celebrate kindness

Posts Tagged ‘coffee

AMOK2

When you tell someone you spent the morning running amok, you are sure to receive some odd looks. After all, who announces their seemingly uncontrollable behavior with such joy? This is when I wish little speech bubbles would appear above our heads when we talk, so people can see that I’m referencing #AMOK, the Annual Melee of Kindness. This annual event, sponsored by RandomActs, is a global flash mob of sorts; people all across the world complete random acts of kindness for two designated days and share their stories with others. (Go ahead. Search the hashtag #AMOK on Twitter and see all the awesome ways people are being kind!)

This morning, in less time it takes for me to vacuum my house, I completed 6 RAKs for #AMOK. It was so much fun! Here are the things I did:

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1.  I went to Starbucks to purchase a few gift cards. While in the drive through waiting to reach the cashier, a small feather floated across my windshield (very Forrest Gump-like.) I watched it, mesmerized, as it skimmed the slight breeze, flitting right, then left, then right again, to finally rest inside my side door window.

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Now you may not believe in signs from above, and that’s fine, but for me, this was like a smile from heaven to start my RAKs #AMOK! When I finally made it to the cashier to purchase my gift cards, I bought the drink of the person in the car behind me and passed along this note:

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2. My next stop was to purchase three lottery tickets from a local convenience store. Then I went to Kroger to see who deserved a chance of hitting it big.

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The first car I saw was parked diagonally from me. You could tell from the door that the person had been in an accident and had their car fixed with spare parts. I thought they might deserve a chance at some better luck, so I placed my note with one lottery ticket under their windshield wiper.

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The next car that caught my eye had a personalized plate focused on children. That made me smile, so I left them a lottery ticket, too.

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My third lottery ticket went to a van parked in the special parking place reserved for adults with small children. I remember the times I’ve had to go grocery shopping with little ones in tow and it is never a relaxing task. I thought maybe a lottery ticket on their dash might brighten their day, too.

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3.  With a pocketful of quarters, I made my way into Kroger. I stocked the bottom row of candy and toy dispensers to surprise any children who may be shopping with their parents that day.

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Did you know that some of the bottom row dispensers cost MORE than the ones right beside them? ME NEITHER! How frustrating for a child OR parent to have to understand that logic! I went ahead and added a few more quarters so no one would be disappointed.

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4.  I left money on a Redbox machine to pay for someone’s movie for the day. I even hid it behind the screen so there would be an element of surprise! (I love surprises!)

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5.  Who can resist Girl Scout cookies? Often, when I’m entering or exiting a store, I’m consumed by an overwhelming sense of guilt because these sweet girls are trying to raise money for their troop, but we’ve already bought cookies from our niece. (Heaven knows we do NOT need any more cookies in this house!) Today, however, I went right up to the table, money in hand, and asked if I could by a box to donate to someone else. Thankfully, they were prepared for my request with a box already designated for donations to the Hanover Safe Place. I let the Girl Scout choose her favorite box (Samoas!) to donate on behalf of #AMOK.

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(Yes, her mom gave verbal permission for me to post these photos!)

6.  My final random act of kindness was done as I was heading back to my car. I saw one of the Kroger workers gathering all the shopping carts to return to the store. I recognized him instantly (I shop at Kroger a lot), and approached him with a smile. “Hi,” I began, as he turned his head in my direction. “I know you never ask for tips and this is just part of your job, but I wanted to take a moment to say thank you for all you do. You remind me a lot of Mr. Leon who used to work here; I’m sure he would be proud of all you do to help others.” With that, I placed $5.00 in his hand as the smile spread across his face. “Thank you ma’am,” he replied, as I quickly turned and walked to my car.



My morning RAKs were quick little sprinklings of kindness here and there; nothing outrageous or grand, but small reminders to others that there is still good in this world. Imagine how wonderful this world would be if EVERYONE ran #AMOK with kindness!

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Live today repay quote

“You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.” ~ John Bunyan

I’ve seen this quote again and again posted in my favorite social media sites and it gives me pause each time I see it. Instantly I think of grandiose actions: paying off someone’s Christmas gift layaway at Walmart, giving a struggling family one month’s rent, hosting a huge Thanksgiving dinner for military personnel who can’t be with their families during the holidays. Oh, how I would love to do these things! To be able to bless someone in such a way that they can never repay you… wow. That could be considered the ultimate random act of kindness.

Winter is now upon us, the cold snap biting through layers of warm clothes wrapped around my body. I am not a fan of winter. If I had my way, I would stay in my warm home from Thanksgiving to Easter, only peeking out my head like a groundhog to see if spring was indeed six weeks away. The mere mention of winter weather makes me shiver with goosebumps on my arms. I absolutely hate being cold!

So you can imagine my delight in discovering Starbuck’s “Buy One, Get One Free” promotion on steaming hot holiday drinks a few weeks ago. Two for the price of one AND I can stay warm while blessing someone else, too! Awesome!

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My RAKs are simple RAKs. I’ve never had the financial means to do the extraordinary RAKs like others, so I do little things here and there in my own way to brighten someone else’s day. When I see something I can get for free, my first instinct is to grab it, then give it away. Sharing is fun!

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On this particular cold afternoon, I decided to bless a stranger on the street with a caramel brulee latte. I could only imagine how cold it must be to stand outside, hours at a time, waiting and hoping for meager donations kind people may give. Now I know there are many out there who would like to debate the issue of panhandling, and I will admit that there are times when I really just want to drive from one location to the next without a reminder of those more unfortunate than me. But this day was different.

I drove for a bit heading towards the city, surprised at the lack of people asking for help on the street. I could see tree limbs bending in the wind, fall leaves rustling across the ground. It really was a cold day. Maybe even too cold for the panhandlers.

Then I saw him. Like others I’ve seen in the past, he held a sign in his hand. “HOMELESS PLEASE HELP ME” written in large block letters. I could even see words he had written on the side. “Drug Free. Alcohol Free.” I guess it was his way of reassuring any generous souls that he wouldn’t abuse donations given.

As I pulled a little closer in the traffic by the stoplight, I took notice of details. His sign looked new, still white as snow. He wore a heavy coat, zipped up the front. He looked pretty well dressed for a homeless person and his face seemed free of dirt and grime. As he turned to the side, I could even see he was wearing name brand jeans.  It was in that moment I did something that I swore I would never do.

I judged him.

In the millisecond it took for me to process all this information as my car inched through the turning lane, I kept driving. I didn’t make eye contact. I decided to look for someone else who needed more help than him.

Four left hand turns later, I was back where I started, driving down the same road still looking for a homeless person to bless with a hot drink. I saw the same man with the sign, but this time I heard the whisper on my heart:

“Him.  Yes, him.  Give him the coffee.”

I pulled into the turning lane and once again waited at the stoplight. I caught his eye and motioned for him to come towards my car. I opened my window and held out the still steaming cup of coffee along with a Starbucks bag filled with napkins. I smiled as he approached my car.

“Hi there. It’s really cold out here and I thought you might like something warm today. Be blessed!” His hardened face broke into the sweetest smile and I knew in that moment I was forgiven for my previous judgment. “Thank you. Thank you so much,” he replied. As he reached for the coffee, his bony fingers brushed mine and they were ice cold. Stiff. Frozen by the chill of the day.

And then I saw his coat.

The huge winter coat with the fuzzy hood that looked so warm and cozy from a distance was actually quite worn, with tattered edges on the bottom. The color was faded by weather and life, the side ripped from armpit to waist. Stuffing the color of gravel billowed from the rip. This coat, and this man, had seen better days I’m sure. He took the coffee and napkins, walked past my car, then turned around to take a sip of the warm drink.

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I snapped a quick photo from my side mirror then drove home in humbled silence. A cup of coffee. Such a small thing, really. Didn’t cost me a dime. (I used a gift card to purchase my drink – thanks Kristy for your RAK to me!) Here I had set out to bless a stranger and ended up being the one blessed in return with a reminder not to judge those around me.

I don’t know his story. I didn’t even ask his name. But he was the one God wanted to bless; I was merely the messenger. While I’m sure this doesn’t qualify as a grand act of generosity, it still felt great to give to a stranger who could never repay me. Since he can’t pay me back, maybe he can pay me forward, by sharing kindness with someone else.

It only takes one to start a domino effect. Be the domino. You are destined for greatness. Go and do good in this world!

Well, once again I found myself at Starbucks performing another RAK.  (I’m sure you are convinced I have a coffee addiction by how many of my posts reference Starbucks, lol.)  I met up with a friend during our once-every-four-years coffee break (I am not kidding.  It really has been four years since we’ve seen each other!)  While standing in line, I remembered that Starbucks was having a buy one, get one free special. Yay!  What an easy way to bless someone else!

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While my friend was drinking regular coffee (not one of the frou-frou drinks shown on the advertised special), I decided to bless the gal standing in line behind us.  “Excuse me,” I began, “I’m getting one of those drinks up there.  It’s buy one, get one free.  Would you like my free one?”  She smiled back in surprise at my offer.  “Are you sure?  That’s really sweet of you!”  I returned the smile saying, “No big deal!  Just let them know what you want!”

I didn’t get a photo of her, and I didn’t have any RAK cards with me, so she may never see this post.  But it was fun to bless a stranger just the same!

The next time you have a buy one, get one free offer, think about blessing someone else with your freebie!

Be inspired and pay it forward!  🙂

My best friend and I have birthdays only 10 days apart.  We have often joked over the course of our 20+ year friendship that our birthday season begins in September and ends in August the following year… because some years it takes us that long to carve out time to get together and celebrate!  (Seriously!)  This year as we were ticking off the busy weekends on our calendars, we realized there was one night where both of us had no plans.  NO PLANS?!  Really?!  How could this be?  Without stressing over logistics (Who would watch the children?), we quickly made the decision to meet halfway between her house and mine and spend the evening together.

Being October, we were delighted to discover that Busch Gardens amusement park was still open on Friday nights for their Howl-o-Scream festivities.  Although we weren’t all that interested in getting spooked by creepy people, we were very excited to finally, for the first time ever, ride a roller coaster together!  We entered the park, purchased a glow-in-the-dark beverage, and made our way to Busch Garden’s newest roller coaster, the Verbolten, talking non-stop the entire way.

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The lines were relatively short, so we were strapped into the coaster in no time.  Here are some more pics of our adventure!

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The Verbolten sign

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Strapped in, getting ready to start the ride

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Finishing the final hill

What a fun night!  We rode more roller coasters, laughing and screaming the entire time.  (You would have thought we were teenagers the way we were carrying on!  Ha!)  When the park made their closing announcements at 10pm, we reluctantly made our way back to the parking lot, not quite ready for our evening of birthday celebrations to end.   Suddenly hungry, we decided to continue our evening of catching up with some breakfast dinner at a local iHOP.

As we entered the restaurant, we were surprised to see the place was packed with teenagers!  Oh my! Luckily, we still had gifts to exchange and lots of conversation to share so the delay in being served wasn’t a huge issue for us.

As we sat down and scanned the menu, my attention was swayed to to HUGE cup of salted caramel hot chocolate shown on the bottom of the front page.  The cup was massive and I could almost taste the delicate mixture of salt, caramel, and chocolate melting on my tongue.  Unfortunately, it had a price to match its girth, so I was torn about whether or not to order the drink.  As I was debating the pros and cons with Lisa, the waitress arrived to take our orders.  After introducing herself as Jeannie, pointing to the plastic name badge on her shirt, she pointed to my menu.  “Oh honey,” she drawled with a southern flair, “That drink right there is worth every single sip.  It is the best drink we have to serve!”  Well, who could resist a recommendation like that?

I ordered the specialty hot chocolate and Lisa ordered a regular coffee.  We chatted back and forth as we continued to interact with our waitress who checked on us often.  “Whose birthday is it?” Jeannie asked, pointing at our brightly colored gift bags.  We told her we were celebrating both our special days and she clapped her hands together, beaming with excitement.  “I just love birthdays!  Open your gift!  What did you get?”  We had to laugh at her enthusiasm – it was as if she was celebrating her own birthday right in the mix of ours.

A little while later she arrived with the colossal cup of steaming hot chocolate and we made a production of taking photos to document all the fun:

photo 1Me (looking a bit windblown from all the roller coasters) with our iHOP waitress and THE CUP

photo 2Pure heaven!

photo 3Oh So Good!

photo 4Even Lisa got in on the photo fun!

Two hours later (I am not kidding!), Lisa and I were still enjoying our time together with Jeannie checking on us and sharing in our conversation.  That’s when it hit me.  Here is this lady, working the night shift as a waitress at an iHOP on a Friday night, with mostly teenagers as customers (who by now had left the restaurant leaving behind minimal tips, I’m sure.)  What was her story? Why was she working here?  Did the night shift pay more than the day shift?  I didn’t want to pry, but I felt like I needed to bless this gal who made the end of our birthday celebration so memorable and joyful.  Reaching into my purse, I discovered some mad money birthday cash I had received as a gift and knew I would receive greater happiness by paying it forward instead of using it for myself.

I quickly jotted a note on the back of the receipt and left it with a ten dollar tip on the table.  Surely that would brighten the darkness of her night shift!

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We quickly left our tip, paid our bill, and said our final goodbyes before the long drive home.  It was a wonderful way to end our evening of friendship and fun!

This random act of kindness is dedicated to Josephine Gay, age 7, a darling little girl who was found in the arms of her behavioral therapist, Rachel D’Avino, following the Sandy Hook Elementary tragedy. Joesephine had a nervous system disorder and could not speak, but she had learned how to share her thoughts with those around her through signs and smiles.  She was the joy of her parents, despite the challenges of her condition.   It was humbling to realize what a gift I had been given during my time with Lisa – an entire evening filled with so many words, so many stories, all taken for granted.  Humbling, indeed.

Keep pressing forward, my friends.  Be kind to others.  Stop and listen to their stories.  Join in the fun and allow yourself to be blessed in the process!

As a continuation of the previous post, I was at Starbucks getting a few moments of peace from a crazy hectic day (which just happened to also be my 41st birthday).  I used my registered Starbucks gift card to receive a free drink of my choice (God bless the person who decided salt, caramel, and coffee would make a good drink combination – pure heaven for me!)  After ordering my drink, I handed the barista a sealed envelope which contained a note and a $5 bill to allow a complete stranger to enjoy a free tall pumpkin spice latte on me in celebration of my birthday and to honor the memory of Alyssa O’Neill.

As the barista passed my drink across the counter, I gathered my purse then looked up to see him reaching into the pastry display case and placing something in a to-go bag.  As I started to walk away, he handed the bag to me stating simply, “Your birthday cake!  Enjoy!”

WHAT?!?!  Did I just get RAK’d by a barista?!  No way!!  All I could do was laugh at the joyous surprise by such a sweet, kind gesture.  “Really?  For me?”  He grinned from ear to ear (such an infectious smile!) as the other barista chimed in from the other end of the counter with “Happy Birthday!” greetings.

It was a priceless moment that literally was the icing on my cake.

I frantically dug through my purse trying to find my RAK business cards as I knew this was worthy of one of my #26acts.  Did it matter that it was a RAK received instead of given?  Absolutely not!  A RAK is a RAK no matter the type!  🙂

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So I found a card I was saving for Avielle Richman, age 6, and explained to the barista that he actually completed my #23 random act of kindness.  I had seen a video clip showing Avielle’s parents talking about their daughter’s infectious smile and knew this RAK belonged to him because his smile matched hers.  I’m hoping that he will visit this website and see that he is part of an amazing journey to remember those sweet children lost from Sandy Hook Elementary.  Here is the barista with my business card:

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What joy!  Such a simple act of kindness, yet so powerful.  So important.  So meaningful.  A true blessing indeed.

It wasn’t until I was back in my car that I opened my to-go bag and saw what delicacy he had chosen for me to enjoy.  A beautiful pink cake pop with tiny white sprinkles, molded firmly to a solid white stick made to look like a delicate lollipop.  I almost cried at the pureness of the moment.  My birthday cake indeed.

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Thanks to Starbucks for offering free birthday coffees to pay it forward with kindness and for hiring such kind-hearted baristas who take opportunities to make a difference in someone else’s life.  My day may have started off as a hot mess, but it ended in peace and joy.

Be blessed my friends!  Thank you for sharing in my first complete year of blessing others with deliberate acts of kindness!

It’s hard to believe that a full year has passed since I began this journey of blessing others with kindness and publicly documenting my journey through words and pictures.  What a year it has been!  WOW!  I am constantly amazed and humbled by the sheer power of kindness.  It makes people smile.  Laugh.  Blush.  Cry.  Such an endless array of emotion wrapped up with a sparkling bow of joy.  Simply indescribable!

Today was a CRAZY busy day for me.  My family and I had returned from a week long vacation (remind me to post a RAK from that trip tomorrow night when I’m more coherent, lol) then were catapulted into the start of a work week surrounded by mounds of dirty laundry, sour milk, and a basil plant that was parched by a week of sunlight with no water.  My 41st birthday began with the morning hustle of returning to the daily grind of getting dressed for work and kids ready for school.  Of COURSE today would be picture day for my favorite teenager, so an additional 15 minutes was built into my schedule to style her hair in a waterfall braid with wand-shaped spiral curls worthy of any fashion magazine at the checkout stand.

Because that’s what moms do.

I was greeted at work with more than 300 emails demanding attention, a list that would be whittled down little by little like a sculptor carving a masterpiece from a block of ice.  And that was in between teaching the lessons I had scheduled throughout the day.  The evening was just as busy.  Pick kids up from daycare.  Make middle child a sandwich while he worked on homework and got dressed for soccer practice.  Fill his water canteen and send him to soccer practice with dad while concurrently making dinner for the other two children left home with me.  Serve dinner.  Clear the table.  Wash dishes.  Take oldest child to dance class.  Welcome to my Monday night routine.

Oh wait – was today my BIRTHDAY?!?

Yes folks, my life is crazy busy.  Some might even take the leap to say, “Girl, you are insane!”  But you know what?  Even among the nonstop hustle and bustle of my world, I can still find time to bless someone else.  Which is exactly what I did tonight!

Did you know that you can register a Starbucks gift card on their website then they will bless you with a free coffee of your choice on your birthday?  True!  I have a gift card that I registered who knows how many years ago that brings me joy each year as I delight in the warm aroma of a free gourmet coffee.  I could almost taste the Salted Caramel Mocha melting on my tongue as I dropped my daughter off at dance class and headed to my nearest Starbucks for a late night moment of sanity.

I wanted to celebrate my birthday by blessing someone else, and with God’s perfect timing, I had a dear friend send me this article describing Alyssa O’Neill and the RAKs her parents performed in her memory.  Perfect!  I wrote out a note on pretty stationery, added a $5 bill and included both in a sealed envelope to pass along to the Starbucks barista.

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As I claimed my free birthday drink and passed along my envelope to the kind barista, I had a surge of joy knowing SOMEONE would be the lucky recipient of my “pay it forward in memory of Alyssa O’Neill” gift.   This was one birthday present I couldn’t wait to give away!

Make sure to read my next post to see what happened next… I ended up getting RAK’d by the barista!  What a fun way to end my crazy birthday!

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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coffee money

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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coffee menu

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.  🙂


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