celebrate kindness

Posts Tagged ‘pizza

Today I arrived in Philadelphia, PA for the ISTE Conference (#ISTE2015 for those of you on Twitter) – a jam-packed whirlwind of learning for all things related to educational technology. (That’s a really fancy way of saying the most awesome conference ever for teachers-turned-tech-geeks like me.)

As you may know, Philly is called the “City of Brotherly Love.” This evening we had the opportunity to shower a local restaurant with kindness, by pre-paying pizza slices for homeless in the area at Rosa’s Fresh Pizza. The concept is simple:

Each slice of pizza costs $1. You can buy a post-it note for $1 and write a personal message, then put your note anywhere in the restaurant. If someone is hungry, but doesn’t have any money, they can take a post-it off the wall and trade it in for a slice of pizza.

Genius.

On average, Rosa’s feeds 40 homeless people a day. Multiply that by 365 days in a year and you can see how this small RAK could impact many!

Knowing I would be in town for this conference, I posted on FB an opportunity for any friends to join me in this random act of kindness. It would be a virtual RAK Mob for them, but a real one for me as several of my Twitter PLN (personal learning network) were planning to visit and donate as well. I couldn’t WAIT for today to arrive!

Well, arrive it did, complete with cold, dreary temperatures and pouring down rain.

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Not quite the “ideal weather” for walking around an unfamiliar city, that’s for sure! My co-worker, Heather, was kind enough to lend me an extra rain jacket as we shared an umbrella, braving the driving rain and winds with Stacie and Fay.

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Earlier in the day, Fay and I passed the time away in the backseat of the van writing out post-it notes for all the donations received. Thank goodness the drive was 6 hours – we had plenty of time to get everything ready for tonight! With each note we wrote, we thought about the blessings we were passing along to others.

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Despite the drenched jeans, soggy footwear, really bad hair, and a few wrong turns, we finally arrived at Rosa’s Fresh Pizza.

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There was a short line, so we waited patiently for our turn to order. While we waited, we were able to watch the cook toss the pizza dough just like in the movies. That was such fun! Before too long, it was our turn to order. We bought several slices of pizza to eat for our dinner, then it was my turn to RAK Rosa’s!

If you click on the blue link above and watch the video, you already know how much money we donated, but for those who don’t have video-enabled devices, let me share the joy that we were able to purchase 125 slices of pizza for those in need!

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Oh, what a wonderful RAK! The entire restaurant erupted in applause when we finished and everyone had smiles on their faces! Then came the really fun part… placing all 125 post-it notes on the restaurant walls!

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We had so many post-it notes, we had to place them all around the restaurant with customers offering to help. The camaraderie of everyone there, helping one another for a common cause, was a humbling, yet energizing moment.

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Stacie brought her own donations and filled out post-it notes on the spot, and Heather did her own RAK by purchasing me an official “Rosa’s Pizza” t-shirt, with half the proceeds going towards pizza slices for the homeless.

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We ate our pizza and took time to read the sweet notes and letters taped to the walls.

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And then… I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned around and it was like a family reunion! All my favorite Twitter peeps, the guys and gals I’ve been chatting with though social media for the past year were HERE! I’ve never met any of them in real life, yet felt as if I’ve known them forever! What a joyous way to wrap up my night!

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Me and Ashley Hurley (@ashleyhurley)

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Sarah Thomas (@sarahdateechur), me and Ashley (and an awesome photo bomber in the back!)

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Rodney Turner (@techyturner) and Tara Linney (@TechTeacherT)

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#ISTE2015 – EduMatch was HERE!

If you are attending the ISTE Conference this week and would like to join in on this RAK Mob, it’s not too late! Grab a friend or two, make your way down to 25 S. 11th Street and get ready to be humbled and blessed all at once. It’s a unique opportunity to join in the fun and leave this city of brotherly love a little better than when you arrived. Visit the @SliceofISTE website for more information!

All week long I’ll share blog posts of random acts of kindness I see and do during the conference. If you do a RAK, post on Twitter with #ISTERAK – our own personal hashtag for documenting random acts of kindness while at ISTE.

A special thanks to the following people whose generosity and passion for kindness made this RAK possible:

Sarah Armentrout

Amy Gregory

Torrie Goodman

Jennifer Hicks

Heather Nunnally

Allison Waggy

Vicki Williams

You inspire me every single day!

Be blessed, my friends, and follow me on Twitter (@HCPSTinyTech) to stay up-to-date with conference tweets, RAKS, and more!

 
    

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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:

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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.”

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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.)

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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.

For the past few weeks, our three year old has been mesmerized by the Chuck E. Cheese commercials on TV, where “a kid can be a kid!” He gazes longingly at all the fun the children are having then turns to us and proclaims, “I want to be a kid, too!” Every time he says this, it makes us laugh. Of COURSE you want to be a kid! You are one!

We finally carved enough time in our busy schedule to make his wish come true, because every kid deserves to be a kid at least once, right? Little did we know at this time, but this would be a perfect opportunity to bless others (and be blessed ourselves!)

We decided to make it a dinner event, so upon entering Chuck E. Cheese, we ordered a large pizza for the kids and the salad buffet for ourselves. I didn’t have a coupon for the buffet (only for tokens), but the generous cashier said, “I’ll just give you the discount price anyway!” How sweet! It put a smile on my face to be on the receiving end of a RAK.

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As I returned to the buffet for another amazing salad, a lady tapped me on the shoulder. “Would you like to have this? We are leaving and don’t have time to use it.” She handed me a coupon for 10 free tokens! Another random act of kindness received! Wow! Twice in one night! What a pleasant surprise!

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It was then that I knew it was my turn to pass along the blessings to others. I put my salad on the table and joined the long cashier’s line to claim my free tokens. As I got closer to the front of the line, I noticed a boy wearing all red standing to the side, shifting from one foot to the other. It appeared that he was waiting for his turn to get tokens, too, as I saw him folding and unfolding a dollar bill while he waited. He never once tried to push his way in front of anyone, but he also didn’t join the back of the line and wait his turn. He simply stood there, in the front, moving from side to side, almost willing someone to have mercy on him and let him in.

That person was me. 🙂

“Why don’t you go next? You’ve been waiting quite a while!” His grin spoke volumes of appreciation. And sure enough, he was getting tokens. Four golden tokens in exchange for his crumpled dollar bill.

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A few moments later, I was exiting the line, 10 tokens in hand, ready to pass along my blessings. Remembering the squeals of delight my children would share when they found an unexpected coin in an arcade, I decided to leave my tokens on popular games, right in plain sight, ready to be discovered by children young and old.

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The best part of this random act of kindness was observing my tokens being discovered by children. As expected, there were smiles and squeals of delight! Mission accomplished! One girl, who used my token to play Skeeball, turned to her mom and dad and proudly said, “Look at all my tickets! And I got them all for free!”

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I think my favorite moment of the night came when I saw a young girl gazing longingly at the Cinderella coach, complete with a pair of majestic horses ready to pull the princess anywhere her heart desired. The girl walked around the ride at least twice when I leaned down and asked, “Would you like to be a princess and ride on this?” Her eyes grew wide as I handed her my very last token. “Go ahead. It’s OK! Put the token in the slot and you can ride.” She put her Barney doll down long enough to use the token, then grabbed him again and settled down for the ride. Her smile was simply priceless!

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As I stood there, watching all the children enjoy “just being a kid”, I felt the now familiar lump in my throat as my thoughts traveled yet again to those precious children from Sandy Hook Elementary. It made me want to hug my own children so tightly and never let go.

Tonight I dedicate this act of kindness to Charlotte Bacon, age 6, a “sweet, outgoing and full of energy” little girl with a head of beautiful red curls. I am sure she would have loved to share the joy of just being a kid with others.

Be blessed and remember… opportunities to bless others might just begin when you find yourself being blessed instead!

Last night I decided to celebrate the life of James Mattioli, age 6. I discovered through the internet that he was actually 6 and 3/4 and was “quick to remind everyone” of his exact age. Like many boys his age, he was active. He loved playing outside. Riding his bike. Swimming. He enjoyed playing inside, too, especially on his iPad. I learned that he was born four weeks early and his family would joke it was because he was hungry. Apparently James loved to eat, too, lol.

As I was standing in line with my family at Stevie B’s, a local all-you-can-eat pizza buffet, I began to think of James and how much he would love this restaurant. Endless rows of pizza with combinations galore. You could even request your own pizza to be made just to your specifications. In the back of the restaurant was a small arcade/game room where children could use tokens like quarters and earn tickets from various games of skill and luck to be traded in for trinkets and prizes. Yes, it’s hard to think of any child that wouldn’t want to come here for dinner.

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My thoughts were interrupted by the cashier’s friendly voice. “Would you like to buy some game tokens with your dinner?” We always get game tokens (although we try to teach our children the value of money by having them purchase their own tokens from time to time.) This evening, I bought three packs of tokens: one for my son, one for my daughter, and one for James.

As the cashier handed me my charge receipt to sign, I returned one container of tokens with my #26acts card and said, “Please hand this to the next person who comes in line to purchase tokens for their child. It’s a random act of kindness for James.” The cashier paused as she read my card, obviously surprised, and replied, “Yes… yes… wow, that is really sweet.” I made sure to put James’ EXACT age on the card, too. 🙂

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A little while later, as we were finishing our mealtime and about to head home, I walked back to the arcade/game room. It was a very small room, but alive with sparkling lights, bells and whistles, and happy smiles all around. The redemption counter was surrounded by children, all about the age of James, patiently waiting their turn to transfer tickets into prizes. I felt a lump in my throat as I thought of my own children who love coming here and playing the games. Ordinarily the bright lights and giddy chatter might give me a headache, but tonight it was pure bliss. Oh, to be a child again, without a care in the world. Such pure and innocent joy.

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For the person who received my random act of kindness tonight, I hope your child spun the big wheel and landed on the jackpot, receiving 100 tickets with the cost of only one token. Please share your joy by paying it forward. For James, I hope your memory will live on in the smiles and laughter of others as they remember what it’s like to be a child.

Be blessed my friends and be inspired! 🙂


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