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Recently, I found myself in a heated discussion with someone else about the role “random” plays in the phrase “random acts of kindness” (also known as a RAK or RAOK.)

“You can’t call it a RAK if it’s not random. The fact that you are pre-planning the event takes away from the novelty of it being a true random act of kindness.”

My first instinct was to fight. To argue. To defend my position on RAKs: my purpose, my mission, my style. I was caught in the whirlwind of surprise and disbelief.

And then I laughed.

Yes, it’s true, I have been known to laugh at the most inappropriate times. Humor is probably my strongest defense mechanism and I use it without thinking. What a wonderful world we live in that we can have such petty disagreements as to whether or not a RAK could be random or pre-planned!

So I bring to you my last set of RAKs from the ISTE 2015 Conference – a set of TRULY random acts of kindness that made my heart happy:

Portable Battery Charger

As many of you know, Twitter is the social media of choice for technology conferences. Even if you’re not physically able to attend the conference, you can easily glean resources and make connections using the conference hashtag. To get an idea of the power of a PLN, search the hashtags #ISTE2015, #ISTE15, #notatiste15 and #notatiste. There’s a wealth of resources right at your fingertips!

When you physically attend a conference, the worst thing that could happen is your device shutting down from low battery. I hate when this happens, so I always come prepared. While waiting for the first Ignite session, I sent out a tweet referencing my portable battery chargers (I had three in my purse, ready to go at a moment’s notice) and the power strip peeking out of my purse. Several people read my tweet and commented back, then the conversation was lost in a sea of retweets, mentions, and hashtags.

A few hours later as we made our way back to the conference center to listen to the first Keynote speaker, I saw this tweet in my newsfeed:

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Oh how funny! The tweet made me laugh, that someone actually remembered my previous comment. I tweeted out a photo of my charger case in response with the comment, “Hope you like pink!”

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Suddenly it hit me. This guy really did need a charger! Going into a Keynote session with only 23% battery life? He wouldn’t even MAKE it to the main speaker in time. It was then that the joking over Twitter transformed into a true RAK as I set out to find him, tweeting my location and searching the crowd to find his group.

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Yeah… 21,000 registered attendees and I was trying to find a guy I had never met. What were the chances?

Well, with a bit of perseverance, half a dozen tweets, and a great big dash of luck, we were able to connect and I gave him my portable charger to use. I walked away, thrilled! It was AWESOME to help someone else in their time of need, even if only for an extended battery life! I told him we had to take a selfie as proof (and no worries… we met up the next day when he not only gave me my charger back, but also gave me another I could add to my collection! A pay-it-forward RAK back!)

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The best irony of all? The person in this photo is Jason Markey (@JasonMMarkey), principal of East Leyden High School in Franklin Park, IL. After I snapped the selfie with my phone, he said, “I loved your Ignite session on Random Acts of Kindness last year.” His comment left me literally speechless! Little did he know, I started following his #leydenpride hashtag shortly after last year’s ISTE Conference, blown away by his school’s commitment to sharing kindness through Twitter. What a small world!

Rain Jacket

When we arrived in Philly on Saturday night, the weather was nasty: cold, wet, rainy. The umbrella I brought was little protection from the wind and driving rain that pounded sideways against my skin. My coworker, Heather, offered up her rain jacket and I accepted with glee! What a perfectly timed, completely random RAK!

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Speaking of rain, a huge shout-out to Heather (@hcausey) and Stacie (@sctaylorITRT) who shared the driving responsibilities there and back in the midst of crazy traffic and endless rainstorms. These gals are AWESOME and you should definitely follow them on Twitter!

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Happy Birthday Flash Mob

As we were traveling to dinner one evening in the city, we spotted our dear friend, Chris O’Neal (@onealchris), who now lives states away from our district. We immediately ran up and did a “Celebrity Selfie Flash Mob” (where we quickly gathered around him and snapped a photo). As we finished, he made the comment that it was an awesome birthday present (“What? Today is your BIRTHDAY?!?!”) so we immediately serenaded him with the Happy Birthday song right there on the streets of Philly. Totally random and so much fun!

Photo Jun 28, 7 33 24 PM

The Liberty Bell

My oldest son is fascinated by coins. He has spent countless hours researching the images and words shown on coins and at a moment’s notice can give you a “Fun Fact of the Day” related to the history of any coin you find. When I told him I was traveling to Philadelphia, PA for the ISTE Conference, he said with amazement, “You mean where the Liberty Bell is? Did you know the half dollar has the Liberty Bell on it? And you get to see it for REAL?” To say he was excited for me to experience this little part of history was a grand understatement.

Due to the rain and our packed schedule (as well as hotel accommodations outside the city limits), it didn’t look like we would have time to visit the historical site. I tried to prep him the best I could when I called home the second day of the conference, but his disappointment was tangible, even states away.

And then… my amazing coworkers assembled one afternoon in the midst of rain storms and sun, grabbed me and said, “Let’s go!” We had no idea where we were walking; we took a turn right, then backtracked left, but eventually made it to the location of the famed symbol for independence. We made sure to take a photo to send back home to my son.

I have the best team EVER!

Photo Jun 29, 7 26 27 PM

May I Take Your Photo?

It may seem like such a small RAK, offering to take someone else’s photo, but what a wonderful way to help someone else capture a memory forever. I caught my coworker, Casey (@cnugentITRT), offering such kindness to a group of strangers as we were leaving a restaurant and made sure to capture the moment for my own Smile File.

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Expo Hall

One of the busiest places at the ISTE Conference is the Expo Hall. Hundreds of vendors, all vying for your attention, hoping to reel you in with the latest and greatest tool or “must have” addition to your school or district. Many times vendors come prepared to entice with freebies, small trinkets to give away to say “Thanks” or promote their business.

While I know the end result for vendors is to walk away with sales and commissions, I am repeatedly impressed by their generosity. One vendor had these cute little bee shaped figures decorating their space. When I stopped to admire one, the sales rep said I could have one. I thanked her, but declined; my three kids would fight over who got to keep the toy. She simply smiled and gave me three of them, then handed me three foam airplane kits, too. Wow! How thoughtful!

I stopped at another vendor station, enticed by their PLN buttons I had seen other people wearing. When I explained that I was doing a PD presentation focused on expanding your PLN through socia media, she reached under the table and handed me an entire bag of buttons. Not one. Not two. Not even five. AN ENTIRE BAG! I was so giddy, I could barely contain my glee!

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So much generosity. Sheets of stickers. Pointers. Keychains. If you’ve ever had a conversation with an elementary teacher, you know they are desperate for any toy or knick-knack to stock their prize box or classroom store. These trinkets were treasures indeed!

I even had Billy Krakower (@wkrakower), the amazing co-moderator of #satchat and #njed messaging me to give me a ribbon for my badge, a Tomorrow’s Classrooms Today shirt, and some travel bags. He was so kind to go out of his way to connect with me in the midst of this enormous group of people just to pass along his kindness.


As you can see from the stories above, the truly random acts of kindness are just as meaningful as the ones that are pre-planned. Many of you do these types of RAKs on a regular basis and never give a thought to just how wonderful your actions are for the receiver. For me, conferences are a fantastic venue to notice unique opportunities to bless others.

And to round out all the RAKs, I even had another gal compliment me on my favorite skirt. 🙂

Photo Jun 29, 12 37 51 PM

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I have some of the best coworkers a person could ask for. There are nine of us on a small, select team and we work together with such efficiency you would swear there were 30 of us!

This morning as we arrived for our weekly team meeting, one of my coworkers walked through the door waving a small, brown, rectangular item that looked like a piece of decorated cardboard. “I was trying to figure out who to give this to, and I decided that this should be for YOU!”, she declared, handing the brown item to the coworker beside me. “What? What is this for?” I peeked across the table and saw it was a Starbucks gift card! How sweet!

My coworker then proceeded to hand it to me saying, “Here, you take it. You can use it for your Random Acts of Kindness project.” No, no, no! I pushed the card back to her. “Oh no! I am not going to take that! It’s YOUR gift! Enjoy it!” We all started laughing at this point, and I begged them to allow me to take their picture for a blog post.

“No! I don’t want my picture taken! I’m a mess!” was the immediate response, but I convinced them to smile for the camera just the same.

Then I went into my iPhone apps and blurred out their faces so no one would ever know who they were.

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The blurred photo alone sent us in another fit of giggles as we laughed at the absurdity of it all.

What a fun way to start my workday – having a front row seat to a random act of kindness. I can’t think of a better way to be inspired!

(Did I mention how much I love my team? They are the BEST!). 🙂

For those who know me in real life, it’s no surprise that I’m a photo freak.  I take photos of EVERYTHING!  In fact, years before digital photo albums became available, I used to be a Creative Memories consultant, teaching others how to safely preserve and share their photographic memories for generations to come.  I have albums upon albums on my bookshelf documenting milestone events such as birthdays, graduations, and vacations.  For me, photos are the keys to our past and the joys of our future.

Keeping that in mind, can you imagine just how many photos I take while on vacation? It’s crazy!  I am the person who annoyingly asks, “Can you take a picture of us?” to the chagrin of my family members.  I might also be the gal who sheepishly admits to taking not one, not two, but quite possibly twelve (12!!) photos of a gecko who just happened to meander near my sandals.  Yes folks, I am a photo freak by every definition of the word.

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Last month our family took a week long Disney Cruise, a vacation we’ve been saving up for over the course of several years.  I could not WAIT to take photos of the islands we would visit and embrace the colors, sights and sounds of a new culture.   Such joy!   One of our stops was the beautiful island of St. Thomas; 32 square miles of lush tropical paradise with crystal clear water and bright, colorful flowers.  We planned to take our children on the Skyride, a cabin-like closed compartment with windows that travels up a mountain, allowing you to see the island from an aerial view as it rises 700 feet in the air.  Unfortunately, the Skyride was closed the day we arrived, so we had to change our plans while there.

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It was hot.  Scorching.  The moment you stepped on the white cement, you could feel the heat radiating from the ground through your shoes.  Thankfully there was a gentle ocean breeze and several open shops that provided cool relief from the heat.  After about two hours of walking around and taking photos, we decided to head back to the ship.  In order to gain entry on the boat, you had to pass through an entrance area barricaded by a chain link fence.  You had to show a photo I.D. and your boat’s key card as well.  Depending on the time of day you returned, you could be met with quite a line at the re-entry spot as every single guest on the cruise had to pass through this security clearance area.

Once past the chain link fence, you walked towards the ship’s boarding gangway where you stood in yet another line, waiting for your ship’s key card to be swiped.  Did I mention how hot it was outside?  By mid-day it was brutal!  Even though the lines moved forward at a decent pace and the security officers were friendly and kind, it was still a draining process.

My daughter and I were patiently waiting to proceed through the second set of security clearances when I overheard a woman behind me speak with despair in her voice.  “Oh no……,” she moaned “I totally forgot to take a picture of the St. Thomas sign!”  I turned my head at a 45 degree angle to see a dark haired gal pointing to the long “Welcome to St. Thomas” sign on the other side of the chain link fence.  Even if she held her camera high above her head, there was no way for her to take a picture of that sign without an ugly metal fence obstructing her view.

“Would you like me to email you my photo?  I just took one with my daughter right before we got in line.  I even took one WITHOUT my daughter, so you might like that one instead!”  She paused for a split second then grinned from ear to ear as she replied incredulously, “Are you sure?  You would do that for me? That would be wonderful!”  I had to laugh at her shock.  “Of course!  I’d be more than happy to do that!  No big deal at all!”  She gave me her email address and I typed it into my phone.  I even joked that if she sent me a photo of her kids, I would Photoshop them into the picture and no one would ever need to know.  We laughed at the idea and continued chatting through the clearance area, into the elevator and all the way up to our separate floors.

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It wasn’t until I exited the elevator and was halfway down the hall, heading back to my stateroom, that I realized I had completed another RAK.  My business cards! In a moment of sheer panic (which is silly to remember in retrospect – who on earth panics about RAK business cards!?!?), I ran down the hall and up a flight of stairs, hoping to catch her as she exited on the 7th floor.  Sadly, I wasn’t quick enough to tell her about my 26 acts, but I figured if it was meant to be for her to know about my mission, then I would see her again before our vacation ended.

Well, see her again I did.  That night before dinner there was a hypnotist show and who would be one of the people chosen for the show?  Yep, yours truly.  (That, my friends, is a WHOLE separate story right there – oh gracious!)  Following the end of the show, as we were making our way through the crowds of people, I saw her.  Right about the same time, she turned her head and saw me, too.  “It’s you!  It’s you!” she said as we both made our way towards each other.  We hugged like long-lost friends, laughing and sharing stories about the show.  I reached into my purse and handed her the business card, explaining that I had tried to find her after I got off the elevator.  She then touched my heart as she said my kindness reminded her that there is still good in this world.  Priceless.  Humbling.

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This Random Act of Kindness is dedicated to sweet Ana Marquez-Greene, an adorable child who loved to sing with her brother at the piano. In a statement the Greene family made in December 2012, ” [Ana] routinely committed selfless acts of kindness: every drawing or craft project she began was envisioned not for her own enjoyment, but as a gift for another. She often left sweet notes that read, ‘I love you Mom and Dad,’ under our bedroom pillow – not on special occasions, but, rather, on ordinary days.”

While taking a family vacation on a cruise ship to St. Thomas may not count as an “ordinary day”, this RAK was selfless, an offer made as a gift for another.  I’m sure had Ana been standing in my shoes, she would have done the exact same thing.

Be blessed my dear friends and keep paying it forward!


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