Thursday, July 18, 2024

Week 3: Sharing a Side of Smiles at Supper

Each week of this little Kindness Countdown project of mine over the years has been memorable, but there are a few that stay with me, long after they're complete. Last week was one of them. 

My boyfriend Mark and I, along with our friend Al, headed to the Denver Rescue Mission to work alongside a cook to finish preparing dinner, set up the two meal services, and clean the kitchen after. But it was so much more than that. 

We learned there are three professionally trained chefs employed at the Fort Collins location and each of them takes pride in preparing great tasting food for the homeless men who visit for breakfast and/or dinner each day utilizing the food donated or available to them at their local food banks. 

Keith, the chef we worked with that evening, told us they are in need of morning meal helpers, milk and egg donations, and anything else people are willing to give. He told us there are some regular meal patrons he has seen for long stretches of time, and others who are homeless temporarily due to economic/health issues. 

We were there for a couple of hours last Tuesday evening; the first dinner service saw 30 visitors before we closed up, cleaned and refreshed the tables and line, and then reopened the doors. Every single man we met was kind; they returned our smiles, thanked us for being there. One may commented, "You could probably be anywhere in the world tonight and you chose to be here. Thank you." That has echoed in my heart so many times...

As we loaded up their plates, we thanked homeless veterans for their service, smiled and laughed alongside the men while they were there. And when dinner service was complete, we watched the patrons work together to clean up the space and prepare it for the sleeping mats they'd roll out later that evening. 

Mark, Al, Keith and I had a great discussion as we prepared for dinner, discussing how precarious life can be, and how amazing it is to have resources to use when needed...and the importance of helping when you can. 

And we could. And so we did. And plan to do so again and again. 

May this find you in the "able to help" boat, and may you find a great local organization near you like the Denver Rescue Mission to share your fortunes. 

I promise you'll feel them grow tenfold with the effort. I know we did/do.

Monday, July 8, 2024

Week 2: Malt Across Many Miles

I've lived in the Milwaukee area my entire life; that's 49 years and counting in a place where beer is taken seriously. 

My dad has always enjoyed trying new breweries while I remember my grandparents having their faithful favorites. And although I'm more of a whiskey girl, I've never been known to turn down a beer with friends or family, enjoying them all because of the company. 

This week, I put in some effort, a little bit of money, and thousands of miles to help a couple of others enjoy time with their favorite people sipping some of their favorite beers. 

The idea for this week's act of kindness came to me a couple of months ago in my local Piggly Wiggly while talking to my friend/old neighbor about some of our favorite drinks. Being the liquor buyer for the store enables him to access just about everything he'd ever want, but for his favorite, available only in the Russian River Valley of California. Knowing my sweet boyfriend was taking me there for my birthday a handful of weeks later I asked him for more details. 

Fast forward to the end of June: I stopped in a couple of stores searching for Piney the Elder but quickly learned it was rarely available outside of their brewery, and so we drove an hour out of our way to visit Russian River Brewery to purchase some bottles of this beloved beer, along with some bubble envelopes to wrap them in to keep safe in my suitcase for the flight home. 

My pal Doug sure was excited to receive the surprise bottles this week, and I was so happy to be able to make it happen. And so I planned to do it again, utilizing those same bubble bottle holders to bring some of Wisconsin to Colorado.

Wisconsin's most sought-after beer outside of the state comes from New Glarus (specifically Spotted Cow and their seasonal fruit beers), and I quickly remembered a conversation with some employees at New Belgium Brewing in Fort Collins, Colorado when in town a couple months earlier. As a result, some bottles found their way into my suitcase last week when packing for a return trip. 

Mark and I stopped in over the weekend to make beer delivery #2. Being the 5th of July, it was busy, but we found Ramone just inside. I handed him the goods, he looked at me, smiled big and said, "You just made my day! Come with me!"

He escorted us to two seats at the small bar, told one of the bartenders to fulfill our order on him, and secured the New Glarus to the back room. Mark and I had a great visit, sipping a sour and cold beers on the hot day, eating from the food truck, and almost playing our traditional game of bags in their awesome outdoor space (like I said, it was busy). 

In summary, it was a fun week playing a Sudsy Santa of sorts. ;) I hope the beers become a part of some fun memories as the deliveries have for me. 

Wednesday, July 3, 2024

Week 1: Beginning at the Beach

Welcome back to the Kindness Countdown! Unlike previous years that saw me performing 40 acts of kindness over the 40 weeks leading up to my 40th birthday, and 45 RAoK as I counted down to age 45, this final round will contain two bonus projects: an entire year of activities (52 weeks) as I count down to my 50th birthday!

The other change I foresee t\his go-around is my children's involvement. Unlike the past two projects completed while I was homeschooling, my kids are all 10 years older now, two of them adults in college living out of the house. While they have all expressed interest in continuing to be a part of it, their involvement will be limited during the school year. 

However, along with their growth comes a sincere desire to help areas of their lives they see a need. I'm excited to work alongside them to do what we can in spaces that matter to them. Stay tuned for those activities, and in the meantime...

To kick things off, my three kids and I, armed with black garbage bags and handy dandy grabbers, headed to the beach in Milwaukee on June 30, my 49th birthday, to spend some time cleaning up the shoreline. 

We filled two garbage bags in about an hour with everything from bottle caps (so many bottle caps) to lone socks, balloons, plastic silverware, packages of edibles, remnants of fireworks, food packaging, personal hygiene items, and enough plastic straws to make a healthy bouquet. 

One man approached us on his way to a trashcan and asked "Are you guys picking up garage? Right on! Thanks!" He added his garbage to one of our bags and that's about the time my kids and I started to look around and noticed the lack of garbage cans near the beach. And so began the first of what I believe will be many discussions with my kids (two of them now voters) as a result of this little project of mine.

We contemplated how long it would take the beach to fill back up with garbage (not long was the consensus) and if it's worth doing things like this knowing it won't change the majority of people's practices (yes was the majority). And that led me to explain to the kids why I, someone who generally believes good deeds are best done in private, started this blog a decade ago. 

I have received a whole lot of messages from strangers over the past 10 years saying they happened upon my blog in a magazine or podcast and were looking for fun family activities as a way to give back, or were inspired by the simplicity of most of my ideas and were going to replicate them in their own community. 
Reminding my kids (and myself) of the ripple effects of Kindness Countdown, especially 5 years ago when it was features in People, Real Simple, Women's World, etc, encouraged me to keep going and see how far and wide I can project the idea that kindness is cool, areas of service are all around you, and you don't have to have a lot to make a big impact. 

Thanks for tuning in to this first week; I hope you follow along for the next 51! What a year this is gonna be!!