celebrate kindness

Posts Tagged ‘random act of kindness

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/

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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/

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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/

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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/

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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/

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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/

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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/

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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/

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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/

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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/

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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/

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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/

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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/

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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/

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My best friend and I have birthdays only 10 days apart.  We have often joked over the course of our 20+ year friendship that our birthday season begins in September and ends in August the following year… because some years it takes us that long to carve out time to get together and celebrate!  (Seriously!)  This year as we were ticking off the busy weekends on our calendars, we realized there was one night where both of us had no plans.  NO PLANS?!  Really?!  How could this be?  Without stressing over logistics (Who would watch the children?), we quickly made the decision to meet halfway between her house and mine and spend the evening together.

Being October, we were delighted to discover that Busch Gardens amusement park was still open on Friday nights for their Howl-o-Scream festivities.  Although we weren’t all that interested in getting spooked by creepy people, we were very excited to finally, for the first time ever, ride a roller coaster together!  We entered the park, purchased a glow-in-the-dark beverage, and made our way to Busch Garden’s newest roller coaster, the Verbolten, talking non-stop the entire way.

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The lines were relatively short, so we were strapped into the coaster in no time.  Here are some more pics of our adventure!

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The Verbolten sign

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Strapped in, getting ready to start the ride

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Finishing the final hill

What a fun night!  We rode more roller coasters, laughing and screaming the entire time.  (You would have thought we were teenagers the way we were carrying on!  Ha!)  When the park made their closing announcements at 10pm, we reluctantly made our way back to the parking lot, not quite ready for our evening of birthday celebrations to end.   Suddenly hungry, we decided to continue our evening of catching up with some breakfast dinner at a local iHOP.

As we entered the restaurant, we were surprised to see the place was packed with teenagers!  Oh my! Luckily, we still had gifts to exchange and lots of conversation to share so the delay in being served wasn’t a huge issue for us.

As we sat down and scanned the menu, my attention was swayed to to HUGE cup of salted caramel hot chocolate shown on the bottom of the front page.  The cup was massive and I could almost taste the delicate mixture of salt, caramel, and chocolate melting on my tongue.  Unfortunately, it had a price to match its girth, so I was torn about whether or not to order the drink.  As I was debating the pros and cons with Lisa, the waitress arrived to take our orders.  After introducing herself as Jeannie, pointing to the plastic name badge on her shirt, she pointed to my menu.  “Oh honey,” she drawled with a southern flair, “That drink right there is worth every single sip.  It is the best drink we have to serve!”  Well, who could resist a recommendation like that?

I ordered the specialty hot chocolate and Lisa ordered a regular coffee.  We chatted back and forth as we continued to interact with our waitress who checked on us often.  “Whose birthday is it?” Jeannie asked, pointing at our brightly colored gift bags.  We told her we were celebrating both our special days and she clapped her hands together, beaming with excitement.  “I just love birthdays!  Open your gift!  What did you get?”  We had to laugh at her enthusiasm – it was as if she was celebrating her own birthday right in the mix of ours.

A little while later she arrived with the colossal cup of steaming hot chocolate and we made a production of taking photos to document all the fun:

photo 1Me (looking a bit windblown from all the roller coasters) with our iHOP waitress and THE CUP

photo 2Pure heaven!

photo 3Oh So Good!

photo 4Even Lisa got in on the photo fun!

Two hours later (I am not kidding!), Lisa and I were still enjoying our time together with Jeannie checking on us and sharing in our conversation.  That’s when it hit me.  Here is this lady, working the night shift as a waitress at an iHOP on a Friday night, with mostly teenagers as customers (who by now had left the restaurant leaving behind minimal tips, I’m sure.)  What was her story? Why was she working here?  Did the night shift pay more than the day shift?  I didn’t want to pry, but I felt like I needed to bless this gal who made the end of our birthday celebration so memorable and joyful.  Reaching into my purse, I discovered some mad money birthday cash I had received as a gift and knew I would receive greater happiness by paying it forward instead of using it for myself.

I quickly jotted a note on the back of the receipt and left it with a ten dollar tip on the table.  Surely that would brighten the darkness of her night shift!

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We quickly left our tip, paid our bill, and said our final goodbyes before the long drive home.  It was a wonderful way to end our evening of friendship and fun!

This random act of kindness is dedicated to Josephine Gay, age 7, a darling little girl who was found in the arms of her behavioral therapist, Rachel D’Avino, following the Sandy Hook Elementary tragedy. Joesephine had a nervous system disorder and could not speak, but she had learned how to share her thoughts with those around her through signs and smiles.  She was the joy of her parents, despite the challenges of her condition.   It was humbling to realize what a gift I had been given during my time with Lisa – an entire evening filled with so many words, so many stories, all taken for granted.  Humbling, indeed.

Keep pressing forward, my friends.  Be kind to others.  Stop and listen to their stories.  Join in the fun and allow yourself to be blessed in the process!

It’s interesting how many acts of kindness I’ve witnessed by others the past few weeks. Maybe my Pollyanna glasses are always on, I’m not sure, but it always makes my heart so happy to see others being NICE with no expectation of personal reward or financial gain. Last week as I was dropping my husband off at work, we approached a bend in the road where there were cars at a standstill on the opposite side of the street. From a distance it appeared to be construction work, but the closer we came we saw the leading vehicle was a truck with an opened driver’s door. Was there an accident?

Slowing our speed, we saw the cause for the backup. Two adorable beagle pups, tails wagging to and fro, smack in the middle of the road. “Watch out!” I said to my husband, as the pups were in our direct path of travel. We came to a complete stop and watched as a young gentleman hopped out of the truck and approached the dogs. He knelt down, hand extended, and coaxed each pup into his arms. Then he placed each dog in his truck, hopped back in, and drove away.

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I tried to snap a photo of the nice young man and the pups, but it all happened so fast, this was the best I could do. I did, however, see the name of his business on the side of his truck: Tree Frog Tree Service. What a wonderful act of kindness to observe at the start of a work week!

A few days later, I was enjoying the mild temperatures by giving my youngest son a wagon ride through our neighborhood. The Red Flyer wagon, used with all three of my kiddos and now starting to show signs of age and wear, still provides a smooth ride for anyone under the age of five. After making our way to the very back of our neighborhood, it was time to turn around and head back home, which prompted my three year old to hop out of the wagon saying, “I walk now, Mommy. You pull the wagon.”

Have you ever been on a walk with a three year old? It is very special, reserved only for moments of unrushed time. No emails to answer. No busy schedules to manage. No arguments to dispel. Just precious time spent with my boy, finding the simple joys in the world around us. Oh, how I treasure these moments!

He scanned the edges of the smoothly paved asphalt road looking for rocks. “Look Mommy! This one has colors!” Upon close inspection, I discovered this ordinary piece of granite did in fact have colors – thin strands of peach and pink threading across the speckled grey hardness, sparkling in the sun. “Oh, that’s a special one! It’s a keeper!” We smiled at one another, speaking a language only our hearts could translate, and continued our journey home.

“Look! Mommy! Look!” It was a voice filled with sheer delight. I watched as my son ran right into the middle of the road and knelt down, pointing to something my forty year old eyes could barely see. “What’s that? What did you find?” I asked my son. “A worm!” he shouted, with pride and excitement. “A WORM!!”

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animals-hand

We watched the little critter crawl from the road to his hand, as my son giggled from the delicate caterpillar hairs tickling his hand. Oh, the joy! His hand twisted a bit and the caterpillar fell off, crawling back on the road. We both stooped down to observe his wanderings right about the same time we heard the rumblings of a truck coming towards us. “Come on, baby. There’s a car coming! Let’s get to the side of the road,” I said as I started to pull my son out of the middle of the street. “NOOOOOOOO! The worm! The worm! He’ll get smushed!”

Do you ever have moments in your life where you are convinced things happen in slow motion? This was one of those times. I looked up, trying to half-carry my son while pulling a wagon handle, and saw the truck that was previously barreling down the road come to a complete stop in front of us. The gentleman behind the wheel smiled and motioned for me to take my time (thank goodness, because we could have easily been hit!)

As I dropped my son to the ground, we ran back to the caterpillar and scooped him in our hands. He was now safe! Returning to the side of the road, the truck pulled up a little closer and the man rolled down his window. “Caterpillar?” he asked. We both smiled a secret smile as I nodded and thanked him for his kindness. I bet he was remembering his younger days as a boy as he drove away.

I decided to take both of these acts of kindness and pay it forward with another act of kindness focused on animals. I purchased some tennis balls and decided to drop them off at a local dog park so someone else could play with their pet.

animals-dog park sign

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animals-donation

This random act of kindness is dedicated to Catherine Hubbard, age 6, who loved animals of all kinds. She was especially fond of bugs and butterflies that she would find in her backyard. Catherine’s dream was to open an animal shelter and even though she was only six years of age, she already had business cards ready for her dream job. Her parents are planning to build an animal sanctuary in her memory, which will be built from a child’s point of view. In addition to an adoption center, a farm animal rescue, a wildlife rehabilitation center, a learning center, and a butterfly garden, there will also be a gallery showcasing Catherine’s artwork. If you would like more information on this project, please click here.

Take time this week to notice the little things. Be kind to one another, even if you receive nothing in return. You just never know how your one act of kindness can affect someone else’s day!

Be blessed, dear friends.

Twice this week I’ve had friends of my mine send me links or suggestions to find out more about “suspended coffees“, that it might be something I could do as part of my Random Acts of Kindness.  The basic premise of “suspended coffee” is that while you are purchasing your own salted caramel machiatto (or whatever your favorite coffee drink might be), you also purchase another coffee to be “suspended” or waiting there, allowing the barista to choose a random stranger who appears to be in need of coffee without the burden of payment.

Today as I sat in church rejoicing over the news that Jesus is no longer suspended on the cross (He is Risen!), my thoughts focused on that one word:  suspended.  What’s the first thing that comes to your mind?  Being an educator, I immediately think of being suspended from school (NOT from first hand experience, let me reassure you!  Ha!)  Being suspended from school is humiliating.  Embarrassing.  A punishment for not following the rules.  Then I think of Jesus being suspended on the cross.  Humiliated.  Embarrassed.  Punished.

All for me.

While suspended coffees and a suspended savior may not go hand-in-hand per se, they were connected in my head this morning.  Jesus did not stay suspended.  He was brought down from the cross, placed in a tomb, and rose 3 days later.  He carried the weight of my sin hanging on that cross, but it was a weight he chose to bear.  A suspended student also bears the weight of whatever action was committed, but does not stay suspended forever.  He serves his time, then returns to begin again.  Like these two examples, I know my suspended coffees will not remain in mid-air.  Someone will enjoy a free coffee.  Someone’s thirst will be quenched.  Someone will be reminded that there are nice people in this world and that good things can, and do, happen to them.

It was with this spirit that I reached into my purse and felt the straight edges of my Happy Birthday bag.  As many of you know, I celebrated my 40th birthday by completing 40 Random Acts of Kindness (if you want to start at the beginning and read what I did, click here.)  One of my dearest friends, Lisa, blessed me with this birthday bag and filled it with one dollar bills.  “For your project!” she proclaimed, being one of my biggest cheerleaders in life.  I’ve been carrying around this bag for months, never knowing when the moment will touch my heart to bless someone else, but reassured that when the moment appears, I will have some money to make it happen.  Today, I reached in and took out $10.

coffee bag

coffee money

After church, I made my way downstairs to the new coffee shop that just opened in our church.  All proceeds from the coffee sales will go to support mission trips; not only would I bless a few strangers with coffee, my money would continue to bless those that served others.

coffee collage

coffee menu

As I waited in line, my thoughts drifted again to Sandy Hook.  Today is the first Easter celebration where 26 families have their precious loved ones living with Jesus instead of them.  Just the thought brought such an array of mixed emotions, I could barely speak when it was my turn to order.

“And what can I get for you, Miss?”  My tear-clouded vision cleared as I was brought back into the moment.  “Well, this might sound a little odd, but I don’t want to buy any coffee for myself.  Can I buy three suspended coffees instead?”  I then explained the concept of suspended coffees and the purpose of my mission.  The barista, a church member, was a little taken back by my request (I’m pretty sure she hasn’t heard the latest buzz about suspended coffees, lol), but she seemed quite happy to take the money and pass it along to someone who might need it more than me.

Suspended coffee.  Something so simple, and yet a perfect RAK for Easter Sunday.  I dedicate today’s RAK to Dawn Hochsprung, age 47, who as the principal of Sandy Hook Elementary knew the meaning of “suspended”.  According to media reports, she was a hero in every sense of the word, not only leading her school with joy and enthusiasm, but “facing every problem head-on… even lunging at the shooter upon hearing the sounds of gunshots.”  She sacrificed her life for her students; Jesus sacrificed his life for you and me.  I know, without a doubt, neither life is suspended anymore.

Be blessed my dear friends this Resurrection Sunday and share a hug with those you love.  Those RAKs are free, but worth the world.  🙂

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.

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  • 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!


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