celebrate kindness

Posts Tagged ‘Sandy Hook

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.

restaurant

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

coupon

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!  🙂

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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.

supplies

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

girls

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.

skittles

I took an opportunity to have my photo taken with local royalty, too.  😉

royalty

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.

recitalflowers

Be blessed dear friends and keep passing along the joy!

Where do I even begin?

I have tried to write this post several times over the past 72 hours to no avail. It seems with each RAK I complete, more madness, more sadness enters this world. I find it very difficult to share the simplest of blessings, overwhelmed by the grief of tragedy and loss. On Sunday, I completed RAK #12 of #26 acts. Nothing big, just a little show of kindness that blessed a stranger. On Monday I heard about the devastating tornado in Oklahoma that obliterated an entire town, including an elementary school. How could I possibly write about my RAK… something so basic, so “no big deal” in the face of such destruction and shock?

On Tuesday I received a post notification written by the husband of a sweet friend of mine, detailing the impending passing of his wife from this life to the next. Mel, just a few years older than me, was diagnosed with Stage 4 stomach cancer eight months ago, the same month I underwent testing for breast cancer. Today she passed away.

Why? How? Why? The questions circle in an everlasting turnabout, stuck in my mind. Why do bad things have to happen? How can anything I do possibly make a difference? Why would anyone want to take the time to read my little RAKs when there are so many other things to ponder in this world?

And yet RAKs do make a difference. And you do read my posts. Maybe because we know there is no answer to question number one.

It’s funny in a way how God speaks to me sometimes. Maybe you are not a believer in God, but I am. I hear his voice on my heart in the most unassuming situations. Right before learning about the tornados on Monday, I discovered this video on You Tube. (You can skip through the commercial in the beginning after a few seconds). I held it together until I realized it was all focused in a hospital and that’s where my dying friend was spending her final hours. When the words “Just signed DNR” appeared on the screen, I was done. I couldn’t hold back the tears any longer. Then later that night, I heard about the tornado. More tears.

This morning, after reading about my friend’s passing, I saw this quote in my FB newsfeed:

quote

I had to laugh. It is EXACTLY how I would expect Mel to respond had I made the statement to her. Kindness is ALWAYS a big deal!! No matter how small it may seem in your eyes, it’s a big deal to someone else. I like to think it’s a big deal to God, too. Aren’t we commanded to love our neighbors as ourselves?

So that realization is what has pulled me out of my blog post slump. Kindness matters.

Random Act of Kindness #12 is a simple act, completely random, and nothing more than being kind to a stranger. We were eating at a serve-yourself style pizza restaurant following my daughter’s dance recital. As I was making my salad, I noticed an eldery woman with beautiful white hair and cane pushing her tray near mine. She was moving slowly, carefully, but despite her best intentions, the tray wobbled and her empty water cup fell right into the heap of spaghetti sauce she had placed on her spaghetti. Without a moment’s hesitation, I reached over and grabbed the cup off her tray. “Let me clean this off for you!” I walked away towards the drink counter to grab some napkins when another simple thought spoke to my heart. “Fill her cup.” I returned to the lady with her now cleaned cup, but instead of placing it on her tray, I asked what kind of drink she wanted. “I will fill it for you!” She smiled and spoke gently, “Water, please.”

lady

When I returned to her in the line, she was struggling to balance her cane and her tray while reaching across to maneuver a slice of pizza off the counter. Glancing down, I realized she never grabbed an empty plate! (The plate on her tray was completely filled with spaghetti and sauce.) Instinctively I ran to the end of the line, grabbed a plate and placed it right underneath the gooey pizza, mere moments before it slid off the unbalanced spatula. “Oh my! I didn’t even think about a plate!” she exclaimed as I breathed as sigh of relief. (THAT could have been a mess!)

I laughed a little, then grabbed her tray. “Do you want more pizza or are you ready to sit? I can carry your tray for you!” She was completely shocked, taking several seconds to process what I had just asked. “Are you sure you don’t mind? That’s very kind of you.” She pointed to the table where her family was sitting and I walked with her as she hobbled with her cane. “Thank you! Thank you so much! So sweet.” (Below is a photo I took of her at her table a little bit later.)

lady2

As I turned to make my way back to the salad bar (I had simply left my salad plate right there in the line, lol), I caught the eye of my daughter who had witnessed the entire event. In the brief moment of connection, her smile was simply an extension of my own, radiating the joy of simple kindness.

This RAK is dedicated to Madeleine Hsu, age 6, who like my daughter was “a shy little girl who always seemed to have a smile on her face.” My dear friend Mel had a smile that radiated, too. I hope Madeleine’s family can find comfort in knowing that even the smallest acts of kindness are being done in her memory.

Share the gift of love with others. Our time here is brief, dear friends, but we truly can make a difference.

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.

fridays-card1

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.

fridays-sign

 

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.

fridays-card2

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!


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