celebrate kindness

Archive for July 2015

Today is an exciting day! After two years of diligently saving and planning, our family began a once-in-a-lifetime bucket list vacation: a Disney cruise to Alaska!

There will be many opportunities for random acts of kindness on this vacation and we couldn’t wait to get started. After counting down the months, weeks, and days, it was finally time to fly cross-country to Vancouver, Canada.



I’m not sure if you’ve ever traveled with young children before, but if you have you know there is a certain level of angst that accompanies a trip of this magnitude. Did you pack everything you need? Where are the boarding passes? Do you have all the passports? Does your suitcase weigh less than 50 lbs? (For the record, mine passed inspection at 48.5lbs. Eek!)

Hopping on for a one hour puddle jumper flight is a breeze. Settling in for more than 5 hours is another story.



He fell asleep as we waited on the runway, missing the takeoff views so eagerly anticipated.

His slumber was much needed since we woke him at 3:30 AM to arrive at the airport for our early morning flight, the first flight of the day. We were hopeful he would rest for a few hours.



He slept for 20 minutes.

The next 4 and 1/2 hours loomed before us like a sand timer tipped to start again. He read books. He matched stickers. He played with his toys. He ate a snack and drank some juice.

4 more hours to go.



Since this was the first flight he could remember (he had flown once before as a baby,) he was mesmerized by everything around him: the window, the seatbelt, the mesh pocket, and especially the serving tray.

He discovered that the recessed drink holders made a perfect bed for his Paw Patrol pets with the tray transformed to a battleground as the Minions kept watch over their sleeping friends. 



With all the movement of the tray going up and down, back and forth, I suddenly became aware of the gentleman sitting in front of my son, his seat shifting with each battle won. Ugh! I could only imagine this scene from the stranger’s perspective, yet he never once complained. I decided to write him a note of thanks.



It was a long flight, made even longer by the lack of sleep from us all, but my little guy was a trooper, never once having a tantrum or meltdown. I was proud of his patience – quite an accomplishment from an over-tired five year old!

As the plane finally made its descent, I added some chocolate to the thank you note and handed it to the stranger as we landed and exited the plane.

Sometimes the understanding of complete strangers is enough to keep a smile on your face. 🙂

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To honor the memory of Renee Parr, her family asked those that loved her to complete 14 random acts of kindness as we approach the one year anniversary of her passing, July 14, 2014.

Last Saturday, my two older children came with me to The Dollar Tree as we picked up some last minute glow sticks for our 4th of July festivities. As we paid for our purchases, I saw my son go to the candy machines and check to see what was inside. In an instant, I felt that nudge and suddenly I knew what I wanted to do to honor Renee’s memory:

I wanted to share in the joy of surprises for children.

I dug around in my purse for all the quarters I could find – only two, but better than nothing. I opened my wallet to count my cash and there found disappointment as well – two single dollar bills folded behind my license. One more search in my purse resulted in a third dollar bill, crumpled and disheveled, the edges ripped and worn.

Two quarters and three dollar bills.

I asked the sales clerk if she could change my bills into quarters and she refused, saying she didn’t have any quarters in her tray. In desperation, I located the store manager and explained the RAK I wanted to do, its purpose to honor the memory of Renee. She used her master key to open two additional registers and finally we were able to complete the transation.

Two quarters and three dollar bills, now 14 quarters to give away.

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It didn’t take the children long to fill all the candy machines. Some required two quarters; some only one. They finished their task with two quarters left and had to decide which “big machine” would receive the money.

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Renee was always a princess, to her family and her friends, so it was only fitting that the remaining coins went to the Frozen Disney Princesses Tattoos.

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We took a moment, my children and I, and said a silent prayer for Renee’s family and those sweet children who would receive the joy of a Renee RAK. She will always be in our hearts, forever.

If you would like to share your Renee RAK, click here to add your information. If you would like to see some of the other random acts of kindness completed in memory of Renee, click here.

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Recently, I found myself in a heated discussion with someone else about the role “random” plays in the phrase “random acts of kindness” (also known as a RAK or RAOK.)

“You can’t call it a RAK if it’s not random. The fact that you are pre-planning the event takes away from the novelty of it being a true random act of kindness.”

My first instinct was to fight. To argue. To defend my position on RAKs: my purpose, my mission, my style. I was caught in the whirlwind of surprise and disbelief.

And then I laughed.

Yes, it’s true, I have been known to laugh at the most inappropriate times. Humor is probably my strongest defense mechanism and I use it without thinking. What a wonderful world we live in that we can have such petty disagreements as to whether or not a RAK could be random or pre-planned!

So I bring to you my last set of RAKs from the ISTE 2015 Conference – a set of TRULY random acts of kindness that made my heart happy:

Portable Battery Charger

As many of you know, Twitter is the social media of choice for technology conferences. Even if you’re not physically able to attend the conference, you can easily glean resources and make connections using the conference hashtag. To get an idea of the power of a PLN, search the hashtags #ISTE2015, #ISTE15, #notatiste15 and #notatiste. There’s a wealth of resources right at your fingertips!

When you physically attend a conference, the worst thing that could happen is your device shutting down from low battery. I hate when this happens, so I always come prepared. While waiting for the first Ignite session, I sent out a tweet referencing my portable battery chargers (I had three in my purse, ready to go at a moment’s notice) and the power strip peeking out of my purse. Several people read my tweet and commented back, then the conversation was lost in a sea of retweets, mentions, and hashtags.

A few hours later as we made our way back to the conference center to listen to the first Keynote speaker, I saw this tweet in my newsfeed:

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Oh how funny! The tweet made me laugh, that someone actually remembered my previous comment. I tweeted out a photo of my charger case in response with the comment, “Hope you like pink!”

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Suddenly it hit me. This guy really did need a charger! Going into a Keynote session with only 23% battery life? He wouldn’t even MAKE it to the main speaker in time. It was then that the joking over Twitter transformed into a true RAK as I set out to find him, tweeting my location and searching the crowd to find his group.

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Yeah… 21,000 registered attendees and I was trying to find a guy I had never met. What were the chances?

Well, with a bit of perseverance, half a dozen tweets, and a great big dash of luck, we were able to connect and I gave him my portable charger to use. I walked away, thrilled! It was AWESOME to help someone else in their time of need, even if only for an extended battery life! I told him we had to take a selfie as proof (and no worries… we met up the next day when he not only gave me my charger back, but also gave me another I could add to my collection! A pay-it-forward RAK back!)

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The best irony of all? The person in this photo is Jason Markey (@JasonMMarkey), principal of East Leyden High School in Franklin Park, IL. After I snapped the selfie with my phone, he said, “I loved your Ignite session on Random Acts of Kindness last year.” His comment left me literally speechless! Little did he know, I started following his #leydenpride hashtag shortly after last year’s ISTE Conference, blown away by his school’s commitment to sharing kindness through Twitter. What a small world!

Rain Jacket

When we arrived in Philly on Saturday night, the weather was nasty: cold, wet, rainy. The umbrella I brought was little protection from the wind and driving rain that pounded sideways against my skin. My coworker, Heather, offered up her rain jacket and I accepted with glee! What a perfectly timed, completely random RAK!

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Speaking of rain, a huge shout-out to Heather (@hcausey) and Stacie (@sctaylorITRT) who shared the driving responsibilities there and back in the midst of crazy traffic and endless rainstorms. These gals are AWESOME and you should definitely follow them on Twitter!

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Happy Birthday Flash Mob

As we were traveling to dinner one evening in the city, we spotted our dear friend, Chris O’Neal (@onealchris), who now lives states away from our district. We immediately ran up and did a “Celebrity Selfie Flash Mob” (where we quickly gathered around him and snapped a photo). As we finished, he made the comment that it was an awesome birthday present (“What? Today is your BIRTHDAY?!?!”) so we immediately serenaded him with the Happy Birthday song right there on the streets of Philly. Totally random and so much fun!

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The Liberty Bell

My oldest son is fascinated by coins. He has spent countless hours researching the images and words shown on coins and at a moment’s notice can give you a “Fun Fact of the Day” related to the history of any coin you find. When I told him I was traveling to Philadelphia, PA for the ISTE Conference, he said with amazement, “You mean where the Liberty Bell is? Did you know the half dollar has the Liberty Bell on it? And you get to see it for REAL?” To say he was excited for me to experience this little part of history was a grand understatement.

Due to the rain and our packed schedule (as well as hotel accommodations outside the city limits), it didn’t look like we would have time to visit the historical site. I tried to prep him the best I could when I called home the second day of the conference, but his disappointment was tangible, even states away.

And then… my amazing coworkers assembled one afternoon in the midst of rain storms and sun, grabbed me and said, “Let’s go!” We had no idea where we were walking; we took a turn right, then backtracked left, but eventually made it to the location of the famed symbol for independence. We made sure to take a photo to send back home to my son.

I have the best team EVER!

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May I Take Your Photo?

It may seem like such a small RAK, offering to take someone else’s photo, but what a wonderful way to help someone else capture a memory forever. I caught my coworker, Casey (@cnugentITRT), offering such kindness to a group of strangers as we were leaving a restaurant and made sure to capture the moment for my own Smile File.

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Expo Hall

One of the busiest places at the ISTE Conference is the Expo Hall. Hundreds of vendors, all vying for your attention, hoping to reel you in with the latest and greatest tool or “must have” addition to your school or district. Many times vendors come prepared to entice with freebies, small trinkets to give away to say “Thanks” or promote their business.

While I know the end result for vendors is to walk away with sales and commissions, I am repeatedly impressed by their generosity. One vendor had these cute little bee shaped figures decorating their space. When I stopped to admire one, the sales rep said I could have one. I thanked her, but declined; my three kids would fight over who got to keep the toy. She simply smiled and gave me three of them, then handed me three foam airplane kits, too. Wow! How thoughtful!

I stopped at another vendor station, enticed by their PLN buttons I had seen other people wearing. When I explained that I was doing a PD presentation focused on expanding your PLN through socia media, she reached under the table and handed me an entire bag of buttons. Not one. Not two. Not even five. AN ENTIRE BAG! I was so giddy, I could barely contain my glee!

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So much generosity. Sheets of stickers. Pointers. Keychains. If you’ve ever had a conversation with an elementary teacher, you know they are desperate for any toy or knick-knack to stock their prize box or classroom store. These trinkets were treasures indeed!

I even had Billy Krakower (@wkrakower), the amazing co-moderator of #satchat and #njed messaging me to give me a ribbon for my badge, a Tomorrow’s Classrooms Today shirt, and some travel bags. He was so kind to go out of his way to connect with me in the midst of this enormous group of people just to pass along his kindness.


As you can see from the stories above, the truly random acts of kindness are just as meaningful as the ones that are pre-planned. Many of you do these types of RAKs on a regular basis and never give a thought to just how wonderful your actions are for the receiver. For me, conferences are a fantastic venue to notice unique opportunities to bless others.

And to round out all the RAKs, I even had another gal compliment me on my favorite skirt. 🙂

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In addition to preparing Blessing Bags for the ISTE Conference, I packed some extra goodies to surprise conference presenters and attendees. There were three separate random acts of kindness, but each asked the recipients to tweet out the RAK using the hashtag #ISTERAK if they found them. The photos shared on Twitter were priceless and brought a smile to my face each day! Maybe these will give you some inspiration for easy-to-share RAKs with others!

Free Compliments

I printed a few sheets of paper titled “Free Compliments” with tear-off tabs at the bottom. Some of the compliments included sayings like “You’re Beautiful!” and “I wish I could pin you on Pinterest.” I taped the compliment sheets to the back of restroom doors, thinking they would be seen by many. Here are a few of the photos shared of this RAK:

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“You are tech savvy!”

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“You are tweet worthy”

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“I like your style!”

The biggest thrill came at the end of the conference when ISTE (@isteconnects) tweeted out a photo of my compliment sheet, all tabs taken, with this message for all their participants:

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“#ISTERAK spreading kindness at #ISTE2015. Attendees, you are all amazing!!”

Nerds

If you are looking for some “nerds”, a technology conference with 21,000 registered participants is the place to be! I left these boxes in random places inside the convention center to be discovered by whomever. Here are a few of the lucky “nerds”… how awesome that all four boxes were tweeted out!

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Here is one box I left on a seat. Below are the photos posted by others to Twitter.

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You Are Worth 100 Grand

I am a strong believer that you should compliment someone when they do something well. For this reason, I like to bring along 100 Grand chocolates with a little note saying “You are worth 100 Grand.” Here are a few people that received some sweet treats for their awesomeness:

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Right after Adam Bellow (@adambellow) and Dean Shareski’s (@shareski) session on “Hacking Keynote”, I ran up on the stage and handed them both 100 Grand. Their presentation was funny and informative with lots of opportunities for learning and sharing.

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I had so much fun touring the poster sessions, especially those where students shared their work. The Tech Ninja Squad was a technology club for 4th and 5th graders and these gals were very eager to share all the cool projects they made!

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Another poster session I loved had students sharing the projects they created with green screen technology.

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They definitely earned their rewards as they patiently walked me through each step of the process. Twice.

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I had my first “celebrity selfie” moment where their teacher (Pam Craig – @Pcraig911) looked at my name tag and said, “I follow you on Twitter!” What a fun moment – I’m not used to being on the receiving line of that statement! (And yes, I’m wearing a cape. You didn’t know I was a superhero? Ha!)

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After using my cell phone and iPad all day, it was time for me to find an outlet and charge my devices. As another random act of kindness, I carry a power strip in my purse a conferences so I can share my multiple outlets with others. It’s a great way to meet new people, too!

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One person I sat beside had THE most amazing accessory holder for all his chargers and cables. I was so impressed, I left him 100 Grand, too.

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Speaking of chargers… there were all these little lock boxes at the convention center and in Reading Terminal Market where people could charge their devices for FREE. Talk about a random act of kindness – that was AWESOME! Each box contained a key where you could lock your device and leave it. I predict we will see a LOT more of these around town – in classrooms, too!

These random acts of kindness were fun to share throughout the conference and cost me about $6 in all. If you want to see who posted what, search the hashtag #ISTERAK on Twitter!

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One of my favorite parts of the ISTE Conference is the opportunity to bless others and pay-it-forward with random acts of kindness. Imagine 21,000 people walking, talking, laughing… watching, doing, making… learning, growing, connecting… all through the common thread of technology in education. It’s a never-ending mashup of activity from morning to night!

This year’s conference was in Philadelphia, PA and prior to leaving, I prepared my RAK surprises.  We would be there five days and I wanted to make sure I could bless at least a few people each day.

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I sorted the shampoo, conditioner, soap, mouthwash, Chapstick, granola bars and peanut butter crackers into separate baggies, then added a few dollars to round out the blessing. I finished with eight bags to leave on the streets of Philly to bless the homeless!

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The Philadelphia Convention Center is the heartbeat of the city, slicing the rich from the poor like a scalpel. On one side of the convention center there was hustle and bustle, suits and skirts, gourmet coffee and specialty bread. On the opposite side there was… silence. The only movement was foot traffic from the overly priced parking lot on the corner and moving vehicles turning left, away from the downtrodden and desolate souls who littered the corners and vestibules.

I turned right.

Each day, after the last session concluded, I walked through the underpass and opened my eyes to the life that called these streets home. They had their bags, bulging from the few belongings they owned, their eyes downcast as I passed by. They were killing time and breaking my heart in the process.

I was discreet, respecting their time and place. I left my bags within eyesight, but not close enough to disturb; a simple smile as I continued along my way.

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On my final day in Philly, I came across Saint John’s Hospice, a homeless shelter a few blocks from the convention center. I only had 3 bags left, but knew they were all meant to stay here. I placed one on the top step near the entrance (if you look closely at the photo below you can see the bag in the top right side), then as I backed away to place another I saw a tall gentleman staring at me, his frail frame leaning against the cinder block wall.

IMG_0655[1]I smiled and walked towards him, my hand outstretched with a blessing bag. “Would you like a bag?” He nodded and took my offering, turning the bag over and again to check out what was inside. “Do you have any friends who would like a bag? I have another one.”

His eyes brightened as he accepted the second bag and a smile emerged to reveal his gratefulness. His name was Eric and he fumbled with the bags to return my handshake. I wished him well and said it was nice to meet him as a few other men came out of the building. Everyone was pleasant, cordial, and for a moment I forgot that I was deep in the city on the wrong side of town.

For me, it was just an interaction between two people whose day was made brighter by kindness.

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The next time you have an extended hotel stay, maybe you will consider putting those travel soaps and shampoos to good use, helping someone else in need. Your generosity might be the only reminder someone else may have that they are worthy to keep pressing on.

Beating Heart


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