celebrate kindness

Archive for June 2013

Today we celebrated the “dog days of summer” with a visit to our local amusement park, Busch Gardens.  It’s always a little tricky to find a summer fun activity that appeals to the vast ages of all my kiddos (ages 14, 9, and 3 respectively).  Busch Gardens is the one place where everyone has fun, even if it means we separate into pairs.

After several hours riding rides and seeing the sights, we were famished.  Add to that 90+ degree weather, we were desperate to find a shaded area to sit and eat lunch.  We decided to enjoy a meal and a show in the Ristorante della Piazza, an outdoor Italian themed restaurant in the heart of the park.  As I was purchasing our meals, I received this coupon from the cashier:

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This was a first!  I’ve never received a coupon at checkout before!  Of course, it had to be used the same day, for another meal later in the evening, but 50% off a meal at the park is quite a savings indeed!

The kids and I settled in to watch the show and munch on breadsticks and homemade macaroni and cheese.  The performance was delightfully loud and entertaining.  The musicians’ talent and comedy routines reminded me of the days when I used to work at Kings Dominion as a guardette and hang out with the Kings Dominion Clown Band (KDCBOK).  Which, of course, has nothing to do with this Random Act of Kindness, just a memory moment that made me smile.  🙂

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As the show came to a close, we cleaned up our table and gathered our belongings.  I noticed the coupon sitting on my tray and suddenly realized I could use it to bless someone else!  I quickly returned to the cashier and asked to borrow a pen.  Hastily, I scribbled a note on my receipt and decided that I would pass along my coupon to someone entering the park as we left.  Oh, just the thought of such a surprise made me happy!

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I chose this RAK dedication for Jesse Lewis, age 6, whose parents have set up the Jesse Lewis Choose Love Foundation in his memory.  As you know I am a passionate believer that a little bit of love and kindness goes a long, long way to making this world a better place.  No act of kindness is ever too small to make a difference!

We made our way to the front of the park and I spotted a family of five walking in.  I noticed the dad had a season pass hanging from a black lanyard around his neck, but arriving so late in the afternoon maybe they would be staying until the park close and needed a discount on a meal?  I approached the dad with a smile and asked if they would be eating dinner in the park.  “No, sorry, we’re just here to ride a few rides,” he replied, not missing a beat in his brisk walk towards the main entrance. “Oh, Ok.  Thanks!  I just had a coupon for a discounted meal.  I’ll find someone else.”

Before I could turn my gaze away, I was approached by a lady with a huge smile and bright, friendly eyes.  “I’d be interested!  I love coupons!”  Returning her smile, I handed her the coupon and my note and explained the purpose of this RAK.  She was very appreciative for the kind gesture and gave me a hug as I described the dedication to Jesse.  Our exchange was short and sweet, a perfect way to end the day.

May your weekend be filled with peace, happiness, and hugs!   Be blessed, my friends!

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Last Friday was the official “last day of school” for teachers.  WOW!  Another school year done, time for summer break.  As I was packing up my belongings for the two month hiatus, I thought again of the students and teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School.  I recently read that their district has plans to demolish the existing school and rebuild another one.

Starting over.  Renewal.  Rebirth.

Focusing back on the present I took one last look in my computer lab, then shut the door quietly and walked down the hall.  There were tearful goodbyes for coworkers who were moving away or moving on to new adventures.  There were smiles and laughter as others shared their plans for the summer.  Keys and paperwork were turned in and… that was it.  The school year was over!

As I got into my car, my purse overturned on the front seat, spilling everything out.  The first thing that caught my eye was a page of coupons for the restaurant, Ruby Tuesday.  Oh my gosh, I had totally forgotten that was in my purse!  When it arrived in my mailbox a few weeks ago, I almost threw it away (It’s not close to my home, so I never go there).  Then I realized I could use the coupons to bless others for random acts of kindness!  I put it in my purse with good intentions, but with all the end of school craziness it ended up lost in the muddle until this moment.

I bet you know where this is heading… 🙂

Instead of driving home, I drove to Ruby Tuesdays.  Even the darkening skies couldn’t damper my excitement at bringing a smile to a stranger’s face.

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I pulled out the coupons and made dedication cards for each.  I would be able to bless four people today!  Awesome!

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I chose to dedicate each of these RAKs to Rachel D’Avino, a behavioral therapist at Sandy Hook.  Surely she would have been excited about the last day of school.  She may have even gone out to lunch with her friends to celebrate the onset of summer break.  I felt it was a perfect way to honor her memory.

I walked into Ruby Tuesday and was met by the greeter.  “How many in your party?”  I had to smile at that question, because it was a party in my heart indeed!  I explained my purpose, that I wasn’t here to eat, but rather to perform random acts of kindness in Rachel’s memory.  The greeter returned my smile and ushered me into the dining area.  “Feel free!”

As I scanned the room half-filled with diners, I decided to start on the right side and just bless each table until I ran out of coupons.  The first table had an older couple eating.  “Hi… My name is Tamara and I am doing random acts of kindness today.  I would like to bless you with a discount on your meal.  This card has my website and can explain more.”  They were surprised at first (as expected), but thanked me for my generosity as I moved on to the next table of diners.

Two ladies were sitting behind them, the waitress checking to see if they needed anything else with their meal.  “Sorry to interrupt,” I began, “But I wanted to bless your day with kindness.  Here is a coupon for your meal today!”  It’s difficult to explain the rush of emotion you receive when you bless a stranger in this way.  There’s always a little bit of apprehension at first (“Are they going to think I’m weird?!), but the appreciation shown by others quickly overrides the worry and replaces it with pure, unfiltered happiness.  It’s truly a win-win experience for me and the stranger!

My third coupon went to a mom and her two children.  She reached out and shook my hand, grasping it firmly between her own.  “Thank you.  Thank you so much.”  The gratefulness in her voice hinted to an untold story of need.  I KNEW the moment she grabbed my hand that this RAK today was no coincidence.  She was absolutely chosen by God for today’s blessing!

My last coupon went to a large group of diners seated in the middle of the room, two tables pushed together to accommodate everyone.  “This isn’t much, but I hope it blesses your day!”  The lady smiled back with appreciation as I quickly exited the restaurant.  My work here was done!

No matter if you are a student, teacher, parent, or professional, I hope the start of summer break brings blessings and joy your way.   And the next time you get a coupon in the mail, maybe you will choose to use it for someone else instead!

Be blessed, dear friends, and thanks for reading!  🙂

This week I received a text from my sister that started like this:  “I have someone who needs an act of kindness…”  The rest of her text detailed a horrific robbery against someone she knows.  For safety precautions, I’m hesitant to post specifics other than the person who was robbed is a single mom with many children and the robbery was violent, destructive, and frightening.  What a helpless feeling!  I knew I just HAD to do something to help, but what could I do?  She didn’t need any kids’ clothes or toys, nor hot meals.  What she needed was money.  But what could I do?  I knew my meager donation wouldn’t make a dent in recovering from this crime.

Or would it?

I hate asking people for money and charitable contributions, but this was important.  Urgent.  And because this was someone my sister knew in a close way, I overcame my reluctance and posted a brief message on Facebook asking my friends and relatives for help.

The response was overwhelming!

One friend responded immediately.  “I am at Kroger.  I can give you cash right now.  Let me know if any other need arises & I will do whatever I can!”  I literally ran up to Kroger right then and sure enough, my friend was waiting for me with cash and a hug.  “I will pray for her and her family, too!”  Before I could return home, more friends had sent me messages.  “Horrible!  I’d love to help!” one teacher responded.   The next morning she handed me an envelope with her donation.  Another friend sent money to my school through a mutual friend – it was waiting for me in my mailbox with a short note stating she had scrounged up all the cash she could find in her house.  The generosity of my friends brought tears to my eyes.  These amazing people were not just giving a donation to charity… they were responded to a need, an outcry for help.  And because they cared for me, they also cared for those whose needs I recognized.  I was humbled by the sheer power of friendship and love.

The donations continued.  One of our relatives transferred money to our bank so we wouldn’t have to wait for a check to arrive.  Another relative came to my house right after receiving her paycheck late on a Friday night.  A co-worker grabbed me on the sidewalk of my school and said she was stopping by the bank to get money to donate and could she give it to me the next morning?  With each donation, my excitement and love grew for this stranger.  Oh, how I wished she knew how special she was!  We were in awe of her story, how she was trying to make the best life she could for her children.  We shared in the despair, the helplessness, the confusion, and the pain.  Although we may not have experienced the horror of that night, we could empathize with the fear and worry.

And as one friend wrote, “We are called to help.”

Well, help we did.  One friend couldn’t donate cash, but offered to babysit, make a meal, whatever service she could provide.  Another friend asked for an address to send her contribution.  Each day someone new came forward to offer assistance.  It. Was. Amazing!  I stopped by the store to pick up a few items to go along with the cash.  I bought two boxes of Little Debbie “Cosmic Brownies” (because, let’s face it, chocolate makes EVERYTHING better!), several tubes of glo-stick bracelets (you’re never too old for some fun!), and a container of Tide Pods laundry detergent, which I heard from my sister was another item stolen in the robbery.  (Laundry detergent has a street market value?  Who knew?  I guess the thieves wanted a clean getaway? Ok, sorry, that was bad humor all the way around…)

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I decided to make my Random Act of Kindness delivery on Saturday morning, despite our day being jam-packed with kids’ activities.   I put all the items in the gift bag and wrote the mom a note as well (using a card made by my daughter.)

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Inside of card

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Back of card

As I was planning out my route for making the delivery, I decided to check Facebook one more time.  Lo and behold, another dear friend wanted to make a contribution, offering to drive more than 30 minutes to meet me.  “Oh, I come this way all the time” she declared, brushing off the enormous generosity of time, travel, and cash.  “I just want to help!”  She was a classmate from high school whom I haven’t seen in years, and yet here we were, laughing and chatting as if no time had passed.

I am starting to wonder who is the person receiving the most blessings from this RAK… the robbed family or me?

In only 48 hours time, I had collected a total of $282 cash.  Astounding!  All of a sudden a bible verse came to mind:  Deuteronomy 28:2 (for $282)… “All these blessings will come on you and accompany you if you obey the Lord your God.”

God is SO good!  What an amazing moment of revelation for my heart!  Every single donation was purposeful and when put together like clues in a mystery, the prize of blessing was revealed.  Yes, I was humbled in the moment yet again.  I am only a vessel being used for his purpose, as were my friends and family.  This mom needed to know that even in the face of utter despair, she was loved and cared for.  Always.

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As I put the money in the envelope and started to lick the envelope, my husband said, “Why don’t you take some money from our yard sale this morning and make it an even $300?  That sounds better.  She should have $300.”  The mere suggestion brought me to tears, yet again.  Yes!  Yes!  She SHOULD have $300!  I quickly grabbed the money container from our early morning yard sale and quickly counted out $18 to make a total donation of $300.  WOW!

I found out when and where the mom was working and walked in the door, looking for her name tag.  I approached her and was surprised how “normal” she appeared.  I don’t know why I was expecting her to have visible scars from her experience, but she could have easily blended in a crowd, no one ever the wiser to her dismay.  She greeted me with a smile as I introduced myself and how I came to hear of her story.  She was speechless with surprise as I handed her the bag and I continued with a brief summary of who had helped in this act of generosity.  I also explained my #26acts purpose and that this RAK was dedicated to Daniel Barden, age 7, one of the many children lost from the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary.  According to Daniel’s parents, he was “fearless in his pursuit of happiness and life”, much like this brave mom.  I knew this would be a perfect RAK to dedicate to him.

The mom took my bag, thanked me immensely, and our exchange was done.  She didn’t open the card in front of me, but I am sure she was as overwhelmed by the gifts of generosity as I was.

Thank you to all my friends and family who responded to my request for help.  Your kindness is inspiring!  I am blessed beyond measure to have you in my life!


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