celebrate kindness

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This entire weekend has been rainy.  Dark.  Dreary.  Drizzle.  Downpours. Depressing.  Somehow the alliteration of my words echoes the dullness of the day.  So… what better way to beat the doldrums… but to don my raincoat and drive out to perform a RAK! 🙂

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As many of you know, several of my RAKs occur at grocery stores.  Usually this is because I am ALWAYS grocery shopping.  (Hey – I like to cook and I like to eat… it’s a logical place to spend my time, lol!)  Kroger, Martin’s, Food Lion, Target, Walmart, Pole Green Produce… if you sell food, chances are I have visited your store a time or two!

Some people clip coupons; some people look for sale flyers… I’m a gal of convenience.  If I need something and you’re on my path from here to there, then I’ll shop at your store.  I like to stick with stores where I know the general layout (mainly because my time is precious and it’s easier to run in and out if I know where something is located versus hunting the entire store for a box of rice noodles that can only be found down the Asian food aisle.)

There are times when grocery store chains try to reel me in as a repeat customer by offering special deals or perks.  Kroger offers fuel points and sometimes if you purchase gift cards there you can earn up to 4x the price paid.  Now that’s a good deal!  Food Lion is currently running a special where each week if you spend a certain amount of money you earn a ticket – 6 weeks of tickets can be redeemed for a “free holiday meal” (which is a $20 credit on your next food bill.)  That’s a good deal, too!

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Well, as luck would have it, I earned three tickets, not six.  Again, I shop for convenience, not for dedication.  Instead of just throwing away the tickets which were useless to me, I decided to take this rainy weekend and bring a little sunshine to someone else’s day.

I made a sign, explaining that the tickets were free to take, then I taped each ticket to the message along with my business card so those who received the RAK could visit this website and read the background story of their RAK.  Then I drove to Food Lion and taped my sign and tickets to an outdoor display right outside the storefront doors.

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I thought maybe someone might be collecting tickets, but missed one week, or maybe didn’t spend enough money to earn a ticket. Whatever the reason, I hope the person (or people!) were blessed by this Random Act of Kindness.  If you are reading this today and you were the lucky recipient, please comment below if you like to share the joy of paying it forward!

I hope you can find inspiration in even the darkest of days to bless someone else in fun, creative ways.  Performing this RAK sure did bring a smile to my face!  🙂

 

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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!  🙂

Last Friday was the official “last day of school” for teachers.  WOW!  Another school year done, time for summer break.  As I was packing up my belongings for the two month hiatus, I thought again of the students and teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School.  I recently read that their district has plans to demolish the existing school and rebuild another one.

Starting over.  Renewal.  Rebirth.

Focusing back on the present I took one last look in my computer lab, then shut the door quietly and walked down the hall.  There were tearful goodbyes for coworkers who were moving away or moving on to new adventures.  There were smiles and laughter as others shared their plans for the summer.  Keys and paperwork were turned in and… that was it.  The school year was over!

As I got into my car, my purse overturned on the front seat, spilling everything out.  The first thing that caught my eye was a page of coupons for the restaurant, Ruby Tuesday.  Oh my gosh, I had totally forgotten that was in my purse!  When it arrived in my mailbox a few weeks ago, I almost threw it away (It’s not close to my home, so I never go there).  Then I realized I could use the coupons to bless others for random acts of kindness!  I put it in my purse with good intentions, but with all the end of school craziness it ended up lost in the muddle until this moment.

I bet you know where this is heading… 🙂

Instead of driving home, I drove to Ruby Tuesdays.  Even the darkening skies couldn’t damper my excitement at bringing a smile to a stranger’s face.

restaurant

I pulled out the coupons and made dedication cards for each.  I would be able to bless four people today!  Awesome!

coupon

I chose to dedicate each of these RAKs to Rachel D’Avino, a behavioral therapist at Sandy Hook.  Surely she would have been excited about the last day of school.  She may have even gone out to lunch with her friends to celebrate the onset of summer break.  I felt it was a perfect way to honor her memory.

I walked into Ruby Tuesday and was met by the greeter.  “How many in your party?”  I had to smile at that question, because it was a party in my heart indeed!  I explained my purpose, that I wasn’t here to eat, but rather to perform random acts of kindness in Rachel’s memory.  The greeter returned my smile and ushered me into the dining area.  “Feel free!”

As I scanned the room half-filled with diners, I decided to start on the right side and just bless each table until I ran out of coupons.  The first table had an older couple eating.  “Hi… My name is Tamara and I am doing random acts of kindness today.  I would like to bless you with a discount on your meal.  This card has my website and can explain more.”  They were surprised at first (as expected), but thanked me for my generosity as I moved on to the next table of diners.

Two ladies were sitting behind them, the waitress checking to see if they needed anything else with their meal.  “Sorry to interrupt,” I began, “But I wanted to bless your day with kindness.  Here is a coupon for your meal today!”  It’s difficult to explain the rush of emotion you receive when you bless a stranger in this way.  There’s always a little bit of apprehension at first (“Are they going to think I’m weird?!), but the appreciation shown by others quickly overrides the worry and replaces it with pure, unfiltered happiness.  It’s truly a win-win experience for me and the stranger!

My third coupon went to a mom and her two children.  She reached out and shook my hand, grasping it firmly between her own.  “Thank you.  Thank you so much.”  The gratefulness in her voice hinted to an untold story of need.  I KNEW the moment she grabbed my hand that this RAK today was no coincidence.  She was absolutely chosen by God for today’s blessing!

My last coupon went to a large group of diners seated in the middle of the room, two tables pushed together to accommodate everyone.  “This isn’t much, but I hope it blesses your day!”  The lady smiled back with appreciation as I quickly exited the restaurant.  My work here was done!

No matter if you are a student, teacher, parent, or professional, I hope the start of summer break brings blessings and joy your way.   And the next time you get a coupon in the mail, maybe you will choose to use it for someone else instead!

Be blessed, dear friends, and thanks for reading!  🙂

Today as I was waiting in line at Kroger to purchase flowers for my nieces’ dance recital, the gal waiting behind me struck up a conversation.  It always amazes me how different people are in this world.  Some individuals won’t even make eye contact with a stranger, much less speak to them.  Others, like myself, think nothing of chatting with someone they’ve never met (and probably will never see again.)

If someone had observed us, you might have thought we were acquaintances.  Co-workers.  Maybe even friends.  We chatted about discounted flowers.  She was buying fresh flowers for her mom’s grave, but it wasn’t a somber occasion, just a matter-of-fact statement of what she was planning to do.  “I promised my mom I would NEVER bring her fake flowers… I just can’t disrespect her wishes.”   We talked about the weather.  Other grocery stores.  All of a sudden, my vision moved from her face to her enlarged belly, peeking below the bouquet of flowers she held in her hands.  “Oh my goodness – you’re pregnant!” I exclaimed, stating the obvious.  A small-boned lady with gorgeously straightened blond hair (can you hear the underlying strains of envy in my description of her beauty?  Ha!), it was funny that I had completely missed the undeniable shape of a baby belly facing me.  She laughed at my surprise as I added, “Happy belated Mother’s Day!” (remembering the joy one of my pregnant friends received when a complete stranger said the same to her.)

All of a sudden, it was my turn to have my flowers arranged and wrapped.  I stepped to the side and motioned for the mom-to-be to go ahead of me in line.  “Are you sure?” she asked.  “Of course!  I have more flowers than you and lots of time.  You go ahead!”  We continued our conversation, talking about her pregnancy.  I learned that she was due in September, she was having a boy, and her other son was born 11 years ago.  “I was hoping for a girl, but…”  Her weak smile couldn’t hide the completion of her sentence.  Even though I have been blessed with a daughter, I could empathize with the sentiment she dared not speak.

“Awww, you know what that means… you’re going to be blessed with AMAZING daughters-in-law!”  Her smile brightened a bit and I leaned towards her and whispered, “And just WAIT until you meet your granddaughters… you will be able to spoil them to death with no guilt whatsoever!!”  She laughed at my premonition, her bright smile shining once again.  As she gathered her finished flowers, she turned to me and said, “You know, I never thought about it that way, but you just might be right!”  I smiled back and our exchange was done.

And I never even asked her name.

Today’s Random Act of Kindness is dedicated to Allison Wyatt, age 6, who “delighted in showing people how much she cared.”  In a statement to People magazine, her parents said, “Allison made the world a better place… she would often surprise us with random acts of kindness.”  Maybe the gal I met today will have a daughter-in-law or a granddaughter just like Allison.  We could always use a little more brightness in this dark world.

I didn’t get a chance to take a photo of the mom-to-be, so here’s a photo of the flowers I bought instead, lol.

recitalflowers

Be blessed dear friends and keep passing along the joy!

Where do I even begin?

I have tried to write this post several times over the past 72 hours to no avail. It seems with each RAK I complete, more madness, more sadness enters this world. I find it very difficult to share the simplest of blessings, overwhelmed by the grief of tragedy and loss. On Sunday, I completed RAK #12 of #26 acts. Nothing big, just a little show of kindness that blessed a stranger. On Monday I heard about the devastating tornado in Oklahoma that obliterated an entire town, including an elementary school. How could I possibly write about my RAK… something so basic, so “no big deal” in the face of such destruction and shock?

On Tuesday I received a post notification written by the husband of a sweet friend of mine, detailing the impending passing of his wife from this life to the next. Mel, just a few years older than me, was diagnosed with Stage 4 stomach cancer eight months ago, the same month I underwent testing for breast cancer. Today she passed away.

Why? How? Why? The questions circle in an everlasting turnabout, stuck in my mind. Why do bad things have to happen? How can anything I do possibly make a difference? Why would anyone want to take the time to read my little RAKs when there are so many other things to ponder in this world?

And yet RAKs do make a difference. And you do read my posts. Maybe because we know there is no answer to question number one.

It’s funny in a way how God speaks to me sometimes. Maybe you are not a believer in God, but I am. I hear his voice on my heart in the most unassuming situations. Right before learning about the tornados on Monday, I discovered this video on You Tube. (You can skip through the commercial in the beginning after a few seconds). I held it together until I realized it was all focused in a hospital and that’s where my dying friend was spending her final hours. When the words “Just signed DNR” appeared on the screen, I was done. I couldn’t hold back the tears any longer. Then later that night, I heard about the tornado. More tears.

This morning, after reading about my friend’s passing, I saw this quote in my FB newsfeed:

quote

I had to laugh. It is EXACTLY how I would expect Mel to respond had I made the statement to her. Kindness is ALWAYS a big deal!! No matter how small it may seem in your eyes, it’s a big deal to someone else. I like to think it’s a big deal to God, too. Aren’t we commanded to love our neighbors as ourselves?

So that realization is what has pulled me out of my blog post slump. Kindness matters.

Random Act of Kindness #12 is a simple act, completely random, and nothing more than being kind to a stranger. We were eating at a serve-yourself style pizza restaurant following my daughter’s dance recital. As I was making my salad, I noticed an eldery woman with beautiful white hair and cane pushing her tray near mine. She was moving slowly, carefully, but despite her best intentions, the tray wobbled and her empty water cup fell right into the heap of spaghetti sauce she had placed on her spaghetti. Without a moment’s hesitation, I reached over and grabbed the cup off her tray. “Let me clean this off for you!” I walked away towards the drink counter to grab some napkins when another simple thought spoke to my heart. “Fill her cup.” I returned to the lady with her now cleaned cup, but instead of placing it on her tray, I asked what kind of drink she wanted. “I will fill it for you!” She smiled and spoke gently, “Water, please.”

lady

When I returned to her in the line, she was struggling to balance her cane and her tray while reaching across to maneuver a slice of pizza off the counter. Glancing down, I realized she never grabbed an empty plate! (The plate on her tray was completely filled with spaghetti and sauce.) Instinctively I ran to the end of the line, grabbed a plate and placed it right underneath the gooey pizza, mere moments before it slid off the unbalanced spatula. “Oh my! I didn’t even think about a plate!” she exclaimed as I breathed as sigh of relief. (THAT could have been a mess!)

I laughed a little, then grabbed her tray. “Do you want more pizza or are you ready to sit? I can carry your tray for you!” She was completely shocked, taking several seconds to process what I had just asked. “Are you sure you don’t mind? That’s very kind of you.” She pointed to the table where her family was sitting and I walked with her as she hobbled with her cane. “Thank you! Thank you so much! So sweet.” (Below is a photo I took of her at her table a little bit later.)

lady2

As I turned to make my way back to the salad bar (I had simply left my salad plate right there in the line, lol), I caught the eye of my daughter who had witnessed the entire event. In the brief moment of connection, her smile was simply an extension of my own, radiating the joy of simple kindness.

This RAK is dedicated to Madeleine Hsu, age 6, who like my daughter was “a shy little girl who always seemed to have a smile on her face.” My dear friend Mel had a smile that radiated, too. I hope Madeleine’s family can find comfort in knowing that even the smallest acts of kindness are being done in her memory.

Share the gift of love with others. Our time here is brief, dear friends, but we truly can make a difference.

Today I had the immeasurable joy of celebrating Mother’s Day by passing along a Random Act of Kindness given to me.  If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you know that I completed 40 random acts in celebration of my 40th birthday, then began a renewed purpose of blessing others in honor of the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting.  My first act of kindness in this section was leaving smiley faced balloons in a local park, one of which was chosen by an autistic child and his dad.  After visiting my blog and reading my story, the boy’s mom was so touched by this mission that she emailed me and donated a $25 gift card so I could in turn bless someone else.

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Ironically, and unbeknownst to us at the time, her son and my son attend the same daycare center.  Occasionally I pass her as we are picking up our boys and I am always greeted with a radiating smile.  A few weeks ago I told her I was saving her gift card for a special day – Mother’s Day – and she told me that was one of her MOST favorite holidays of all.  How perfect!

Today after visiting my own mother, I headed out to T.G.I.Friday’s.  I wasn’t planning to stay and eat, I simply wanted to walk in and bless another mom.

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The waitress was inquisitive, so I explained my purpose and asked if she knew of any patrons who might benefit from a free dinner in celebration of Mother’s Day.  She pointed to a corner table to my right which included a mom and her young daughter, finishing their meal.

I walked to the table, introduced myself, and briefly explained my purpose as I slid the gift card across the table.

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She seemed surprised, but very appreciative of the unexpected gift.  What a joy it was to bless a complete stranger in such a huge way on Mother’s Day!

There was a moment, however, on my way back home where my joy turned a bit melancholy as I realized there are 26 moms out there whose hearts are breaking today, the first Mother’s Day without their treasured child.  I simply cannot imagine the pain they are reliving today.  This random act of kindness may not ease the ache in their souls, but it’s the least I can do to keep alive the memories of those lost.

Today’s random act of kindness is dedicated to Anne Marie Murphey, age 52.  Anne Marie was a special education teacher at Sandy Hook and was found that fateful day with her body wrapped around her student, trying everything in her power to shield him from the inevitable.  Friends and family described her as very motherly, always showing her students love and kindness.   I can close my eyes and almost imagine her wrapping her arms around all the tiny children who made their way into heaven that morning.

Be blessed my friends.  Take a moment to thank your mom.  If you have children of your own, give them an extra squeeze tonight and cherish the small moments you share with them.  We are not guaranteed a single day more here on this earth; treasure the time you have with those you love.

Happy Mother’s Day!

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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K and C

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.

T and Em

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

C and L

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.


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