to-day situations? You never know how you can affect someone."
Thinking about this made Harris wonder about what else he could do. He said, "Saying thank you is good, but I started wondering, 'What could I do to make people have an experience?' You don't want to give people money.
"That's when I discovered I had a couple gift cards, and I decided to give them away. In the beginning, people would look at you like, 'What are you doing?' COVID was being talked about, and people were a little standoffish. Then, they understood what I was doing and were very appreciative."
With the COVID pandemic, Harris admitted, "I had to change my approach and speech. People had their face masks on, so I had to be [more gentle]. Soon, people realized that I wasn't some guy who was randomly talking." However, not everyone has been accepting, whether it's because of suspicion, profession or even religion, Harris added before coming up with the idea of asking those who refuse to pass the card on to someone else.
However, after he started distributing the cards, Harris soon realized that he was benefiting himself as well. "I thought I was giving to peoplebut I learned I was also giving to myself," he said. "I look for people to give these gift cards to. No longer am I looking for negativity, but I'm looking for [positivity]and I didn't realize that at first. I'm now looking for blessings.
"I really do believe that big things happen through small changesand I realize there are good people out in the world who care for other people beside themselves. We all have to start from somewhere."
And it's not as if Harris is a multimillionaire. He left his job in the airline industry last year. "The point is to think outside of yourself," he said. "It may sound cheesy, but [giving away the gift cards] helps me with my stress and my health."
If nothing else, Harris proves that adage: Actions speak louder than words.