celebrate kindness

Archive for the ‘Kind Actions’ Category

This past Friday, I arrived at school to discover the sweetest surprise from my coworker, Krista: a stack of “Be Kind” to-go cups for our Tiny Tech Cafe!


What a sweet addition to our room! Several teachers stopped by throughout the day and enjoyed their coffee and hot chocolate in these very cups.

My day flew by, jam-packed with lessons and video editing. After work I planned to make a quick stop at Kroger before heading home to get ready for A Night to Shine, a Prom Night sponsored by Tim Tebow, celebrating people with special needs. (My sweet neighbor, Ashton, was attending for the first time and I couldn’t wait to surprise her there!)

I grabbed the few items I needed at the grocery store, then headed for the self-checkout line. There was a gal in front of me, doing double-duty as she pushed an oversized grocery cart with one child turning a steering wheel on a bright, plastic car and her other child lying horizontally across her chest, fast asleep.

She went to her register; I went to mine. As I started to scan my Kroger card, I felt that all-too-familiar nudge on my heart. “Turn around and help her.”

Now let me pause the story for a moment and remind you – I was in a bit of a rush. I had several things to do at home to get ready for the prom, I had to drive more than 30 minutes away and every moment more would increase the risk of additional rush-hour traffic. My goal was to be right there on the red carpet to see sweet Ashton make her entrance, but if I was late…

I took a side glance at the woman beside me, trying to awkwardly scan a bottled drink while balancing her sleeping child in her arms, and a flood of memories filled my soul. I remember what it was like to go grocery shopping with more than one little child in tow. I remember the complete exhaustion. I remember the frustration of not being able to complete simple tasks others took for granted. I remember the fear of one misstep causing my overtired, sleeping child to wake and not sleep again for ten hours or more.

It all came back in an instant.

“Here, let me help you with that!” Her eyes met mine, in disbelief, as she smiled back at me. “Are you sure? Wow! That would be great!” I scooted over to her register and started scanning her items one by one as we chatted a bit. I scanned her card and placed the bags in her cart. “Thank you so much!” she exclaimed as she tried to readjust the child in her arms so she could push the shopping cart out of the store. Once again, I felt that nudge.

“If you can hang on a sec, I’ll scan my items and help you take your groceries to the car. You need to let your baby sleep!” Once again she smiled, and it was apparent that she was appreciative of the offer. A few minutes later, we were heading out of the store together, her oldest child “driving” us through the parking lot to her car.

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As she opened her door and transferred her youngest into a car seat, I helped the other one get settled in his seat, then I loaded the groceries in her car. As the trunk door closed shut, we hugged as she thanked me once again for the kindness. “We’re all in this together!” I said as I started to walk towards my car. “You deserve a moment of kindness. Have a great weekend!”

I was so caught up in the random act of kindness, I totally forgot that I was in a rush to get home.

This morning as I was sitting in church, our pastor spoke of the power of being a follower. Two slides resonated with me: “Being sensitive to the Spirit’s prompting” and “A readiness to share the story.”

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See, this whole kindness thing isn’t about me and it isn’t about you. It’s about us. It’s about living your faith out loud so others can see an example of how life should be. It’s having a willingness to follow and do when you hear that whisper on your heart.

You are a part of someone else’s story.

As for that magical prom night? I made it there just in time to see my beautiful neighbor glide down that red carpet, wearing a sparkling tiara that matched the sparkle in her eyes.

We always have time for kindness.

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The first days of the new year brought excitement of a possible snow storm at the end of the week. Now for those of you who’ve never lived in Virginia, let me fill you in on a little phenomenon called “Southern Snow Madness”. With just the talk of snow, us southerners start getting ready. Everyone runs to the store to get milk and bread (sometimes more than once!) and parents start digging through closets trying to find snow clothes for the children who will be clamoring to play outside.

We are no exception. It doesn’t matter if we receive an inch or a foot, all three of my kids will end up outside for hours sledding down hills, making snow angels, and having snowball fights (if the snow is wet enough).

As I was gathering the hats, gloves, boots, and bibs, I found a pair of like-new snow boots that my youngest son had outgrown. I decided to sell them on our community Facebook page and quickly received seven requests for purchase.

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I looked over the list of names in my inbox and felt led to open one by a gal named Susan. (This isn’t her real name – she asked to remain anonymous.) She definitely wanted the boots, but wasn’t sure when she could come by my house to get them as she was waiting for her husband to get home from work.

I told her I was flexible, any time would do, then she replied that if she couldn’t get them tonight she could get them after the snow.

No. 

Absolutely not.

I felt my heart squeeze tight as these thoughts flew into my head. Pick up the boots after the snow? What on earth? These boots are FOR the snow!

Immediately I responded that I would bring the boots to her. In that moment, I had no clue where she lived, but I knew with full certainty that she needed these boots NOW.

We went back and forth a bit with her protesting my offer to deliver, and finally she realized I was serious. “Are you sure?” she asked, her question of doubt making me smile.

I. Am. Sure. 🙂

Twenty minutes later I was at her doorstep, snow boots in hand. She came out the front door, her joy radiating through our hug. As I backed out of her driveway, her little boy waved to me from their front door.

Later that night, she sent me a message on Facebook with a photo of her son wearing the boots. She told me how she had tried to purchase snow boots at the story, but they were too big, how her husband had just switched jobs, how money was tight and she couldn’t afford $30 snow boots. She was so very appreciative for these boots that were obviously meant for her son.

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This morning I awoke to a yard blanketed in white. It brought such joy in my heart to know that there’s a little boy out there having fun in his new-to-me Spiderman snow boots, with a happy Momma by his side.

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A few weeks ago, my daughter was going through her old coats and vests, seeing what was no longer needed. Although she is still in high school and doesn’t have a job, we still make her purchase her own gifts for friends and family, so she finds ways here and there to make some extra money for her holiday shopping.

She found two vests in like-new condition and asked if I would list them in our local Facebook yard sale group. She set the price at $7 each and it wasn’t long before someone replied, wanting to buy them.


The buyer replied in a short message with broken English; it was obvious that Spanish was her native language. After a few message back and forth, she revealed that she couldn’t drive to my house to pick up the vests because she lived on the other side of town, but asked if I would be willing to ship the vests to her instead?

I will admit, I hesitated. The last week of school was SO crazy busy. I barely had enough time to get from place to place myself much less figure out how to wrap up these bulky vests and ship them out. I was feeling overwhelmed trying to get everything accomplished and this one extra task seemed like that straw that would break the camel’s back.

She must have sensed my hesitation as she sent another message offering to send me a money order to pay for the vests and the shipping costs.

A money order.

I literally froze when I read her message. It was obvious this woman wanted these items, probably for a Christmas gift for a child or grandchild. I knew if she took the time to get a money order, then mail it to me and if I waited to get the money order then ship the vests to her, there was a really good chance they would not arrive in time for Christmas morning.

That’s when I heard the whisper on my heart: “Give her the vests for free.

You already know how this story ends. 🙂

I responded back, asking for her address to mail the vests. When she requested my address for payment, I said there was no need – I was sending the vests for free.

Her appreciation for such kindness literally poured out in her Spanish/English messages. The vests were for her disabled daughter who was in a wheelchair. She had an infant daughter as well and three boys of various ages. She sent me nine photos – NINE PHOTOS! – of her precious family, and explained that even though her husband was deported, they chose to stay and live here in faith.

Sometimes you just have to listen to the whisper on your heart.

I decided to pick up a few more items and wrap them all as Christmas gifts. A checkers/chess game with some sour candy canes for the boys. Some toddler books and a teddy bear for the baby. A sparkly scarf and a $20 Target gift card for the mom. And, of course, the two puffy vests with an extra stuffed animal for the daughter in the wheelchair.


The box was big. Bulky. Heavy. But standing there in the long line at the post office made my heart fill with joy! Time slowed down. I smiled at everyone I saw. The postal worker wished me Merry Christmas and I returned the sentiment.

Merry Christmas, indeed!


I can only imagine the surprise on the mom’s face when she received the package, opening the box to see wrapped gifts for “La Hermana Mejor”, “Los Hermanos”, “Bebe” and “Mama”.

I can see her in my mind, placing the gifts under her tree, or perhaps hiding them to be revealed Christmas morning. 

Or maybe the curiousity and excitement was too much and everyone in the family ripped into the presents moments after they arrived.

No matter when or how the gifts are opened, this family will know they are loved. They are valued. They are not forgotten.

And that’s what Christmas is all about. 

Today is the day.

I wish I could end that sentence with the exclamatory exuberance I usually display when I speak and write, but the simple fact is I’m weary.

I’m weary of negativity. I’m weary of trash-talking. I’m weary of back-biting nastiness that benefits no one.

So today, on such a most important day for my country, I choose joy because despite my weariness, I am blessed.

I am blessed to live in a country that allows me to speak my opinion without incarceration or death.

I am blessed to have the opportunity to engage in debate, but hold true to my values and beliefs without fear.

I am blessed to have the privilege to be anything I want to be: student, teacher, mother, wife, author, speaker, entrepreneur.

I am blessed to make eye contact with anyone I meet, to smile and say hello no matter the perceived or actual level of social hierarchy.

I am blessed to live in a place of prosperity. I have all my basic needs met and never find myself walking miles for clean water or sanitized facilities. I don’t sleep on a hard floor. I enjoy the luxuries of a refrigerator, a washer/dryer, and air conditioning in the summer.

I am blessed to stand in a line that wraps around an elementary school building, to have the opportunity to cast my vote for our country’s next leader.


I am blessed to stand next to my daughter, who at the age of 18 is voting in her first presidential election.


And even though it’s not much, I’m blessed to show kindness to others by giving away little gifts of appreciation to the volunteers at my voting precinct.


I have the option to choose anger and hate or love and joy.

Today I choose joy. 🙂

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One sure sign of birthday season is an absence of my blog posts filling your feeds. Every September and October, as I focus on my children and their joyous days-of-birth, I tend to wrap my attention around them, leaving less time to stop, pause, and reflect.

Does this mean that I have stopped showing kindness to others? Oh, goodness, no! But my time has been limited, thus impacting my natural ebb and flow of writing.

Since my last blog post, there have been countless acts of kindness, too many to recount and post. Nothing spectacular, no grandiose expressions of greatness, just me being me and you being you; small acts of love shared here and there.

I received two new book donations to our Tiny Tech Cafe which is so exciting! Our lending library is expanding!

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I was able to pay-it-forward with a few notes to coworkers to lift their spirits and remind them that they matter to me:

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Today when I arrived to work, there was a darling container of hand-picked flowers with a sweet message waiting for me:

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When was the last time you received an anonymous gift that made you smile?

This small ray of sunshine was actually a perfectly-timed gift of compassion. As many of you know, my mom is walking through her journey of Stage 4 small cell lung cancer. There have been ups, downs, and moments where I swear I thought the train was derailed. This was one of those weeks. But these flowers reminded me that all things blossom in their own time and small things matter!

So today, I’m celebrating the small things.

My mom had to get a lung test today as she struggles daily to breathe and her pulmonologist needs to know what’s going on inside. Right now we are taking it day-by-day. To make my mom smile and focus on other things, I promised her a yummy lunch to celebrate her very first lung test.

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We ate at Baker’s Crust and had the most attentive waiter one could hope for. We tasted samples of homemade soup, shared stories of my kiddos, and I even got her synced up with Words With Friends again (so feel free to invite her to a game!)

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Then came the main meal. Oh. My. Goodness! We both agreed her Wine Country salad with Raspberry Vinaigrette was much better than my Caprese Panini.

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On the way back from lunch, we talked again about her visiting my Tiny Tech Cafe. “Maybe we could go next week.”

No.

How can we live in the moment, if we keep putting off today?

Forty-five minutes later, I was popping wheelies with my mom in a wheelchair as we made our way around campus.

(OK, so maybe that’s a slight exaggeration. You know if I tried to pop a wheelie with mom in a wheelchair we would BOTH end up on the ground!)

Today was a good day. My mom got to sit in the Tiny Tech Cafe!

JOY!

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As much joy as this brought to my soul, what actually made me happiest was hearing my mom’s laughter as she fussed at me for holding on to her wheelchair going down the ramp in our building. “Let go of the chair! I want to feel it roll!”

So I let go and my mom was free.

Her laughter echoed against the walls, her arms outstretched, bracing for impact as the wheelchair gained momentum reaching the bottom of the ramp.

For just one moment, there was no cancer, there were no worries, and everything was right with the world.

Friends, thank you for being such faithful readers. Thank you for allowing me to pour my heart into your life through my stories. Thank you for lifting me up when I can’t find the words, when my writing comes to a standstill, when my thoughts are going in a thousand different directions, but not a single complete thought is shared.

We are sharing this journey of life together and I appreciate being on the road with you.

Until next time! Be kind and #CelebrateEverything!

 

 

Sometimes we get so caught up in our own whirlwinds, we forget the whirlwinds of those around us. Thank goodness for Facebook and Twitter! With just a quick tap and a scroll, I can catch a glimpse of what’s happening with everyone else and realize that my issues are, in fact, just a drop in the bucket compared to someone else.

I really love using social media to stay connected with friends and family. In this fast-paced world in which we live, sometimes it’s the only lifeline I have to know when people are hurting or when there’s cause for celebration.

Today was a perfect example of the importance of being connected.

I saw this post on my Facebook feed from a gal I knew in high school (we sang together in show choir):


Oh my goodness! This is serious stuff! It’s incomprehensible to imagine someone my age, that I went to high school with, having to battle such life-changing situations.

However… There is joy in the journey! I love how my friend requested absurd balloons – how funny is THAT?! So awesome!

After work today, I stopped by the Dollar Tree and picked up a few goodies, each with a special meaning. My only purpose was to make my friends smile, so they know they mattered to me. 😊



Yep, that’s right – I bought a Princess balloon for a grown man in his 40’s who I know would rather be mud-bogging than trapped in a hospital bed with a gown that only ties in the back. Princess indeed!

I laughed all the way back to my car!

I got Mountain Dew to jump start that old heart of his with caffeine in case the surgery didn’t work. I added a box of Lifesavers as a last resort for survival. I bought a crazy-faced Pez because, well, you’re never too old to get Pez as a gift! I also bought a pack of Pez refills because NOBODY gets excited by the lemon Pez candies that come with the package. C’mon now Pez makers… Would it be too much to ask for some grape and strawberry?

Then I added two 100 Grand chocolate bars, because both my friend and her husband are worth 100 Grand to me. ❤️

The gift was received with laughter, which made me smile, too. Take time today to reach out to those around you! A quick note, a small surprise, just letting people know you care.

Who knows? Maybe one day you’ll be surprised by a Princess balloon, too. ❤️

“Let’s make this!”

I looked up from the sink filled with dirty dishes, soap suds swishing warm water across my fingers, to see my six-year-old pointing at the laptop screen.

“Be there in a sec,” I replied, pulling my dripping hands from the water, drying them on a faded kitchen towel.

“Mommy, it’s perfect! We can have an Angry Birds birthday party! Here’s the cake I wanna make!” I peered over his shoulder to see a basic sheet cake covered in green frosting with miniature Angry Birds figures scattered around a fallen wooden structure. The words “Happy Birthday” were piped in colored frosting to the left.

He was so excited, his small body fell into the computer desk as he leaned closer to the image shown. “I’m ok,” he quickly alerted, “Let’s make this today!”

It’s July. 

His birthday isn’t until September.

I don’t make cakes.

No, seriously. I don’t make cakes.

My children know I adore themed celebrations. There’s something about the planning of decorations and activities that reminds me of the perfect childhood I never had. And while I don’t bake cakes, I feel compelled to create these timeless memories for my family.

“Mommy! Listen to me! We gonna make this today!” He jumped down from the computer chair and stood in front of me, hands on his hips, his sweet smile replaced with a showdown glare. “TO-DAY!”

I could hear the strains of “The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly” playing in my mind with Clint Eastwood’s swagger reflected in my son’s stance. He was determined to be the last man standing. There was no way I was coming out of this showdown unscathed.

I knew this was a losing battle. He may only be six, but he’s sixteen with persistence.

It’s July.

His birthday isn’t until September.

Why can’t we bake a cake just for fun?

My dirty dishes would have to wait. It was time to make memories. “It’s a trial run,” he shrieked with glee, “Let’s do this!”

Sometimes as parents we need to surprise our children with random acts of kindness. I don’t bake cakes. In fact, in the 17 years I’ve been a mom, I have never once made a birthday cake for any of my three children. I always buy their premade cakes from grocery stores or have them custom-created by friends, with no guilt whatsoever.

But today was different. Today I became a cake baker for my son.

We went to the grocery store and purchased cake mix, frosting, food coloring, and eggs. Returning home, I searched for a hand mixer as he gathered items from his Angry Birds game to decorate the top.

He cracked the eggs. He mixed the batter. He even helped me change the frosting from white to green.

After the cake was baked and cooled, with icing spread from left to right, he meticulously placed the Angry Birds items on top using the picture he found on the internet as his guide.

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“Mommy, can you write the words, but let me write my name?”

And with that, his trial run birthday cake was complete!

That’s when it hit me.

This wasn’t about the birthday cake.

It was about the process.

It was about quality time.

It was about taking the time to make memories and validating my son’s purpose in the moment.

And that, my friends, is priceless.

Be blessed with kindness as you look for ways to shine your light in small and simple ways. For Gae Polisner, Cindy Ashburn, and Andrea Kish, I wish you the happiest of birthdays today!

 

 


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