celebrate kindness

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Kindness-Quotes-8

Here we go with another rainy weekend. You know what I really dislike doing in the rain? Grocery shopping. It seems like every time I go, the parking lot is full, the store is packed with people, and I’m drenched from head to toe after putting my groceries in the car. Going shopping in the rain does not bring me joy.

Normally I park in the back of the lot, enjoying the extra walk, but on this particular day I was thrilled to see reverse lights on a car in the second spot closest to the store. I stopped my car and turned on my turn signal, patiently waiting for the car to leave so I could take its place.

As I lifted my foot off the brake and turned my steering wheel, a silver-beige car scooted ahead of me in the opposite direction and took the empty spot.

Unbelievable!

I literally sat there for a second with my mouth open in shock. Seriously? I was here first! So many negative thoughts filled my head in an instant and it took all I had not to let the moment ruin my morning. After all, it was just a parking spot. Did it really matter?

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As I parked my car and walked towards the store, I saw the person who took my spot. It was a young woman with a small child carried on her hip. I immediately felt horrible for the negative thoughts that filled my head moments before. It wasn’t that long ago that I was in her shoes – a mom dragging my child out in the rain to get the necessary groceries, praying for a spot close to the front door.

We entered the store at almost the same time, both turning to the right to find a cart. Many were wet, having been brought in from the rain, but I found one that was dry and pushed it towards her. “Here,” I said with a smile on my face, “This one is dry.” She smiled back in appreciation and said a quick “Thanks” as she put her daughter in the cart.

My day was filled with joy, just like that!

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I walked the aisles of the store, my mood brightened by the random act of kindness, and decided to do another RAK for a mom who might need it.

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Then, as I was checking out, I overhead the girl beside me mumble that she wished she had brought some change, so I gave her some of mine to help her out.

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It’s funny how being kind to others can change your outlook on the day. When I left the grocery store and put the groceries in my car, I didn’t even notice the rain.

May your travels be filled with joy no matter the weather or season!

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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!

Living in the 21st century provides many perks and conveniences.  For example, I can do most of my shopping online and have items delivered to my house without even having to change out of my pajamas.  Talk about convenience!  In fact, this shift in mobile purchasing has actually reshaped our country’s advertising and marketing strategies for Black Friday, the busiest shopping day of the year!

There are times, however, when convenience and speed aren’t necessarily a priority for me.  As much as I love technology (I’m a tech-geek at heart!), there’s something to be said for doing things “the old fashioned way.”  That’s how I feel about grocery shopping.

I think my fascination with grocery stores began when I was in college.  I scraped change to make ends meet, never having enough money to splurge on “good stuff” (hence, I survived off ramen noodles, lol.)  I loved coming home to visit my Grandma Payne and she would always end our visit with, “I’ve got to pick up a few things from the grocery store.  Would you like to come with me?”  This was always said with a smile and a wink because we both knew the trip would end with her writing a check well over $100 and my car being stocked full of necessities.

I remember walking with her through the aisles, never rushing, always taking our time looking at all the options.  I can still hear the ping of the cash register buttons as the price was manually punched in.  I couldn’t wait to be at an age where I could buy ANYTHING I wanted from a grocery store.

Even today, grocery shopping is my favorite chore.  While I now make lists on my phone instead of paper, I still appreciate the old-fashioned feel of a grocery store.  I like the brightness of the store. I enjoy chatting with the friendly workers who greet you with a smile as you walk down the aisle (not just at the entrance.)  I like the fact that someone is willing to bag my groceries and take them out to my car without expectation of a tip.  (Although, it took me a while to be OK with that one – I have tried to tip them so many times!)  In fact, when I’ve been away from the house for a few hours, my family jokes that I must have ended up at a grocery store.

So you can imagine my delight in meeting Mr. Leslie “Leon” Hobbs five years ago.  An older black gentleman, Mr. Leon was at the end of my checkout line, bagging my groceries as I tried to waddle through the narrow space to place my grocery items on the conveyor belt.  I was 8 months pregnant, it was a hot and humid August day, and for the life of me I could not get around my cart to reach in and grab the canned vegetables that slid to the back of my cart.  Mr. Leon tapped me on my shoulder saying, “Excuse me Miss, let me get those for you.  You need to rest.  You have a baby in there!”  We both laughed as I backed out of the aisle (even the memory makes me laugh now because, seriously, I was HUGE!).  Mr. Leon finished unloading my cart, then continued bagging my groceries and walked with me to my car.

“Where to, pretty Miss?”  His smile was infectious.  I was drawn to his sweet, southern style as we approached my car.  “Now you need rest.  You let me take care of those bags for you.  You don’t need to work when it’s so hot out here.  I’ll do it for you.”  I will admit I felt a little awkward, even in my pregnant state, to stand idly to the side while an older man loaded my groceries.  In my mind it didn’t seem right!  I was perfectly capable of loading my own groceries!  But the one thing I learned about Mr. Leon that day was that any argument would fall on deaf ears when it came to helping him do his job.  This was HIS job and HE was going to do it!

After putting my groceries away, Mr. Leon reached into his pockets to pull out two plastic wrapped mints.  “This one is for you, and this one is for the baby when he comes.”  He would never take a tip, pushing back any money offered to him.  “No ma’am, this is my pleasure to serve you.  You are the reason I am so blessed to work here.  Thank you for shopping at Kroger and allowing me to have this job.”

My day was always brighter after a visit with Mr. Leon.

Since that time, Mr. Leon has become a familiar name in our family.  Whenever we shop at Kroger, we look to see which line he’s bagging and we will get in his line, no matter how long the wait.   He seemed to have an endless supply of mints and somehow always found a way to slip in a “few extra” for the kids he knew I had at home.  We always said “Hi, Mr. Leon!” if we saw him in or out of the store. His eyes would light up when you called him by name, yet they would spark a fire if you ever tried to grab those bags to load yourself.  He took pride in his job, and it showed.

You can imagine my heartbreak when I learned that Mr. Leon had passed away this past weekend.  What?!  Not Mr. Leon!  No!  Like a child, I wanted to stamp my feet in refusal.  How could this be?!

“To every thing there is a season… a time to live and a time to die.”  It was my Grandma’s favorite bible verse (even carved into her headstone), and it was my immediate answer from God.  Mr. Leon passed away because he was a good and faithful servant and his time was done.  It was that simple.

I contacted the Kroger store manager, Mr. Scott Jones, and was told they would hold a balloon release later in the week in Mr. Leon’s memory.  In the moment of acceptance, I felt so helpless.  I wanted to do something, anything, to process my grief, but what could I possibly do to make anything better?

I RAK’d it out.

I accepted money from friends to pass along to his family.

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I attended the balloon launch.

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A Kroger employee passed out Leon’s mints to the crowd.

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The yellow balloon made me think of Mr. Leon’s bright smile. I love how it’s the last balloon to lift off.

I signed Mr. Leon’s banner.

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And I realized through all these acts of love and remembrance that I was not alone.  Apparently Mr. Leon treated EVERYONE the way he treated me!  So many people shared stories of how Mr. Leon brightened their day with kindness.  It was truly overwhelming to see a community gather to show their appreciation for someone who carried groceries to their car.  It only goes to show that you CAN make a difference in someone else’s life just by doing what you do, but doing it well.

I returned to my beloved Kroger store the day of his funeral to discover an empty candy bowl at his memorial site.  I did the only thing I could do.  I bought some mints from the store and refilled his cup for all the times he refilled mine.

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The next time you are shopping and someone offers to bag your groceries, take them up on their offer.  Smile at them.  Let them know how much you appreciate them doing their job well.  Take a moment to enjoy the “old fashioned” way of doing things.  You never know how far your kindness will reach.

Did you know this week is Random Act of Kindness Week?  It’s true!  A whole week dedicated to being kind to those around us – what joy!

The best part about doing RAKs is that they don’t have to cost money or even be that “amazing” of tasks.  Here are a few RAKs I did on Monday:

  • Held the door open for a student whose hands were full of books
  • Complimented a coworker
  • Allowed someone to use the faculty restroom before me (don’t laugh – when you are a teacher and can only leave your classroom during designated times of the day – this RAK is HUGE!)
  • Drove past the closest parking space in the parking lot so someone else could be blessed by a shorter walk
  • Smiled and greeted coworkers as I passed them on the sidewalk
  • Sent messages on FB to friends letting them know I was thinking about them
  • Shared my homemade chex mix with a coworker
  • Stopped what was on my “to-do” list to help coworkers right when they needed help

See?  Random acts of kindness can be easy! (Granted, some easier than others, lol.)  Many times we find ourselves overwhelmed or in a rut when we think we have to do something over-the-top amazing to make a difference in the lives of others.  Let me reassure you that EVERY act of kindness is important and has the potential to be life changing!  Seriously!

Today I performed two specific RAKs.  First, I brought chocolate to share at the professional development training I was leading after school.  (Chocolate ALWAYS makes people feel good, right?)

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Second, I bagged my own groceries at Kroger and took them out to my car in the freezing cold to save the bagger an extra trip outside.

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See?  Easy.  Nothing to it!

I would love to know what you are doing to celebrate Random Act of Kindness Week!  Share your experiences through Twitter, Instagram, FB or right here on my WordPress blog… just add the hashtag #RAKweek to your post so we can inspire each other!

Be blessed, dear friends, and RAK on!  🙂

This week, I was delighted to participate in a Random Act of Kindness to benefit “A Heart for Oklahoma”, a church based mission to bring supplies to those suffering from the effects of last week’s tornado.  What made this RAK especially close to my heart is that it was organized and led by one of my high school friend’s daughter, Claire Belfield Henry, a homeschooled 7th grader who has also captured the Junior Miss Mechanicsville crown.  (You can read more about the mission here.)

They were collecting basic health and beauty supplies to personally deliver to Oklahoma which was GREAT because I had received donations of these items from friends!  I love when God works out details like that!  Here is the basket I created to donate to this project.  It contained shampoo, conditioner, shaving cream, tooth brushes, dental floss and picks, deodorant, heating pads, nail clippers, body wash, soap, lotion, and cleansing wipes.

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I drove to my local Kroger and there was Claire with another gal, Michelle, from her church.  Her delightful smile was contagious as she thanked me for my donation.  “Wow!  It looks so pretty!” she exclaimed.  She could have easily won an award for Miss Congenialty as her conversation with me was inviting, purposeful, and filled with excitement for her project.   She allowed me to take a few photos for the blog (which I knew her Momma would approve!)

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Their collection site outside of Kroger

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The girls with my basket of donations

I went inside the store to tackle my never ending grocery list.  As I stood in the checkout line, I thought again of Claire and Michelle.  How wonderful to be so involved with giving at such an early age!  I decided to reward their hard work with a bag of Skittles candy (which was a little inside joke because Claire’s mom is going to make my daughter a Skittles cake for her next birthday party.)  As I made my way out of Kroger and towards her donation stand, I realized another young girl had shown up to share in the donation table duties.  Without hesitation, I turned right back into Kroger and bought more Skittles so that ALL the girls could share in some simple delights for their labor.

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I took an opportunity to have my photo taken with local royalty, too.  😉

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This RAK is dediated to Jessica Rekos, age 6, whose parents described their daughter as a “mini CEO”.  She sounded just like Claire.  These two girls shared a passion for helping others, but doing it in an organized, efficient way.  I could easily imagine Jessica doing something as grand as this mission.  I am always humbled when I see such leadership skills in our children.  Their self confidence is inspiring!!  I hope Jessica’s parents know that her spirit lives on in other “mini CEOs” around the world.

Thanks for sharing in my joy of giving.  Be blessed, my friends and have a wonderful weekend!  🙂

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.

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Be blessed dear friends and keep passing along the joy!

You just never know where you will find opportunities for random acts of kindness. The other night as I was heading home, I realized my gas tank was empty and I needed to stop and get it filled. Pulling into the small station, every pump was being used. I noticed a white SUV sitting on the side, but wasn’t sure if this person was waiting for an available pump or simply tending to other tasks. I drove around the station several times when right as I was coming around the corner (for the third time!) a car was leaving! YES! I was ecstatic! I could finally pull in and get some gas! (I mean, how embarrassing would it be to drive around and around on fumes only to run out of gas mere feet away from the gas pump!)

I started to pull into the now available spot when I happened to glance in my rear view mirror. Lo and behold, that same white SUV I had spotted before was now behind me, and the driver did NOT look happy at all. Had she been waiting this entire time? Did she think I was taking her spot? The thoughts crowded my brain in mere seconds and I was tempted to push them away just as fast. Instead, I opened my car door and leaned out facing hers.

“Ma’am? We’re you waiting for this spot?” I asked, using my hands to gesture towards the available pump. She rolled down her window with a sharp, “What?” that perfectly matched the angry expression on her face. “This spot,” I repeated, pointing to the gas pump, “Were you waiting for this?”. With her exasperated reply of “Yes!”, I knew she was indeed waiting for a spot and was a bit irritated that I was now in it. “You can have it. I wasn’t sure if you were waiting or not. You were here before me. Take it!” And with that, I drove out of the spot and continued my search, smiling at my 11th deed.

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Now I will interject a bit of brutal honesty here. Had I not committed myself to being a kinder person to others as part of my 40th Birthday Project, I would have probably just pulled into the spot, pumped my gas, and went about my merry way without another thought to the lady whose evening would be soured by some inconsiderate gal who took her spot at the gas station. But this is NOT how my story ends. I made a choice to be kind. I made a choice to put someone else before me (literally!) and it actually made me feel good, too!

As luck would have it, I made one more loop around the station and another spot opened up, so I’m happy to report that my car did not expire on fumes. What did this act of kindness cost me?  Three minutes of patience, a little bit of humility, and a touch of humbleness.  Not once did I have to open my wallet (well, other than to pay for my own gas after I got to a pump, lol!)

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The next time you’re headed towards a crowded gas station where the lines are long and patience is thin, look around and see if there’s someone YOU can bless. I’m sure you won’t have to look very far!

Be blessed, dear friends!  Have a wonderful weekend!

**This post dedicated to my sister and my Grandma, because everything 11 makes us smile :-)**


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