celebrate kindness

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This year I plan to do 30 random acts of kindness in memory of our sweet Renee Parr, a first grade teacher at my school who unexpectedly passed away last summer at the age of 30.  She was known for her contagious laughter and smile, her sparkling personality, and her love of all things fun.

I don’t really have a set plan of which RAKs I want to complete, or even a timeline (other than doing them this year). I’m just going to wait on that nudge and know, in that moment, that it’s a Renee RAK.

Over the Christmas holiday, I had that first nudge as my family and I were visiting the Jelly Belly factory in Wisconsin. There were lots of smiling children and the whole place seemed somewhat magical with candy all about. You can read about that RAK here.

The next day, I went on a shopping date with my daughter (a perfect way to pass the time with a teenage girl!) As we strolled in and out of clothing shops, it seemed like I was constantly finding clothes that had fallen off their hangers. By the third store, I was almost starting to think I was on Candid Camera!  Each time I saw something on the floor, I stopped and picked it up, then searched for its hanger so I could return it to the rack, nice and neat. It wasn’t a huge RAK, one might even debate that it “doesn’t count”, but it was one less task a sales associate had to complete at the end of a long day.

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Then my daughter and I went into a store filled with sparkles. Oh, now THIS was our kind of store!  We looked at all the shimmering jewelry and scarves and admired the merchandising done by color groups throughout the store.  I took a picture of my daughter, just to relish in the moment:

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That’s when it hit me.

Renee loved sparkles. Glitter. Fancy things. And the color purple. All of which were surrounding my daughter on our special shopping day.

“Look up! I want this in MY room,” my daughter exclaimed with admiration. It was the largest, most glittery chandelier I had ever seen in a retail store. All glitz and glamour.

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“Look at this!” I turned to see my daughter modeling a tiara and felt my eyes fill with tears. Renee!

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Oh yes, this day of RAKs was meant for Renee for sure.  I kept the RAKs coming, allowing someone to go ahead of me in the dressing room and in the checkout line. I also left a few dollars in an accessories bin (but forgot to take a photo.)

It was fun spending time with my daughter shopping and it was fun to spend time with Renee in my mind. I’m excited to see what other RAKs lead me to think of her throughout the year.

Be blessed with kindness as you go about your week! For those of you tagging me in your RAK stories on Facebook and Twitter, keep ’em coming! Your stories inspire me, too!

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Ahhhh… another year of Black Friday has officially come and gone. Like years past, I spent the day doing random acts of kindness in the midst of my shopping, looking for opportunities to bless others with kindness. Here’s a list of what I did!

1.  I taped a dollar bill to a Matchbox car at Five Below so a child could purchase the car for free.

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Shopping at 5:00 in the morning – still dark outside!

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2.  I blessed a stranger at Shoe Carnival with a $5 off coupon for the boots she was preparing to buy. She was thrilled with the unexpected surprise!

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My #RAKFriday card

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3.  My cousin, Becky, works at our local JCPenney store, so I wanted to bless her with a random act of kindness, too (God bless ALL the retail workers on Black Friday!) I went to the store to find out when she was working, only to discover that her shift was almost over. Luckily, her awesome brother, Anthony, blessed her at midnight with a Frappuccino. He RAK’d her with a Frap! So funny!

Me with my fabulous cousin, Becky

Me with my fabulous cousin, Becky

JCPenney stores were doing their own random acts of kindness, tweeting out good deeds with the hashtag #JustGotJingled. They think I have a pretty amazing family, too!

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4.  While shopping at Target, I taped a Free Compliments sign to the inside of a restroom door. I also let someone go ahead of me in line.

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5.  While shopping at Claire’s, I saw this adorable little girl getting her ears pierced. What a milestone moment! I asked her mom if I could buy her a pair of earrings to celebrate the occasion. (Then I went and bought her two!)

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When I paid for the earrings, I also donated $1 to St. Jude Children’s Hospital.

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6.  As I drove to a different mall and searched for a parking space, I passed up the close spot to bless someone else with a shorter walk.

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7.  After picking up one last gift, I left the mall to head home. Traffic was crowded, but I made sure to leave space and waved a truck through so they could enter the line. May not seem like much, but the people in the truck were all smiles!

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8.  I wrapped up my day by stopping by Starbucks and buying snowmen cookies for my kids and a latte for my husband.  I then gave up my table so an older couple could have a place to sit.

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#RAKFriday 2014 was a great success! If you did anything kind for someone today, comment below or tweet it to me @HCPSTinyTech. Be sure to include the tag #RAKFriday so we can have all the RAKs in one place.

I wish you a blessed holiday season! RAK on!

 

 

This entire weekend has been rainy.  Dark.  Dreary.  Drizzle.  Downpours. Depressing.  Somehow the alliteration of my words echoes the dullness of the day.  So… what better way to beat the doldrums… but to don my raincoat and drive out to perform a RAK! 🙂

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As many of you know, several of my RAKs occur at grocery stores.  Usually this is because I am ALWAYS grocery shopping.  (Hey – I like to cook and I like to eat… it’s a logical place to spend my time, lol!)  Kroger, Martin’s, Food Lion, Target, Walmart, Pole Green Produce… if you sell food, chances are I have visited your store a time or two!

Some people clip coupons; some people look for sale flyers… I’m a gal of convenience.  If I need something and you’re on my path from here to there, then I’ll shop at your store.  I like to stick with stores where I know the general layout (mainly because my time is precious and it’s easier to run in and out if I know where something is located versus hunting the entire store for a box of rice noodles that can only be found down the Asian food aisle.)

There are times when grocery store chains try to reel me in as a repeat customer by offering special deals or perks.  Kroger offers fuel points and sometimes if you purchase gift cards there you can earn up to 4x the price paid.  Now that’s a good deal!  Food Lion is currently running a special where each week if you spend a certain amount of money you earn a ticket – 6 weeks of tickets can be redeemed for a “free holiday meal” (which is a $20 credit on your next food bill.)  That’s a good deal, too!

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Well, as luck would have it, I earned three tickets, not six.  Again, I shop for convenience, not for dedication.  Instead of just throwing away the tickets which were useless to me, I decided to take this rainy weekend and bring a little sunshine to someone else’s day.

I made a sign, explaining that the tickets were free to take, then I taped each ticket to the message along with my business card so those who received the RAK could visit this website and read the background story of their RAK.  Then I drove to Food Lion and taped my sign and tickets to an outdoor display right outside the storefront doors.

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I thought maybe someone might be collecting tickets, but missed one week, or maybe didn’t spend enough money to earn a ticket. Whatever the reason, I hope the person (or people!) were blessed by this Random Act of Kindness.  If you are reading this today and you were the lucky recipient, please comment below if you like to share the joy of paying it forward!

I hope you can find inspiration in even the darkest of days to bless someone else in fun, creative ways.  Performing this RAK sure did bring a smile to my face!  🙂

 

This afternoon I decided to visit a local consignment shop, searching for some summer clothes for the kids and a few “new to me” books to add to their already overflowing bookshelves.  (We LOVE books!)  The sale encouraged us to bring our own bags to make it easier to hold on to our items while walking around and it wasn’t long before the foldable cart I brought was half full.

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Usually consignment sale checkout lines are very long with a wait time of 45 minutes or more.  I was prepared for this delay and quickly joined the line that was already wrapped halfway around the store.  As I was standing in line, I noticed the lady in front of me was leaning on a cane.  Step-by-step we shuffled along in the line and I realized her bags, overflowing with clothes, were dragging along the cement floor.  As I looked closer, I saw the bags were wrapped around the base of her cane and she was pulling them across the floor as we advanced towards the cash registers.

Well, this just wouldn’t do – here I was standing right there with this half-empty cart!  I gently tapped the lady on her back and said with a smile, “Here – let me help you with your bags!”  I then bent down and unwrapped the bags from her cane and added them to my rolling cart.  “There’s no need for you to drag those along – let me put them here until we get to the front of the line.”  She was very appreciative of my kind gesture and for the next half hour we filled the time chatting about this and that.

Her items and mine

Her items and mine

Finally it was our turn to checkout so I carried the items to her spot and placed her bags on the counter.   She thanked me profusely for helping her out which brightened my day!  🙂  As I turned back to the line to wait for my turn, it occurred to me that she might need help taking her items to the car once purchased.  I returned to her and whispered, “If you have time to wait, I’ll take your items to your car for you, too!”  She turned to me with disbelief and joy radiating from her face.  “Are you sure?  You don’t mind? How sweet of you!”

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It didn’t take long for me to checkout my items and within minutes I was pulling the rolling cart to her car.  Along the way she told me more about herself and why she walked with a cane.  Her name was Shirley and she suffered from spinal stenosis; she also had both hips replaced.  “I can still walk, but I just get really tired sometimes.”  We found her car and I placed the bags in the trunk. “Thank you for your kindness!” she added as we hugged and parted ways.

It was a wonderful start to my weekend!  May you be inspired to notice those around you and take initiative to offer help.  We could all use some help every now and again, wouldn’t you agree?

Be blessed, dear readers and Happy Friday!  🙂

Yesterday as I picked up a few Christmas gifts for family members, I realized my store coupon was actually three separate coupons attached together.  I bet you can guess what I did next!

RAK coupon

You’re right!  I used the first coupon for my purchases, then found two other customers waiting in the checkout line who had no coupons to use.  We all saved money on our selections, and I left the store with a smile about a mile wide.  It’s such a great feeling to do something nice for someone else!

Have a blessed day!  More RAKs to come!  🙂

 

Yesterday I had the pleasure of completing 3 Random Acts of Kindness right in a row – the ultimate Triple Play! My first RAK was planned in advance, but the other two were 100% spontaneous “let me bless you because I can” moments. So much fun!

My planned RAK involved a coupon for a free car inspection my husband donated to my project a few months ago. (He bought a fundraising pack for my daughter’s chorus group and this was one of the perks included.)  I decided to save the coupon for the month of December, when I knew money might be tight for some. The coupon itself was a little key ring tag (not a paper coupon) – I was lucky I never lost it because it was very tiny!

Knowing it could easily be overlooked, I decided to place it in a ziplock bag with a little note and my business card.

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Thursday afternoon, I went driving up and down the parking lot at Kroger, desperately seeking a car that had an almost expired inspection sticker. I couldn’t find a single one! Wow! It’s the very first week of the month and every car I saw had a renewed or current sticker. Bummer!

On Friday, as I was leaving work, I scanned the parking lot on a whim. Bazinga! The very last car in my row needed to be inspected in December! Perfect! I placed my ziplock bag under their windshield wiper and said a silent prayer that the person I was blessing would see the gift before they turned their wipers on.

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I then made my way to the local mall to pick up a few birthday gifts.  The weather was a bit dreary:  cold, wet, blah.  I passed the holiday bell-ringer as I entered the mall and sheepishly apologized for not having any cash to place in his Salvation Army tin.   (If you know me well, you know I rarely carry cash.)  As I passed through the main doors, I saw a woman pushing a shopping cart filled with store-bought bags as an older woman stood beside her with fingers wrapped around the handle of an infant stroller.  I immediately backed up and reopened the glass door so the ladies could pass through easily, but they pulled their cart to the side of the wall as the younger gal started to gather all her belongings and bags.

Have you ever stood there, holding the door for someone, only to realize you’re just standing there looking awkward because no one is walking through your door?  Yeah, that was me.  While I’m sure it was less than 20 seconds, it felt like an eternity.  Suddenly it dawned on me:  Why don’t I help the lady carry her bags to her car?  It was obvious that she was struggling to carry everything in one trip (and to be honest, it kind’ve reminded me of when I bring groceries in the house, not wanting to return to the car for more bags.)  As I walked towards her and offered to help, she politely refused at the exact same moment two of the bags fell from her hands.

We both shared a laugh at the irony (she obviously needed some help) and she agreed to let me bless her with kindness.  As the older lady (her mom?) pushed the stroller, I carried two large bags while the lady carried the rest. (And as a sidebar, the baby in that stroller could NOT have been more than a month old… so tiny!  So precious!)

I walked with them out of the mall, past the Salvation Army bell ringer, straight to their car.  The lady thanked me profusely, but I just smiled and said, “Be blessed!” as I turned and walked away.  No photos.  No business card.  Just one person being nice to another person.  🙂

As I approached the mall again for the second time, I smiled at the bell ringer (who had seen the events unfold, I’m sure) then continued with my tasks at hand.  I bought the birthday gifts, did a little bit of window shopping, then decided it was time to head home.  As I rounded the corner back to the mall entrance (which was conveniently located at the end of the food court), I couldn’t resist the wonderful aroma of freshly baked bread.  “Garlic Knots – 5 for $1.99”  I peered through the slanted glass display and was suddenly thrown back to my college days when we would call in late night deliveries to our dorm rooms for freshly baked “Crusties” from Chancey’s restaurant.  Such great memories!  I smiled as the cashier asked, “What can I get for you today?” and pointed to the bread.  Thinking they would just grab a few pieces of bread from the display, I was shocked when she said, “It might be a minute, we are baking a fresh batch right now.”  A fresh batch?  Straight from the oven?  YES!  I would be MORE than happy to wait a minute or two!

I eagerly watched them pull the bread from their huge conventional oven, the same way you might pull out a pizza, and pack up my small package of Garlic Knots.  (Did you know the wooden tool they use to pull pizzas out of the oven is called a “peel”?  Yeah, me neither.  I googled it, lol.)  When the cashier handed me the styrofoam box, I could still feel the heat radiating from inside and the aroma was magnificent!  What a treat indeed!

And then I froze in my tracks.  Literally.

Because right in front of me, through the glass doors of the mall entrance, was… the bell ringer.  Still ringing his bell, despite the cold, wet, dreary day.  And in an instant I knew that this bread was not meant for me at all.  I may not have had change in my pocket for his shiny red canister, but I had a container of freshly baked bread to share.  So, of course, you know what I did.  I walked right up to the bell ringer, apologized yet again for not having any change, then handed him the container of bread and said, “I hope this warms you up!  Thanks for all you do.”  Then I walked to my car, with a smile on my face, thankful for unplanned surprises.  🙂

I didn’t even think of taking a picture to document the moment until I was already in my car driving away, but I slowed down by his stand and snapped a photo over my shoulder (you might have to look really hard to see him through the rain spattered window):

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So, my dear friends, the next time you are encountering a cold, wet, blah day, be encouraged!  You just never know when you may have an unforeseen opportunity to bring a ray of sunshine into someone else’s life.  🙂

Woo-Hoo! Welcome to the wonderful world of BLACK FRIDAY! To say that I look forward to this one crazy shopping day of the year is a complete understatement. I cannot WAIT for Black Friday to arrive! I love so many things about this day: The excitement! The energy! The reduced prices! It’s the one day of the year where I am guaranteed to be child-free, can shop for 10 hours straight, spend money without worry, all the while getting the majority of the items on my Christmas list marked off. For me, Black Friday is the ultimate day of productivity.

Now I know several friends of mine will read this and roll their eyes. “Black Friday shopping? Who in their right mind would do THAT?!?” And… they’re right. It takes a really special shopper to tackle the crowds on Black Friday. But what greater opportunity is there to show kindness to others?

This year I was extra excited about Black Friday, because I was already plotting ways I could deliberately bless others on such a maddening day. The first thing I did was stop by a Starbucks. After all, shopping in and out of stores where the temperature was a frigid 29 degrees outside… one might need a little pick-me-up to make the adventure more bearable!

As I stood in line to get my tall salted caramel mocha, my gaze wandered across the yummy muffins and pastries. I immediately thought of my family members who were stuck working retail jobs on Black Friday. What types of customers would they encounter today? Would their day end in satisfaction or exasperation? I decided that a surprise treat might be just the thing to put a smile on their faces.

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My first stop was JCPenney’s to surprise my cousin, Becky. It took me about 20 minutes just to find her in the sea of customers waiting in the checkout line. That’s her on the far right side – you can barely see her from the back of the line!

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I snuck around the corner and slipped her Starbucks treat right as she was finishing a sale. (I would have brought her a drink, too, but I wasn’t sure if she was allowed to have one while working on the floor!)

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My next stop was on the other side of town to surprise my sister, a shift supervisor at CVS. Thankfully there are Starbucks coffee shops all over the place, so I was able to grab a hot drink and a muffin to bring a smile to her day.

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(Yes, she is tired. She had to be at work at 2am, following our family Thanksgiving dinner the night before. This picture was taken around 9am, almost at the end of her shift. She definitely deserved a pick-me-up!)

Back in the car, I was excited to start shopping. But first I had to get to the stores! Have you driven around on a Black Friday? Just the driving alone might send you fleeing back to the safety of your home. But I was determined to show kindness, even in my car. I smiled and waved at complete strangers, patiently allowing them to merge in front of me as they went about their way.

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Almost to the local mall, I thought about families who weren’t as blessed as me to have the ability to shop on Black Friday. So many families are struggling this time of year, especially with unforseen layoffs and other monetary challenges. While adults can understand these constraints, it can be really hard on the children. I decided to make my next Random Act of Kindness focused on kids.

Entering the parking lot of a Dollar Tree, I was almost giddy with my plans. Just imagine if you were a child, entering this store with your mom, dad, or grandparent, and this is what you discovered:

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Yes! I went into this store and hid three one dollar bills among different toys, all at a child’s eye level. SO MUCH FUN! I really wanted to wait and see a child discover the money, but there wasn’t a single child in the store. However, as I was headed to my car, I saw a mom with three (THREE!) children walk into the store. It was a divine setup!

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I knew without a doubt that my being at that store, with that specific Random Act of Kindness, was nothing short of God showing his love to his children. It literally gave me chill bumps!

As my day progressed, I finally found myself at Kohl’s, my last store of the day. The checkout line looped down one side and around another. Unknowingly, the line I found myself waiting in led to Customer Service, not the actual checkout counter. Oh no! I had already waited in line for 20 minutes – did I have enough energy to get out of this line and start all over in the “real” checkout line? As I was pondering this dilemma, I overheard several other ladies in an animated discussion about this particular line. “Yes, it’s for Customer Service, but they are also doing regular purchases, too.” “Why on EARTH would they do that?” “I think all the lines are long so it doesn’t really matter.” “Well, it matters to me. All I have is one item to return. I wish people would just go to the regular checkout and leave this one for Customer Service.”

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Yeahhhhhh… here I am, standing right in the mix of these ladies with boots, sweaters, jewelry, wrapping paper… I had so many items to purchase I was literally sliding the shoebox with my foot along the ground because I couldn’t possibly carry another item with my hands. Since I knew it would be near impossible for me to gather my items and try to start over in another line, I made a conscious decision to do something nice to the woman behind me; the woman who only had one thing left to return. I think you can tell by this photo who was enjoying this day more…

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When you stand in line for over an hour just to spend money on gifts for other people… well, you have lots of time to think, listen, and learn. I’ve discovered that patience (not necessarily a strength of mine), is an essential skill for withstanding the trials of Black Friday shopping. Oh, how many times I could have lost my patience!! But what would have been the end result? Would it have gotten me closer to the finish line (a.k.a. Customer Service)? Nope. So why lose patience over something I have aboslutely NO CONTROL over? I chose to go shopping today. I chose to shop at the store with the really good sale prices and free coupons. Standing in line was simply part of the process. So why complain about it when I was here BY CHOICE?

Which brings me to my next act of kindness. Remember me mentioning doing something nice for the lady behind me? The gal who was not too happy about all the regular shoppers being in the Customer Service line when she only had one thing to return? Well, I did the only thing I could think to do to make her smile: when it was my turn at the checkout counter, I let her go before me. Because that’s what kindness is all about. 🙂

The gal behind her was now behind me. I remembered her telling a story about her grandson scratching off all the discount scratch-off coupons (thus making them invalid to use). As she was called to the register beside me to purchase her items, I quietly slid my 15% off coupon to her with my business card and a smile. She was touched by my generosity, promised to pay it forward, and agreed to take a picture for the blog. Can you see our joy for finally crossing the finish line?

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But this Black Friday Random Act of Kindness BLOWOUT would not have been possible were it not for my husband and children left behind at home. Yes, this was my day to do as I pleased. But it wouldn’t be right to have this much fun and not include them. So as I left my last store, I made yet another stop at Starbucks and picked up some coffee for me and my husband and some sweet treats for the kids. It was a small gesture to say “Thanks!”, but one I knew would make them smile.

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So, as you are reading stories of how horrible Black Friday is, and how mean people can be, just remember there are a FEW people out there who are truly trying to make a difference in the midst of it all. I really do love Black Friday in all its chaos and confusion. Where else can complete strangers find commonality in their craziness?

Be blessed my friends! May your holiday season be filled with peace, joy, and love wherever your travels take you!


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