celebrate kindness

Posts Tagged ‘gift card

Have you been the recipient of a Mystery RAK? That’s when you were blessed by a random act of kindness anonymously, with no clues to who provided the RAK. For me, Mystery RAKs are amazing, but a little frustrating, too. When someone blesses me with kindness, I want to say thank you! I want the person to know how amazing their act was and how it brightened my day. Hence, one of the many purposes of this blog.

Why am I compelled to share my RAK stories with others? Is it a thread of narcissism woven into my soul, always seeking attention for things I do? Hardly. Just typing those words makes me laugh and roll my eyes. I share my stories because sharing inspires others. I like being connected! I also enjoy hearing back from those who’ve found my RAKs or have their own stories to tell.

About a month ago, a teacher approached me in the middle of the day, so overcome with emotion she could hardly speak. She reached out to hug me simply saying, “Thank you.  Thank you!” I had no clue what was going on. Before I could respond, she continued. “You saw my Facebook post, didn’t you… you knew I needed this!” I looked down and saw a $50 Macy’s gift card in her hands:

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Oh my goodness! WOW! What an amazing Mystery RAK! I grinned in response as I quickly clarified that I was not the one who blessed her with this random act of kindness. It wasn’t me! Her eyes grew wide as she covered her mouth with her hand, her face a mixture of shock and bewilderment. “But… who? What? You mean…?” I started to laugh with delight as we both enjoyed the moment of a secret Santa in our midst.

Mystery RAKs are AMAZING!

Last week I arrived at school to see this in my box:

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A mystery RAK for me! How exciting! The bag was filled with white chocolate truffles… and everyone knows that chocolate makes EVERYTHING better! I didn’t know who blessed me with the treat, but it made me smile. All day long I walked around campus, looking at teachers, parents, even students, trying to figure out who went out of their way to be so kind to me. The not knowing just about drove me crazy because I wanted to personally thank the person who brightened my day!

Which brings me back to this blog. In addition to being a way to inspire others with kindness, I also use this blog to say “Thank you” again and again to those who bless me with such joy. I am a better person because of you all! Each day I am delighted by the little surprises I experience and the moments of caring I see around me. My cup is always overflowing because I recognize the goodness in YOU. I like to recognize those moments that might otherwise go unseen, undocumented. Every act of kindness matters. You matter! The world is a better place because you are here.

As we enter this season of thankfulness, please know that I am thankful for YOU. Maybe in the next few days you might be inspired to do a Mystery RAK… if so, comment on this post and tell us what you did!  One good deed inspires another.  🙂

Today was a day of surprises! As a mom, one of my favorite things to do is something unexpected. I love to see the smile on my children’s faces when they get to experience first-hand the joy of being blessed without warning, without precondition, with no strings attached.

My daughter had made arrangements to go bowling with two of her friends and, as expected, my oldest son was quite disappointed when he realized he was not included in my teenager’s plans. Little did he know, I already had plans for him and his brother when all the girls were gone!

“Where are we going?” he asked, a bit disillusioned at having to escort me to run errands. “It’s a surprise,” I replied, my eyes twinkling with just enough mischief to bring a smile to his face. “A surprise? Really?!” It was hard for him to contain his excitement at this point. He wanted to ask questions, to figure out where we were going, yet he wanted it to stay a secret until the last possible moment.

When was the last time YOU were surprised by something fun and unexpected? For many of us, as we enter adulthood with all the stresses and responsibilities, we lose some of that childhood exhilaration for the unexpected. We are wary. On guard. Expecting a forced reciprocity, perhaps.

I think we simply need to be reminded that life is filled with joyful opportunities. 🙂

We turned into the shopping area and he knew. “I know where we are going! I know where we are going!” There was no mistaking his excitement as he turned to his brother and pointed out the window. “Look! Look! We’re going to Sweet Frog!”

For those of you who don’t have a Sweet Frog nearby, let me share for a moment how MUCH my children love this frozen yogurt shop. They have a dozen different flavors and four times as many toppings. It’s a haven for any sweet tooth and the perfect treat for a hot, summer day. We don’t get to visit often, which makes it an even sweeter treat when we do.

As I helped my boys fill their cups with frozen yogurt and choose their favorite toppings I suddenly, without warning, felt my eyes fill with tears. We were in the midst of making memories. There will come a day when my son prefers to hang out with his friends instead of his mom and not even the promise of frozen yogurt will change him back to being ten. I glanced sideways at my favorite redhead and simply took in the moment.

Sprinkles. Cookie crumbs. Gummies. Such small symbols of bliss, all cascading down a tower of soft, snow-colored peaks. And then it happened. I thought of Renee.

It’s been two weeks since her life here on earth ended, an unexpected passing for a 30 year old first grade teacher at my school. Oh, how she would love this moment! She adored being a surrogate mom to her students as well as a real mom to her three year old and baby on the way. I could almost hear the ring of her laughter as I watched my son put one too many gummies on top of his treat, only to have it fall to the floor. “Kids will be kids.” The whisper on my heart was so audible, I wouldn’t have been surprised to see Renee standing right beside me.

Oh, how I miss her smile.

So in that moment, I decided to do the only thing I could. I paid for our treats, then asked the cashier if I could also buy a gift card as a random act of kindness.


“Please give this to a customer of your choice, maybe someone with a small child”, the picture of Renee’s daughter dancing in my mind. It wasn’t much, but maybe it would make a stranger smile. After all, we all need to be reminded of the power in unexpected joy.


And as an extra RAK, I left my change in the tip jar. 🙂

We ended our visit with messy smiles and happy hearts. It was a wonderful day indeed. Maybe you might take time this week to surprise someone with joy! I promise it will bring you happiness as well.

Be blessed and pay it forward!

Have I mentioned how much I love surprises?  I do!  So often we get caught in the drudgery of day-to-day monotony that we almost forget what unexpected joy feels like when receiving a surprise.  I think this is one of my favorite aspects to being a parent, watching the impact surprises have on our children.  Their joy is unmasked, unreserved, so full of passion!

As adults, we rarely respond to surprises in the same manner.  When was the last time you clapped your hands and said, “YAY!” at the top of your lungs when something unexpectedly nice happened to you?  Somehow in the transition from childhood to maturity, we learned how to temper our reactions.  We became more self-conscious of our reactions that might be observed by others.  It isn’t that we lost the feeling of joy per se… we just became… well… diminished in our outward response.

I am a joyous person.  Seriously!  (I suddenly hear the laughter of my closest friends reading this post… they might even argue that my sentiment is an understatement.)  I am blessed beyond measure again and again because I simply take the time to appreciate the little things in life – including surprises!   Today was a perfect example of how a small surprise could turn around someone’s day. Without too many distracting details, let me just say it was a loooooong day… and by 2pm I realized I was starving, needing to eat lunch.  I made my way into the teacher’s lounge and look what I discovered:

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What in the world?  Someone had set up a mini “manicure spa treatment” station with a cute note explaining all the steps of using the special salted oils and lotion.  How fun is THAT?!  Oh, I was so excited!  If I had been five years old, I would have undoubtedly clapped my hands together and shouted, “YAY” as loud as I could!  A mini spa treatment in the middle of my work day? ABSOLUTELY!

Such joy!  I did the spa treatment, of course (how could I resist?) and even wrote a little thank you note to whomever left the surprise.

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What a thoughtful random act of kindness!  I was all smiles the rest of the day.  I had luxuriously soft hands thanks to the spa treatment (seriously, this stuff was amazing!) and on my way home I decided to keep the joy flowing by paying it forward with a random act of kindness for someone else.

A long while ago, one of my friends donated a manicure gift card so I could use it for a random act of kindness.  It’s been in my purse, following me from here to there, just waiting for a perfect moment to be used.  Today was the day!

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I drove to the nail salon, and sat in the parking lot contemplating my next move.  What if I went into the shop and no customers were being helped?  Oh, that would be awkward.  I was toying with the idea of going to a nearby store and just leaving the gift card in plain view for someone to discover, when I saw a car pull into the parking lot driven by a pretty, blond-haired gal.  Surely SHE would be getting a manicure?

I watched her leave her car and start to head into the nail salon.  YAY!!  (The five year old inside of me clapped and cheered!)  I quickly moved my car closer to where she was walking and rolled down my window.  “Excuse me, ma’am?  Are you going in there to get your nails done?”  She turned and answered, “Well, my feet…” and I extended my arm out of the window, handing her the gift card.  “Use this and be blessed!”  She smiled, said thank you, and that was that!

Maybe you aren’t a fan of surprises like me, but surely there are moments throughout your week or month that brighten your spirit and put a smile on your face.  Share the joy!  Tell your story to someone else or pay it forward with a nice gesture.  It doesn’t have to cost money or even a lot of time.  Revel in happiness, because joy is contagious!  🙂


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.


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.



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.


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!

Have you ever found yourself in a bit of a rut? A tad bit unmotivated to do the very same things that ordinarily bring you such peace and joy? Yes, I believe we can all relate to that feeling of just being stuck, unable to move (some more than others!) Being a self-proclaimed Pollyanna, I am always shocked and surprised to find myself in that place, especially because I rarely experience it. But this past month, I found myself there. Not just there, knocking at the door. I walked through the door, collapsed on the sofa and simply said, “Does any of this even matter to anyone but me??”

Sound familiar?

The day after my last RAK post, I came down with the flu. Influenza Type B to be exact. NOT FUN. For someone who operates at the speed of the Energizer Bunny (and that’s on my slow days!), to be confined to the bed for almost a week was simply incomprehensible. But it happened. I got the flu and it knocked me down so hard I honestly thought I would never be well again. Then following the flu was the non-stop dry cough where every other word you speak makes people wonder if they should call 911 on your behalf. My recovery time was a challenge because as many of you moms know, time stands still for no one. Dinners need to be made, children need to be dressed, and work needs to be done. In the midst of all that, my son’s sports schedule changed (put away the soccer ball, bring out the soccer cleats) and like a domino effect, the few spare moments I had available to myself slipped away with the turn of a calendar page.

In. A. Rut.

How on earth could I take the time to bless others? All I saw around me were items needing my attention: laundry piles, unfinished projects, stacks of mail, and an endless array of legos and toys that only a three year old could so brilliantly scatter in record-setting time. For the first time since I started this RAK project, I truly felt overwhelmed by the mere suggestion of blessing someone else. It just seemed like such an effort! And if it didn’t matter to anyone else but me, then why keep going forward with it?

That’s when I stopped. Literally. I stopped focusing on this blog and just let the chips fall where they may. And you know what? The moment I stopped was the moment other people began.

It started with a Facebook wall post from a gal I went to high school with. “I loaded an elderly woman’s groceries into her car for her today. It made me think of you & all your acts of kindness. Not that I’m an unkind person, but I normally just walk around in my own head & hardly ever notice people around me. You’ve made me be more aware and to look for opportunities. Thank you!” Wow! I wasn’t expecting to see that on my wall today. How nice! Free and easy, too! It reminded me of another high school friend who had written on my post about cleaning out store dressing rooms (yet another easy and free RAK to do.)

Another friend commented on one of my RAKs with, “Keep sharing your compassion and great ideas to inspire the rest of us.” Great ideas? Inspiring others? Me? Really?

The next week I checked my Celebrate Kindness email account and discovered an email from one of the recipients of my first RAK for Sandy Hook victims (read the story and her response here). She was asking for my address so she could mail me a $25 gift card to T.G.I.Fridays so I could pay it forward and keep the blessings going. REALLY?!? A gift card donation! WOW! My spirits were lifted at the thought of walking into a restaurant and paying the bill for a family with kids, not knowing their story, but blessing them just the same. How exciting!

This week, as Pollyanna peeked her smile back into my spirit, I received yet another message from a former co-worker. She has been blessing homeless people on the way to work and stated how good it makes her feel to perform her random acts of kindness. She also added that she reads my blog stories several times because each time she reads them they make her feel good inside and inspire her to do more.

Well, short of being hit over the head with a shovel, I received the message loud and clear: RANDOM ACTS OF KINDNESS MAKE A DIFFERENCE! It is very humbling to know something you do, even something so simple and seemingly unimportant, really does positively impact the life of another. The most ironic point of this entire story is that none of the people mentioned above knew I was in a rut. Seriously! It was LITERALLY divine intervention with a splash of perfect timing.

Speaking of perfect… I am not a perfect person. (Oh gosh, not even close!) I am human, just like you. I have up days and down days (although more up than down, thankfully.) I get caught up in the day-to-day trials and tribulations and lose focus along the way. But thanks to God whispering in the ears of those around me, I am brought back to the surface with kind words and deeds. As much as I enjoy blessing others, I am realizing the importance of allowing myself to be blessed along the way as well. With that spirit in mind, I would like to take a moment and let you know about the Random Acts of Kindness that were bestowed upon me recently:

  • Two people offered to take a photo of me with my son when we were at the Children’s Museum. Granted, he wouldn’t smile for one photo (and actually refused the second offer by shrieking “No picture! No picture!”)… but the fact that someone else recongnized the importance of capturing this fleeting moment of motherhood brought tears to my eyes.


  • As I was shopping at the grocery store picking up ingredients for my 3-2-1 Cup Cake (see recipe here), a stranger leaned over my shoulder and said, “You know what I like to make with Angel Food cake?” then proceeded to give me a super easy recipe for a new dessert I could try. I then shared my 3-2-1 Cup Cake recipe with her and she ended up adding the ingredients to her cart! How fun!
  • Someone let me in front of them in the grocery store line. Little did they know I was in a rush and a little frustrated by the events of the day. Just something as simple as letting me go first changed my perspective in an instant!
  • I was in a classroom teaching third grade students when I realized one of the students was the son of my husband’s best friend from high school, whom I hadn’t seen in 20 years. It just so happened that he was picking up his son from school Friday afternoon, so I was able to reconnect and say hello. What a great surprise! Although this may not have been an official “act of kindness”, the random surprise was still a delight!
  • Four times this week I had students offer to open doors for me as I was carrying items or pushing netbook carts. Yes! Children can be kind, too!
  • Three separate friends sent me messages saying they wanted to get together to catch up, to have some quality time together. Oh, how this brightened my day!

If I stop and start to list all the nice things people did for me, even in just this week, I am overwhelmed by such kindness. How can you NOT be inspired to bless others when you find yourself so blessed? After all, isn’t that what paying it forward is really all about?

So dear friends, my best advice for getting out of a rut is to just stop. Stop trying to be everything to everybody. Take time for yourself. Allow yourself to be in the moment, but don’t let the moment swallow you alive. Think of those who have blessed you this week, this month, this life (either people you know or complete strangers) and be inspired to do the same for someone else.

Random acts of kindness don’t have to cost money. They don’t have to be Herculean events. Many times the simply RAKs are the ones that mean the most. Listen to the God whispers and act upon them. You just never know how important that random smile may be.

Share the love and be inspired! Thanks for taking time out of your busy lives to spend some moments with me!

Last night, my team and I went out to dinner before presenting an an out-of-state conference. After driving for over five hours, we were starving!


We had a very large group joining us (22 people in all!) so we had low expectations for efficient service. (When was the last time you went out to dinner with 22 people wanting to be seated together?)

I am happy to report that our dining experience was amazing! Our waitress, Ashley, was phenomenal. She cheerfully explained the specials and didn’t bat an eye when we sheepishly changed our orders. Drinks were refilled without asking and appetizers and meals were served hot and in a timely manner. Not a single error was made in our orders! It was a miracle!

We chatted with her towards the end of our meal and complimented her on the delightful service and accuracy in the orders. “Well, when I give the cooks your order, I only write up six orders on a page. This makes it easier for them and fewer mistakes are made.”


Because of Ashley’s impeccable service to all the conference presenters, we were able to enjoy our time together networking instead of being frustrated or inconvenienced. I really wanted to do something for our waitress to show my appreciation for a job well done, so I reached into my bag, jotted a personal note on the back of my business card and added it to a $5 Starbucks gift card.



I handed the card to Ashley as we departed from the restaurant, thanking her for all her work. I wished I had more gift cards, because I would have loved to have treated HER to a dinner she could enjoy!

The next time you are eating out, take a moment to not only enjoy your meal, but thank your waiter or waitress. While serving you is part of their job, to know their service is appreciated validates all they do!

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