celebrate kindness

Posts Tagged ‘RAOK

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/

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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/

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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/

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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/

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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/

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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/

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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/

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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/

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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/

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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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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!

As a continuation of the previous post, I was at Starbucks getting a few moments of peace from a crazy hectic day (which just happened to also be my 41st birthday).  I used my registered Starbucks gift card to receive a free drink of my choice (God bless the person who decided salt, caramel, and coffee would make a good drink combination – pure heaven for me!)  After ordering my drink, I handed the barista a sealed envelope which contained a note and a $5 bill to allow a complete stranger to enjoy a free tall pumpkin spice latte on me in celebration of my birthday and to honor the memory of Alyssa O’Neill.

As the barista passed my drink across the counter, I gathered my purse then looked up to see him reaching into the pastry display case and placing something in a to-go bag.  As I started to walk away, he handed the bag to me stating simply, “Your birthday cake!  Enjoy!”

WHAT?!?!  Did I just get RAK’d by a barista?!  No way!!  All I could do was laugh at the joyous surprise by such a sweet, kind gesture.  “Really?  For me?”  He grinned from ear to ear (such an infectious smile!) as the other barista chimed in from the other end of the counter with “Happy Birthday!” greetings.

It was a priceless moment that literally was the icing on my cake.

I frantically dug through my purse trying to find my RAK business cards as I knew this was worthy of one of my #26acts.  Did it matter that it was a RAK received instead of given?  Absolutely not!  A RAK is a RAK no matter the type!  🙂

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So I found a card I was saving for Avielle Richman, age 6, and explained to the barista that he actually completed my #23 random act of kindness.  I had seen a video clip showing Avielle’s parents talking about their daughter’s infectious smile and knew this RAK belonged to him because his smile matched hers.  I’m hoping that he will visit this website and see that he is part of an amazing journey to remember those sweet children lost from Sandy Hook Elementary.  Here is the barista with my business card:

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What joy!  Such a simple act of kindness, yet so powerful.  So important.  So meaningful.  A true blessing indeed.

It wasn’t until I was back in my car that I opened my to-go bag and saw what delicacy he had chosen for me to enjoy.  A beautiful pink cake pop with tiny white sprinkles, molded firmly to a solid white stick made to look like a delicate lollipop.  I almost cried at the pureness of the moment.  My birthday cake indeed.

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Thanks to Starbucks for offering free birthday coffees to pay it forward with kindness and for hiring such kind-hearted baristas who take opportunities to make a difference in someone else’s life.  My day may have started off as a hot mess, but it ended in peace and joy.

Be blessed my friends!  Thank you for sharing in my first complete year of blessing others with deliberate acts of kindness!

It’s hard to believe that a full year has passed since I began this journey of blessing others with kindness and publicly documenting my journey through words and pictures.  What a year it has been!  WOW!  I am constantly amazed and humbled by the sheer power of kindness.  It makes people smile.  Laugh.  Blush.  Cry.  Such an endless array of emotion wrapped up with a sparkling bow of joy.  Simply indescribable!

Today was a CRAZY busy day for me.  My family and I had returned from a week long vacation (remind me to post a RAK from that trip tomorrow night when I’m more coherent, lol) then were catapulted into the start of a work week surrounded by mounds of dirty laundry, sour milk, and a basil plant that was parched by a week of sunlight with no water.  My 41st birthday began with the morning hustle of returning to the daily grind of getting dressed for work and kids ready for school.  Of COURSE today would be picture day for my favorite teenager, so an additional 15 minutes was built into my schedule to style her hair in a waterfall braid with wand-shaped spiral curls worthy of any fashion magazine at the checkout stand.

Because that’s what moms do.

I was greeted at work with more than 300 emails demanding attention, a list that would be whittled down little by little like a sculptor carving a masterpiece from a block of ice.  And that was in between teaching the lessons I had scheduled throughout the day.  The evening was just as busy.  Pick kids up from daycare.  Make middle child a sandwich while he worked on homework and got dressed for soccer practice.  Fill his water canteen and send him to soccer practice with dad while concurrently making dinner for the other two children left home with me.  Serve dinner.  Clear the table.  Wash dishes.  Take oldest child to dance class.  Welcome to my Monday night routine.

Oh wait – was today my BIRTHDAY?!?

Yes folks, my life is crazy busy.  Some might even take the leap to say, “Girl, you are insane!”  But you know what?  Even among the nonstop hustle and bustle of my world, I can still find time to bless someone else.  Which is exactly what I did tonight!

Did you know that you can register a Starbucks gift card on their website then they will bless you with a free coffee of your choice on your birthday?  True!  I have a gift card that I registered who knows how many years ago that brings me joy each year as I delight in the warm aroma of a free gourmet coffee.  I could almost taste the Salted Caramel Mocha melting on my tongue as I dropped my daughter off at dance class and headed to my nearest Starbucks for a late night moment of sanity.

I wanted to celebrate my birthday by blessing someone else, and with God’s perfect timing, I had a dear friend send me this article describing Alyssa O’Neill and the RAKs her parents performed in her memory.  Perfect!  I wrote out a note on pretty stationery, added a $5 bill and included both in a sealed envelope to pass along to the Starbucks barista.

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As I claimed my free birthday drink and passed along my envelope to the kind barista, I had a surge of joy knowing SOMEONE would be the lucky recipient of my “pay it forward in memory of Alyssa O’Neill” gift.   This was one birthday present I couldn’t wait to give away!

Make sure to read my next post to see what happened next… I ended up getting RAK’d by the barista!  What a fun way to end my crazy birthday!

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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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.

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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.

Last Friday was the official “last day of school” for teachers.  WOW!  Another school year done, time for summer break.  As I was packing up my belongings for the two month hiatus, I thought again of the students and teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School.  I recently read that their district has plans to demolish the existing school and rebuild another one.

Starting over.  Renewal.  Rebirth.

Focusing back on the present I took one last look in my computer lab, then shut the door quietly and walked down the hall.  There were tearful goodbyes for coworkers who were moving away or moving on to new adventures.  There were smiles and laughter as others shared their plans for the summer.  Keys and paperwork were turned in and… that was it.  The school year was over!

As I got into my car, my purse overturned on the front seat, spilling everything out.  The first thing that caught my eye was a page of coupons for the restaurant, Ruby Tuesday.  Oh my gosh, I had totally forgotten that was in my purse!  When it arrived in my mailbox a few weeks ago, I almost threw it away (It’s not close to my home, so I never go there).  Then I realized I could use the coupons to bless others for random acts of kindness!  I put it in my purse with good intentions, but with all the end of school craziness it ended up lost in the muddle until this moment.

I bet you know where this is heading… 🙂

Instead of driving home, I drove to Ruby Tuesdays.  Even the darkening skies couldn’t damper my excitement at bringing a smile to a stranger’s face.

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I pulled out the coupons and made dedication cards for each.  I would be able to bless four people today!  Awesome!

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I chose to dedicate each of these RAKs to Rachel D’Avino, a behavioral therapist at Sandy Hook.  Surely she would have been excited about the last day of school.  She may have even gone out to lunch with her friends to celebrate the onset of summer break.  I felt it was a perfect way to honor her memory.

I walked into Ruby Tuesday and was met by the greeter.  “How many in your party?”  I had to smile at that question, because it was a party in my heart indeed!  I explained my purpose, that I wasn’t here to eat, but rather to perform random acts of kindness in Rachel’s memory.  The greeter returned my smile and ushered me into the dining area.  “Feel free!”

As I scanned the room half-filled with diners, I decided to start on the right side and just bless each table until I ran out of coupons.  The first table had an older couple eating.  “Hi… My name is Tamara and I am doing random acts of kindness today.  I would like to bless you with a discount on your meal.  This card has my website and can explain more.”  They were surprised at first (as expected), but thanked me for my generosity as I moved on to the next table of diners.

Two ladies were sitting behind them, the waitress checking to see if they needed anything else with their meal.  “Sorry to interrupt,” I began, “But I wanted to bless your day with kindness.  Here is a coupon for your meal today!”  It’s difficult to explain the rush of emotion you receive when you bless a stranger in this way.  There’s always a little bit of apprehension at first (“Are they going to think I’m weird?!), but the appreciation shown by others quickly overrides the worry and replaces it with pure, unfiltered happiness.  It’s truly a win-win experience for me and the stranger!

My third coupon went to a mom and her two children.  She reached out and shook my hand, grasping it firmly between her own.  “Thank you.  Thank you so much.”  The gratefulness in her voice hinted to an untold story of need.  I KNEW the moment she grabbed my hand that this RAK today was no coincidence.  She was absolutely chosen by God for today’s blessing!

My last coupon went to a large group of diners seated in the middle of the room, two tables pushed together to accommodate everyone.  “This isn’t much, but I hope it blesses your day!”  The lady smiled back with appreciation as I quickly exited the restaurant.  My work here was done!

No matter if you are a student, teacher, parent, or professional, I hope the start of summer break brings blessings and joy your way.   And the next time you get a coupon in the mail, maybe you will choose to use it for someone else instead!

Be blessed, dear friends, and thanks for reading!  🙂

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!

Today I had the immeasurable joy of celebrating Mother’s Day by passing along a Random Act of Kindness given to me.  If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you know that I completed 40 random acts in celebration of my 40th birthday, then began a renewed purpose of blessing others in honor of the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting.  My first act of kindness in this section was leaving smiley faced balloons in a local park, one of which was chosen by an autistic child and his dad.  After visiting my blog and reading my story, the boy’s mom was so touched by this mission that she emailed me and donated a $25 gift card so I could in turn bless someone else.

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Ironically, and unbeknownst to us at the time, her son and my son attend the same daycare center.  Occasionally I pass her as we are picking up our boys and I am always greeted with a radiating smile.  A few weeks ago I told her I was saving her gift card for a special day – Mother’s Day – and she told me that was one of her MOST favorite holidays of all.  How perfect!

Today after visiting my own mother, I headed out to T.G.I.Friday’s.  I wasn’t planning to stay and eat, I simply wanted to walk in and bless another mom.

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The waitress was inquisitive, so I explained my purpose and asked if she knew of any patrons who might benefit from a free dinner in celebration of Mother’s Day.  She pointed to a corner table to my right which included a mom and her young daughter, finishing their meal.

I walked to the table, introduced myself, and briefly explained my purpose as I slid the gift card across the table.

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She seemed surprised, but very appreciative of the unexpected gift.  What a joy it was to bless a complete stranger in such a huge way on Mother’s Day!

There was a moment, however, on my way back home where my joy turned a bit melancholy as I realized there are 26 moms out there whose hearts are breaking today, the first Mother’s Day without their treasured child.  I simply cannot imagine the pain they are reliving today.  This random act of kindness may not ease the ache in their souls, but it’s the least I can do to keep alive the memories of those lost.

Today’s random act of kindness is dedicated to Anne Marie Murphey, age 52.  Anne Marie was a special education teacher at Sandy Hook and was found that fateful day with her body wrapped around her student, trying everything in her power to shield him from the inevitable.  Friends and family described her as very motherly, always showing her students love and kindness.   I can close my eyes and almost imagine her wrapping her arms around all the tiny children who made their way into heaven that morning.

Be blessed my friends.  Take a moment to thank your mom.  If you have children of your own, give them an extra squeeze tonight and cherish the small moments you share with them.  We are not guaranteed a single day more here on this earth; treasure the time you have with those you love.

Happy Mother’s Day!

My 10th Random Act of Kindness was 50% planned kindness, 50% divine intervention.  I had planned a surprise lunch with two of my dear friends, Lisa and Nicole, but due to other obligations, our time together was quite limited.  We drove around, searching for a restaurant, and finally settled on Applebee’s as the clock continued to count down our time.

Upon entering the restaurant, we realized the odds were against us for a quick meal.  Several booths were full (it was the lunch hour, after all), and we could only see one waitress scampering around trying to meet all the needs.  In fact, after we were seated, it took several minutes just to have someone tell us who our server would be.

The gal who approached our table was not the waitress, perhaps she was a manager, I’m not really quite sure.  All I remember was her bright purple blouse and her smile.  I explained (as courteously as I could) that we were on a tight schedule and needed a quick meal.  “Would it be possible for us to order everything now, including dessert?”  I didn’t want the special time I had with my friends to be overshadowed by the stress of time constraints and undelivered food.

The gal explained that she was not our waitress, but understanding our dilemma, she offered to take our order until our waitress could come to our table.  Needless to say, we never saw our assigned waitress.  Ever.  The gal in the purple blouse returned with our drinks and our dessert (Backwards lunch!  Fun!) and through the course of our meal she returned again and again to serve our food, refill our drinks, take additional orders, and simply check on us.  She was friendly and kind and her joy was a perfect compliment to our meal.

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As we finished our meal, the gal returned with three separate checks.  Without hesitation, I grabbed the checks, preparing to treat my friends to lunch as my next RAK.  As I sat there counting out the bills, I had an overwhelming urge to bless our server.  She was not supposed to be our waitress; she merely seated us.  It was her choice to stay as our surrogate waitress.  Not only did she serve our meal, but she blessed us by listening to our needs and doing everything in her power to provide the quality time we needed.

And with that spirit, I reached into my birthday bag and counted out $10.

coffee bag

coffee money

Yes, folks, I left our server a $10 tip.  I shoved it in an extra bank envelope I had in my purse and wrote a note on the back, thanking her for her diligence and hard work.  She returned to our table before I could finish the note (and take a picture), so I just handed her the bank envelope and simply said, “This is for you.  Thank you so much for EVERYTHING!”

I have come to realize that time spent with friends is priceless.  To have a stranger recognize the importance of that time only adds to the joy!  To return the blessing in an unexpected tip was the least I could do.

This 10th RAK is dedicated to Victoria Soto, age 27, a first grade teacher who taught her students in Classroom 10.  According to a parent whose student was in her class, Victoria “was a vibrant woman who loved the kids.”  She was a hero in every sense of the word as she tried to protect her students, even standing between them and the gunman, allowing some children the opportunity to flee.  With bright blue eyes and a sparkling smile, it is easy to see how her love for children would shine through.

I encourage you today with two challenges:  Take the time to recognize kindness in an unexpected place.  Then make a difference.

Be blessed, dear friends, and thanks for taking the time to read!  I am blessed to have you as a follower!


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