celebrate kindness

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Today I wanted to do a Random Act of Kindness for Father’s Day in memory of my Grandpa Tirrell.  Unlike many of my friends who grew up with grandparents right down the road, I have limited memories with my grandpa as he lived several states away in Massachusetts.  My reflections are frozen snapshots in time:  Smiling in a posed picture in front of the car he drove down to visit with us.  Laughing at Thanksgiving, holding a bag that broke as the camera flashed.  Giggling at a joke that only he and I shared.  My visits were few and far between, but I always held Grandpa Tirrell close in my heart.

Me and Grandpa Tirrell (1977)

Me and Grandpa Tirrell (1977)

We always had this long running joke about me being a southern belle and him being a northerner.  We exaggerated the stereotypes every time we were together.  “How’ve y’all been?” I’d ask in an obnoxious drawl.  “Pahtly good, but you guys should visit mah often” he’d reply, his thick Bostonian vernacular overriding my sweet southern style.  He would sign birthday cards, “Love, Granddaddy” because he had this stereotype that everyone in the south called their grandfather by that phrase (even though I always addressed him by the much adored Grandpa title.)

I remember the time he sent me $50 for my birthday when I was ten or eleven… and while the exact year eludes me, I can clearly remember the excitement of seeing my name on a check written for SO much money.  I can also remember the inescapable joy of standing in the Barbie aisle of the local Toys ‘R Us realizing I could buy ANY Barbie set I wanted.  (I ended up buying a Beauty Salon set along with a new Barbie and several clothing outfits for the doll.)

Grandpa Tirrell = joy.  🙂

So today, as I was remembering all the fun qualities I loved about Grandpa Tirrell, I thought how nice it would be if I could buy him dinner as a small sign of appreciation.  Unfortunately, my grandpa passed away in 2005, making such a wish impossible to grant. However… I could pay it forward to someone else in his memory instead!  Yes!  That would be a wonderful way to honor him this Father’s Day!

I thought for a bit about which restaurant I wanted to visit and all of a sudden, I knew EXACTLY where I needed to go.  I am a southerner and we southerners like our home-cooked, southern style food.  What’s the one restaurant that would make Grandpa Tirrell roll his eyes at the pure novelty of all things southern?  Why, Cracker Barrel, of course!

I grabbed one of my business cards and quickly wrote a message on the back, then headed straight for the restaurant.

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As was expected, Cracker Barrel was PACKED with patrons waiting inside and outside.  If you’ve never been to a Cracker Barrel before, you are truly missing out.  The outside is designed like a huge ranch style home complete with rocking chairs and checkerboards (because we know that southerners spend all summer long rocking on their porches, right?)

I noticed today they were offering free tea (another southern stereoptype – that we all drink sweet tea), which was a lovely gesture on such a hot day.  I approached the gal at the entrance, who was taking names to be seated.  “Hi,” I began, smiling my sweet southern smile (which is NOT an exaggeration, lol.) “I would like to do a random act of kindness today in memory of my grandpa. Could I speak to someone who can help me buy someone’s meal?”

Within a few minutes, I was walking the floor with a manger, hand-selecting who I wanted to bless.  “Just walk around with me and scan the restaurant.  When you see a table you like, just tell me and I’ll get their tab from the waitress and let you pay for them.”  Oh my goodness!  What a delight!  I got to actually PICK the people who would receive a free meal!  How exciting!

Well, I didn’t have to look very long.  As soon as I walked into the seating area, my eyes were drawn to a couple to my left, whose finished plates were stacked neatly on the edge of the table, waiting for the waitress to remove.  They were older than me, and seemed to be lost in their thoughts.  They were perfect!

I pointed them out to the manager and she quickly gave me their tab.  It only came to $10.50.  I could almost hear my Grandpa laughing in my ear.  “See?  You call that a dinner for two?  If you were eating a meal up here, it would cost you that much just for two glasses of tonic!”  I gave the manager my business card and asked her to hand it to the couple explaining that their bill was taken care of.

I walked to the register, paid for the couple’s dinner, and tipped the waitress 30% of the bill.  It made me so happy to know they would receive such a sweet surprise on Father’s Day!

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If you are celebrating a holiday missing someone who has passed on, maybe you will think about paying it forward in their memory.  It sure did put a smile on my heart!  Next year I think I’ll do the same thing in memory of my Grandpa Jimmy or maybe my Grandma Payne.  Or… maybe I won’t wait for a holiday at all, but just do it in a totally random way on a totally random day. Who knows what I’ll do?  Guess you’ll just have to check back in to see!

I hope you had a very blessed Father’s Day whether you are a father, child, or significant other.  You are special and I thank you for taking time out of your day to spend a few moments listening to me.  🙂

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Last weekend my husband and I were in DC to celebrate our 20th anniversary.  (Yes, we’ve been married quite a long time!)  He chose a restaurant we had never been to before called Lincoln, which happened to be within walking distance of our hotel.  The serving staff was friendly, the food was flavorful and reasonably priced being a downtown restaurant, and we enjoyed the ambiance of the unique decorations.

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This wasn't our seat, but it was across from our table - so unique and fit for Lincoln himself!

This wasn’t our seat, but it was across from our table – so unique and fit for Lincoln himself!

Our drinks were served in mason jars.

Our drinks were served in mason jars.

As we enjoyed our appetizer, we told the waitress we were celebrating our 20th anniversary and had her take a photo of us (after all, we will never be this young again, lol.)  Her name was Milena and she had a richness to her voice that matched her beautifully unique features.  We asked where she was from and she replied “Eastern Europe” with a smile that held secrets we dared not ask.

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Our appetizer

They were gracious to serve the salmon from Rich's salad on the side for me to enjoy instead!

They were gracious to serve the salmon from Rich’s salad on the side for me to enjoy instead!

 

The salmon was especially tasty with the appetizer!

The salmon was especially tasty with the appetizer!

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My entree – soft shelled crab. This restaurant specializes in “seasonal small plates”.

After dinner, we asked to see a dessert menu (something we rarely order, but felt we should since it was our anniversary.)   A few moments later, Milena returned not with a menu, but a slice of chocolate cheesecake with a lit candle in the top.  “For your anniversary.  From us.”  Oh my gosh, what a surprise!  I laughed in my delight!  We were being RAK’d by this new restaurant!

Our RAK surprise!

Our RAK surprise!

 

As we reveled in this unexpected surprise, the restaurant’s executive chef, Demetrio Zavala, approached our table to congratulate us on our anniversary.  “You need champagne!  A drink to celebrate!  I bring you whatever you want, on me.”  More surprises!  Such fun!  Who in their right mind would turn down free drinks and dessert?

Me with the Executive Chef (and my free glass of champagne!)

Me with the Executive Chef (and my free glass of champagne!)

A thank you card for the free drinks and dessert marked $0.00 on the bill

Me and our waitress, Milena, with my RAK card.

Me and our waitress, Milena, with my RAK card.

If you are in Washington, DC, stop in adn enjoy a meal at Lincoln.  It’s not often in this day and age for a restaurant to provide anything for free (much less gourmet cheesecake and champagne!)… such random acts of kindness show a generous spirit and should be commended!

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Be blessed this holiday weekend – more RAK stories to come!

 

Today we celebrated the “dog days of summer” with a visit to our local amusement park, Busch Gardens.  It’s always a little tricky to find a summer fun activity that appeals to the vast ages of all my kiddos (ages 14, 9, and 3 respectively).  Busch Gardens is the one place where everyone has fun, even if it means we separate into pairs.

After several hours riding rides and seeing the sights, we were famished.  Add to that 90+ degree weather, we were desperate to find a shaded area to sit and eat lunch.  We decided to enjoy a meal and a show in the Ristorante della Piazza, an outdoor Italian themed restaurant in the heart of the park.  As I was purchasing our meals, I received this coupon from the cashier:

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This was a first!  I’ve never received a coupon at checkout before!  Of course, it had to be used the same day, for another meal later in the evening, but 50% off a meal at the park is quite a savings indeed!

The kids and I settled in to watch the show and munch on breadsticks and homemade macaroni and cheese.  The performance was delightfully loud and entertaining.  The musicians’ talent and comedy routines reminded me of the days when I used to work at Kings Dominion as a guardette and hang out with the Kings Dominion Clown Band (KDCBOK).  Which, of course, has nothing to do with this Random Act of Kindness, just a memory moment that made me smile.  🙂

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As the show came to a close, we cleaned up our table and gathered our belongings.  I noticed the coupon sitting on my tray and suddenly realized I could use it to bless someone else!  I quickly returned to the cashier and asked to borrow a pen.  Hastily, I scribbled a note on my receipt and decided that I would pass along my coupon to someone entering the park as we left.  Oh, just the thought of such a surprise made me happy!

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I chose this RAK dedication for Jesse Lewis, age 6, whose parents have set up the Jesse Lewis Choose Love Foundation in his memory.  As you know I am a passionate believer that a little bit of love and kindness goes a long, long way to making this world a better place.  No act of kindness is ever too small to make a difference!

We made our way to the front of the park and I spotted a family of five walking in.  I noticed the dad had a season pass hanging from a black lanyard around his neck, but arriving so late in the afternoon maybe they would be staying until the park close and needed a discount on a meal?  I approached the dad with a smile and asked if they would be eating dinner in the park.  “No, sorry, we’re just here to ride a few rides,” he replied, not missing a beat in his brisk walk towards the main entrance. “Oh, Ok.  Thanks!  I just had a coupon for a discounted meal.  I’ll find someone else.”

Before I could turn my gaze away, I was approached by a lady with a huge smile and bright, friendly eyes.  “I’d be interested!  I love coupons!”  Returning her smile, I handed her the coupon and my note and explained the purpose of this RAK.  She was very appreciative for the kind gesture and gave me a hug as I described the dedication to Jesse.  Our exchange was short and sweet, a perfect way to end the day.

May your weekend be filled with peace, happiness, and hugs!   Be blessed, my friends!

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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!  🙂

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!

Last night, my team and I went out to dinner before presenting an an out-of-state conference. After driving for over five hours, we were starving!

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We had a very large group joining us (22 people in all!) so we had low expectations for efficient service. (When was the last time you went out to dinner with 22 people wanting to be seated together?)

I am happy to report that our dining experience was amazing! Our waitress, Ashley, was phenomenal. She cheerfully explained the specials and didn’t bat an eye when we sheepishly changed our orders. Drinks were refilled without asking and appetizers and meals were served hot and in a timely manner. Not a single error was made in our orders! It was a miracle!

We chatted with her towards the end of our meal and complimented her on the delightful service and accuracy in the orders. “Well, when I give the cooks your order, I only write up six orders on a page. This makes it easier for them and fewer mistakes are made.”

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Because of Ashley’s impeccable service to all the conference presenters, we were able to enjoy our time together networking instead of being frustrated or inconvenienced. I really wanted to do something for our waitress to show my appreciation for a job well done, so I reached into my bag, jotted a personal note on the back of my business card and added it to a $5 Starbucks gift card.

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I handed the card to Ashley as we departed from the restaurant, thanking her for all her work. I wished I had more gift cards, because I would have loved to have treated HER to a dinner she could enjoy!

The next time you are eating out, take a moment to not only enjoy your meal, but thank your waiter or waitress. While serving you is part of their job, to know their service is appreciated validates all they do!

Today I ate lunch at a local fast food restaurant.  Hoping for a “quick bite to eat” I was instantly dismayed when I opened the door to the restaurant and saw the line snaking back and forth, three rows deep.  REALLY?  I thought fast food was supposed to be FAST!  As I pondered the irony, I debated if I should get back in my car and venture into the drive through line.  One peek out the side window told me that I was probably better off where I was.

The line, although long, was moving forward at a decent rate, so I busied my mind thinking about all the things that needed to be done before the end of my work day.  It wasn’t until I got to the second row that I started noticing my surroundings.  The lady in front of me had coupons, and was chatting animatedly with the man beside her about how excited she was to get a good deal on the food.  The man behind me stared off into space, possibly thinking of his own to-do list.  A cute little girl, about the age of six, twirled around and around, delighting in the way her dress swirled out with each spin.  Just another day in a fast food line.

Entering the first row, I shifted my attention to the fast food workers.  The cashier was speaking into a microphone, holding it so close to his mouth I wondered how on earth anyone could hear his garbled orders.  The drive-through attendants were working their station like busy bees, flitting from one area to another, grabbing, stuffing, bagging.  And then I noticed HER.

Petite and dark-skinned, this worker was in charge of preparing the dine-in food.  She wore a standard uniform consisting of a navy polo with khaki pants.  “JAMEKA” was printed across her nametag, announcing to the world who she was in an attempt for customers to feel more connected with the servers.  She worked with speed, accuracy, and skill. Paper plates on plastic trays were filled to overflowing with chicken, biscuits, mashed potatoes and more.  She not only kept up with the rapid succession of orders, but did so with a grace that showed she knew her stuff.  Even when the older lady three people ahead of me changed her order from dine-in to carry-out, Jameka didn’t bat an eye.  She simply grabbed a box and transferred the food, even making sure the customer had napkins and condiments before she could ask.

I knew right then that she would be my next act of kindness.  As she passed my tray across the serving station, I asked her where I might find a customer comment card.  “Ma’am,” she replied, “We don’t have those kind of cards.  You can call the phone number on the receipt.”  You could tell by the tone in her response that I was not the first person to ask for a comment card (and, to be perfectly honest, I bet she thought I had a complaint to file!)

I looked her in the eyes and said, “Well, the reason why I asked is because I want to tell someone how GREAT you are!  You have handled all these orders so amazingly and I’ve been impressed by your work ethic.  Watching you do your job has put a smile on my face and I just feel like your boss, or SOMEONE, needs to know how good you are at what you do!”  The smile that spread across her face was reward for us both!  “Well, thank you, Ma’am!” she giggled, then turned away to complete yet another order.

After eating my lunch, I called the number on the receipt, which was also posted on the back of the bathroom door.

I spoke with the customer service representative, who was overjoyed to document a PRAISE instead of concern.  “We will make sure this is brought to the attention of Jameka’s management team.  We want her to get credit for her great customer service today!”  The phone call alone gave me chill bumps.  I felt like THREE people had been blessed with this act of kindness: the customer service rep didn’t have to deal with an irate customer, Jameka heard first hand how her actions were noticed, and I was practically giddy to share in the joy!

The next time you are eating in a fast food restaurant, take a moment to notice those around you.  Whether customers, casheirs, or servers, maybe you can find one person to bless with a compliment?  A smile and a kind word are free blessings you can share (and you will be blessed, too!)

Have a wonderful Labor day weekend my friends, and celebrate kindness wherever your travels take you!  🙂


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