celebrate kindness

Archive for January 2013

For Random Act of Kindness #3, I honored the memory of Lauren Rousseau, a substitute teacher for Sandy Hook Elementary.  As an educator myself, I can appreciate the valuable service substitutes provide for occasions when the regular classroom teacher has to be absent from class.  Their job is one of the hardest in the educational system, in my opinion.  They have to be flexible, open-minded, quick on their feet, and deal with unexpected circumstances all day long.  With a humble heart, I decided to take the time and say “Thanks” to an unknown substitute teacher!

I decorated a coffee mug with a silver sharpie and filled it with chocolate “Bliss” candies.  I also included a Thank You note with the surprise.

IMG_4608(The mug says “Super Substitute” all the way around the outside.)

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I took my goodies to my son’s elementary school (on a dreary day filled with rain, so I KNEW this would bring a smile) and asked the secretary to deliver it to a substitute.  “ANY substitue?” she asked.  I smiled, explained my purpose, then added, “Yes… ANY substitute.  You get to pick!”   I then walked out of the office with a happy heart.

When was the last time someone thanked you for a job well done?  It’s something we do not hear often enough.  Today I am thankful for substitute teachers.  For Lauren.  For my cousin, Amy.  For my friends Becky, Kelleigh, Amy, Beth, Lea, Stephanie, and all the other amazing teachers who fill the shoes of others every day.  I am inspired by their tenacity and love for children.  I can only hope that the family of Lauren Rousseau will know just how special she was to the students and teachers at her school.

Be blessed my friends and keep paying it forward!

Last night I decided to celebrate the life of James Mattioli, age 6. I discovered through the internet that he was actually 6 and 3/4 and was “quick to remind everyone” of his exact age. Like many boys his age, he was active. He loved playing outside. Riding his bike. Swimming. He enjoyed playing inside, too, especially on his iPad. I learned that he was born four weeks early and his family would joke it was because he was hungry. Apparently James loved to eat, too, lol.

As I was standing in line with my family at Stevie B’s, a local all-you-can-eat pizza buffet, I began to think of James and how much he would love this restaurant. Endless rows of pizza with combinations galore. You could even request your own pizza to be made just to your specifications. In the back of the restaurant was a small arcade/game room where children could use tokens like quarters and earn tickets from various games of skill and luck to be traded in for trinkets and prizes. Yes, it’s hard to think of any child that wouldn’t want to come here for dinner.

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My thoughts were interrupted by the cashier’s friendly voice. “Would you like to buy some game tokens with your dinner?” We always get game tokens (although we try to teach our children the value of money by having them purchase their own tokens from time to time.) This evening, I bought three packs of tokens: one for my son, one for my daughter, and one for James.

As the cashier handed me my charge receipt to sign, I returned one container of tokens with my #26acts card and said, “Please hand this to the next person who comes in line to purchase tokens for their child. It’s a random act of kindness for James.” The cashier paused as she read my card, obviously surprised, and replied, “Yes… yes… wow, that is really sweet.” I made sure to put James’ EXACT age on the card, too. 🙂

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A little while later, as we were finishing our mealtime and about to head home, I walked back to the arcade/game room. It was a very small room, but alive with sparkling lights, bells and whistles, and happy smiles all around. The redemption counter was surrounded by children, all about the age of James, patiently waiting their turn to transfer tickets into prizes. I felt a lump in my throat as I thought of my own children who love coming here and playing the games. Ordinarily the bright lights and giddy chatter might give me a headache, but tonight it was pure bliss. Oh, to be a child again, without a care in the world. Such pure and innocent joy.

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For the person who received my random act of kindness tonight, I hope your child spun the big wheel and landed on the jackpot, receiving 100 tickets with the cost of only one token. Please share your joy by paying it forward. For James, I hope your memory will live on in the smiles and laughter of others as they remember what it’s like to be a child.

Be blessed my friends and be inspired! 🙂

This week I received a random act of kindness from someone at my school:  a note in my mailbox stating, “You are worth a million!  Good Luck”, attached to a lottery ticket.  What a delightful surprise!  It’s kind of funny to be on the receiving end of a RAK – I was humbled that someone might want to bless ME instead of the other way around!

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Little does this person know, but lottery tickets have a special meaning for me and my family.  In fact, I’ve been scratching lottery tickets since I was a child (shhhhh… don’t tell!)  See, my grandmother thought lottery tickets were the most amazing surprises in the world.  She loved the anticipation that led up to the “big reveal”.  Each Christmas, she would line up our “lotto stockings” (small stockings just big enough for a few lottery tickets to slide inside) and hide a quarter or dollar coin inside.  She knew it would be the first thing we looked for coming to her house on Christmas Eve.  We would talk about all the wonderous things we would buy with our winnings.  I’d promise to take her to the mountains in the winter to watch the snow fall and she’d promise to take me to a tropical island where we would sip fancy drinks all day long.

We never won more than a few dollars here or there with our lotto stockings, but I later realized the real joy wasn’t in the end result, but everything that led up to that moment.  Lotto stockings, for me, were about sharing hopes and dreams with my grandma.

Although my grandma went to live with Jesus more than ten years ago, we still keep the lotto stockings tradition alive through my dad, affectionately known as Pappy.  Here are a few pictures of my sister and I scratching our tickets this past Christmas (I won $6!  Woo-Hoo!!)

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Which brings me back to my blessings received – the mystery lotto ticket in my mailbox.  As soon as I realized it was a lottery ticket, it brought a smile to my heart because of two reasons:  1) someone thought I was worthy of a note and a surprise and 2) lottery tickets always, always, ALWAYS remind me of my grandma, which always makes me smile.  🙂

So I grabbed a coin and scratched away.

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Unfortunately, despite the well wishes of my RAK giver, I am not worth a million today.  However, I know without a shadow of a doubt that I am worth MORE than a million to some little kiddos who share my home.  To them, I am worth the stars and the moon, forever and a day, as they for me.  🙂

Thank you, kind stranger, for spending your own time and money so that I might have a moment of joy.  You are a blessing to me!  I promise to pay it forward, so don’t be surprised when you see one of my #26acts as a copycat of your RAK today!  🙂

Today I began my new set of adventures: honoring the 26 lives lost at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, 2012.  Random Act of Kindness #1 was dedicated to Noah Pozner, age 6.  I learned from the internet that Noah “had a huge heart and was so much fun, a little bit rambunctious, lots of spirit… he was really the light of the room” according to his Aunt in a CNN interview.  I knew right away what I could do to remember this sweet soul, a son quite similar to my nine year old:  balloons!

My first stop was the Dollar Tree where I purchased 6 of the brightest, happiest, smiley faced balloons I could find; one for each year of his short life.  The sales associate, Dean,  was extremely helpful, holding the balloons while I attached a new business card to each string, taping a quarter on the back to act as a weight (and an extra surprise!)  He shared his pen so I could write a message on the back of each card as well.  He asked me if this was something for my son (noticing the little boy’s name on the cards), and I was surprised to find myself getting a little choked up explaining the purpose of the balloons.  “No, these are not for my son.  I’m doing 26 acts of kindness to honor the lives of those from Sandy Hook Elementary School.”  He nodded (as did the other sales associate in the next lane over), and in a solemn voice asked, “Is he one of them?” pointing to Noah’s name.  “Yes.  Yes he is.  Today is Noah’s day.  He’s my first random act of kindness.  I’m taking these balloons to a nearby playground and leaving them for children to discover and enjoy.”  Ringing up my purchases, Dean smiled and said, “That is really nice of you.  Really nice.”  I gathered my balloons, returned his smile and said, “I can’t wait to surprise the kids!”

Driving to the playground, my brain was swirling.  I was really hoping the playground would be empty so it truly could be a “drop and run” kind of act.  Turning into the gravel lot, my tires crunching loudly as I pulled into a parking place, I could see several families already enjoying the swings and slides.  What would they think when their children saw what I brought?  Would they allow them to come near?  Would they caution them about speaking to a stranger?  It wasn’t my intent to hand out balloons; I wanted to leave them on the fence and had created a sign to explain my purpose:

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As I tied the sign to the fence and started to separate the balloons, I heard a little boy to my left ask his Grandma, “What are the balloons for?”  As his Grandma replied, “I’m not sure”, I looked up and met the eyes of a boy who very well could have been Noah himself, only a few years older.  I smiled and said, “Oh!  The balloons are free!  Would you like one?”  He came near (under the watchful eye of his Grandma, mind you) then as I untangled the balloon strings, a little girl came forward (who I later discovered was his sister.)

“Here you go!  Have fun!”  Smiles all around.  Mission accomplished!  I started to untangle the rest of the balloon strings (it was a little bit windy) and saw the Grandma approaching me.  She had read the card attached to the balloon and simply said, “Thank you.  Thank you so much.”  She engulfed me in a tight hug and it was in that moment that the impact of this purpose, these 26 acts, hit me full force.  With tears streaming down my face, my voice cracked as I sobbed, “It’s the least I can do.”  Our tears were shared as she repeated “Thank you.  Thank you.”

As we finished our hug, we started laughing through our tears.  Oh, how good it felt to laugh in the midst of such an emotional, heart-felt moment!  I asked her permission to take a picture for this blog:

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As she went away with her grandchildren, I finished my task of placing balloons on the fence.  Two balloons taken, four remained.  This is what it looked like when I was done:

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This is the business card I attached to the bottom of each balloon string:

Front of card

Front of card

Back of card

Back of card

I hope the children who found the last four balloons (and quarters, too!) were as blessed as I was with the Random Act of Kindness.  It was a much more emotional task than I ever imagined, but I am so glad I took the time out of my day to bring a smile of joy to someone else.  For Noah, I hope your memory continues to be lifted as high as smiley faced balloons as others pay it forward.

Blessings to each and everyone one of you reading this blog.  🙂

Now that my 40th Birthday Project is complete, I find myself in “Random Act of Kindness Withdrawal” (if there even is such a thing!)  I have read many articles and blogs about people doing kind things for others in rememberance of the 26 students and teachers who lost their lives in the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting on December 14, 2012.  As a teacher myself, this hits very close to home.   It simply broke my heart to learn of this tragedy and I am still affected daily when I see my children and students returning back to school after the holiday break.

I have decided to perform another 26 random acts of kindness, but this time each act will be either student or teacher focused.  I will create new website cards with a dedication section so each recipient will know the purpose of the act and whose memory is being honored.  I also plan to send a card to the Sandy Hook post office for each act of kindness I perform with hopes that they will forward the card to the appropriate family.  I want each and every one of them to know their child/family member continues to make a difference in the lives of others despite this horrible tragedy.

Join me on my mission!  If you perform an act of kindness, please post to Twitter with hashtag #26acts.  If you are a Facebook junkie, you can “like” the pages 26 Acts or Acts of Kindness, then post to their wall the things you are doing.

All it takes is one act of kindness to make a difference in the life of someone else.  Be the change!  Make a difference!  Start small.  Even something as simple as a smile or a compliment can have amazing impact on someone’s day.

Be inspired and join in on the fun!  🙂

 


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The cards I made as random acts of kindness to bless others through iServe #iservecsbc #rak
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