celebrate kindness

Posts Tagged ‘#26acts

This afternoon as I was leaving work, I decided to stop in at McDonald’s to get a free McCafe (Thank you, McDonald’s for celebrating Teacher Appreciation Week with free drinks!)  As I entered the restroom, I was shocked to see something on the floor.  Someone had left their purse!

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Oh my goodness!  I looked around the restroom and, of course, I was alone.  Without a moment’s hesitation, I grabbed the purse and walked towards the door, ready to take the purse to the manager of the restaurant.  As I pushed open the door, I was met by a frantic woman who exclaimed, “Oh thank you!  That’s my purse!”  You could see the panic in her eyes which was immediately brightened by relief as I handed her the purse.

The entire event lasted less than two minutes.  But, oh, how important those two minutes were!

It’s funny how some acts of kindness are truly random.  I like to think of them as “perfectly timed randomness”.  It never occured to me to do anything with the purse other than turn it in.  However, had I not been in that McDonald’s, right in that moment, this lady may not have ever seen her purse again.

What treasures might she have lost?  Thankfully we will never know because tonight she has her purse, safe and sound.  Best of all, I have a happy heart because I did the right thing and I know it blessed someone else.

Tonight’s random act of kindness is dedicated to Mary Sherlach, age 56, who was the Sandy Hook school psychologist.  As a veteran educator, one year away from retirement, I’m sure she had counseled many children under her charge to “do the right thing”.   Maybe a small part of her can live on when others “do the right thing”, too.

Be blessed my friends and always keep your eyes open for opportunities to bless one another!

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First, let me apologize for my delay in keeping up with my blog.  This time of year is always crazy busy in my job and there are many days where I don’t know if I am coming or going!  I am sure many of you can relate.  Each time I do another random act of kindness, I want to shout it to the world and celebrate the joy!!  But alas, the reality of working full-time, being a mom, and keeping up with a non-stop schedule prevents me from taking the time to elaborate on each and every RAK I complete.

But here I sit, looking through photos on my phone, carving out time to remember, reflect, and rejoice.  Yes, rejoice!  RAKs make me happy!  How can I keep this all happiness to myself?!

So it’s with that spirit that I will be posting several RAKs in a row.  I was tempted to just lump them all together in one blog post (after all, that would be MUCH easier and quicker, too!) but I was reminded yesterday that EACH random act of kindness I complete is special and deserving of its own page.  A humbling reminder that quick and easy isn’t always best.

RAK #8 happened a few weeks ago, on a bright Sunday afternoon.  I was changing purses (I love to carry cute little handbags when the weather gets warmer) and I discovered a gift card for Subway I had received as a birthday gift that had somehow gotten lost in the shuffle of other items in my purse.  (In full disclosure, it was wedged at the bottom of my bag in between a sheet of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle stickers, a sticky, red Matchbox car, and a 20% off coupon for Kohl’s that had expired in November.  Needless to say, I carry the same purse around all winter and it becomes a traveling toy box as well, lol.)

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How exciting!  And perfect timing, too, because I was STARVING and the kids were hungry, too.  Perfect!  I packed the kids in the car, drove to the nearest Subway, and delightfully placed my order.  Normally I get something inexpensive like a 6 inch veggie sub, but today I decided to splurge and got a 6 inch chicken teriyaki, a drink, a bag of chips, the works!  Oh, how fun to discover a forgotten gift card – it was almost like giving myself a RAK!  Ha!

After paying for my meal and my children’s meals, there was still a little bit of money left on the gift card.  I decided to bless someone else with the store credit.  I wrote a quick note on a napkin and asked the cashier to give it to the person behind me in line.

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It wasn’t a lot of money, only a few dollars, but I figured it could still be a blessing anyway.  And, in a way, it was like sharing my birthday with someone else all over again!  Fun!

As I was grabbing napkins for the kids and putting straws in plastic drink lids, a gentleman about my age approached me with a smile on his face.  He pointed to his bag and said simply, “Thanks so much.  That was very nice!”  Even as I watched him walk out of the door, his smile still lit up the room.

Being kind doesn’t have to cost money and it isn’t always about 100% self-sacrifice.  Sometimes I feel guilty when I do something for myself that I could have done for someone else instead.  But this RAK reminded me that it’s OK to enjoy the generosity of others (my Subway birthday gift card) because sometimes there will be enough for two blessings instead of just one.

Random Act of Kindness #8 is dedicated to Dylan Hockley, age 6.  According to Dylan’s family, “his beaming smile would light up any room and his laugh was the sweetest music.”  Seeing the smile of my RAK recipient in Subway was almost like catching a glimpse of Dylan’s smile, too.  It simply warmed your heart and made you happy.  I hope Dylan’s family will know that his memory, and smile, will live on through the random acts of kindness shown to others.

Be blessed, dear friends, and share your joy!  Check back soon because I have more RAKs to post!  🙂

Ever had a day where the weather was so beautiful, so perfect, you wanted to just freeze time forever? We’ve had several days like that around here recently. This past weekend I couldn’t wait to visit one of my favorite places, Maymont Park. Nothing relaxes me more than taking a stroll through that park. Hundreds of acres of rolling hills, farm animals, trails and more. They even have bears and a waterfall nestled on the grounds!

I decided to do another random act of kindness by gathering some activity books and pencils I had been saving from a Target clearance sale a few months ago. I thought again of those precious lives lost at Sandy Hook and one little face popped into my mind. Emilie. A sweet blond headed cherub who shared the same name as my sister, although spelled a different way. I remembered reading about her, how she loved anything to do with art, especially making handmade cards. That, of course, made me think of my own daughter who started her own card making business at the age of 13. Without a moment’s hesitation, I knew today’s RAK would be dedicated to Emilie.

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We gathered our things to have a picnic at the park then headed towards Maymont. Traffic was light, the breeze was blowing… I could not have asked for a more beautiful day. Upon our arrival, we found a nice, shady spot to set up our picnic lunch, near the iron statues of children playing on a wooden log.

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It was a busy day in the park with many families enjoying the gorgeous weather. As I made my way towards the statue, I knew it would be a perfect place to leave my bucket of activity books as children were always climbing and playing in that spot.

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As I made my way back to our picnic, a woman called out to me from across the grass. “Are those books free? The ones you just left right there?” I was already grinning. “Yep! Help yourself! Enjoy!” Immediately two little children came running past me, activity books already in hand. “Look what I found! And it came with a sharpened pencil, too!” (See – those little details DO make a difference!)

All of a sudden it was if a magnet was placed on the side of that statue. Children, parents, even a few grandparents made their way to see what all the fuss was about. We simply sat on our blanket and watched with glee, imagining how Emilie would feel to know her RAK brought so much joy to others. I broke my trance for a moment and captured a photo of a dad flipping through one of the books with his son (see below). Simply precious!

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Then, as our picnic was winding down with full bellies and happy hearts, I saw a family of three approaching our blanket. Lo and behold, it was my sister, Emily! I couldn’t believe it! I had no idea she would be at Maymont that day and she was just as surprised to see me. But I treasured the surprise (a.k.a. divine intervention and perfect timing) and spent the next few hours soaking up the rays of sisterhood as we walked the park together with our families.

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(Our “babies” are 8 days apart in age. They were so sweet walking through Maymont hand in hand!)

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With the acts of terror, violence, and despair we have experienced in only four days since our picnic (Boston marathon bombing, ricin laced letters to government officials, explosion at the Texas plant, even a scrawled hate message on a high school bathroom door in a neighboring school district), it makes me once again dig deeper to share peace and joy. I know my simple acts of kindness may not change the landscape of hatred that fights to cover our nation and our world, but I still believe with all my heart that even one random act of kindness can change a life forever. Who am I to decide which life is changed? I simply act on the whispers of my heart.

This act of kindness is dedicated to Emilie Parker, age 6. May her family find comfort in knowing her legacy lives on in others.

Twice this week I’ve had friends of my mine send me links or suggestions to find out more about “suspended coffees“, that it might be something I could do as part of my Random Acts of Kindness.  The basic premise of “suspended coffee” is that while you are purchasing your own salted caramel machiatto (or whatever your favorite coffee drink might be), you also purchase another coffee to be “suspended” or waiting there, allowing the barista to choose a random stranger who appears to be in need of coffee without the burden of payment.

Today as I sat in church rejoicing over the news that Jesus is no longer suspended on the cross (He is Risen!), my thoughts focused on that one word:  suspended.  What’s the first thing that comes to your mind?  Being an educator, I immediately think of being suspended from school (NOT from first hand experience, let me reassure you!  Ha!)  Being suspended from school is humiliating.  Embarrassing.  A punishment for not following the rules.  Then I think of Jesus being suspended on the cross.  Humiliated.  Embarrassed.  Punished.

All for me.

While suspended coffees and a suspended savior may not go hand-in-hand per se, they were connected in my head this morning.  Jesus did not stay suspended.  He was brought down from the cross, placed in a tomb, and rose 3 days later.  He carried the weight of my sin hanging on that cross, but it was a weight he chose to bear.  A suspended student also bears the weight of whatever action was committed, but does not stay suspended forever.  He serves his time, then returns to begin again.  Like these two examples, I know my suspended coffees will not remain in mid-air.  Someone will enjoy a free coffee.  Someone’s thirst will be quenched.  Someone will be reminded that there are nice people in this world and that good things can, and do, happen to them.

It was with this spirit that I reached into my purse and felt the straight edges of my Happy Birthday bag.  As many of you know, I celebrated my 40th birthday by completing 40 Random Acts of Kindness (if you want to start at the beginning and read what I did, click here.)  One of my dearest friends, Lisa, blessed me with this birthday bag and filled it with one dollar bills.  “For your project!” she proclaimed, being one of my biggest cheerleaders in life.  I’ve been carrying around this bag for months, never knowing when the moment will touch my heart to bless someone else, but reassured that when the moment appears, I will have some money to make it happen.  Today, I reached in and took out $10.

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After church, I made my way downstairs to the new coffee shop that just opened in our church.  All proceeds from the coffee sales will go to support mission trips; not only would I bless a few strangers with coffee, my money would continue to bless those that served others.

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As I waited in line, my thoughts drifted again to Sandy Hook.  Today is the first Easter celebration where 26 families have their precious loved ones living with Jesus instead of them.  Just the thought brought such an array of mixed emotions, I could barely speak when it was my turn to order.

“And what can I get for you, Miss?”  My tear-clouded vision cleared as I was brought back into the moment.  “Well, this might sound a little odd, but I don’t want to buy any coffee for myself.  Can I buy three suspended coffees instead?”  I then explained the concept of suspended coffees and the purpose of my mission.  The barista, a church member, was a little taken back by my request (I’m pretty sure she hasn’t heard the latest buzz about suspended coffees, lol), but she seemed quite happy to take the money and pass it along to someone who might need it more than me.

Suspended coffee.  Something so simple, and yet a perfect RAK for Easter Sunday.  I dedicate today’s RAK to Dawn Hochsprung, age 47, who as the principal of Sandy Hook Elementary knew the meaning of “suspended”.  According to media reports, she was a hero in every sense of the word, not only leading her school with joy and enthusiasm, but “facing every problem head-on… even lunging at the shooter upon hearing the sounds of gunshots.”  She sacrificed her life for her students; Jesus sacrificed his life for you and me.  I know, without a doubt, neither life is suspended anymore.

Be blessed my dear friends this Resurrection Sunday and share a hug with those you love.  Those RAKs are free, but worth the world.  🙂

For the past few weeks, our three year old has been mesmerized by the Chuck E. Cheese commercials on TV, where “a kid can be a kid!” He gazes longingly at all the fun the children are having then turns to us and proclaims, “I want to be a kid, too!” Every time he says this, it makes us laugh. Of COURSE you want to be a kid! You are one!

We finally carved enough time in our busy schedule to make his wish come true, because every kid deserves to be a kid at least once, right? Little did we know at this time, but this would be a perfect opportunity to bless others (and be blessed ourselves!)

We decided to make it a dinner event, so upon entering Chuck E. Cheese, we ordered a large pizza for the kids and the salad buffet for ourselves. I didn’t have a coupon for the buffet (only for tokens), but the generous cashier said, “I’ll just give you the discount price anyway!” How sweet! It put a smile on my face to be on the receiving end of a RAK.

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As I returned to the buffet for another amazing salad, a lady tapped me on the shoulder. “Would you like to have this? We are leaving and don’t have time to use it.” She handed me a coupon for 10 free tokens! Another random act of kindness received! Wow! Twice in one night! What a pleasant surprise!

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It was then that I knew it was my turn to pass along the blessings to others. I put my salad on the table and joined the long cashier’s line to claim my free tokens. As I got closer to the front of the line, I noticed a boy wearing all red standing to the side, shifting from one foot to the other. It appeared that he was waiting for his turn to get tokens, too, as I saw him folding and unfolding a dollar bill while he waited. He never once tried to push his way in front of anyone, but he also didn’t join the back of the line and wait his turn. He simply stood there, in the front, moving from side to side, almost willing someone to have mercy on him and let him in.

That person was me. 🙂

“Why don’t you go next? You’ve been waiting quite a while!” His grin spoke volumes of appreciation. And sure enough, he was getting tokens. Four golden tokens in exchange for his crumpled dollar bill.

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A few moments later, I was exiting the line, 10 tokens in hand, ready to pass along my blessings. Remembering the squeals of delight my children would share when they found an unexpected coin in an arcade, I decided to leave my tokens on popular games, right in plain sight, ready to be discovered by children young and old.

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The best part of this random act of kindness was observing my tokens being discovered by children. As expected, there were smiles and squeals of delight! Mission accomplished! One girl, who used my token to play Skeeball, turned to her mom and dad and proudly said, “Look at all my tickets! And I got them all for free!”

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I think my favorite moment of the night came when I saw a young girl gazing longingly at the Cinderella coach, complete with a pair of majestic horses ready to pull the princess anywhere her heart desired. The girl walked around the ride at least twice when I leaned down and asked, “Would you like to be a princess and ride on this?” Her eyes grew wide as I handed her my very last token. “Go ahead. It’s OK! Put the token in the slot and you can ride.” She put her Barney doll down long enough to use the token, then grabbed him again and settled down for the ride. Her smile was simply priceless!

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As I stood there, watching all the children enjoy “just being a kid”, I felt the now familiar lump in my throat as my thoughts traveled yet again to those precious children from Sandy Hook Elementary. It made me want to hug my own children so tightly and never let go.

Tonight I dedicate this act of kindness to Charlotte Bacon, age 6, a “sweet, outgoing and full of energy” little girl with a head of beautiful red curls. I am sure she would have loved to share the joy of just being a kid with others.

Be blessed and remember… opportunities to bless others might just begin when you find yourself being blessed instead!

One of our favorite family traditions is visiting Krispy Kreme when the children receive their report cards.  “One free doughnut for every A” is the incentive Krispy Kreme offers and they never disappoint! Ever since our daughter started Kindergarten eight years ago, we have made the trek across town to the only Krispy Kreme restaurant around, to watch the doughnuts transform from gooey round balls to puffed up delicacies.  We love staring at the baked doughnuts sliding down the conveyor belt with sweet anticipation of seeing them being smothered in warm, slick icing.

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Yes, a visit to Krispy Kreme is quite the treat for our family indeed, especially because we don’t live nearby.  This past week we piled the kids in the car, report cards in hand, and made our way to this little piece of heaven on earth.

Traveling side roads, main roads, and interstates, we finally approached our destination.  My son piped up from the back seat,”Mommy… what does that sign say?”  He was pointing to a girl standing on the side of street who was holding up a sign asking for help.  “We don’t need rocks, we need socks!” declared the sign.  She was a bit disheveled in her mismatched layers of clothes, trying to keep the biting wind away from her bare skin.  “What does that mean, Mommy?  I don’t get it!”  Well, I could have spent the next two hours talking about that sign and the greater issues in our society that the sign represented, but I answered simply, “I think she just wants a little bit of help, sweetie.”

We turned into the Krispy Kreme parking lot and made our way into the restaurant, but the image of the girl holding the sign wouldn’t leave my mind.  When was the last time she ate?  Had a shower?  I noticed that there was a dog sitting by her feet.  When was the last time he ate?  As we made our way through the line to the front display with all the different varieties of sprinkled and iced donuts, I knew exactly what I needed to do.

The Krispy Kreme worker checked off the A’s on the children’s report cards and packed the free glazed doughnuts into a sturdy box to take back home.  Each child also chose one “fancy” doughnut of their choice which we purchased with milk to be consumed now.  I pointed to the red, pink, and white sprinkled heart-shaped doughnut in the front and asked, “May I have this one to go?  With a coffee and a cup of water, too?”  Gathering napkins, cream, sugar, and a stir stick, I told my husband, “I’ll be right back” and walked out of the front door as my children made their way to the back of the store with their dad to eat their special treats.

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“Excuse me.  Hi,” I said to the girl on the street corner, who was leaning over rubbing her dog.  “Hi!”  she reponded, eye opening wide.  I held out the drinks and doughnut.  “Your sign made me smile.  I wanted you to have these.”  Her smile was bright and cheerful despite her clothes and surroundings.  “And the water is for your dog,” I added as an after thought.

I caught movement from the corner of my eye and turned to see two more people on the corner, another young girl and an older gentleman, hunched and worn with age.  “Oh no!” I exclaimed.  “I didn’t know you had friends with you!  I thought it was only you!”  The second girl came closer and showed me the dog she had hidden inside her coat.  “I have a dog, too!” she said, proudly drawing attention to the little scruffy head peeking from within.  “Oh my gosh, I am so sorry!  I only brought one doughnut and coffee, thinking there was only one person here!  I am so sorry!”  The girls laughed, still smiling, with the first girl easing my embarrassment.  “Oh, it’s OK.  This is my sister.  We can share.  It was nice of you to bring us a treat!”

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As I turned to make my way back to my family, nestled in the warm restaurant devouring their doughnuts with sticky fingers and milk-stained mouths, I heard the girl offer her doughnut to the older gentleman who had stayed hidden in the shadows.  “Pat, you want part of this?  You can have some if you want.”  Almost out of earshot, I heard Pat respond, “No, no, girls, you have it.  I get me something soon.  You eat.”

It almost broke my heart.

As the tears started to sting the corners of my eyes, I pushed open the door to Krispy Kreme and sat with my family.  “What did she say?”  “Was she excited?”  “Did the dog drink all the water?”  The kids had dozens of questions, clearly interested and concerned at the same time.  After retelling my random act of kindness, I couldn’t overcome the simple lesson I myself had learned from the experience.  These girls, whose lives were obviously more challenged than mine, had received an unexpected surprise and yet were willing to share it with someone else who might be more in need than them.  Priceless.

In that moment, I knew I had more to do.  I got back in line, purchased two more doughnuts, coffees, and waters, and made my way back to the street corner.  I wanted to bless both sisters and their older friend, Pat.

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“Hi.  I’m back.”  I held out the treats as an offering for forgiveness.  “Now you don’t have to share!”  They were surprised by my return and the older girl exclaimed, “Oh wow!”  I pulled out the cream, sugar and stir sticks from my pocket.  “Stay warm and know you are loved.  Be blessed!”  I quickly turned and walked away before they could see the tears inching out of my eyes yet again.

I know there has been a lot of conversation and debate within our local community about homeless people standing on the sides of streets, signs in hand, asking for help or handouts.  In this moment, it didn’t matter.   None of it made a difference to me.  It was simply a moment in time where I saw an opportunity to bless someone else with kindness.  I could have just as easily purchased doughnuts and coffee for a stranger in the restaurant.  I wasn’t there to debate the legalities of their actions, nor their purpose or intent.  All that was important was that I acted on my heart and did what I felt was the right thing, in the right time.

This random act of kindness is dedicated to Caroline Previdi, age 6, whose neighbor told the Associated Press that “Caroline was always wanting others to smile.”  I can relate.  It really does brighten your day to know you made someone else smile.  I hope there’s an endless supply of pretty sprinkled doughnuts in heaven for this sweet little girl.  I also hope her parents know that her legacy lives on with this simple act of kindness.

Be blessed, my friends, and never let an opportunity pass to bless a strangers.  I promise you will be more blessed in return!

For Random Act of Kindness #3, I honored the memory of Lauren Rousseau, a substitute teacher for Sandy Hook Elementary.  As an educator myself, I can appreciate the valuable service substitutes provide for occasions when the regular classroom teacher has to be absent from class.  Their job is one of the hardest in the educational system, in my opinion.  They have to be flexible, open-minded, quick on their feet, and deal with unexpected circumstances all day long.  With a humble heart, I decided to take the time and say “Thanks” to an unknown substitute teacher!

I decorated a coffee mug with a silver sharpie and filled it with chocolate “Bliss” candies.  I also included a Thank You note with the surprise.

IMG_4608(The mug says “Super Substitute” all the way around the outside.)

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I took my goodies to my son’s elementary school (on a dreary day filled with rain, so I KNEW this would bring a smile) and asked the secretary to deliver it to a substitute.  “ANY substitue?” she asked.  I smiled, explained my purpose, then added, “Yes… ANY substitute.  You get to pick!”   I then walked out of the office with a happy heart.

When was the last time someone thanked you for a job well done?  It’s something we do not hear often enough.  Today I am thankful for substitute teachers.  For Lauren.  For my cousin, Amy.  For my friends Becky, Kelleigh, Amy, Beth, Lea, Stephanie, and all the other amazing teachers who fill the shoes of others every day.  I am inspired by their tenacity and love for children.  I can only hope that the family of Lauren Rousseau will know just how special she was to the students and teachers at her school.

Be blessed my friends and keep paying it forward!


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