celebrate kindness

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To honor the memory of Renee Parr, her family asked those that loved her to complete 14 random acts of kindness as we approach the one year anniversary of her passing, July 14, 2014.

Last Saturday, my two older children came with me to The Dollar Tree as we picked up some last minute glow sticks for our 4th of July festivities. As we paid for our purchases, I saw my son go to the candy machines and check to see what was inside. In an instant, I felt that nudge and suddenly I knew what I wanted to do to honor Renee’s memory:

I wanted to share in the joy of surprises for children.

I dug around in my purse for all the quarters I could find – only two, but better than nothing. I opened my wallet to count my cash and there found disappointment as well – two single dollar bills folded behind my license. One more search in my purse resulted in a third dollar bill, crumpled and disheveled, the edges ripped and worn.

Two quarters and three dollar bills.

I asked the sales clerk if she could change my bills into quarters and she refused, saying she didn’t have any quarters in her tray. In desperation, I located the store manager and explained the RAK I wanted to do, its purpose to honor the memory of Renee. She used her master key to open two additional registers and finally we were able to complete the transation.

Two quarters and three dollar bills, now 14 quarters to give away.

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It didn’t take the children long to fill all the candy machines. Some required two quarters; some only one. They finished their task with two quarters left and had to decide which “big machine” would receive the money.

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Renee was always a princess, to her family and her friends, so it was only fitting that the remaining coins went to the Frozen Disney Princesses Tattoos.

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We took a moment, my children and I, and said a silent prayer for Renee’s family and those sweet children who would receive the joy of a Renee RAK. She will always be in our hearts, forever.

If you would like to share your Renee RAK, click here to add your information. If you would like to see some of the other random acts of kindness completed in memory of Renee, click here.

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When was the last time you got all the way home from the grocery store only to discover you never picked up an essential item on your list? So frustrating! Thankfully, I only live a hop, skip, and a jump away, but still… so annoying.

I forgot snack bags. Again. I always neglect to check our supply at home before going to the store, then lo and behold, we are out when I need them the most. Tonight I decided to stop by my neighborhood Food Lion after I dropped my daughter off at dance class, hoping for a quick “in-and-out” purchase.

Yes, I know it’s a holiday and yes, I know it’s prime time shopping hours for those who were not as lucky as me to have the day off. Stop laughing at my naïveté. I really was optimistic that I could grab what I needed, make my purchase, and continue along my merry way.

Apparently everyone else had the same idea. Each open register had a line. Oh well… I chose the shortest one and resigned myself to the fact that this would be yet another opportunity for me to practice a lesson in patience.

Not even 30 seconds after I got in line and pulled out my phone to play some rounds of Words With Friends to pass the time, I heard a voice ahead of me.

“You go ahead.”

I looked up to see the lady in front of me leaning to the left, motioning for me to go in front of her.

“Oh no, that’s OK. I’m fine to wait.” I smiled at her then started to look back at my phone when she responded quickly. “Please. Go in front. You only have one item.”

Have I mentioned before how much easier it is for me to give kindness than receive it? I smiled again, then graciously accepted her offer, moving ahead of her small rolling cart.

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I told her about my mission, to celebrate kindness in others, then asked if I could take her photo and write about this act on my blog.

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It wasn’t until I got home and looked through my photos that I realized her skin was darker than mine.

Today, as people all across the nation celebrate the dream so gracefully articulated by Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., I am humbled and blessed to live in an era where I am free to share kindness with EVERYONE. I don’t care what gender, race, nationality, religion, age, or even clothing choice you make. If there is an opportunity to be nice to you, I will. If there is an opportunity to be blessed by your kindness, I will do my best to accept with a smile.

Because at the end of the day, I truly believe that kindness can change the world.

Be blessed and RAK on!

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.  🙂

Today’s Random Act of Kindness was an easy task, but one rarely acknowledged or even noticed by others. As I was walking to my car today after a quick shopping trip at Target, I glanced across the parking lot searching for my van and voila… Not my van, but a perfect opportunity to bless someone else!

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Yes, the infamous lazy man’s cart just sitting there hogging up a parking space.  The irony here is that the parking lot was near empty – not like the owner of the cart had to fight through lanes and lanes of cars to get the cart back to a safe place!  I actually started laughing when I saw this, because a friend of mine, Sheri, had just this week shared how she always puts unwanted carts back where they belong.  I told her that she inspired me to add this to my RAK list for Black Friday, not knowing that an opportunity would present itself just a few days later!

So instead of turning a blind eye (“It’s not MY cart!”) I did the right thing and retrieved it, then returned it (in addition to my cart).

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Such a simple thing to do, yet it still felt good.  Now the cart won’t block someone from parking.  Or prevent the lady in the white truck from putting her children in the car.  It will also keep the cart from rolling in the wind and dinging someone’s car (because, folks, that’s just annoying and aggravating!!)

Be sure to check back on the blog Friday afternoon through Saturday as I am SURE I will have several Random Acts of Kindness to post from Black Friday shopping.  I’m almost giddy thinking about my surprise plans!

I wish you all peace and joy as you go about your travels and special plans for Thanksgiving.  Be blessed and pay it forward!

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If you are an avid shopper at Kohl’s you know that coupons are a big deal. First of all, they are always sending them in the mail. 15% off. 20% off. When you peel the brown sticker to reveal a 30% off coupon, it doesn’t even matter if you need anything, off to Kohl’s you go simply because you know those added discounts add up on the already reduced prices!

Yes, I do love a good Kohl’s shopping spree. In fact, it’s always my “first stop shop” for Black Friday deals the day after Thanksgiving. Best. Deals. Ever! So you can imagine how excited I was to receive the yearly “Happy Birthday to YOU!” coupon in the mail for a free $10 gift! Yay!

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Of course, this year is different. I am celebrating a milestone – the big “4-0”. So when I received my birthday coupon, I knew just what to do… drive straight to Kohl’s and bless someone with kindness!

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As I entered the store, I wondered to myself, “Who should I bless?  There are so many people shopping here right now!”  I looked around but no one had a blinking, neon sign over their head shouting, “PICK ME!  PICK ME!” so I simply started walking around the store and figured I would know who to bless when the moment was right.

I rounded the corner of the ladies department and headed towards the maternity section.  I immediately thought of my friend, Michele, who had just given birth to her fifth (yes fifth!) child the day before.  That’s who would get my blessing!  Someone with a small child!  No sooner had the thought crossed my mind, I saw her.  Young.  Pretty. Stroller.  She was the one!

As I approached the young mother, the items she had been collecting on top and around her stroller started to tumble to the ground.  Picking up a bag of socks, I said, “Here you go… ” then launched into my explanation of who I was, what I was doing, and how I wanted to bless her.  I explained that normally I would go shopping for my birthday, but I thought she might want to use my gift to buy something for herself, or her child… and if nothing less, just be blessed with a discount on the items she had already planned to purchase.  She looked at me and said, “You’re going to make me cry!” (Which, of course, almost made ME cry!) and I simply handed her my coupons, gave her a hug, and walked out the store.

Today, September 30, 2012, is the official start to my 40th year.  Please join me in my adventures and celebrate kindness in your own world by blessing someone else.  If you know me on Facebook, I would love for you to post what you did in celebration of my 40th birthday.  If you have a wordpress blog, please leave a comment to this post.  You can email me, too, at celebratekindness@gmail.com.  Come and join in on the fun!  If we all do just one act of kindness today, oh what a party that could be!  🙂


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