celebrate kindness

Archive for October 2013

For those who know me in real life, it’s no surprise that I’m a photo freak.  I take photos of EVERYTHING!  In fact, years before digital photo albums became available, I used to be a Creative Memories consultant, teaching others how to safely preserve and share their photographic memories for generations to come.  I have albums upon albums on my bookshelf documenting milestone events such as birthdays, graduations, and vacations.  For me, photos are the keys to our past and the joys of our future.

Keeping that in mind, can you imagine just how many photos I take while on vacation? It’s crazy!  I am the person who annoyingly asks, “Can you take a picture of us?” to the chagrin of my family members.  I might also be the gal who sheepishly admits to taking not one, not two, but quite possibly twelve (12!!) photos of a gecko who just happened to meander near my sandals.  Yes folks, I am a photo freak by every definition of the word.

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Last month our family took a week long Disney Cruise, a vacation we’ve been saving up for over the course of several years.  I could not WAIT to take photos of the islands we would visit and embrace the colors, sights and sounds of a new culture.   Such joy!   One of our stops was the beautiful island of St. Thomas; 32 square miles of lush tropical paradise with crystal clear water and bright, colorful flowers.  We planned to take our children on the Skyride, a cabin-like closed compartment with windows that travels up a mountain, allowing you to see the island from an aerial view as it rises 700 feet in the air.  Unfortunately, the Skyride was closed the day we arrived, so we had to change our plans while there.

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It was hot.  Scorching.  The moment you stepped on the white cement, you could feel the heat radiating from the ground through your shoes.  Thankfully there was a gentle ocean breeze and several open shops that provided cool relief from the heat.  After about two hours of walking around and taking photos, we decided to head back to the ship.  In order to gain entry on the boat, you had to pass through an entrance area barricaded by a chain link fence.  You had to show a photo I.D. and your boat’s key card as well.  Depending on the time of day you returned, you could be met with quite a line at the re-entry spot as every single guest on the cruise had to pass through this security clearance area.

Once past the chain link fence, you walked towards the ship’s boarding gangway where you stood in yet another line, waiting for your ship’s key card to be swiped.  Did I mention how hot it was outside?  By mid-day it was brutal!  Even though the lines moved forward at a decent pace and the security officers were friendly and kind, it was still a draining process.

My daughter and I were patiently waiting to proceed through the second set of security clearances when I overheard a woman behind me speak with despair in her voice.  “Oh no……,” she moaned “I totally forgot to take a picture of the St. Thomas sign!”  I turned my head at a 45 degree angle to see a dark haired gal pointing to the long “Welcome to St. Thomas” sign on the other side of the chain link fence.  Even if she held her camera high above her head, there was no way for her to take a picture of that sign without an ugly metal fence obstructing her view.

“Would you like me to email you my photo?  I just took one with my daughter right before we got in line.  I even took one WITHOUT my daughter, so you might like that one instead!”  She paused for a split second then grinned from ear to ear as she replied incredulously, “Are you sure?  You would do that for me? That would be wonderful!”  I had to laugh at her shock.  “Of course!  I’d be more than happy to do that!  No big deal at all!”  She gave me her email address and I typed it into my phone.  I even joked that if she sent me a photo of her kids, I would Photoshop them into the picture and no one would ever need to know.  We laughed at the idea and continued chatting through the clearance area, into the elevator and all the way up to our separate floors.

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It wasn’t until I exited the elevator and was halfway down the hall, heading back to my stateroom, that I realized I had completed another RAK.  My business cards! In a moment of sheer panic (which is silly to remember in retrospect – who on earth panics about RAK business cards!?!?), I ran down the hall and up a flight of stairs, hoping to catch her as she exited on the 7th floor.  Sadly, I wasn’t quick enough to tell her about my 26 acts, but I figured if it was meant to be for her to know about my mission, then I would see her again before our vacation ended.

Well, see her again I did.  That night before dinner there was a hypnotist show and who would be one of the people chosen for the show?  Yep, yours truly.  (That, my friends, is a WHOLE separate story right there – oh gracious!)  Following the end of the show, as we were making our way through the crowds of people, I saw her.  Right about the same time, she turned her head and saw me, too.  “It’s you!  It’s you!” she said as we both made our way towards each other.  We hugged like long-lost friends, laughing and sharing stories about the show.  I reached into my purse and handed her the business card, explaining that I had tried to find her after I got off the elevator.  She then touched my heart as she said my kindness reminded her that there is still good in this world.  Priceless.  Humbling.

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This Random Act of Kindness is dedicated to sweet Ana Marquez-Greene, an adorable child who loved to sing with her brother at the piano. In a statement the Greene family made in December 2012, ” [Ana] routinely committed selfless acts of kindness: every drawing or craft project she began was envisioned not for her own enjoyment, but as a gift for another. She often left sweet notes that read, ‘I love you Mom and Dad,’ under our bedroom pillow – not on special occasions, but, rather, on ordinary days.”

While taking a family vacation on a cruise ship to St. Thomas may not count as an “ordinary day”, this RAK was selfless, an offer made as a gift for another.  I’m sure had Ana been standing in my shoes, she would have done the exact same thing.

Be blessed my dear friends and keep paying it forward!

As a continuation of the previous post, I was at Starbucks getting a few moments of peace from a crazy hectic day (which just happened to also be my 41st birthday).  I used my registered Starbucks gift card to receive a free drink of my choice (God bless the person who decided salt, caramel, and coffee would make a good drink combination – pure heaven for me!)  After ordering my drink, I handed the barista a sealed envelope which contained a note and a $5 bill to allow a complete stranger to enjoy a free tall pumpkin spice latte on me in celebration of my birthday and to honor the memory of Alyssa O’Neill.

As the barista passed my drink across the counter, I gathered my purse then looked up to see him reaching into the pastry display case and placing something in a to-go bag.  As I started to walk away, he handed the bag to me stating simply, “Your birthday cake!  Enjoy!”

WHAT?!?!  Did I just get RAK’d by a barista?!  No way!!  All I could do was laugh at the joyous surprise by such a sweet, kind gesture.  “Really?  For me?”  He grinned from ear to ear (such an infectious smile!) as the other barista chimed in from the other end of the counter with “Happy Birthday!” greetings.

It was a priceless moment that literally was the icing on my cake.

I frantically dug through my purse trying to find my RAK business cards as I knew this was worthy of one of my #26acts.  Did it matter that it was a RAK received instead of given?  Absolutely not!  A RAK is a RAK no matter the type!  🙂

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So I found a card I was saving for Avielle Richman, age 6, and explained to the barista that he actually completed my #23 random act of kindness.  I had seen a video clip showing Avielle’s parents talking about their daughter’s infectious smile and knew this RAK belonged to him because his smile matched hers.  I’m hoping that he will visit this website and see that he is part of an amazing journey to remember those sweet children lost from Sandy Hook Elementary.  Here is the barista with my business card:

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What joy!  Such a simple act of kindness, yet so powerful.  So important.  So meaningful.  A true blessing indeed.

It wasn’t until I was back in my car that I opened my to-go bag and saw what delicacy he had chosen for me to enjoy.  A beautiful pink cake pop with tiny white sprinkles, molded firmly to a solid white stick made to look like a delicate lollipop.  I almost cried at the pureness of the moment.  My birthday cake indeed.

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Thanks to Starbucks for offering free birthday coffees to pay it forward with kindness and for hiring such kind-hearted baristas who take opportunities to make a difference in someone else’s life.  My day may have started off as a hot mess, but it ended in peace and joy.

Be blessed my friends!  Thank you for sharing in my first complete year of blessing others with deliberate acts of kindness!

It’s hard to believe that a full year has passed since I began this journey of blessing others with kindness and publicly documenting my journey through words and pictures.  What a year it has been!  WOW!  I am constantly amazed and humbled by the sheer power of kindness.  It makes people smile.  Laugh.  Blush.  Cry.  Such an endless array of emotion wrapped up with a sparkling bow of joy.  Simply indescribable!

Today was a CRAZY busy day for me.  My family and I had returned from a week long vacation (remind me to post a RAK from that trip tomorrow night when I’m more coherent, lol) then were catapulted into the start of a work week surrounded by mounds of dirty laundry, sour milk, and a basil plant that was parched by a week of sunlight with no water.  My 41st birthday began with the morning hustle of returning to the daily grind of getting dressed for work and kids ready for school.  Of COURSE today would be picture day for my favorite teenager, so an additional 15 minutes was built into my schedule to style her hair in a waterfall braid with wand-shaped spiral curls worthy of any fashion magazine at the checkout stand.

Because that’s what moms do.

I was greeted at work with more than 300 emails demanding attention, a list that would be whittled down little by little like a sculptor carving a masterpiece from a block of ice.  And that was in between teaching the lessons I had scheduled throughout the day.  The evening was just as busy.  Pick kids up from daycare.  Make middle child a sandwich while he worked on homework and got dressed for soccer practice.  Fill his water canteen and send him to soccer practice with dad while concurrently making dinner for the other two children left home with me.  Serve dinner.  Clear the table.  Wash dishes.  Take oldest child to dance class.  Welcome to my Monday night routine.

Oh wait – was today my BIRTHDAY?!?

Yes folks, my life is crazy busy.  Some might even take the leap to say, “Girl, you are insane!”  But you know what?  Even among the nonstop hustle and bustle of my world, I can still find time to bless someone else.  Which is exactly what I did tonight!

Did you know that you can register a Starbucks gift card on their website then they will bless you with a free coffee of your choice on your birthday?  True!  I have a gift card that I registered who knows how many years ago that brings me joy each year as I delight in the warm aroma of a free gourmet coffee.  I could almost taste the Salted Caramel Mocha melting on my tongue as I dropped my daughter off at dance class and headed to my nearest Starbucks for a late night moment of sanity.

I wanted to celebrate my birthday by blessing someone else, and with God’s perfect timing, I had a dear friend send me this article describing Alyssa O’Neill and the RAKs her parents performed in her memory.  Perfect!  I wrote out a note on pretty stationery, added a $5 bill and included both in a sealed envelope to pass along to the Starbucks barista.

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As I claimed my free birthday drink and passed along my envelope to the kind barista, I had a surge of joy knowing SOMEONE would be the lucky recipient of my “pay it forward in memory of Alyssa O’Neill” gift.   This was one birthday present I couldn’t wait to give away!

Make sure to read my next post to see what happened next… I ended up getting RAK’d by the barista!  What a fun way to end my crazy birthday!


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