Be a good egg today. No, really

John Faherty, jfaherty@enquirer.com

The idea is simple and elegant. But mostly simple. The premise is this: If somebody decided to make you a sandwich, just for no reason at all, it could change the direction of your whole day.

I mean, who doesn't like a nice sandwich?

That is the concept behind an art show tonight, and on a larger scale, the idea behind the host of the show.

Let's back up a little bit. People's Liberty is a new kind of philanthropy that started this year and is intent on making the entire region better and more liveable and more pleasant by investing in individuals. This is actually a fairly radical idea in the philanthropy world because most well-intended money goes to well-intended organizations or programs or museums or parks or whatever.

The idea for Good Eggs was hatched by Jason Snell's wife, Sara Bedinghaus. They found old vending machines and had them rehabbed. Inside, they've placed plastic eggs with a message and a prompt to do a good deed. The machines are either .25 or .50 cents. You also get a small badge to show you’re part of the movement. (Photo: The Enquirer/Liz Dufour)

People's Liberty gives its money to a person with a good idea. Like to the people behind Good Eggs.

Tonight, People's Liberty will open its doors on Elm Street across the street from Findlay Market in Over-the-Rhine. The organization has existed for a while, but has been waiting for its building to be finished. The building opening will coincide with the installation of Good Eggs, which a perfect example of art-meeting-mission.

Good Eggs, funded with a Globe Grant by People's Liberty, is the work of Jason Snell and Sara Bedinghaus. They are married to each other and are so civic-minded that they once stayed up late wondering how they could make their city better. Like, actually staying up and talking about it.

"Sara and I were kicking around projects we could do together," Snell said. "She is really civic-minded and I wanted it to be fun."

Shortly after that late-night talk, they heard People's Liberty was looking for interesting civic-minded projects to fund. So Bedinghaus and Snell hatched (I waited as long as I could) this idea called Good Eggs. Using People's Liberty grant money, they bought a bunch of old vending machines, and some plastic eggs, had some buttons made and then created hundreds of "challenges." These challenges are not difficult and boil down to just being kind. Even to a stranger.

Starting tonight at the Globe Gallery, people will be able to walk up to a vending machine, insert a quarter or 50 cents, and get an egg. The egg will have a small piece of paper – think fortune cookie – that challenges the egg opener to do a good deed. There will also be a pin for the person to wear declaring himself or herself a good egg. A pin and a prompt.

For the next three months, the machines will only be available at the Globe building on Elm Street, across from Findlay Market, but Snell is hopeful the idea will catch on and can spread to other areas. (Photo: The Enquirer/Liz Dufour)

"We like the idea that you pay. Even if it is only a quarter, now you are invested," Snell said. "And, with the pin, you are part of a movement. So you are more likely to do the good deed."

The money will go into keeping the machines running properly. At the end of the three-month exhibit, the money will be used to bring the vending machines out to neighborhoods.

Bedinghaus, a senior development officer at 3CDC in her day job, said the best part about the project is that she and Jason were inspired to spread goodwill and kind action in the community and by doing so they became the recipients of good will and kind action.

"We have had so many people come and help us," Bedinghaus said. "They come after work, they come when they are tired, they have been so helpful."

The hard part, at first, was finding good challenges for people. "Help your older neighbor with her groceries" is very kind, but not really original. But then more creative and whimsical ideas for the challenges came in.

One says "Call your stepsister." This works, even if you don't have a stepsister. "Maybe you don't. Probably you don't. But maybe instead you get the idea to call your brother," Bedinghaus said. "These ideas organically lead to other ideas."

Wednesday, March 25, 2015 Jason Snell, founder of “We Have Become Vikings” design firm in Over-The-Rhine, works on his newest project, Good Eggs. The idea was hatched with his wife, Sara Bedinghaus. They found old vending machines and had them rehabbed. Inside, they have placed plastic eggs with a message and a prompt to do a good deed. The machines are either .25 or .50 cents. You also get a small badge to show you’re part of the movement. For the next three months, the machines will only be available at the Globe building on Elm Street, across from Findlay Market, but Snell is hopeful the idea will catch on and can spread to other areas. The Enquirer/ Liz Dufour (Photo: Liz Dufour)

Some say: "Buy somebody a doughnut" or "Compliment somebody's hair." Bedinghaus is fond of "Leave a thank you note to your mailman."

She likes it because it is simple and fast and costs nothing. It will make your mail carrier happy. Maybe then he or she does something nice for somebody else. It can continue on. Or maybe it doesn't. Maybe your mailman just thinks you are a little bit kooky and a little bit kind. Isn't that enough?

Each year, People's Liberty will issue three Globe Grants for installations on the first floor of their building. These vending machines will be the first. That was not by accident, according to Jake Hodesh, People's Liberty's vice president of operations. "Good Eggs spoke to what we are trying to do in terms of civic engagement," Hodesh said. "They are challenging people to be better."

People's Liberty was conceived and funded by the Haile Foundation and the Johnson Foundation. Everybody involved in those organizations knew Bedinhaus and Snell would be able to work in the building while construction workers were finishing the actual structure.

On Thursday, it looked like a construction site inside a construction site with everybody a little frantic. "We knew it would not be easy, but knew they could handle it," Hodesh said.

It turns out everybody was a good egg. Apologies.

Jason SnellComment