Friday, October 31, 2014

Week 6: Give and Take

What kind of day are you having?  Are you motivated and full of life with extra patience to spare?  Or are you running on fumes and in need of some strength?  

Me?  I'm in the latter category today...I woke up to freezing temperatures in a messy house with bickering children and an impossible to-do list.  Sadly, "woe is me" was my first thought as my feet hit the floor.

After a stressful morning, I called an early afternoon meeting and told my kids we were going to use a do-over.  Do-overs are fantastic!, at any moment you can begin again.  If you snap at someone or overreact inappropriately, you simply need to proclaim "DO-OVER!" and go back to the moment you derailed.  The humor helps to diffuse the situation and everyone appreciates being forgiven...and having the opportunity to give forgiveness.  It's a win-win! 

And so, we all said good morning once again, pretending we just woke up.  And that's when I told my kids this week's Kindness Countdown activity:  Peppering our community with give and take flyers!

I came across this Take What You Need photo on Pinterest and thought it was spectacular!  I imagine I would have felt my load lighten if I had come across the flyer when feeling down and out and blue.

And then I thought about how nice it would be to have a similar What Will You Share? flyer hung next to it prompting people to share those gifts with others.  And so I created the flyers and we posted them around town.
The first place we went into had a sign posted next to the community board requesting individuals seek approval from the customer service counter prior to hanging up their notice.  We went to the desk as a formality (I couldn't imagine they'd say no to love, hope, understanding, faith, patience, courage, peace, freedom, passion, healing, strength and beauty) and I asked the girl if I could hang up the flyers.  She looked at them and said, "I don't really think so.  We only post flyers for upcoming events."  She then added, "Well, I suppose you could leave them for the manager to take a look at if you want."  I'm anxious to see if they end up getting posted...

I'm happy to report we received nothing but positive responses from the other locations we visited.  Some store owners even insisted we hang our signs in prime, visible locations.

I hope people will notice the flyers and smile, or if they desire, tear the gift they need most in that moment (or the compassion they wish to share with the world) and use it as a bookmark, tuck it in their wallet, or stick it on their computer screen as a reminder that someone somewhere care.

And I hope the give and take turns their day around...I know it did mine! 

"The more we give away, the more is given to us." - Dr. Wayne W. Dyer

Share the and print your own Take What You Need and What Will You Share? Kindness Countdown flyers to post in your community: 

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Week 5: Layaway No More

Months ago I sat down with a cup of coffee, a blank notebook, and an idea of what the Kindness Countdown could be.  As I started making a list of random acts of kindness I'd like to spread I thought about sharing the adventure with others.  It was a difficult decision, however, because I didn't want people to read about the experiences and think more of me...I wanted them to read about the experiences and think more about the good they could spread in their life, where they are.  Please keep that in mind as you read about this week's random act of kindness...

"Be a layaway angel" was near the top of my list back on that sunny June day.  I expected it to be my most valuable activity, both in price and in experience.  However, I failed to expect the degree in which it would affect me...and others in the vicinity as it all went down. 

The weather has changed a lot here in Wisconsin the past few weeks.  Even the Canadian geese are flying south.  It's time to dig out the winter coats, hats, gloves and boots...and buy replacements for items outgrown by my children over the summer months.  And while I'm in the position of needing to purchase items on sale, or with a powerful coupon code, I know there are people who find this time of year extremely difficult.  They've just gathered up the funds to purchase school supplies and now they are required to purchase these additional necessities....and all as the holidays approach.  And so I thought this would be a good time to lend a hand.

The kids and I headed to K-Mart this week where we waited in a very long line with a woman my age shopping with her mother.  I noticed the mother looked at little girl's boots, asking her daughter if one pair would be good for her granddaughter.  "They're cute," she replied, "but how much are they?"  Her mother brought them over and they talked about how she needed to have winter boots soon with frost showing up each morning this week.  And so they added them to their pile.  That's when I noticed the other items in their cart...primarily clothing for their precious daughter/granddaughter.

I stood there and thought "I came here to pay off a stranger's layaway account, but here is someone who needs my help now."  I approached the woman and timidly explained that I had come to the store that day with the intention of paying off someone's layaway account with children's items on it, and that if it was OK with her, I'd like to change the plan and buy the items in her cart.  She looked at meand said, "I appreciate it, but no thank you."  And then after a long pause she added, "Wait, can you say that again, I think I'm in shock."  And so I explained it to her again.  And then her mother hugged me.  And then she hugged me.  And then the older woman in line behind them hugged me. 

The woman behind the counter just stared at us as we moved the cart out of the que and let the woman behind her move forward.  As she pushed her cart ahead she said, "I'm just so happy to be a witness.  You always hear about bad things and here is a great one.  I have exercise class tomorrow morning and we always begin each class sharing positive things we've seen or heard.  You are going to be my story tomorrow morning.  I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving!"

As we walked towards the registers, we could hear people wishing each other a "Happy Thanksgiving" and "Merry Early Christmas."  It was impossible not to smile. 

We walked up to the register and together placed the children's boots, sweatshirts and jeans on the counter.  I then added the Frozen dining set in the cart and a pair of women's shoes, the only item she had picked out for herself.  She quickly said, "You don't have to do that."  I smiled and said, "Mothers deserve special things too."  And then we hugged again. And she promised she would pay it forward. 

What a blessing this experience was to my children and me...a reminder of how fortunate we are to "have enough and then just a little extra," as my son said when we got into the car.  And I felt honored to be able to lighten the load of that mother even if it was just for a moment.  It takes a village and I was pleased to be a part of hers today.

If you'd like to participate in a Layaway Angel program, please visit your local K-Mart or Walmart to help out struggling parents and those who need a bit of help making ends meet.  I've been told that  K-Mart employees are able to look up account specifics if you'd like to assist with children's clothes, food, school supplies, toys, etc., but that at Walmart, you simply specify a dollar amount and they will locate an account for you.  What a thrill it must be for the recipient to receive a telephone call explaining their balance has been paid in full!

Another option to keep in mind as Christmas and Hanukkah approaches is to visit Toys "R" Us which sets up a similar program for toy purchases.  What a gift it would be to bring smiles to the faces of parents trying to bring smiles to the faces of their children.  

"The best feeling you can ever have is to give to others." - Oprah

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Week 4: Furry Friends

I was born into a family with a dog, a white miniature poodle named Carmel.  She was my first friend and I was devastated when she parents say I would go outside and throw treats into the air, hoping to send them to her in Heaven. 

Soon after her passing my parents, brother and I got a black miniature poodle we named Kid.  She was my faithful companion through all adolescent joys and drama...sports teams made, my first boyfriend, my first broken heart, the passing of my grandparents, holidays and illnesses.  She was there for it all.  I missed a college final exam to go home to say goodbye to her (I had a compassionate professor who not only understood, but urged me to schedule test-taking time in his office later in the week).

The house seemed so empty when I came home from college that summer.  I called a family meeting and urged my parents to add another dog to our family.  My mom opened the paper and there we found an ad placed by a family that lived near my college town who had a little red poodle that needed a home.  Later that week I was in their kitchen meeting my new sister, Lacey...and the people who would become life-long friends...the kind that are more like family (xoxo, Cathy and Co!).

When searching for my first post-college apartment, I was sure to find one that allowed dogs.  Shortly after my now-husband, Aaron, and I talked about marriage, I had him go with me to pick out a wire fox terrier puppy we named Skone.  Skone was at our wedding and as our family grew, he happily greeted each of our children when they were brought home from the hospital...and could be found outside of their door during our naps.  He was such a good boy...and his passing was extra painful because it was the first time our children lost a loved one. 

A couple of months later we found ourselves parents to two puppies, Maude (a gray Schnauzer/Poodle mix a neighbor was selling when their dog had unplanned puppies) and George (a ginger Wire Fox Terrier rescued from southern Illinois).  For the record, I do not recommend adding two puppies to your family at once; good grief that was a difficult time.   I'm happy to report they are both about to turn 3 and are calming down...a little bit. 

Our pups have given our children an opportunity to practice responsibility and compassion, and have given the unconditional love only God and doG are capable of.  They give kisses to calm tantrums and keep secrets whispered in their furry ears.  They bound at the door when we come home and snuggle up at night.  And so, this week's Kindness Countdown activity is dedicated to dogs...both those we have loved and lost and those new to our hearts. (Please join me in welcoming my new sister, Molly, whom my parents adopted two weeks ago!) 

This week we had a family outing to purchase 44 pounds of dog food and six dog toys followed by a trip to our local Humane Society to donate them.  And of course we stayed for quite some time to love on the dogs, cats and other small animals up for adoption. 

If you're looking to add a pet to your family, I highly recommend visiting your local shelter or Humane Society or searching online to find a rescue animal that suits your family's needs (non-shedding, appropriate size, etc.).  If you're willing and able, there are also independent rescues around the country in need of foster parents for dogs and cats while forever homes are located.

I'd love to write more, but all of this talk about dogs has me in the mood for a pick up game of fetch.  Until next week...

"The one absolutely unselfish friend that man can have in this selfish world, the one that never deserts him, the one that never proves ungrateful or treacherous, is his dog. A man’s dog stands by him in prosperity and in poverty, in health and in sickness. He will sleep on the cold ground, where the wintry winds blow and the snow drives fiercely, if only he may be near his master’s side. He will kiss the hand that has no food to offer; he will lick the wounds and sores that come in encounter with the roughness of the world. He guards the sleep of his pauper master as if he were a prince. When all other friends desert, he remains. When riches take wing and reputation falls to pieces, he is as constant in his love as the sun in its journey through the heavens." - Senator George Vest, 1870

Friday, October 10, 2014

Week 3: Kindness is Free


We lost a very important member of our family this week and have been living a gypsy-esque life on the road.  Fortunately, the possibility for random acts of kindness are always at hand, and so I present to you, Week 3...the time we handed out handmade bracelets and pictures to residents at an assisted living facility.

Our family woke up early in a tiny motel room Wednesday morning with some free time for the kids and me as my husband went to meet with family at church.  The kids and I got in the car and drove to the office supply store (thank you Google Maps) for paper, markers, crayons and tape.  We spent a couple of hours preparing homemade goodies to take to the assisted living facility on our visit with my husband's grandmother, their Great (with a capital G) Grandma, later in  the day.  When all was said and done, we had a pile of pictures drawn (don't you just love the underground bugs drawing?!) and a healthy pile of rubber-band bracelets thanks to the trusty and toteable Rainbow Loom

Later in the day, we found our feisty 96 year old Grandma in the dining hall playing Sheepshead with a gorgeous group of ladies.  After we said our hellos, we asked Grandma's friends if they'd like a bracelet or picture.  "How much are they?" they asked in unison.  "They're free! We made them to give to you," we replied.

A bracelet was offered to everyone we passed on our way to Grandma's apartment and each and every person inquired about the price.  I'd like to know (but really, I hope I don't know anyone) who is going to assisted living facilities and selling things to people living on a fixed income...

Grandma's friends were so very happy to receive these gifts (women love accessories, no matter the age) and the kids and I couldn't have been more pleased to be a part of bringing the beautiful smiles to their faces!  And Grandma is thrilled to have a few extra bracelets and pictures to give away to some of her special friends we were unable to meet that day. 

This may not have been the random act of kindness we had planned for the week, but it was a great reminder that kindness can be found any where and at any time.  And that it should always be given away for FREE!

"At the right time, a kind word from a stranger or encouragement from a friend, can make all the difference in the world.  Kindness is free, but it's priceless." - Doe Zantamata

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Week 2: Cleaning Up Our Park

Just look at that park!  Such beauty and grace! Who would possibly want to litter in such a gorgeous setting?  A lot of people, apparently.  Which is why my children and I headed there for this week's Kindness Countdown activity.

In preparation for the 40 random acts of kindness I'll be completing over the coming weeks, I've been keeping a list of good deeds I'd like to complete.  My children asked to have "pick up litter" added to the list, so when I told them it was the activity for the week, they were thrilled.  When I told them it was happening today, they couldn't have been more excited..."Are we going to go pick up trash yet?" they asked every 15 minutes.  Seriously, you would have thought they were speaking in code and "pick up trash" translated to LEGOLAND.

We visit the park pictured here often, and have picked up the large pieces of litter we've spotted over the years, but today we equipped ourselves with plastic gloves, 13-gallon garbage bags and eagle eyes. 

My youngest and I worked together while my older two children teamed up as the litter-picking dynamic duo. Everything in our family is a competition and I learned today that picking up trash is not an exception.  I'm happy to report that it ended in a tie...but sad to report there was enough trash for both teams to fill their large garbage bag.

A highlight of this random act of kindness occurred while we were picking up a particularly dirty section of the park that housed a mound of cigarette butts (Sidenote: I called our Parks Department when we got home to request a garbage can be placed in the area...I was assured it would be there by the end of the week).  A man approached and said, "I hope you don't mind me saying, but I think it's really nice you and your kids are here doing this.  Thank you."  But wait, that wasn't the highlight...

After he passed, my almost 6 year old happily and nonchalantly stated, "Well, if we don't do it, who will?"  I couldn't have been prouder of her cheerful attitude and willingness to positively impact her community.  This week's kindness experience is a true trash to treasure tale! 

"Unless we are willing to encourage our children to reconnect with and appreciate the natural world, we can't expect them to help protect and care for it." - David Suzuki