celebrate kindness

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Today was a day of surprises! As a mom, one of my favorite things to do is something unexpected. I love to see the smile on my children’s faces when they get to experience first-hand the joy of being blessed without warning, without precondition, with no strings attached.

My daughter had made arrangements to go bowling with two of her friends and, as expected, my oldest son was quite disappointed when he realized he was not included in my teenager’s plans. Little did he know, I already had plans for him and his brother when all the girls were gone!

“Where are we going?” he asked, a bit disillusioned at having to escort me to run errands. “It’s a surprise,” I replied, my eyes twinkling with just enough mischief to bring a smile to his face. “A surprise? Really?!” It was hard for him to contain his excitement at this point. He wanted to ask questions, to figure out where we were going, yet he wanted it to stay a secret until the last possible moment.

When was the last time YOU were surprised by something fun and unexpected? For many of us, as we enter adulthood with all the stresses and responsibilities, we lose some of that childhood exhilaration for the unexpected. We are wary. On guard. Expecting a forced reciprocity, perhaps.

I think we simply need to be reminded that life is filled with joyful opportunities. 🙂

We turned into the shopping area and he knew. “I know where we are going! I know where we are going!” There was no mistaking his excitement as he turned to his brother and pointed out the window. “Look! Look! We’re going to Sweet Frog!”

For those of you who don’t have a Sweet Frog nearby, let me share for a moment how MUCH my children love this frozen yogurt shop. They have a dozen different flavors and four times as many toppings. It’s a haven for any sweet tooth and the perfect treat for a hot, summer day. We don’t get to visit often, which makes it an even sweeter treat when we do.

As I helped my boys fill their cups with frozen yogurt and choose their favorite toppings I suddenly, without warning, felt my eyes fill with tears. We were in the midst of making memories. There will come a day when my son prefers to hang out with his friends instead of his mom and not even the promise of frozen yogurt will change him back to being ten. I glanced sideways at my favorite redhead and simply took in the moment.

Sprinkles. Cookie crumbs. Gummies. Such small symbols of bliss, all cascading down a tower of soft, snow-colored peaks. And then it happened. I thought of Renee.

It’s been two weeks since her life here on earth ended, an unexpected passing for a 30 year old first grade teacher at my school. Oh, how she would love this moment! She adored being a surrogate mom to her students as well as a real mom to her three year old and baby on the way. I could almost hear the ring of her laughter as I watched my son put one too many gummies on top of his treat, only to have it fall to the floor. “Kids will be kids.” The whisper on my heart was so audible, I wouldn’t have been surprised to see Renee standing right beside me.

Oh, how I miss her smile.

So in that moment, I decided to do the only thing I could. I paid for our treats, then asked the cashier if I could also buy a gift card as a random act of kindness.

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“Please give this to a customer of your choice, maybe someone with a small child”, the picture of Renee’s daughter dancing in my mind. It wasn’t much, but maybe it would make a stranger smile. After all, we all need to be reminded of the power in unexpected joy.

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And as an extra RAK, I left my change in the tip jar. 🙂

We ended our visit with messy smiles and happy hearts. It was a wonderful day indeed. Maybe you might take time this week to surprise someone with joy! I promise it will bring you happiness as well.

Be blessed and pay it forward!

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For Random Act of Kindness #3, I honored the memory of Lauren Rousseau, a substitute teacher for Sandy Hook Elementary.  As an educator myself, I can appreciate the valuable service substitutes provide for occasions when the regular classroom teacher has to be absent from class.  Their job is one of the hardest in the educational system, in my opinion.  They have to be flexible, open-minded, quick on their feet, and deal with unexpected circumstances all day long.  With a humble heart, I decided to take the time and say “Thanks” to an unknown substitute teacher!

I decorated a coffee mug with a silver sharpie and filled it with chocolate “Bliss” candies.  I also included a Thank You note with the surprise.

IMG_4608(The mug says “Super Substitute” all the way around the outside.)

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I took my goodies to my son’s elementary school (on a dreary day filled with rain, so I KNEW this would bring a smile) and asked the secretary to deliver it to a substitute.  “ANY substitue?” she asked.  I smiled, explained my purpose, then added, “Yes… ANY substitute.  You get to pick!”   I then walked out of the office with a happy heart.

When was the last time someone thanked you for a job well done?  It’s something we do not hear often enough.  Today I am thankful for substitute teachers.  For Lauren.  For my cousin, Amy.  For my friends Becky, Kelleigh, Amy, Beth, Lea, Stephanie, and all the other amazing teachers who fill the shoes of others every day.  I am inspired by their tenacity and love for children.  I can only hope that the family of Lauren Rousseau will know just how special she was to the students and teachers at her school.

Be blessed my friends and keep paying it forward!


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