celebrate kindness

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This year I plan to do 30 random acts of kindness in memory of our sweet Renee Parr, a first grade teacher at my school who unexpectedly passed away last summer at the age of 30.  She was known for her contagious laughter and smile, her sparkling personality, and her love of all things fun.

I don’t really have a set plan of which RAKs I want to complete, or even a timeline (other than doing them this year). I’m just going to wait on that nudge and know, in that moment, that it’s a Renee RAK.

Over the Christmas holiday, I had that first nudge as my family and I were visiting the Jelly Belly factory in Wisconsin. There were lots of smiling children and the whole place seemed somewhat magical with candy all about. You can read about that RAK here.

The next day, I went on a shopping date with my daughter (a perfect way to pass the time with a teenage girl!) As we strolled in and out of clothing shops, it seemed like I was constantly finding clothes that had fallen off their hangers. By the third store, I was almost starting to think I was on Candid Camera!  Each time I saw something on the floor, I stopped and picked it up, then searched for its hanger so I could return it to the rack, nice and neat. It wasn’t a huge RAK, one might even debate that it “doesn’t count”, but it was one less task a sales associate had to complete at the end of a long day.

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Then my daughter and I went into a store filled with sparkles. Oh, now THIS was our kind of store!  We looked at all the shimmering jewelry and scarves and admired the merchandising done by color groups throughout the store.  I took a picture of my daughter, just to relish in the moment:

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That’s when it hit me.

Renee loved sparkles. Glitter. Fancy things. And the color purple. All of which were surrounding my daughter on our special shopping day.

“Look up! I want this in MY room,” my daughter exclaimed with admiration. It was the largest, most glittery chandelier I had ever seen in a retail store. All glitz and glamour.

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“Look at this!” I turned to see my daughter modeling a tiara and felt my eyes fill with tears. Renee!

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Oh yes, this day of RAKs was meant for Renee for sure.  I kept the RAKs coming, allowing someone to go ahead of me in the dressing room and in the checkout line. I also left a few dollars in an accessories bin (but forgot to take a photo.)

It was fun spending time with my daughter shopping and it was fun to spend time with Renee in my mind. I’m excited to see what other RAKs lead me to think of her throughout the year.

Be blessed with kindness as you go about your week! For those of you tagging me in your RAK stories on Facebook and Twitter, keep ’em coming! Your stories inspire me, too!

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Today’s Random Act of Kindness is a direct response to a plea posted on Facebook:

“My dear Facebook friends, an old friend of mine has a sister that lost her whole house last night to a fire.  She has 3 young girls aged 7, 2, and 10 months.  I can store anything you can donate at my house.  Just leave it on my front porch.  Thank you so much to those of you who can contribute.”

And this, my friends, is one of the many reasons I love social media.  As soon as I saw my friend make a comment on this post, I felt that all familiar tug on my heart and knew I had to help.  No, I didn’t know the family whose house had burned down.  In fact, I didn’t even know the gal who posted the plea (but she is a friend of a friend, so she is important!)

It’s interesting how these things happen sometimes.  I’m always amazed how in the face of tragedy, God has prompted me to look through my home and out of nowhere I suddenly “discover” all these things that could help someone else.  I immediately thought of the bathroom set sitting on the top of my closet shelf:  shower curtain, shower hooks, trash can, fish decorations, a new shower sponge with two unopened bottles of bath wash.  I kept meaning to list it on Craigslist, but… well… God had other plans!  Then I opened my linen closet.  I immediately spotted the flowered twin sheets from when my daughter used to have a twin sized bed.  Oh!  Her comforter!  That could be given away, too!  With each blink of an eye it seemed my closet had become a donation warehouse of sorts.  Towels.  Washcloths.  Curtains.  I barely had all the items stuffed into a bag when it occurred to me that all those little girls would need toys.  And books.  And crayons.  Markers.  Activity books.  Coloring books.  Right now, those sweet little girls needed a distraction for the loss of all their possessions.  I found a stuffed animal for each of the children so they would have something to snuggle with when they went to sleep, wherever that may now be.  I even found a purse of my daughter’s filled with play jewelry.  (Every little girl needs play jewelry!)  With each item I gathered, I prayed for this family, that through a simple Facebook plea all their needs would be met.

I checked back on Facebook to find more details posted about needs:  Mom wore a size 3-5 pants, small tops, size 8 shoes.  Right there I got chill bumps.  I wear a size 4!  Perfect!  I went into my closet and made two outfits of sweaters and pants, then threw in another sweater and a few shirts.  (As many of you know, I keep a pretty “bare bones” closet – if I haven’t worn something in the past year, it doesn’t stay in my closet!  Unfortunately, I had already cleaned out my closet about a month before, but I was willing to part with a few favorite outfits.  :-))  I also found a long wool coat and another shorter coat for Mom.  Unfortunately, I wear a size 6 shoes, so I wasn’t able to donate any footwear.

I remembered several friends who had donated items to my 40th Birthday Project:  books and “Blessing Bags” (bags filled with essentials such as toothbrushes, toothpaste, shampoo, etc.)  I gathered those items as well.  As I was laying everything on the floor to take a photo for this blog, a small oak box caught my eye.  My jewelry box.  That’s when the impact of this devastation hit me.  This mom had lost all her jewelry, too.  I literally stopped everything as my thoughts raced ahead of my actions.  No jewelry.  No family heirlooms to pass down to her daughters.  Gone.  Everything.  It was almost too much to bear, and made me think of the recent events of Hurricane Sandy and all those that had lost similar treasures.

I then did what I knew was right.  I opened up my jewelry box and pulled out three of my favorite necklaces and a matching bracelet.  Using a special gift bag my mom gave me on my 40th birthday, I placed the jewelry inside with a simple note:

As I made one final sweep of my closet and bedroom, my gaze landed on one final item.  My absolute favorite children’s book of all time:  Guess How Much I Love You.  All three of my babies were rocked to sleep as infants with me reading this book to them, snuggled safely in my arms.  Each time I see the book at a yard sale or consignment store, I buy it and then wait for an opportunity to bless someone else with the gift.  This particular version came as a gift set with the main character of the book, a sweet little bunny.  If you’ve never read this book, please do, especially if you are a parent.  The story ends with my favorite storyline:  “I love you all the way to the moon… and back.”  Without a moment’s hesitation, I grabbed the book and bunny and jotted a note for this family, including my project business card so they could know that even in the midst of tragedy, they were loved.

Then I loaded everything in my car and dropped it off on the friend of a friend’s front porch.  No one was home, so I simply left all the bags by the door.

Why do I do all these things without wanting anything in return?  Because I believe showing kindness to others is the way we all should be.  I would like to think that if I were ever in a predicament such as this that others would show me kindness, too.  Until that time, I will continue to count my blessings and try not to take too many things for granted. 🙂

If you would like more information of this family’s needs, or how to donate, please send an email to celebratekindness@gmail.com or if you know me on FB send me a PM and I will get all the details to you.  Even if you only have a few items to share, a little can add up to a lot!

Be blessed!

I have a friend of mine who delights in reminding the world how many shopping days are left until Christmas. Do you have any friends like this? I come to find you either love ’em or hate ’em. Either way, we are reminded that the holidays are fast approaching with lists to be made, money to budget, and shopping to be done.

One afternoon when I was window shopping, a really cute dress caught my eye. Now if you know me well, you know I am a pretty thrifty shopper when it comes to spending money on myself, but I couldn’t resist trying on this dress. As I entered the dressing room, this is what I saw:

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Has this ever happened to you? You enter a fitting room, only to discover piles of clothing discarded by someone else. What a mess! Ugh!

I am discovering this is becoming more and more common to find, despite the hanging racks displayed outside the doors with signs screaming, “PLACE UNWANTED CLOTHING HERE!!” Who is going to clean up this mess? Well, the sales associate, of course. That’s what they get paid for, right?

Actually, no. It is not the sales associate’s job to clean up my mess (or in this case, the mess of the gal before me.) Years ago, before I became a teacher, I was an assistant manager of a European clothing store. I can still recall the irritation I would feel at the end of an 8 hour shift (standing the entire time, minus a 30 minute lunch break) when I would check the fitting rooms one last time only to discover a mountain of clothing needing to be returned to the racks before closing. How exhausting! Why are people so rude? Can they not read the signs? Is it really THAT difficult to put a shirt back on the hanger again? How much energy does it REALLY take to pick up the clothes and lay them neatly on the folding station by the handing racks?

Although my days working retail are long gone, rest assured that I fold and put away the same amount of clothes on a weekly basis being the mom of three kids. There are some weeks where I feel like that’s ALL I do! So when I actually carve out a little time for myself to go shopping, the very LAST thing I want to see is a pile of clothing staring back at me inside a fitting room! Usually I just ignore the pile and go about my own business of trying on clothes. After all, it’s not MY issue that someone else is rude and lazy.

But who gets the short end of this stick every time? The sales associate. Which isn’t really fair either. So today when I saw this pile of discarded clothes I knew exactly what to do: show a little bit of kindness to a stranger.

So I picked up boots and folded jeans and shirts.

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I buttoned coats and hung sweaters and dresses.

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Then I placed the hanging items on the rack outside the fitting room door.

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And placed the folded items neatly on the sales’ associate’s table (just in case she needed to refold them to look like the others on the sales floor.)

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This random act of kindness took exactly 4 minutes out of my day. It wasn’t hard and it didn’t cost me a dime. I even had time to try on that cute little dress, but it was too big, so I ended up not buying it. However, I bet you can guess what I did next… I took the time to hang the dress back on its hanger (even wrapped the belt around it just like it was when I pulled it off the rack!) And though I left the store empty-handed, my heart was filled with joy knowing I had done something nice for someone else without any expectation in return.

Sometimes just being kind is reward enough!

Have a wonderful weekend, dear friends, and as you begin your holiday shopping, be on the lookout for opportunities to bless those around you. You might be surprised how good it makes you feel!


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