celebrate kindness

Posts Tagged ‘RAK

How do I even begin to write this post?

I have struggled this past week to put my thoughts into words, reeling (as many of you are) from the senseless, tragic death of Meg Cross Menzies, a stay-at-home mom in our local community.  For those of you who do not live around here, or have not heard her story, Meg was struck and killed last week while running with her husband.  The driver who hit her, also from our local community, was charged with a DUI and involuntary manslaughter.  As a cruel twist of fate, the driver’s own wife was struck and killed years ago in a car accident, also leaving behind children to mourn.

Oh, the heaviness of my heart.

In the hours after her passing, our community rallied around those touched by the loss of Meg.  An avid runner and Boston Marathoner, a few local runners honored her memory by tying their shoes to the street post where she was hit.  They also organized a “Megs Miles” run for the day after her funeral so people could run in her memory, sharing in her passion for the sport. Instead of an official race, the idea was that anyone and everyone could run and document their experience using social media with the hashtag #megsmiles and documenting their miles on a Google Doc.  We were encouraged to wear blue, Meg’s favorite color. Someone even created a logo we could use for our FB profiles in memory of Meg:

Photo Jan 17, 8 54 52 PM

And that, my friends, is where this Random Act of Kindness truly begins.

See, it wasn’t just the running community who wrapped their arms around this family.  It wasn’t even our local community, or her church, or even the Y down the street where she volunteered her time as a personal trainer.  Meg’s tragedy went global, thanks to the power of social media, and complete strangers rallied together in her memory.  There was a sense of worldwide unity when strangers who had never met Meg, never heard of Mechanicsville, VA, never even ran, laced up their sneakers and began to run.

Grandmothers. Husbands.  Mothers pushing strollers.  Children and adults of all ages, running in remembrance.  By the next day, our local newspaper shared the enormity of the run:  90,000 participants world-wide.

Photo Jan 21, 3 26 48 PMThat is simply incredible!!  Now, I do not consider myself a runner by any stretch of the imagination.  I’ve run 5Ks and 10Ks, but always for fun, to enjoy the social company of others running alongside me, never competitively.  This past Saturday, however, I ran for Meg.  I met a few coworkers and friends at a local elementary school and we ran around the track, remembering the life of one of our own.  Did I run the entire time?  No.  I actually began by walking alongside another Mommy as she pushed her 10 month old baby in a stroller, bracing ourselves against the freezing temperatures and swirling wind.  It wasn’t until her daughter, a kindergartner, ran ahead of us, then turned and taunted, “Hurry up, slowpokes!” that I picked up my pace.  I took turns running alongside each of the people who showed up that morning, sharing in a laugh, a smile, or simple silence.  I considered it an honor to run for Meg.

Photo Jan 18, 11 36 09 AM

There have been so many random acts of kindness performed in Meg’s memory.  Amanda Sullivan, a runner who was also struck down while running, completed a 5K on crutches.  Candice Shively, a race director, handed out a blinking LED bracelet to a young man she always sees walking home in the dark.  Josh Stowers, a small business owner, offered his skills in painting and power washing to Meg’s family (even offered to build her children a swingset.)  Anna Sakellariou painted a portrait.  So many ways to process grief, yet bless others at the same time!

Photo Jan 18, 9 47 44 AM

Today marks one week and a day since Meg left this world.  As I stood in my kitchen enjoying an unexpected snow day, I looked at my three children at the table, still clad in their pajamas.  It was in that moment that the reality of this tragedy gripped my heart so tightly I could no longer hold back the tears.  Those three precious children of Meg’s will have no more snow days with their mom. I wanted to sob and scream at the same time for the depth of sorrow in my soul.

Instead, I swallowed the lump in my throat, wiped away my tears, and continued making breakfast.

As many of you know, I like to cook and have my own recipes posted on Snapguide.  This morning I was in the process of making Snowman Pancakes, in celebration of today’s snow day (which is really funny now because the snow just started to come down and stick at 4:30pm. Gotta love living in a southern state!  Ha!)  As I assembled the pancake pieces on a blue paper plate and added the decorations, I couldn’t resist making an extra one for Meg, complete with angel wings and blue running shoes.

Photo Jan 21, 10 36 09 AM

Be inspired to do nice things for others.  In a few days, Meg’s official website will be up and running and all the wonderful posts on FB will be added for the world to enjoy.  If you would like to run in Meg’s memory, please use this link to add your information, which is compiled for the family.  Pray for Meg’s family, the driver’s family, and our community.  The road to healing seems endless sometimes, so anything you do can and will make a difference.

I will close out today’s blog post with this quote from Isaiah that spoke to my heart this morning.  Be blessed my friends and share kindness with one another.

“When you go through deep waters, I will be with you.  When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown.  When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you.”  -Isaiah 43:2

Photo Jan 20, 5 57 40 PM

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One resolution many people make at the start of the year is to get in shape, start exercising, lose some weight.  It’s an admirable goal, especially for those who realize and acknowledge that life changes are good!

Personally, I am not a gym rat (and no offense to those who are!)  I enjoy exercising, but I also enjoy eating, so for me it’s more like a balancing act in staying healthy.  I’ve tried all sorts of gym activities, but the one I love most is Zumba.   Imagine fast paced dancing like salsa and mambo mixed with squats and lunges and you have a small taste of this hour long class.  It is an EXCELLENT form of exercise!  Best of all, if you do the classes consistently, you really can see changes in your tone, strength, and endurance!

There are many Zumba classes offered around town – some classes come to your workplace (seriously!), some are offered at gyms, and some can be shown on a DVD or Wii.  I like to attend classes at my local Y because it allows me to  get out of the house and meet new people while keeping me motivated with my fitness goals.

The Monday before Christmas I was trying to decide if I should go to my Zumba class or stay home and wrap some last minute gifts for the holidays.  If you are a busy mom like me (or just busy in general), you know how precious just an hour of free time can be! Although I was tempted to use the time productively to mark another task off my to-do list, I decided to head down to the Y and use the time on ME instead.

You can imagine my surprise when my Zumba instructor, Toni, opened the door wearing a Santa themed shirt and an obnoxiously huge elf hat made from skinny balloons.  (Where was my camera when I needed it?!) Her huge smile radiated joy as she welcomed us into the class.  What fun!  I almost expected to see a clown in the corner, inflating and twisting balloons into requested shapes.

As we all found our places to stand, Toni grabbed a basket off the shelf and announced, “I have a little something for you!”  You could hear the small gasps of “Awwww!” and “Oh, thank you so much!” as she made her way to each individual person in the class. When Toni made her way to me, I finally saw what made everyone else respond with such appreciation:

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Our amazing Zumba instructor, with her own time and money, had purchased each of us special Zumba jingle bell bracelets and created a CD of all the music we dance to in class.  REALLY?!?  Oh my gosh, it was such a sweet gift (and the first I have ever received from a gym instructor!)  Unbeknownst to Toni, we had a surprise for her, too, as we had chipped in with cards and money to purchase Powerade and gifts cards to show our thanks for all she does to inspire us on a daily basis.

It was a sweet moment of reciprocity, with both givers and receivers sharing in the emotion of surprise and kindness.  Best of all? We spent the next hour laughing, smiling, and sweating as the sounds of jingle bell bracelets danced in the air.

Today may you be inspired!  Try a new class at the gym or call up a friend to walk around your neighborhood.  Sometimes the most needed random act of kindness is the one you give yourself!  🙂

Today, December 14, 2013, marks the one year anniversary of the terrible tragedy that took the lives of 26 students and teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.  Like so many people in our nation, my heart grieved with a heaviness I could hardly bear.  I felt compelled to do something, anything, to overcome the shock and sadness of that day.

That began my journey of completing 26 Acts of Kindness, one act for each life lost.  Below are my stories.  For those that followed me every step of the way – thank you.  Your support for my passion of kindness is overwhelming and humbling.  Today in memory of that day, please consider doing one simple act of kindness for someone else… and let me know what you did!  🙂

26 Acts of Kindness

Act 1 – In Memory of Noah Pozner, age 6

https://celebratekindness.wordpress.com/2013/01/06/new-beginnings-act-1/

Photo Jan 06, 12 23 56 PM

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Act 2 – In Memory of James Mattioli, age 6

https://celebratekindness.wordpress.com/2013/01/12/new-beginnings-act-2/

RAK2-1

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Act 3 – In Memory of Lauren Rousseau, age 6

https://celebratekindness.wordpress.com/2013/01/26/new-beginnings-act-3/

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Act 4 – In Memory of Caroline Previdi, age 6

https://celebratekindness.wordpress.com/2013/02/16/new-beginnings-act-4/

KK-tamwithdonuts

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Act 5 – In Memory of Charlotte Bacon, age 6

https://celebratekindness.wordpress.com/2013/03/05/new-beginnings-act-5/

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Act 6 – In Memory of Dawn Hocksprung, age 47

https://celebratekindness.wordpress.com/2013/03/31/random-act-of-kindness-6-suspended-coffee-26acts/

coffee collage

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Act 7 – In Memory of Emilie Parker, age 6

https://celebratekindness.wordpress.com/2013/04/18/random-act-of-kindness-7-of-26acts/

books

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Act 8 – In Memory of Dylan Hockley, age 6

https://celebratekindness.wordpress.com/2013/05/03/random-act-of-kindness-8-of-26acts/

subway1

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Act 9 – In Memory of Mary Sherlach, age 56

https://celebratekindness.wordpress.com/2013/05/06/random-act-of-kindness-9-of-26acts/

purse

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Act 10 – In Memory of Victoria Soto, age 27

https://celebratekindness.wordpress.com/2013/05/11/random-act-of-kindness-10-of-26acts/

coffee money

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Act 11 – In Memory of Anne Marie Murphy, age 52

https://celebratekindness.wordpress.com/2013/05/12/random-act-of-kindness-11-of-26acts-happy-mothers-day/

fridays-card1

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Act 12 – In Memory of Madeleine Hsu, age 6

https://celebratekindness.wordpress.com/2013/05/22/random-act-of-kindness-12-of-26acts/

lady2

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Act 13 – In Memory of Allison Wyatt, age 6

https://celebratekindness.wordpress.com/2013/05/24/random-act-of-kindness-13-of-26acts-flowers-and-babies/

recitalflowers

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Act 14 – In Memory of Jessica Rekos, age 6

https://celebratekindness.wordpress.com/2013/05/31/random-act-of-kindness-14-a-heart-for-oklahoma/

girls

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Act 15 – In Memory of Daniel Barden, age 7

https://celebratekindness.wordpress.com/2013/06/02/random-act-of-kindness-15-of-26acts-blessing-others-in-despair/

IMG_8960

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Act 16 – In Memory of Rachel D’Avino, age 29

https://celebratekindness.wordpress.com/2013/06/21/random-act-of-kindness-16-discounts-for-diners/

coupon

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Act 17 – In Memory of Jesse Lewis, age 6

https://celebratekindness.wordpress.com/2013/06/29/random-act-of-kindness-17-of-26acts/

BG-note

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Act 18 – In Memory of Jack Pinto, age 6

https://celebratekindness.wordpress.com/2013/07/06/random-act-of-kindness-18-of-26acts-a-heart-for-adoption/

RAK-Adoption Logo

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Act 19 – In Memory of Benjamin Wheeler, age 6

https://celebratekindness.wordpress.com/2013/07/09/random-act-of-kindness-19-of-26acts-bubbles-and-glo-sticks/

IMG_9970

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Act 20 – In Memory of Olivia Engel, age 6

https://celebratekindness.wordpress.com/2013/07/28/random-act-of-kindness-20-vacation-adventures/

RAK tix

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Act 21 – In Memory of Grace McDonnell, age 7

https://celebratekindness.wordpress.com/2013/08/13/random-act-of-kindness-21-of-26acts-jellyfish-vinegar-and-sharpies/

beach-seagull

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Act 22 – In Memory of Catherine Hubbard, age 6

https://celebratekindness.wordpress.com/2013/08/18/random-act-of-kindness-22-of-26acts-kindness-to-animals/

animals-hand

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Act 23 – In Memory of Avielle Richman, age 6

https://celebratekindness.wordpress.com/2013/10/01/random-act-of-kindness-41st-birthday-at-starbucks/

bdaybarista

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Act 24 – In Memory of Ana Marquez-Greene, age 6

https://celebratekindness.wordpress.com/2013/10/13/random-act-of-kindness-24-of-26acts-sharing-pics/

IMG_4069

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Act 25 – In Memory of Josephine Gay, age 7

https://celebratekindness.wordpress.com/2013/11/07/random-act-of-kindness-25-of-26-acts-birthday-joy/

photo 5

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Act 26 – In Memory of Chase Kowalski, age 7

https://celebratekindness.wordpress.com/2013/11/10/random-act-of-kindness-26-of-26acts-give-and-it-will-be-given/

photo 4

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Well, once again I found myself at Starbucks performing another RAK.  (I’m sure you are convinced I have a coffee addiction by how many of my posts reference Starbucks, lol.)  I met up with a friend during our once-every-four-years coffee break (I am not kidding.  It really has been four years since we’ve seen each other!)  While standing in line, I remembered that Starbucks was having a buy one, get one free special. Yay!  What an easy way to bless someone else!

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While my friend was drinking regular coffee (not one of the frou-frou drinks shown on the advertised special), I decided to bless the gal standing in line behind us.  “Excuse me,” I began, “I’m getting one of those drinks up there.  It’s buy one, get one free.  Would you like my free one?”  She smiled back in surprise at my offer.  “Are you sure?  That’s really sweet of you!”  I returned the smile saying, “No big deal!  Just let them know what you want!”

I didn’t get a photo of her, and I didn’t have any RAK cards with me, so she may never see this post.  But it was fun to bless a stranger just the same!

The next time you have a buy one, get one free offer, think about blessing someone else with your freebie!

Be inspired and pay it forward!  🙂

This has been such a fun week.  I’ve done several little RAKs here and there, but haven’t had a speck of time to write about them!  Now that I’ve completed my #26 acts mission and my 40 for 40 RAKs, it’s really nice to just be able to DO a RAK without any planning or thinking ahead!

As many of you know, we like to visit the Krispy Kreme store when report cards come out because Krispy Kreme is AWESOME about giving one free doughnut for each A you receive on your report card.  Monday night after dinner we made a quick drive across town (oxymoron), and reaped the rewards.

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You have never seen such joy as watching a little person pick out their favorite doughnut to eat from the display case!

Since Krispy Kreme only gives out free glazed doughnuts for report cards, we always allow the kids to pick their favorite doughnut out as well.  Such joy!  This evening, as everyone was making their selections, we purchased a few extra doughnuts as well (Rich’s idea) – some for Rich’s running team and some for the teachers at my school.

photo 3

The next morning, Rich delivered his donuts to his pals and I delivered mine.  I left them in our teacher’s lounge with a little note attached to the box.

photo 2

photo 1A closer view of the note

It wasn’t much to give, and for those teachers who are dieting it may have made their day even worse, lol, but it was still a fun RAK to do on the first really cold day of Fall!

Be inspired!  More RAKs to come soon!

This morning as I sat listening to the sermon at Cool Spring Baptist Church, something Pastor Brad was saying struck a chord in my heart.  He was quoting Luke 6:37 – 38, talking about how God commands us to give and how when you do, it will be given back to you.  How nothing we own in this world truly belongs to us.  How we need to be kind to others, not stingy with our gifts, talents, and resources.

Wow.  It was if God himself was whispering in my ear, “See?  This is what it’s all about!”

Let me explain a little more.  For the past year, as many of you faithful readers know, I have been on this journey of blessing others with kindness.  I do it with no expectation of reward or acknowledgement, although I do feel compelled to share my experiences with others to inspire and share my joy.  Yesterday, those tables were COMPLETELY turned on me as my husband and I were recipients of the most amazing random act of kindness!

It all started when I told my husband I had to run out to take care of a few errands.  He had been doing yard work around the house and without a second thought had placed his cell phone on the top of my car’s trunk, unbeknownst to me.

(I bet you know where this is going, lol.)

Well, you’re exactly right.  I got in my car and drove to Target with nothing more on my mind than my shopping list.  As I entered the store, I received a phone call from an unknown number (which I usually ignore), but something prompted me to answer it.  On the other line was my husband asking a simple, yet weighty question:  “Is my phone still on the top of your car’s trunk?”

Oh. Dear. Heavens.  The walk back to the car was at a frantic pace, already knowing what I would discover.  No phone.  Ugh.

When was the last time you lost something of value in your life?  Now notice I didn’t say “something valuable” because we all have a different measure of value on different things.  To some, a cell phone is just that – a phone.  Nothing more, nothing less.  To my husband, however, that phone was much more.  (And, I might add, to many of us as well!)  Think for a moment about the impact a lost cell phone would have to your life.  Personal and professional contact information, not stored anywhere else.  Photos.  Apps.  Email.  Banking.  Books.  Yes, I know many of these items can be recovered (well, many except the photos – that’s just heart-wrenching), but think of the time, the inconvenience, the cost involved in replacing a lost cell phone.  And if you have a passcode lock on your phone, well… even if found, how would the person get into your phone to even let you know it was found?

Not the way we wanted to spend our Saturday, that’s for sure.

As I scoured the parking lot and retraced my car’s route, I despondently drove home, sharing in my husband’s panic and loss, when my phone rang again with the unknown number.  (My husband was borrowing another phone to call me).  The excitement in his voice superseded any words he actually spoke.  “You are never going to believe this – I found my phone!”

Praise be to God!!

The next 5 minutes of jubilation was spent with him describing how he simply called his phone number and someone answered the phone (apparently you can answer a phone call without having to enter through the passcode lock – thank heavens!).  The kind stranger, named Robert, was driving the same path as me and happened to see something shiny reflecting against the  pavement, smack in the middle of a busy intersection.  Robert took it upon himself to pull over to the side of the road and actually retrieve the object from the road when traffic subsided.

What he found was an untouched, unmarked, undamaged smart phone.

Can I just stop right here and let that resonate with you for a moment?  Untouched.  Unmarked.  Undamaged.  In the middle of a busy intersection.  Of MOVING VEHICLES.  ON ASPHALT.  Wait – say that again?  Untouched?  Unmarked?  Undamaged?

Ladies and gentlemen, you have just witnessed a modern day miracle.  God is so good!  If you are the owner of a smartphone, you know how easily it can get a scratch (or even worse, a cracked screen!)  Yet here was a phone that survived a 35 mph turn, from the back of a car down to the pavement, in between tires of many other cars traveling down the same path.  Untouched.  Unmarked. Undamaged.  Immaculate.

All I can say is… WOW!

Arriving home, I told my husband he HAD to reward this kind stranger!  I raced upstairs and grabbed a restaurant gift card I just happened to have (I was going to give it as a Christmas gift to a family member) and asked my daughter to make a Thank you card. Then I grabbed my very last Sandy Hook RAK card, #26, and said a prayer of thanks.

photo 1Front of card

photo 2Inside of card

photo 3Back of card

photo 4Gift card with Chase Kowalski’s RAK card (#26 of #26acts)

photo 5The recovered phone

Luke 6:38 says: “Give, and it will be given to you.”  No truer words were spoken in this moment.  This RAK is dedicated to Chase Kowalski, age 7, who like my husband enjoyed running (among other sports ambitions.) According to his memorial website, Chase completed his first triathlon at age six and ran in many community races.  I can’t think of a more perfect child to receive this RAK as you must be quick and speedy to run a race and retrieve a phone from oncoming traffic.

Today I leave you with a quote that was in my Facebook feed this morning.  Without a debate about the accuracy (because we all know not to believe everything we read on the Internet), this quote fills my heart with joy and inspires me to do more with what I have.

“People are often unreasonable and self-centered.  Forgive them anyway.  If you are kind, people may accuse you of ulterior motives.  Be kind anyway.  If you are honest, people may cheat you.  Be honest anyway.  If you find happiness, people may be jealous.  Be happy anyway.  The good you do today may be forgotten tomorrow.  Do good anyway.  Give the world the best you have and it may never be enough.  Give your best anyway.  For you see, in the end, it is between you and God.  It was never between you and them anyway.”  –Mother Teresa

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!). 🙂


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