celebrate kindness

Archive for August 2012

Today I ate lunch at a local fast food restaurant.  Hoping for a “quick bite to eat” I was instantly dismayed when I opened the door to the restaurant and saw the line snaking back and forth, three rows deep.  REALLY?  I thought fast food was supposed to be FAST!  As I pondered the irony, I debated if I should get back in my car and venture into the drive through line.  One peek out the side window told me that I was probably better off where I was.

The line, although long, was moving forward at a decent rate, so I busied my mind thinking about all the things that needed to be done before the end of my work day.  It wasn’t until I got to the second row that I started noticing my surroundings.  The lady in front of me had coupons, and was chatting animatedly with the man beside her about how excited she was to get a good deal on the food.  The man behind me stared off into space, possibly thinking of his own to-do list.  A cute little girl, about the age of six, twirled around and around, delighting in the way her dress swirled out with each spin.  Just another day in a fast food line.

Entering the first row, I shifted my attention to the fast food workers.  The cashier was speaking into a microphone, holding it so close to his mouth I wondered how on earth anyone could hear his garbled orders.  The drive-through attendants were working their station like busy bees, flitting from one area to another, grabbing, stuffing, bagging.  And then I noticed HER.

Petite and dark-skinned, this worker was in charge of preparing the dine-in food.  She wore a standard uniform consisting of a navy polo with khaki pants.  “JAMEKA” was printed across her nametag, announcing to the world who she was in an attempt for customers to feel more connected with the servers.  She worked with speed, accuracy, and skill. Paper plates on plastic trays were filled to overflowing with chicken, biscuits, mashed potatoes and more.  She not only kept up with the rapid succession of orders, but did so with a grace that showed she knew her stuff.  Even when the older lady three people ahead of me changed her order from dine-in to carry-out, Jameka didn’t bat an eye.  She simply grabbed a box and transferred the food, even making sure the customer had napkins and condiments before she could ask.

I knew right then that she would be my next act of kindness.  As she passed my tray across the serving station, I asked her where I might find a customer comment card.  “Ma’am,” she replied, “We don’t have those kind of cards.  You can call the phone number on the receipt.”  You could tell by the tone in her response that I was not the first person to ask for a comment card (and, to be perfectly honest, I bet she thought I had a complaint to file!)

I looked her in the eyes and said, “Well, the reason why I asked is because I want to tell someone how GREAT you are!  You have handled all these orders so amazingly and I’ve been impressed by your work ethic.  Watching you do your job has put a smile on my face and I just feel like your boss, or SOMEONE, needs to know how good you are at what you do!”  The smile that spread across her face was reward for us both!  “Well, thank you, Ma’am!” she giggled, then turned away to complete yet another order.

After eating my lunch, I called the number on the receipt, which was also posted on the back of the bathroom door.

I spoke with the customer service representative, who was overjoyed to document a PRAISE instead of concern.  “We will make sure this is brought to the attention of Jameka’s management team.  We want her to get credit for her great customer service today!”  The phone call alone gave me chill bumps.  I felt like THREE people had been blessed with this act of kindness: the customer service rep didn’t have to deal with an irate customer, Jameka heard first hand how her actions were noticed, and I was practically giddy to share in the joy!

The next time you are eating in a fast food restaurant, take a moment to notice those around you.  Whether customers, casheirs, or servers, maybe you can find one person to bless with a compliment?  A smile and a kind word are free blessings you can share (and you will be blessed, too!)

Have a wonderful Labor day weekend my friends, and celebrate kindness wherever your travels take you!  🙂

Have you ever spent time standing in the rain? How about being STUCK standing in the rain? In a line? Without an umbrella? Not the most pleasant of experiences for sure. Especially when you are doing this with children. Ugh!

On a recent trip to a local amusement park, this was the scenario. A thunderstorm had popped up, catching many guests by surprise. Actually, that’s not really an accurate description. It was more like a torrential downpour from a monsoon that had swept over the entire park. My daughter and I tried to wait out the storm under a sheltered canopy, but there was no end in sight. Realizing the rides would be closed for quite a while (possibly for the rest of the evening), we made the decision to head home.

Apparently everyone else had the same idea. It took us almost 30 minutes just to make our way back to the entrance of the park. Luckily, we had umbrellas, so it was more of an inconvenience than anything else. As we stood in line, patiently waiting for our turn to board a tram to our car, I noticed a woman about my age standing near me, shivering, no umbrella, no jacket, no hat, just a thin t-shirt and shorts. She was DRENCHED! She literally had water dripping off her face, her purse, her clothes… and she wasn’t alone. Two children, both young girls, stood close to her, also shivering in the wet rain.

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There was no hesitation. Reaching over, I tapped her on her shoulder and simply handed her my umbrella. “Here. Take this. Stay dry”. That’s all I needed to say. She smiled, her eyes wide with appreciation, and replied, “Are you sure?”

Am I sure?!? The question seemed so absurd. Here I am with my daughter, two umbrellas for the two of us, and you are standing there with three bodies total and no umbrella. Yes. I AM SURE!! Even though she was already soaking wet, there was no need for her (and her children) to suffer more.

It was such a small act of kindness, I almost hesitated to write this post today. But you know what? No act of kindness is too small. You never know how much your thoughtfulness could impact another person. Whether it be an umbrella in a rainstorm, a thoughtful text to say Good Luck or even just a smile to a stranger… Small acts of kindness make a difference, too.

Be blessed my friends and pay it forward! Have a wonderful week! 🙂

The last two weeks have been a whirlwind with vacations and end-of-summer activities.  Despite the craziness this time of year brings into my life (and the lives of others!) I’ve had an amazing opportunity to observe kindness in others:

  • Two friends posted stories of kindness on their Facebook pages (Click here to read their status updates.)  Amazing!  Stories such as these make me wish I had an endless supply of money to surprise and bless others unexpectedly.
  • While at the beauty salon, I looked out the window and observed an elderly gentleman opening the car door for his wife (in the rain, mind you).
  • Standing in a very long restroom line at an amusement park, the person at the front of the line allowed a mom with a young child to go first instead of herself.
  • People held doors open for those walking behind them (and helped parents, like me, trying to maneuver through an entry way with a child in a stroller.)
  • People picked up trash on the ground and placed in trashcans.
  • Several drivers showed patience and kindness by allowing others to get in front of them in the midst of two separate traffic jams.
  • Coworkers offered to drive when going to the same location for lunch.
  • Two people brought over fresh fruit and vegetables from their garden “just because”.
  • Several friends sent emails, notes and messages just to let others know they were thinking of them.

Wow!  What a blessed week indeed!  There is SO MUCH kindness out there if we just take the time to SEE!

My favorite story of observing kindness in others happened between my two oldest children.  It was the last “official” day of summer break (as I was returning to work the next day) and I offered to play board games with them in the afternoon when the youngest child was napping.  “Today is YOUR day!  You each get your very own “Mommy Time” this afternoon!  Choose a board game, any game you want, and I will play with you!”  Now, if you know our family, you know we have a TON of board games.  Scrabble.  Sorry.  Clue.  Monopoly.  Triominoes.  Mouse Trap.  Checkers.  Apples to Apples.  You name it, we probably have it.  In fact, we have SO many board games that we actually converted one of our coat closets into a game closet just to make the games more accessible to the children.

Having three children with ages ranging 2 to 13 makes playing games as a family a bit challenging.  The older children LOVE having “Mommy Time” for game playing because all my attention is focused on them, and them alone.  I knew my pronouncement of “Mommy Time Game Day” would garnish cheers and excitement from the children.  As both children started thinking about which game they wanted to play, I reminded them that because it was THEIR time, they could choose to play a game with just me, or with me and their sibling (knowing, of course, that they would choose to play with just me because it was, after all, Mommy Time!)

So you can imagine my surprise (and delight!) when BOTH children chose their favorite game and said they wanted their sibling to play as well.  What fun!  We could all play together!  We played three rounds of Twister and one (very long) game of Life.

No one was left out and our afternoon was filled with laughter and joy.  Even when my daughter was crowned Life Millionaire, my son handled the disappointment with kindness by saying, “That’s OK.  Maybe I’ll win next time.”

Kindness in others.  It’s amazing how inspiring it can be.  Just a little shift in perspective can make such a difference in your disposition.  This week I have tried to focus my attention on the GOOD things people are doing and I have to say it has made me a happier gal indeed!

We all have choice.  Free-will.  We have a choice to focus on the negative or the positive.  I challenge you this week to shift your perspective to the positive and share what you see!  Kindness is contagious!  🙂

It’s that time of year again.  School supplies overflow colorful backbacks, tennis shoes sparkle with unworn treads, and back-to-school paperwork has arrived in the mail.  There’s an unmistakable aura that surrounds us now: a mixture of excitement, anticipation, maybe even a little apprehension for what the coming school year may bring.

Packing your child’s backpack for the elusive first day of school can almost be considered an Olympic sport, challenging the mental and physical capacity of any adult.  How many times have you tried to get all those pencils, crayons, scissors, and glue to fit in that tiny pencil case that never quite closes all the way?  Do you find yourself stuffing every zippered pocket and space with small items just to make room for the binders, notebooks, and folders that always seem larger than the backpack itself?  Inevitably, I end up sending my children to school with so much stuff you would think I had abandoned them to the streets with all their possessions in hand.  Backpack, lunchbox, and at least two grocery bags with extranious items like tissues, ziploc bags and multiple containers of hand sanitizer, my children can barely board the bus without a near fatal collision.  There’s just so much STUFF!

This morning, as I was reading my friends’ Facebook posts, one in particular grabbed my attention.  One of my friends was describing how her son took time to get to know another child who was already pushed to the outside fringe of social acceptance the very first week of school.  (You can read her post here.)  We’ve all been there, at one time or another.  Maybe you were the popular kid, maybe you were the outcast, maybe you were somewhere in the middle.  No matter what invisible label you carried, you’ve been there.  You’ve seen it happen either as a participant or observer.  LUNCH TIME.  RECESS.  GYM CLASS.  Times of a school day meant for having fun, relaxing with friends, enjoying just being a kid.  Unfortunately for many children, this is not the case.   Do you remember when you had to find somewhere to sit at lunch (desperately seeking out a familiar face so you wouldn’t be forced to sit at the “other” table?)  Do you remember that sinking in the gut feeling when you realized all seats were taken?  Oh, how my heart just breaks thinking about children having to face this challenge on a daily basis at school!  In the lower grades, some teachers recognize this dilemma and try to help out with assigned seats or creating a buddy system (with or without a child’s knowledge.)  But at the middle and high school level?  Folks, it’s just a free for all.  Good luck with that.

As I think back to all the STUFF I packed in my children’s backpacks for the first day of school, in which zippered pocket did I pack compassion?  Empathy?  Confidence?  Aren’t these supplies just as important as the objects they use to read and write?  What will my children do when they see another child being left out?  Do they have enough inner strength to go against the crowd to be kind to others?  We are all different, after all.  Some of our differences are more obvious, but we are ALL different.  We all have strengths and weaknesses.  Will my children have enough maturity to recognize this and be accepting of all their classmates?

Yes, I do believe I need to go through one final backpack check before loading my children on the bus this year.   It’s never too late to stock up on kindness traits in our children, especially at the start of a new school year.  Best of all, those school supplies are FREE!   I look forward to hearing stories from my kids on how THEY blessed someone else with kindness and compassion.  Here’s to a new school year!  🙂

Saturday morning yard sales.  Have you ever had a yard sale before?  Surely if you’ve never had one yourself, you’ve driven past one or maybe even stopped at one if something unique caught your eye.  Or maybe you are an avid yard saler, planning out your destinations with newspaper or Craigslist ads.  I think I fall somewhere in the middle.  At one point of my life, I was an avid yard saler (even stopped at a yard sale on my wedding day with my maid of honor as we were heading to get our hair done!)  Now, with 3 kids and a husband who has marathon training runs on Saturday mornings, I rarely get caught up in the yard sale hype anymore.

Until now.

Some gals I know sent me a message that they were hosting an “Adoption Yard and Bake Sale”.  Of course the title alone intrigued me.  At first I thought it was an animal adoption event (I do NOT need any more pets in my home!!)  Then, after reading more, I realized it was a benefit yard sale to help a wonderful family we know raise money to adopt another child.  The message was merely letting people know the details of the event, but I couldn’t resist the now-quite-familiar tug at my heart.  I knew I had to perform another act of kindness!

So I spent the week sorting things in my house (“One man’s trash is another man’s treasure”, right?) and I realized three things:  1) I have too much junk in my house.  2)  I have too much junk in my house.  3) I have too much junk in my house.  Bean bags we haven’t used in years.  A lamp that was never big enough to light anything.  Movies.  Toys.  Blankets.  The more items I priced the more items I found.  It was like a treasure hunt in my own house!

Then as I was walking through my dining room, I saw them.  My most adored Charming Tales collectible figurines.  Cute little mice, intricately detailed with such precision you could see the individual hairs poke through on the mice’s ears.  I started this collection twelve years ago with the passing of my grandmother, who had her own mice collectibles.  These mice reminded me of her, kept her memory alive.  But did I really NEED them?

That question stopped me in my tracks.  Did I really NEED them?  Well, of course I did!  They were my collectibles!  I have them because of Grandma!  But wait… did I REALLY need them?  In an instant I knew the answer.  No, I did not NEED them.  I did not need a figurine collection to remind me of my grandmother’s legacy of laughter and love.  Those memories had long been sealed in my heart with every sunrise, rain storm, and flickering light I saw around me.  These cute little mice, which were once so near and dear to my heart, had been transformed by time into painted objects that required a little too much dusting for my busy life.  No.  I did not need them.  And despite the sentimental attachment I had placed on every figurine, they each received a pricing sticker and were added to the donation pile.

By the end of the week I had accumulated a small stack of items to donate to the yard sale.  I priced everything so there would be no additional work for someone else to do.

I even made cookies with my daughter to donate to the bake sale – 3 cookies for $0.50.  We ended up making 16 bags worth of cookies!

I dropped off my items to the yard sale and was amazed by the quantity of STUFF other people had also donated as acts of kindness.  My cookies and collectibles were nothing compared to the other items donated (A treadmill!  Tools!  An entire bathroom ensemble!), and yet I knew in my heart that it was important for me to be a part of this event.  It was truly inspirational to see all the ways this family would be blessed by everyone simply clearing out unwanted items from their home.

So the next time you drive by a yard sale, consider stopping by.  You never know who might be blessed from your purchase!  🙂

Do you know someone who has a newborn or infant at home?  If you are a parent, do you remember those days of sleepless nights?  Being the mom of three children, I’ve been down this road several times and each time I thought it would NEVER end.   I was blessed with children who laughed in the face of every parenting book I read.  “Ha, to you,” I imagined them taunting, “I will NOT sleep through the night at six weeks; I will NOT sleep through the night at six months; in fact, I may not even sleep through the night at six YEARS!  BAHAHAHAHAHA!”

Sleep.  What a wonderful time for our bodies to be rejuventated.  Hours and hours of uninterrupted restoration from the stresses of the day.  Unless, of course, you are the parent of an infant.  Your evenings, previously marked by sweet slumber, are now timed by the clock from one feeding to the next.  If you are lucky enough to close your eyes and drift off for an hour or two, you are suddenly awakened by the shrill cries of a special little someone demanding, “FEED ME!!”  Then, in your bleary state of consciousness, you get the baby, change the baby, feed the baby (not counting the time it takes to make or heat a bottle if you are bottle feeding) then start the cycle all over again.  (And that’s if the baby goes back to sleep after feeding!)

I remember those days all too well.  In fact, just typing the paragraph above exhausted me!  How on EARTH do we, as parents, survive those first few months?  It is a small sacrifice to pay for the joys of having a child and over time the pain of sleepless nights does fade to a weathered snapshot we place in our mental scrapbooks.  But is there anything we can do DURING the process to make it a little easier?

Which brings me to my next Act of Kindness.  A dear friend of mine is living this reality right now.  She. Is. Tired.  I know she would never ask for help (and living several hours away, she wouldn’t feel comfortable with me keeping her baby for a weekend), so instead of waiting for an invitation, I simply made the decision to visit her for an overnight stay and bless her and her husband with one night of uninterrupted sleep.

I arrived in the evening, after dinner time, and told them of my plans.  “Please don’t go to any extra trouble – I can sleep on the sofa!”  A pillow and a blanket was all I needed.  The baby was simply precious.  Big brown eyes staring up at me, little fingers grasping my hand as I held the bottle to his mouth… oh, the joy!  Seven hours and two bottles later, the house was silent as I rocked this little jewel back to sleep, just in time to see the sunrise.

As an extra act of kindness, I decided to make breakfast for the family.  Ham and cheese omelets.  Pancakes.  The works.  It was such a blessing to ME to surprise my friends with not only a full night’s sleep, but a full stomach as well.

What did this Act of Kindness cost me?  A few hours of lost sleep.  The bottles were made with formula they had already purchased.  The breakfast was made with ingredients found in their fridge and pantry.  My friends woke up refreshed.  Restored.  Rejuvenated.  All from a simple act of kindness.

If you see a parent today who looks a bit weary, think of a way you could bless them.  Kindness is free!  A smile, a word of encouragement… such simple things that make a difference.  Be blessed my friends and pay it forward!  🙂

One of the immense joys of approaching your 40th birthday is receiving the mailed notification from the Department of Motor Vehicles that you need a new driver’s license.  With a new photo.  New paperwork.  The works.  Wait… am I using my sarcasm font for this post?  Joyous?  Definitely not.  I haven’t updated my license in years – 9 years to be exact.  For once, I actually LIKED the photo they took (despite being pregnant with my second child – maybe it was that maternal glow?) and I was determined to keep that photo permanently affixed to my license for all eternity.  But alas, the choice was not mine to make.  DMV… here I come.

The paperwork was simple.  Name.  Check.  Address.  Check.  Organ Donation.  Check.  I sat holding a numbered ticket waiting to be called, staring at the clock slowly ticking my life away.   Forty minutes later, the dreaded photo had been taken, and I was out the door free to go about my merry way.  There was nothing monumental or exciting about the task, just another line item checked off my to-do list.

Until today.  Scanning through Facebook posts of my friends, one post stopped me in my tracks.  A friend of mine was writing a thank you note to the family whose organ donation extended her father’s life.  Because of one person’s choice to put a check beside “Organ Donation” on their driver’s license, my friend had another 870 days of life, love and laughter with her dad.  One check.  One choice.  870 days.  WOW.  That is what I call an unselfish act of kindness right there!

Which brings me to my Random Act of Kindness for the day.  I am an organ donor.  When my time here on earth is done, I have no need whatsoever for this earthly body God gave me.  Take it.  Use it.  Bless others.  Give someone else the joy of 870 days.  How exciting to know that even after I am gone, I will STILL perform a random act of kindness!

If you are already an organ donor, celebrate your kindness!  If you are not an organ donor, consider the possibility.  You truly can change someone’s life.

If you would like to read my friend’s thank you note click here.  If you would like more information on becoming an organ donor, visit http://www.organdonor.gov.  Be blessed, my friends!


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