Archive for June 2014
If you’ve read my Pollyanna blog, you have some background knowledge of the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) conference. I was chosen as an Ignite presenter, which was such an honor, and challenged me in so many ways as a motivational speaker and educational presenter.
My presentation, only 5 minutes and 20 slides in length per Ignite specifications, focused on Blogging Random Acts of Kindness. I wanted to share my experiences on a global platform – not only my personal contributions with doing random acts for others, but how this concept translates into the classroom with student bloggers. (You can view my presentation here thanks to my friend, Stacie, for capturing it on her cell phone!)
Prior to my presentation, I wanted to do a Random Act of Kindness which I felt would be a perfect way to calm my nerves and share my joy of being at this conference. A few weeks prior, the company Atomic Learning sent me two shirts with the note below:
I couldn’t wait to pay it forward by giving away the shirt! But the Ignite session was shared by several presenters, so I couldn’t do a drawing… and tossing it out to the audience didn’t seem like an appropriate choice either. I finally decided to put the shirt in a brown bag along with a 100 Grand candy bar that included notes like “I think you are worth 100 Grand” and “You are Tweet Worthy”. I also included a handwritten note for the recipient to tweet out the RAK using the hashtag #ISTE2014RAK and to pass the shirt along to someone else if it didn’t fit. When we arrived in the Murphy Ballroom, at the Georgia World Conference Center, I asked my friend, Heather, to put the bag on someone’s chair somewhere in the middle of the room.
Many times when I do a random act of kindness, I don’t have the privilege of seeing the reaction live. I often wonder, “What did they think when they got my surprise? Did they smile? Did they laugh? Did it brighten their day?” Today, however, I got to experience the reaction with full gusto!
About 5 minutes before the Ignite Round 2 session began, I saw my friend Heather approaching my chair. “Ummm… I think someone discovered your random act of kindness!” There was a sense of excitement and awe in her voice, and I turned to see what she was pointing at. Sure enough, there was a lady standing up in the center of the room exclaiming her joy in my RAK! Oh my goodness, what an amazing feeling to know that someone was experiencing such joy because of something I did! WOW!
Without even thinking, I got out of my chair and approached the woman and introduced myself. “YOU did this? How wonderful! I love it!” We laughed, hugged, and even had someone take our picture together. It was an AMAZING way to begin the Ignite session and, quite frankly, I forgot about the fear and nervousness that had inched its way into my brain that morning.
I returned to my seat with barely a few moments to spare, and as I was reviewing my notecards one last time, I heard a polite, “Excuse me…” and looked up to see a different woman kneeling in front of me. “I was sitting behind the gal who got your random act of kindness… My name is Susan Williams and I’m with Atomic Learning…” Wait… what?? You’re with the same company who actually sent me the shirt to give away in my session? And you ended up sitting directly behind the gal who received the RAK? What are the chances of THAT happening?!
My Ignite presentation went well, I remembered all my speaking points and ended right on time. It was an exhilarating moment to be on stage, facing so many people, sharing my experiences with random acts of kindness. In fact, when I got to the part at the end of my speech where I said, “Maybe even you’ve experienced a random act of kindness at ISTE” the crowd erupted in applause! WOW!
As I stated in my presentation, I truly believe there is good in this world. I am so blessed to be living in such a connected, digital age where I can share my stories with others and inspire more good to be done. YOU are a blessing to me as well. Knowing you are reading my blog holds me accountable for not only working to perfect my writing skills, but to find fun, creative, and easy ways to bless others.
“Imagine how much good we could put back into this world if we all committed to doing just
one random act of kindness a week.”
Be inspired! Share your stories with others! You will be surprised how good it makes YOU feel to share in kindness. And maybe, just maybe, in all your days of doing RAKs… you might just get RAK’d back. 🙂
POSTSCRIPT: The gal who received my RAK in the session did pay it forward by leaving the bag for someone else. How did I find out about it? On Twitter, of course! The new recipient tweeted this pic which only added to my joy! 🙂
I am already realizing there are just not enough hours in the day to do all the things I want to do! Today is my third day at ISTE, the International Society for Technology in Education conference, and my sponge of learning about technology has been saturated so many times, I am overwhelmed with the process of wringing out my knowledge to learn more. This place is a vacuum of non-stop energy, swirling around faster than I can document!
I have been busy doing random acts of kindness throughout this conference. Here are just a few of the things I have left for other people to discover (or given to them myself!)
I even went all out and hid an extra special RAK to be discovered by someone at the conference:
It’s exciting to imagine the surprised smiles when people discover these RAKs as they experience all the wonderfulness of this technology conference. I’m hoping those that find my little acts of kindness will tweet on Twitter using the hashtag #iste2014RAK. If you’re on Twitter, you can follow me @HCPSTinyTech as I tweet about the neat things I learn and the fun people I meet. My next post will be about my Ignite presentation and the awesome RAK that happened right before I went on stage!
Now… To find the time to blog again… 🙂
For the next five days, I will blog about the Random Acts of Kindness I complete with a few of my team members as we travel to Atlanta, GA for the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Conference. I am presenting on Sunday, June 29 at an Ignite session, sharing about my passion for blogging random acts of kindness, so what better way to get prepared than to do a few RAKs on the way?
Our first opportunity to bless someone came before we were even through airport security. The gal ahead of us was trying to access her boarding pass using a QR code on her phone, but couldn’t locate the email with the required information. After several moments of frantic searching (which I’m sure felt like hours in her mind), she allowed our team to go ahead of her. I was in the back of the pack, so I could see her hands shaking as she handed her phone to the security officer, only to have him return it back saying, “Can you make the screen a little lighter? It won’t read correctly.”
She looked up and caught my eye, her expression a mixture of frustration and panic. I smiled in return and said, “Don’t worry. You can get it to work.” Sure enough, the scanner picked up the image on the second try and she was allowed to proceed. “I am so glad that’s over! I haven’t flown in years!” Her name was Jennifer and we continued to chat as we approached the section where you place your belongings in plastic tubs and remove your shoes and belts.
Right about that time, I heard the gentleman behind me mumble in frustration, “My flight is taking off in 20 minutes!” With an almost telepathic message, my team of four moved to the side and allowed this man to pass ahead of us all, surely saving him precious minutes in this tedious process.
Once we passed through security and finally settled in for the flight to Atlanta, we were filled with a sense of excitement to attend ISTE 2014. Our AirTran flight attendants were polite and courteous and I left them a small surprise to show our appreciation.
I’m planning to do several little RAKs like these at the conference and my hope is that people who receive one of my RAKs will tweet a photo of themselves (or the item) and post it to Twitter using the hashtag #ISTE2014RAK. My professional goal for this summer is to expand my PLN (professional learning network) on Twitter, so I thought this might be a fun way to make a personal connection with others at the conference.
In addition to performing RAKS, we were blessed by random acts of kindness of others, from the MARTA worker who helped us figure out how much money we needed to put on our card to the Atlanta police officer who offered restaurant suggestions as we stood waiting for the subway doors to close. Even Jeff, our waiter at Max Lager’s was helpful and friendly as he shared his insights with our group. (We even had a surprise visit by Chris O’Neal – what a delight!)
To wrap up our evening of RAKs, Jen donated a dollar to the gentleman on the sidewalk singing a rendition of Bob Marley’s song, “Every Little Thing”. Yes, indeed. Every little thing’s gonna be alright… because celebrating kindness, especially in a large city, makes life a little brighter!
I’m so excited to be a part of ISTE 2014 and I can’t wait to soak up all the great learning over the next few days. Check back in again tomorrow to see what happens next! 🙂
If you would like to follow me on Twitter, my handle is @HCPSTinyTech… I’d love to stay connected to share my journey with you!
Summer storms are a pretty common occurrence around here. While we don’t live in Tornado Alley, we’ve seen some pretty wild thunderstorms, complete with high winds, hail, even a tornado or two. Usually we are taken by surprise with these pop-up storms, only realizing an approaching storm is near when the skies darken and the wind makes the trees sway.
Last week, as my husband said goodbye to fly to California for his cousin’s wedding, I was sitting on my front porch enjoying the late afternoon summer sun when the thick clouds rolled in from the west. “Time to bring in the chairs,” I thought to myself as I quickly put away the kids’ toys and random chairs we had out in the front yard. I got inside just as the rain started to pour. “Whew! I made it!” My youngest son was napping on the sofa while my oldest son continued to navigate his way through another level on Minecraft.
Just another summer storm.
For those that know me best, you know I LOVE severe weather. I have since I was a little kid! A self-professed weather geek (among other things), I have already added “storm chaser” to my never-ending bucket list. I love to watch a storm, whether a hurricane, snow storm, or steadfast rain. I am awestruck by the power of nature.
This storm was no different. I hunkered down on my sofa to watch the storm through my back window, mesmerized by the gusts of wind now blowing leaves and gumballs across my yard. The sound of nickel sized hail hitting my window made me hop up to get a better view from the front bay window.
My oldest son joined me as we watched the lightning crack through the sky. We watched in wonder at the shift in weather which had been so calm only ten minutes before. I noticed a huge tree limb down in our front yard right about the time a strike of lightning flashed violently through our sky, causing me to shriek as we both pulled back from the window.
The storm continued to rage outside the safety of our home, but it stopped as quickly as it began. Usually we are the first of our friends to lose power in such a storm, but for some reason we were the lucky ones as our lights continued to shine through the darkness of storm clouds rolling away. I carefully opened the front door and was shocked to see my yard.
To put this in perspective, here is a comparison of one section of my yard before and after the storm:
Crazy!! There was a now a straight line of trees brutally torn apart in the woods beside my house. For the first time ever, we could clearly see the summer sky through a section of our woods. A tornado perhaps? Well, maybe not by the finite definition (after all, there were still trees attached to the ground), but the amount of debris and destruction embedded in the soil of my yard might support the theory that we had something fly through our woods.
The next day was sweltering hot with temperatures in the upper 90’s and humidity higher than that. My husband had landed on the other side of the country and I was here, comparing storm stories with my neighbors. I was thankful, as there was no damage to our home, only to the landscape. My mom’s husband, Bob, came by with a chainsaw to help cut away the fallen trees.
An hour later, we had a huge pile of tree limbs, but had barely made a dent in the destruction. It was apparent that this would be a work in progress, best saved for a slightly cooler day!
As the sweat continued to stream down my face, I hopped in my car to pick up my daughter from her youth group trip. It was SO HOT outside! I had a renewed respect for anyone that worked outside in the summertime. As I made my way down the side streets, I was reminded how lucky I was to still have power as I watched a Dominion Power truck carefully lifting men to fix power lines strewn across the street. I slowly passed the truck, careful to look for other workers standing nearby, then a thought crossed my mind. “Wouldn’t it be an awesome surprise to bless those men with some fresh, cold lemonade?” My brain immediately began a battle of dismissive rationalization.
“There’s no time to go home and make lemonade – you have to pick up your daughter.”
“If you stop at a grocery store to buy bottles of lemonade, you will have to drag both boys out of the car…”
“By the time you buy lemonade and head back, they will probably be gone anyway. Nice thought, but don’t bother.”
My daughter text only supported the naysaying voices in my head: “Running late…. it might be awhile…”
The proverbial fork in the road of decision making. Oh, how easy it would be to keep driving and not worry about the lemonade. After all, it was just a thought, right? But wait. Was it just a thought, or a small whisper on my heart? You already know the ending to this story. 🙂
Since my daughter was delayed, I made good use of that time and drove through a Chick-fil-A drive-thru to purchase four lemonades. (After all, if we were giving away lemonade, we were going to give them the best!)
After my daughter arrived, we drove back to the side street and lo and behold the Dominion Power workers were still there, taking a rest break. Perfect timing! I quickly parked my car and walked towards them. “Y’all look like you could use some cold lemonade!” Their surprised smiles quickly cut through the stifling heat. “I wanted to do a random act of kindness to say ‘Thank You’ for all your hard work restoring power to everyone. We appreciate all you do, especially on a hot day like today!” I handed them the drinks and straws as my daughter captured the moment from inside my car.
My interaction with the men was less than 2 minutes, but their appreciate words carried me through the rest of the day. I am so glad I listened to my heart and not my head! The next time you see someone working hard outside in the sweltering heat, bless them with a cold beverage. It will cool their thirst and remind them that there is still good in this world. 🙂
Be blessed and continue to celebrate kindness!
What does that word mean to you? Obviously, the word assessment can invoke different reactions and emotions based on your own personal experiences. Maybe you work in the educational sector and correlate that word to standardized testing. (Wait – aren’t we on summer break?! Why would I bring that up now?!) Maybe the word assessment made you cringe as you related it to the value of your home or property (which, I’m assuming, was valued at a higher rate several years ago.) I would be surprised if you smiled and jumped up with glee at the mention of that word.
Working with elementary aged students, we use the word assessment quite often. We assess academic skills, social skills, knowledge, behavior. Sometimes we do formal assessment, like a paper/pencil test. Other times we do informal assessment, jotting down notes we want to remember about what students are doing. As professionals, we receive our own assessments from our principals or district leaders. It seems like wherever we go, or whatever we do, someone is being assessed for something.
My dad knows all too well the meaning of assessment. In order for him to advance in his line of work, he has to complete online assessments to earn various levels of certification. While this may not seem like a big deal to some, let me clarify… IT. IS. A. BIG. DEAL. I can barely lift his study manual with one hand, it’s so enormous. Each of his assessments require a passing score and many assessments only allow you to have a limited number of attempts. Run out of attempts and you have to start the process all over from the beginning. Is it a coincidence that assess rhymes with stress?
My dad reached the pinnacle of stress with this last round of assessments. Missing the cut-off score by one question does nothing to boost the ego or the paycheck. In fact, my fun-loving, always jovial dad started to disengage from the family when assessments would approach. “Don’t try to call, because I might not answer.” “I can’t go there, I need to study.” Need to… STUDY? Are you kidding me? How old are you anyway, Pappy?
Old enough to know that assessments matter.
Today I received the jubilant news that my dad, the guy who welcomed me into this world at the mere age of 19, had passed his final assessment to receive his certification in EPIC. These are the things dreams are made of! Celebrate good times, come on! Let’s celebrate!
Without a moment’s hesitation, I went to the store and picked up a few items that I knew would make my dad smile, then I left them on his porch while he was at work.
Yep, balloons and beer. Welcome back to the real world, Pappy. Welcome back. We have missed you! 🙂
The next time you hear of someone reaching a milestone or completing a goal, take a moment from your day to share in the celebration. You might be surprised how good it makes you feel, too!
Today I wanted to do a Random Act of Kindness for Father’s Day in memory of my Grandpa Tirrell. Unlike many of my friends who grew up with grandparents right down the road, I have limited memories with my grandpa as he lived several states away in Massachusetts. My reflections are frozen snapshots in time: Smiling in a posed picture in front of the car he drove down to visit with us. Laughing at Thanksgiving, holding a bag that broke as the camera flashed. Giggling at a joke that only he and I shared. My visits were few and far between, but I always held Grandpa Tirrell close in my heart.
We always had this long running joke about me being a southern belle and him being a northerner. We exaggerated the stereotypes every time we were together. “How’ve y’all been?” I’d ask in an obnoxious drawl. “Pahtly good, but you guys should visit mah often” he’d reply, his thick Bostonian vernacular overriding my sweet southern style. He would sign birthday cards, “Love, Granddaddy” because he had this stereotype that everyone in the south called their grandfather by that phrase (even though I always addressed him by the much adored Grandpa title.)
I remember the time he sent me $50 for my birthday when I was ten or eleven… and while the exact year eludes me, I can clearly remember the excitement of seeing my name on a check written for SO much money. I can also remember the inescapable joy of standing in the Barbie aisle of the local Toys ‘R Us realizing I could buy ANY Barbie set I wanted. (I ended up buying a Beauty Salon set along with a new Barbie and several clothing outfits for the doll.)
Grandpa Tirrell = joy. 🙂
So today, as I was remembering all the fun qualities I loved about Grandpa Tirrell, I thought how nice it would be if I could buy him dinner as a small sign of appreciation. Unfortunately, my grandpa passed away in 2005, making such a wish impossible to grant. However… I could pay it forward to someone else in his memory instead! Yes! That would be a wonderful way to honor him this Father’s Day!
I thought for a bit about which restaurant I wanted to visit and all of a sudden, I knew EXACTLY where I needed to go. I am a southerner and we southerners like our home-cooked, southern style food. What’s the one restaurant that would make Grandpa Tirrell roll his eyes at the pure novelty of all things southern? Why, Cracker Barrel, of course!
I grabbed one of my business cards and quickly wrote a message on the back, then headed straight for the restaurant.
As was expected, Cracker Barrel was PACKED with patrons waiting inside and outside. If you’ve never been to a Cracker Barrel before, you are truly missing out. The outside is designed like a huge ranch style home complete with rocking chairs and checkerboards (because we know that southerners spend all summer long rocking on their porches, right?)
I noticed today they were offering free tea (another southern stereoptype – that we all drink sweet tea), which was a lovely gesture on such a hot day. I approached the gal at the entrance, who was taking names to be seated. “Hi,” I began, smiling my sweet southern smile (which is NOT an exaggeration, lol.) “I would like to do a random act of kindness today in memory of my grandpa. Could I speak to someone who can help me buy someone’s meal?”
Within a few minutes, I was walking the floor with a manger, hand-selecting who I wanted to bless. “Just walk around with me and scan the restaurant. When you see a table you like, just tell me and I’ll get their tab from the waitress and let you pay for them.” Oh my goodness! What a delight! I got to actually PICK the people who would receive a free meal! How exciting!
Well, I didn’t have to look very long. As soon as I walked into the seating area, my eyes were drawn to a couple to my left, whose finished plates were stacked neatly on the edge of the table, waiting for the waitress to remove. They were older than me, and seemed to be lost in their thoughts. They were perfect!
I pointed them out to the manager and she quickly gave me their tab. It only came to $10.50. I could almost hear my Grandpa laughing in my ear. “See? You call that a dinner for two? If you were eating a meal up here, it would cost you that much just for two glasses of tonic!” I gave the manager my business card and asked her to hand it to the couple explaining that their bill was taken care of.
I walked to the register, paid for the couple’s dinner, and tipped the waitress 30% of the bill. It made me so happy to know they would receive such a sweet surprise on Father’s Day!
If you are celebrating a holiday missing someone who has passed on, maybe you will think about paying it forward in their memory. It sure did put a smile on my heart! Next year I think I’ll do the same thing in memory of my Grandpa Jimmy or maybe my Grandma Payne. Or… maybe I won’t wait for a holiday at all, but just do it in a totally random way on a totally random day. Who knows what I’ll do? Guess you’ll just have to check back in to see!
I hope you had a very blessed Father’s Day whether you are a father, child, or significant other. You are special and I thank you for taking time out of your day to spend a few moments listening to me. 🙂
Living in the 21st century provides many perks and conveniences. For example, I can do most of my shopping online and have items delivered to my house without even having to change out of my pajamas. Talk about convenience! In fact, this shift in mobile purchasing has actually reshaped our country’s advertising and marketing strategies for Black Friday, the busiest shopping day of the year!
There are times, however, when convenience and speed aren’t necessarily a priority for me. As much as I love technology (I’m a tech-geek at heart!), there’s something to be said for doing things “the old fashioned way.” That’s how I feel about grocery shopping.
I think my fascination with grocery stores began when I was in college. I scraped change to make ends meet, never having enough money to splurge on “good stuff” (hence, I survived off ramen noodles, lol.) I loved coming home to visit my Grandma Payne and she would always end our visit with, “I’ve got to pick up a few things from the grocery store. Would you like to come with me?” This was always said with a smile and a wink because we both knew the trip would end with her writing a check well over $100 and my car being stocked full of necessities.
I remember walking with her through the aisles, never rushing, always taking our time looking at all the options. I can still hear the ping of the cash register buttons as the price was manually punched in. I couldn’t wait to be at an age where I could buy ANYTHING I wanted from a grocery store.
Even today, grocery shopping is my favorite chore. While I now make lists on my phone instead of paper, I still appreciate the old-fashioned feel of a grocery store. I like the brightness of the store. I enjoy chatting with the friendly workers who greet you with a smile as you walk down the aisle (not just at the entrance.) I like the fact that someone is willing to bag my groceries and take them out to my car without expectation of a tip. (Although, it took me a while to be OK with that one – I have tried to tip them so many times!) In fact, when I’ve been away from the house for a few hours, my family jokes that I must have ended up at a grocery store.
So you can imagine my delight in meeting Mr. Leslie “Leon” Hobbs five years ago. An older black gentleman, Mr. Leon was at the end of my checkout line, bagging my groceries as I tried to waddle through the narrow space to place my grocery items on the conveyor belt. I was 8 months pregnant, it was a hot and humid August day, and for the life of me I could not get around my cart to reach in and grab the canned vegetables that slid to the back of my cart. Mr. Leon tapped me on my shoulder saying, “Excuse me Miss, let me get those for you. You need to rest. You have a baby in there!” We both laughed as I backed out of the aisle (even the memory makes me laugh now because, seriously, I was HUGE!). Mr. Leon finished unloading my cart, then continued bagging my groceries and walked with me to my car.
“Where to, pretty Miss?” His smile was infectious. I was drawn to his sweet, southern style as we approached my car. “Now you need rest. You let me take care of those bags for you. You don’t need to work when it’s so hot out here. I’ll do it for you.” I will admit I felt a little awkward, even in my pregnant state, to stand idly to the side while an older man loaded my groceries. In my mind it didn’t seem right! I was perfectly capable of loading my own groceries! But the one thing I learned about Mr. Leon that day was that any argument would fall on deaf ears when it came to helping him do his job. This was HIS job and HE was going to do it!
After putting my groceries away, Mr. Leon reached into his pockets to pull out two plastic wrapped mints. “This one is for you, and this one is for the baby when he comes.” He would never take a tip, pushing back any money offered to him. “No ma’am, this is my pleasure to serve you. You are the reason I am so blessed to work here. Thank you for shopping at Kroger and allowing me to have this job.”
My day was always brighter after a visit with Mr. Leon.
Since that time, Mr. Leon has become a familiar name in our family. Whenever we shop at Kroger, we look to see which line he’s bagging and we will get in his line, no matter how long the wait. He seemed to have an endless supply of mints and somehow always found a way to slip in a “few extra” for the kids he knew I had at home. We always said “Hi, Mr. Leon!” if we saw him in or out of the store. His eyes would light up when you called him by name, yet they would spark a fire if you ever tried to grab those bags to load yourself. He took pride in his job, and it showed.
You can imagine my heartbreak when I learned that Mr. Leon had passed away this past weekend. What?! Not Mr. Leon! No! Like a child, I wanted to stamp my feet in refusal. How could this be?!
“To every thing there is a season… a time to live and a time to die.” It was my Grandma’s favorite bible verse (even carved into her headstone), and it was my immediate answer from God. Mr. Leon passed away because he was a good and faithful servant and his time was done. It was that simple.
I contacted the Kroger store manager, Mr. Scott Jones, and was told they would hold a balloon release later in the week in Mr. Leon’s memory. In the moment of acceptance, I felt so helpless. I wanted to do something, anything, to process my grief, but what could I possibly do to make anything better?
I RAK’d it out.
I accepted money from friends to pass along to his family.
I attended the balloon launch.
I signed Mr. Leon’s banner.
And I realized through all these acts of love and remembrance that I was not alone. Apparently Mr. Leon treated EVERYONE the way he treated me! So many people shared stories of how Mr. Leon brightened their day with kindness. It was truly overwhelming to see a community gather to show their appreciation for someone who carried groceries to their car. It only goes to show that you CAN make a difference in someone else’s life just by doing what you do, but doing it well.
I returned to my beloved Kroger store the day of his funeral to discover an empty candy bowl at his memorial site. I did the only thing I could do. I bought some mints from the store and refilled his cup for all the times he refilled mine.
The next time you are shopping and someone offers to bag your groceries, take them up on their offer. Smile at them. Let them know how much you appreciate them doing their job well. Take a moment to enjoy the “old fashioned” way of doing things. You never know how far your kindness will reach.