celebrate kindness

Posts Tagged ‘RAOK

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.

recitalflowers

Be blessed dear friends and keep passing along the joy!

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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!

This afternoon as I was leaving work, I decided to stop in at McDonald’s to get a free McCafe (Thank you, McDonald’s for celebrating Teacher Appreciation Week with free drinks!)  As I entered the restroom, I was shocked to see something on the floor.  Someone had left their purse!

purse

Oh my goodness!  I looked around the restroom and, of course, I was alone.  Without a moment’s hesitation, I grabbed the purse and walked towards the door, ready to take the purse to the manager of the restaurant.  As I pushed open the door, I was met by a frantic woman who exclaimed, “Oh thank you!  That’s my purse!”  You could see the panic in her eyes which was immediately brightened by relief as I handed her the purse.

The entire event lasted less than two minutes.  But, oh, how important those two minutes were!

It’s funny how some acts of kindness are truly random.  I like to think of them as “perfectly timed randomness”.  It never occured to me to do anything with the purse other than turn it in.  However, had I not been in that McDonald’s, right in that moment, this lady may not have ever seen her purse again.

What treasures might she have lost?  Thankfully we will never know because tonight she has her purse, safe and sound.  Best of all, I have a happy heart because I did the right thing and I know it blessed someone else.

Tonight’s random act of kindness is dedicated to Mary Sherlach, age 56, who was the Sandy Hook school psychologist.  As a veteran educator, one year away from retirement, I’m sure she had counseled many children under her charge to “do the right thing”.   Maybe a small part of her can live on when others “do the right thing”, too.

Be blessed my friends and always keep your eyes open for opportunities to bless one another!

First, let me apologize for my delay in keeping up with my blog.  This time of year is always crazy busy in my job and there are many days where I don’t know if I am coming or going!  I am sure many of you can relate.  Each time I do another random act of kindness, I want to shout it to the world and celebrate the joy!!  But alas, the reality of working full-time, being a mom, and keeping up with a non-stop schedule prevents me from taking the time to elaborate on each and every RAK I complete.

But here I sit, looking through photos on my phone, carving out time to remember, reflect, and rejoice.  Yes, rejoice!  RAKs make me happy!  How can I keep this all happiness to myself?!

So it’s with that spirit that I will be posting several RAKs in a row.  I was tempted to just lump them all together in one blog post (after all, that would be MUCH easier and quicker, too!) but I was reminded yesterday that EACH random act of kindness I complete is special and deserving of its own page.  A humbling reminder that quick and easy isn’t always best.

RAK #8 happened a few weeks ago, on a bright Sunday afternoon.  I was changing purses (I love to carry cute little handbags when the weather gets warmer) and I discovered a gift card for Subway I had received as a birthday gift that had somehow gotten lost in the shuffle of other items in my purse.  (In full disclosure, it was wedged at the bottom of my bag in between a sheet of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle stickers, a sticky, red Matchbox car, and a 20% off coupon for Kohl’s that had expired in November.  Needless to say, I carry the same purse around all winter and it becomes a traveling toy box as well, lol.)

subway1

How exciting!  And perfect timing, too, because I was STARVING and the kids were hungry, too.  Perfect!  I packed the kids in the car, drove to the nearest Subway, and delightfully placed my order.  Normally I get something inexpensive like a 6 inch veggie sub, but today I decided to splurge and got a 6 inch chicken teriyaki, a drink, a bag of chips, the works!  Oh, how fun to discover a forgotten gift card – it was almost like giving myself a RAK!  Ha!

After paying for my meal and my children’s meals, there was still a little bit of money left on the gift card.  I decided to bless someone else with the store credit.  I wrote a quick note on a napkin and asked the cashier to give it to the person behind me in line.

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It wasn’t a lot of money, only a few dollars, but I figured it could still be a blessing anyway.  And, in a way, it was like sharing my birthday with someone else all over again!  Fun!

As I was grabbing napkins for the kids and putting straws in plastic drink lids, a gentleman about my age approached me with a smile on his face.  He pointed to his bag and said simply, “Thanks so much.  That was very nice!”  Even as I watched him walk out of the door, his smile still lit up the room.

Being kind doesn’t have to cost money and it isn’t always about 100% self-sacrifice.  Sometimes I feel guilty when I do something for myself that I could have done for someone else instead.  But this RAK reminded me that it’s OK to enjoy the generosity of others (my Subway birthday gift card) because sometimes there will be enough for two blessings instead of just one.

Random Act of Kindness #8 is dedicated to Dylan Hockley, age 6.  According to Dylan’s family, “his beaming smile would light up any room and his laugh was the sweetest music.”  Seeing the smile of my RAK recipient in Subway was almost like catching a glimpse of Dylan’s smile, too.  It simply warmed your heart and made you happy.  I hope Dylan’s family will know that his memory, and smile, will live on through the random acts of kindness shown to others.

Be blessed, dear friends, and share your joy!  Check back soon because I have more RAKs to post!  🙂

Ever had a day where the weather was so beautiful, so perfect, you wanted to just freeze time forever? We’ve had several days like that around here recently. This past weekend I couldn’t wait to visit one of my favorite places, Maymont Park. Nothing relaxes me more than taking a stroll through that park. Hundreds of acres of rolling hills, farm animals, trails and more. They even have bears and a waterfall nestled on the grounds!

I decided to do another random act of kindness by gathering some activity books and pencils I had been saving from a Target clearance sale a few months ago. I thought again of those precious lives lost at Sandy Hook and one little face popped into my mind. Emilie. A sweet blond headed cherub who shared the same name as my sister, although spelled a different way. I remembered reading about her, how she loved anything to do with art, especially making handmade cards. That, of course, made me think of my own daughter who started her own card making business at the age of 13. Without a moment’s hesitation, I knew today’s RAK would be dedicated to Emilie.

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books

We gathered our things to have a picnic at the park then headed towards Maymont. Traffic was light, the breeze was blowing… I could not have asked for a more beautiful day. Upon our arrival, we found a nice, shady spot to set up our picnic lunch, near the iron statues of children playing on a wooden log.

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K and C

It was a busy day in the park with many families enjoying the gorgeous weather. As I made my way towards the statue, I knew it would be a perfect place to leave my bucket of activity books as children were always climbing and playing in that spot.

statue

As I made my way back to our picnic, a woman called out to me from across the grass. “Are those books free? The ones you just left right there?” I was already grinning. “Yep! Help yourself! Enjoy!” Immediately two little children came running past me, activity books already in hand. “Look what I found! And it came with a sharpened pencil, too!” (See – those little details DO make a difference!)

All of a sudden it was if a magnet was placed on the side of that statue. Children, parents, even a few grandparents made their way to see what all the fuss was about. We simply sat on our blanket and watched with glee, imagining how Emilie would feel to know her RAK brought so much joy to others. I broke my trance for a moment and captured a photo of a dad flipping through one of the books with his son (see below). Simply precious!

read books

Then, as our picnic was winding down with full bellies and happy hearts, I saw a family of three approaching our blanket. Lo and behold, it was my sister, Emily! I couldn’t believe it! I had no idea she would be at Maymont that day and she was just as surprised to see me. But I treasured the surprise (a.k.a. divine intervention and perfect timing) and spent the next few hours soaking up the rays of sisterhood as we walked the park together with our families.

T and Em

(Our “babies” are 8 days apart in age. They were so sweet walking through Maymont hand in hand!)

C and L

With the acts of terror, violence, and despair we have experienced in only four days since our picnic (Boston marathon bombing, ricin laced letters to government officials, explosion at the Texas plant, even a scrawled hate message on a high school bathroom door in a neighboring school district), it makes me once again dig deeper to share peace and joy. I know my simple acts of kindness may not change the landscape of hatred that fights to cover our nation and our world, but I still believe with all my heart that even one random act of kindness can change a life forever. Who am I to decide which life is changed? I simply act on the whispers of my heart.

This act of kindness is dedicated to Emilie Parker, age 6. May her family find comfort in knowing her legacy lives on in others.

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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