Interview: Debbie Tenzer

A few years ago, Debbie Tenzer was feeling overwhelmed by all the crises in the news. But rather than give in to despair, she thought, “Maybe I can’t solve our big problems, but I know I can do something.” She realized that helping doesn’t have to be difficult, or expensive, or time-consuming. It can start by simply doing one nice thing. So that’s what she vowed to do, one day a week. Not every day – she says she’s not that nice – but once a week was a promise she could keep.

So she started a website,, and each week she posted an easy way to help people around town or across the globe. Good news traveled fast, and now Debbie is the leader of a worldwide kindness movement with fellow Nice-o-holics in ninety countries. They’ve sent…

– cans of food to food banks and schools

– notebooks to soldiers who give them to Afghan children

– gifts to foster children whose birthdays are overlooked, and much more.

Do One Nice Thing offers over 100 new, easy ideas for small deeds that anyone can do. There’s even a chapter of nice things you can do in minutes without leaving your desk.

Join Debbie and her army of Nice-o-holics, and give the world some help – and some hope. Best of all, the more help you give, the more hopeful you’ll feel. And before you know it, you won’t be able to stop. I’ve been addicted to this blog for quite some time now! I know you’re going to enjoy this interview with Debbie, and hope you will buy her book, Do One Nice Thing: Little Things You Can Do to Make the World a Lot Nicer.

Debbie two

What made you decide to write your book, Do One Nice Thing: Little Things You Can Do to Make the World a Lot Nicer?

I never thought about writing a book, but Do One Nice Thing members continually asked me for one. They told me they wanted to cuddle with their children and grandchildren, with a book in their hands, and talk to them about the importance of helping others. Pastors, teachers and coaches wanted a book as a guide to doing easy projects with their students and parishioners. Other people wanted a book to help them make a difference in their communities, and have fun doing it with their friends and co-workers. That sounded good to me, so I wrote about 100 of my favorite “nice things,” the people who did them and ways that everyone can help easily and inexpensively.

Do you have more books planned for the future?

Could be. 😉

I must say your blog, Do One Nice Thing, is fabulous! I instantly became a “nice-o-holic.” How has the site continued to touch lives everywhere? Tell us about the impact it’s made.

Thank you! I’m happy you enjoy our blog. I receive about a thousand emails a week from people all over the world, and as the economy has declined, the messages I receive are really interesting. One might think that people in trouble would become very self-focused, but actually it’s the opposite. More than ever, people are asking me how they can help others – and these are the newly unemployed, disabled veterans, teens who don’t know how they’ll pay for college, and more.

Fortunately, no matter what is going on in the world right now, we can make it better just by doing one nice thing. My book is full of easy ways that people can help others for free or almost for free. For example, a disabled vet who wrote to me is now sending cards to recently wounded soldiers in the hospital. Teens are forming their own Do One Nice Thing Clubs at school and at church, bonding as they collect cans of food or used clothes for people in their communities. Teachers all over the U.S. are coordinating projects to collect pencils and notebooks to send to our soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan to give to the local kids so they’ll have a better future. The list goes on and on.

In these tough times, people understand that when you help someone, you give them hope. And the more hope you give, the more hopeful you feel.

What’s the most interesting book you’ve ever read?

There are so many fascinating books: Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln’s Killer (P.S.), by James Swanson, was a nail-biter; Rory Stewart’s The Places In Between, about Afghanistan; anything by Doris Kearns Goodwin or Raymond Chandler. I can’t read David Sedaris books on a plane anymore. The last time I did, I didn’t want to disturb the other passengers so I tried very hard to stifle my laughter. But he is so hilarious that my whole carcass was shaking – albeit quietly – for two hours. My ribs were sore for two days.

Do you believe in writer’s block? If so, how did you get past it? If not, why not?

I believe in writer’s block – and every other kind of block! Sometimes, no matter what field we’re in, we hit a dead end, need to turn ourselves around, and get back on the road.

I have a few strategies that help me. I stop what I’m doing for a few hours or a day. I think of the page as my partner, and I figure it needs a break from me too. I try to take a walk, listen to music, or do something completely different – watch a tv show about archaeology, or a cartoon. After that, a solution often presents itself. If I’m still really stuck, I phone a couple of my friends, and talking with them almost always “unsticks” me.

Where can we learn more about you?

In my book, Do One Nice Thing: Little Things You Can Do to Make the World a Lot Nicer, and on We do a new project to help someone, somewhere each week, and I send out an email twice a month. My emails offer projects, fun videos, stories and more. You can sign up on the site.

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