celebrate kindness

Posts Tagged ‘smile

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Last night I attended my high school’s 25th class reunion. While social media has made the art of maintaining friendships almost seamless (even if only in a virtual world of sharing photos and birthday greetings), there’s no comparison to actually visiting with friends in person! The four-hour event was held at a local brewery with threats of hurricanes and floods forecasted a few days prior. While the severe weather hampered many travel plans to attend, those who came out in the cold, dreary rain enjoyed a night filled with reminiscing and reconnecting.

There are 7 truths about 25th class reunions I discovered last night, in the midst of chatting with my friends. While I’m sure some of these may shift a bit for generational references, I’m pretty sure most are vividly accurate:

1. Nobody cares who you’re dating, what you’re wearing, or how much you weigh.

All the teenage stress and angst about appearance and social status simply fade into the background as you age. Sure, you may struggle with your own inadequacies (don’t we all?), but attending your 25th class reunion is a bit like entering Cheers, where everyone knows your name (well, at least when you’re wearing your name tag). You are not judged by how high your bangs are nor the amount of Sun-In soaked in your hair. There’s no one waiting at the door to see what vehicle you’re driving. We are bigger, smaller, taller, wider. Some peaked in high school and some are just now coming into their own. It’s all OK!

You are not classified by your social or financial worth. Nobody is walking around reminding you of your high school GPA and cross-referencing it with the accomplishments of your adult years. And unless you are wearing raw meat around your neck like Lady Gaga, few people will remember what outfit you decided to wear to the reunion. At a casual event like ours, there was a wonderful mix of jeans, dress slacks, sparkled tops, t-shirts, and button-downs (although I will admit that I was a bit disappointed John wasn’t wearing his brilliant blue cape from our last gathering, lol.)

2. Name tags are essential.

Let’s face it – 25 years is a long time. We have now spent more years in our lives outside of school than in. And we are 25 years older, which means our memory may not be as sharp as it once was (speaking for myself, of course!) Name tags make introductions SO much easier, especially when you are trying to place a face to a name from a class of 460 students. Unless, of course, your name is Steve and you spend most of the evening stealing other people’s name tags to wear as your own.

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The running joke last night was, “Is this a classmate or someone’s spouse?”

3. Perfect strangers will smile at you, if you smile first.

I know this will be shocking to some, but not everyone marries their high school sweetheart. (Gasp!) Most people find their spouses or significant others later in life, often from other hometowns or states (even across the globe!) For those +1 attendees caught in the mire of fabled stories from yesteryear, a class reunion can be a long, drawn-out event of awkwardness and people watching. I tried to make a point to smile at everyone I could, whether I knew them or not. It was an easy random act of kindness that anyone can do (class reunion or not!)

4. Break dancing and mosh pits are out, but the Electric Slide and Cupid Shuffle still draw a crowd.

You must, I repeat, you MUST have a DJ at your indoor class reunion. The music that’s played can make or break a crowd and sets the tone for fun and festivity. While dancing was not the focus of our reunion (I mentioned that we are 25 years older, right?), it was enjoyable to find a crew of classmates who didn’t mind making fools of themselves as they tried to remember steps for a line dance popular years ago. Who knows… it might even be a spotlight moment for a classmate to showcase their talent, as we saw with Chris and Lori stealing the show.

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I think that ended our line dancing for the night. They were simply amazing! A special thanks to Luke Gipson, who was an awesome DJ for this reunion and the last one we held – hire him quick!

5. There are always new things to learn about people you’ve known forever.

The topics of conversation at 25th class reunions are generally the same: How have you been? What are you doing now? Do you have any children? Where should we go after this? If you find yourself in a conversation for more than 5 minutes (which is actually harder than it sounds), you will inevitably start walking down Memory Lane. Shared memories are great, especially when several people chime in with their versions of the same story.

Last night I learned that Jennifer spent more money on her prom dress than I spent on my wedding dress and that Stephanie saved for years to have her dress custom-made. While these tidbits may not impact one’s life on a grand scale, they open the door even wider to a shared communal experience that can only come from being in high school together. (And just for the record, Jennifer looked FANTASTIC in that green sparkled dress she wore in high school!)

6. Social media allows the party to continue long after you’ve left the building.

All day my news feed has been flooded with photos and posts from last night. There have been countless comments of positive praise, shared sentiments, and plans to get together soon. We’ve even gone so far as to suggest having a yearly reunion, offering suggestions of how, when, and where.

As a high school student 25 years ago, I’m not sure that I would say our class was close. There were just too many students, in tight, cramped, outdoor hallways filled with asbestos signs and construction hazards. We found our tribe and stayed tight with that group until the road to Beach Week stretched before us. And yet… here we are. We’ve found our tribe once again, but the barriers of acceptance have long since washed away with time. I feel like I’ve attended your children’s birthday parties, mourned the loss of your family members, and celebrated all the milestones you’ve chosen to share.  A class reunion simply allows me to hear the stories in person.

7. Hugs from old friends are the best random acts of kindness to receive.

It doesn’t matter who you are or where you came from; if you approach me at a class reunion, you’re going to get hugged. I could write an entire post on the benefits of hugging, (or not – it’s already been done by someone else here), but it’s suffice to say that a 25th class reunion is a room filled with people hugging at one time or another. Whether it’s the non-committal side hug of a stranger, or the enveloping bear hug of a friend, this is the one universal sign of welcome at a class reunion. If you are one who really doesn’t like physical touch, let me warn you now. A reunion can sometimes be viewed as a hug-fest. But hugs also count as random acts of kindness, letting others know they are welcomed, accepted, and missed.

For those who were unable to attend our 25th class reunion, I hope we can bring you out to our next social gathering. For those from our class who took the lead on organizing this event and assisting with details (Amie, Laurie, Michele, Donna, Debra, Diane, Kevin and countless others who chimed in on our group page) – a HUGE thank you for providing us an opportunity and space to come together for a few hours, set aside the woes of adulthood, and remember again how blessed we are to have friends that last a lifetime.

Until we meet again!

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Photo Apr 22, 4 24 12 PM

“Well, it looks like you have a cavity. Actually, two.”

Ok, umm, what? A… cavity?  Are you KIDDING me? I stared back at the dental hygienist with a mixture of shock and horror. ME? It has been decades since I’ve heard that word spoken with my name attached. I came to my appointments twice a year. Brushed every day. Flossed every… well, ok. Maybe I needed to work on the flossing a little bit. But a CAVITY? Actually TWO? I was tempted to seek a second opinion when she handed me the x-ray that showed the small dark line burrowing its path through my tooth enamel.

A cavity. Two. Unbelievable.

I spent the next week dreading my dental appointment. The date, marked in red like an executioner’s D-Day, mocked me from the paper calendar hanging on my wall. The appointment taunted my fears and apprehension.

Don’t get me wrong. I have an amazing dentist. So amazing, I choose to pay more than necessary because his practice isn’t covered by my dental insurance. He is THAT good. But skill or no skill, there is no joy being at the mercy of someone else wielding a power tool in your mouth.

Today arrived with little fanfare. For the rest of the world it was another normal spring day, filled with pollen dusted cars and children’s laughter as they played in the bright, warm sunshine. No one could hear the strains of Darth Vader making his appearance as I walked the Green Mile to meet my fate.

I arrived with weapons in hand. Earbuds. iTunes. I even took some Tylenol just in case the pain would be more than I could bear. I tried to squelch the anxiety by bribing myself with reasons to live past this horror. I have children to raise. Places to see. A book review to write. I also needed to turn the crockpot off lest the house burn down before dinner was served.

It would be OK. I was determined to make it.

My dentist, Aaron, entered the room with a smile and I was reminded of his gentle demeanor. He really is a kind and caring soul. We chatted a few minutes about this and that, as he tried to put my mind at ease. It was a delicate game we played, hunter and prey. The niceties were merely a precursor to the nightmare that would soon begin.

The numbing medicine was applied, and I had to laugh in spite of myself. Two long sticks hanging out the right side of my mouth were enough to give anyone the giggles. He left, then returned again to check my progress. I must have passed the test because he began setting up his station as if he were performing open heart surgery. Oh my.

The chair was tilted back and I closed my eyes. I already had my playlist rolling when the first click of metal tapped inside my mouth. Mouth pried open like the jaws of death, I focused on the music. I tapped the beat inside my head, raising the volume as the drill began to whir. C’mon Pharrell, show me how to be happy!

It’s an interesting experience being in complete mercy of someone else. This man had the power to make or break my smile. He could destroy me. He could enrich me. The perception was mine to mold.

I decided to focus on the positive. I listened intently to my music, paying close attention to the rhythm and rhyme. Billy Joel serenaded my spirit with his running piano chords while Mark Schultz reminded me that he has been there, too. I started to panic when my shuffle landed on a karaoke track from my playlist right as the drill was grinding away, but then I caught myself remembering my youthful days of singing and performing. Even the push and pull of the tools couldn’t yank me from my silent reverie; I imagined myself in a hammock with the wind rocking me to and fro.

And just as suddenly as it began, it was over. I was done.

I didn’t feel a thing.

My exuberance was evident in the lopsided grin I reflected back to my favorite dentist. He understood my fears and in return, he made me fearless. He also did a pretty great job of fixing my cavities, too.

I came home and wrote him a thank you note to show my appreciation. Yes, I know it’s his job to fix people’s teeth. But any licensed dentist can do that. No, my dentist is special. He loves what he does and tries hard to form lasting relationships with his patients. He took the time to put me at ease. He allowed me to keep my smile just the way it is for a few more decades to come.

So I sent him a smile in return.

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Be blessed, my dear friends, and take a moment this week to show your appreciation to someone else. Kindness is contagious!

Today is one of those nasty weather days where you just want to crawl back into bed and sleep until the darkness brightens and the temperature rises. I am not a fan of cold, drizzling rain. It dampers my Pollyanna spirit! Thankfully, the rain wasn’t severe enough to spark deadly storms like the ones causing devastation in the Midwest, but it was still dreary just the same.

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After a long day at work, I was more than ready to head home and spend some time relaxing with my kiddos, but I knew I had an evening meeting to attend across town. I had plenty of work to keep me busy, and as I pulled out papers for one of my many projects, I had an urge to check Facebook.

Now I know many of you might laugh, but I take these moments seriously because more often than not when I have one of “those feelings”, I discover through the amazing venue of social media a need, a request for prayer, a timely question… and today was no exception!

My Facebook feed showed most recent posts and there, right at the top, was a request for prayer for a dear friend’s wife who was admitted to the hospital today for breathing problems.

It was in that moment that I found my rainy day joy. 🙂

I stopped what I was doing. Said a prayer for healing, then packed up my project. My work here was done – I was needed elsewhere! I quickly drove to the local Dollar Tree and purchased a smiley faced balloon (yes, just like the one in Sunday’s blog post) along with a small container and all the chocolate I could find. I was headed to the hospital to visit my friend.

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Two floors up and a few feet down the hall, I knocked on the hospital door and was welcomed by the sweetest smile you’ve ever seen. Now, I haven’t seen my friend, Cristie, in quite a bit of time, but all that distance was erased the moment our eyes met. Oh the joy!!

We spent the next hour catching up, trading stories and doing a LOT of laughing. Cristie has such a genuine spirit and she is so funny, I wasn’t sure who was lifting up whom. Even as she was taking her breathing treatment, she was making jokes. “Listen to me… I sound like Darth Vader… Luke… I. Am. Your. Father.” It was hysterical!

After a few photos to document our fun, it was time to head to my meeting. As I gave Cristie a final hug goodbye, I said a silent prayer for the joy in treasured friendships. What a way to brighten BOTH our days!

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The next time you read about someone you know being in the hospital, think how wonderful it would be to carve out time in your busy day to spread a little joy with an unexpected visit. You might be surprised to find how happy it will make you, too!

Be blessed dear friends and don’t let the rain keep you from blessing others! It’s OK to get a little wet! 🙂

Today I had the opportunity to share in a very special random act of kindness; one not of my own, but of a friend.  Pam Larson, one of my high school gal pals from two decades ago, reached out to me and asked if I’d like to share in doing something in memory of her mom, Patricia.  On this date fourteen years ago, Patricia closed the chapter on this life as she passed away from congestive heart failure at the age of 54. She had many medical issues in the ten years leading up to her death: kidney transplant, quadruple bypass surgery, squamous cell carcinoma in her sinus cavity… not to mention other complications and setbacks along the way.  To say Patricia was a fighter, is an understatement.  She gave all she had, again and again, just to have as much time as possible with her family.

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Patricia also spent A LOT of time in the hospital.  Her sunny disposition was a bright spot through all the trials.  In fact, one of her favorite songs was “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” by Bobby McFerrin, an upbeat song released in 1988, two years prior to Patricia’s kidney transplant.

It was in that spirit of celebrating joy instead of sadness that Pam asked me to join her today’s RAK.  We brainstormed a bit about what we could do (thankfully, Pam didn’t have 14 inches of hair to cut and donate because that might have ended up with her needing a wig, lol.)  We finally decided that delivering 14 smiley faced balloons to the cardiac unit of the local hospital would be a welcome surprise to bless others and share Pam’s story of honoring her mom’s memory.

Our first stop was purchasing the balloons.  Pam and I were almost giddy watching the store associate blow up each balloon, floating to the ceiling of the store, its long white curling ribbon trailing down to our eager fingertips reaching above.  Before leaving the store, we taped a memorial RAK card to each balloon so the recipients would know more about this special RAK.

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The memorial RAK card attached to each balloon

The memorial RAK card attached to each balloon

The RAK card included this quote by John Barrymore:  “Happiness often sneaks through a door you didn’t know you left open.”  We thought this would be a great quote because these happy balloons would be sneaking into the rooms of 14 different people! 🙂

Our next task was somehow getting all 14 balloons in Pam’s very compact car.  Below are the photos from THAT adventure (so much laughter!)

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So many balloons!

So many balloons!

Success!  Let's go!

Success! Let’s go!

As we headed to the hospital, Pam reflected on various stories about her mom.  It was a sweet time of remembrance and I knew that her mom would have loved what we were doing in her memory.

We arrived at the hospital and walked towards the entrance, the wind whipping the balloons all around us.  Have you ever had to carry so many balloons at once on a windy day?  It is NOT an easy task, let me assure you!  We approached the main desk and were directed to the cardiac unit on the second floor.  It was time to share some joy with others!

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The head nurse of the cardiac unit intercepted us almost immediately.  “How can I help you?” she asked with quizzical smile.  Pam explained our purpose: that her mom had passed away 14 years ago and she wanted to honor her memory by making 14 people smile with an unexpected surprise. The nurse informed us (after checking with her supervisor) that we would not be allowed to enter the rooms, but she would peek in her patients’ rooms and if they had a visitor, she would ask if the visitor wanted to step out in the hallway to receive a balloon from us.

Before she could finish her explanation, one such visitor stepped out of a patient’s room and said, “I would love to bring in a balloon!”  Our first RAK! We were thrilled!  As we giggled to one another, we realized we had a bit of a quandary… all 14 balloons were in a tangled mess from the wind blowing outside.  Although it only took a few minutes to separate a balloon, it felt like an eternity with this hospital visitor standing beside us waiting. Thankfully she was patient (a hospital pun for you medical people out there, lol) and after accepting and delivering our very first balloon, she returned to the hallway to hug Pam and pose for a picture.

Finally untangled!

Finally untangled!

Pam's first RAK hug

Pam’s first RAK hug

It wasn’t too long before Pam spotted a visitor walking down the hall.  “Excuse me, ma’am, are you visiting someone today?”  The lady smiled warily before she responded, “Yeeeeessssss”, then her smile spread across her face as Pam told her about the meaning behind the smiley balloon.  This lady stopped.  Listened.  Hugged.  She even added her own thoughts about this experience.  “We each have two dates – the day we are born and the day we die.  Then we have this line in between.  What you do during this line is what matters.  This is your purpose.  And what you are doing today is part of your purpose.”  These words nearly opened the floodgates for sure!

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There were more hugs.  More smiles.  I am convinced that just walking around with a smiley faced balloon in hand can make people happy.  We saw so much joy in the eyes of others today!  We were also able to share a few balloons with the oncology patients, too – a perfect place to continue our RAK in Patricia’s memory.

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When all 14 balloons had been given away, we left empty-handed, but our hearts were full of joy.  Pam told me on the way out of the hospital, “You know – this is the first time I have ever been happy on April 27.  Usually I am so sad and depressed, missing my mom, but today I know she is smiling down on us.  She would have LOVED this!”

So essentially… it was a healing RAK for Pam, too.  🙂

Be encouraged my friends to share your joy with others, even if it takes you a little bit out of your comfort zone.  I promise the rewards will multiply as others pay-it-forward, too!

As always, thanks for reading and sharing in my fun-filled RAK adventures!

 

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:

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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.”

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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.)

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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.

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.)

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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!  🙂


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