celebrate kindness

Posts Tagged ‘friendship


If someone asked you to name your best friend, which name would come to mind first? Maybe your spouse; maybe a childhood friend, a neighbor, or even a relative. No matter who receives that prized designation, they all share the same characteristic.

A best friend is there for you. Always.

Last week, I saw a post in my Facebook newsfeed from the group Reward for Kindness, requesting stories of friendship to share and uplift others. I typed the first story that came to mind, a 3 sentence summary of an act of kindness that still resonates with me, 9 years after the fact. It’s a story about my best friend, Lisa.

A little bit of background information first. Lisa and I met in college at a Zeta Tau Alpha sorority mixer, and the moment we started chatting we just knew that our friendship was a divine setup.

Two decades later, we have shared our lives as friends across Wyoming, Colorado, Florida, Nevada, Tennessee, and Virginia. We have never lived in the same town (other than our college days), and can still recount the days of long distance phone bills that reached triple digits.

She is my forever friend.

In 2006, my life was a whirlwind. A full-time working mother of two children, ages 7 and 2, I was wrapping up my last semester of graduate school, fervently working on my final comps to present to leadership at James Madison University. I was a Differentiation Specialist for a city school district and also the testing coordinator for an elementary school, requiring me to attend additional meetings and manage standardized testing protocol. It was a very busy time of year.

As luck would have it, my baby boy caught a nasty flu bug resulting in a few days of missed work for me. During that time, I slept with him in the spare bedroom as he was suffering miserably and crying all throughout the night with high fevers. Within 48 hours I was down for the count, too.

Now if any of you know me in real life, you know that I despise going to the doctor. I will avoid that place at all costs! I tend to live under my Grandma’s adage: “It’s 90% in your brain, 10% in your body.” I figured I would just drink ginger ale, eat some crackers, pile on the pjs and sweat it out.

I was wrong. Very wrong.

I hated missing work almost as much as I hated going to the doctor, and as soon as my temperature was back to normal, I figured my flu was gone. I was tired and weak, but assumed these were simply after-effects. My return to daily responsibilities a few days later was punctuated by a wincing cough and irregular, often painful attempts to catch my breath. Unable to sit upright, I brought in a small pillow, hoping to rest against the curve of cotton as I tried to do my work unnoticed.

My principal stopped by to touch base about testing and froze in her tracks. She immediately sent me home with a threat to call the ambulance herself if I didn’t go to the doctor. I was taken aback by her abrupt response, but noting the seriousness in her voice, I did as she requested.

I didn’t have a primary care physician as we lived in a very rural area and I was rarely ill. My principal walked me to my car and gave me a piece of paper with directions to a local care center, her beautiful penmanship smeared by haste.

I made it to the door of the doctor’s office right before collapsing in a heap, my breath ragged and weak. At some point I was placed in a wheelchair and my husband called to take me to the hospital; he was already on his way and would be faster than calling an ambulance to pick me up from this rural location. The pain was blindsiding and my inability to catch my breath was creating a panic I couldn’t fathom.

Apparently, my self-diagnosed influenza had disintegrated into severe pneumonia.

At the hospital, I was told my lungs looked like they belonged to an 80 year old smoker, despite the fact that I’ve never smoked a day in my life. Nurses talked in hushed tones; the doctor reminded me how lucky I was to come in when I did. The pain in my chest was excruciating, as if enormous bricks were stacked in a tower on top, bound by cement. They asked me to blow in this crazy contraption that looked like a cup with a straw at the bottom… I couldn’t make the ball lift even a centimeter.

It was one of the few times in my life I felt completely helpless.

My husband made the required phone calls since we lived several hours away from family and friends. They were in shock (as was I) that I was not only hospitalized, but in such a debilitating condition. It was surreal.

And then, less than 24 hours after I was wheeled in, I head a knock at my door accompanied by a very familiar face. “You know, if you wanted me to bring you mashed potatoes, you could have just asked.” It was Lisa, who had dropped every obligation in her world to drive more than 4 hours to see me in the hospital. She carried a plastic container with steaming veggies from Cracker Barrel, which made me laugh and cry at the same time. Only she knew that mashed potatoes were my “stress-eating” food of choice, my miracle meal for healing.

I hadn’t seen her in such a long time; her laughter was a salve for my illness. The visit was quick, too quick, but she had to return home, another 4 hour drive ahead of her. We shared a hug and I was reminded again of the power of true friendship.

Nine years later, my name was selected in a random drawing to celebrate my best friend.

reward for kindness

This week we lost a classmate in a tragic construction accident. It was a brutal reminder that our time here is short. Limited. Precious. We have such a small window of opportunity to show kindness and love to those around us. Take the time now while you have it. Be the friend you would love to have. When you see someone in need, rearrange your schedule to be there for them. Tell them how important they are to you. Show them how much you love them. Such small acts of kindness will have a lasting impact on others; you never know when your actions will be a lifeline for someone else.

And if you have to travel several hours in the process… don’t forget the mashed potatoes. ūüôā

T and Lisa

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.


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


The Verbolten sign


Strapped in, getting ready to start the ride


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!

photo 5

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!

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