Monthly Archives: October 2013

Day 21: Treat our Firefighters with Donuts and Bagels

“The everyday kindness of the back roads more than makes up for the acts of greed in the headlines.” –Charles Kuralt

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Thankfully, I have never personally needed the assistance of our local fire department. But that doesn’t mean I don’t see the benefit in all that they do. Beyond just fighting fires, they respond to medical emergencies, provide support during a crisis, participate in community outreach programs, and serve as public figures representing strength, integrity, dedication, and general badassness. No wonder most little kids idolize them.

Something you may not know is that out of the 1,148,000 men and woman that serve as firefighters, about 812,000 are volunteers. Volunteers! That means they carry out all of the aforementioned duties for no compensation whatsoever. They put their lives at risk to help others because they believe it is the right thing to do. Because they believe in protecting the greater good. Talk about an act of kindness.

I wanted to show my gratitude for our local firefighters so I decided to stop by the station and surprise them with breakfast treats. First thing in the morning Oliver and I ran out and bought a dozen donuts from the grocery store; then we went to Panera where we purchased a dozen bagels and cream cheese. I wrote a note of thanks and attached it to the goodies.

When we arrived at the station everyone was in motion. I didn’t want to interrupt what might be an emergency response underway so I crept in the back and handed the treats to an employee sitting off to the side. He told everyone was busy running through a drill (phew no real emergency), and they would be very excited about the treats when they were finished. I thanked the man and left.

My random act of kindness may be small in comparison to the kindness these people extend everyday on the job, but it’s a start. To the men and women that give so much to the community, my sincerest thanks.

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Day 20: Pay For Others’ Movie Rentals

“You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.” –John Bunyan

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Before Oliver was born, Brad and I watched a couple movies each week. We’d curl up on the couch, pop some popcorn, and let the stresses of the day fall away. It was one our favorite, not to mention cheapest, ways to unwind. Since Oliver has made us a family of three movie nights have taken a turn. Now we curl up on the couch, pop some popcorn, and fall asleep mid-movie with the forgotten bag of popcorn still sitting in the microwave.

The joys of parenthood.

What’s great about our local video store, Family Video, is that almost all rentals are only $1. This helps alleviate a lot of the guilt when you return a movie before finding out how it ends. Like if the underdog sports team comes from behind to win it all. Or if the unlucky-in-love female lead ends up with quirky but lovable best friend. I’m still on the edge of my seat waiting to find out if Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan ever find love in You’ve Got Mail.

No spoilers!

In loving memory of our dearly departed movie nights, I went to Family Video and taped five $1 bills on five different movies: George of the Jungle, Titanic, Aliens, The Sound of Music, and X-Files Fight the Future. Clear winning picks if it were up to me. I hope whoever finds the dollars enjoys their free movie. But more than that I hope they have the stamina (or the necessary coffee) to see it to the end.

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Day 19: Leave Detergent and Quarters at the Laundromat

“Real generosity is doing something nice for someone who will never find out.” –Frank A. Clark

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For the last five years, I have had the luxury of doing laundry within the comforts of my apartment. No carting my clothes to the Laundromat. No rolls of quarters to keep the dryer going. And no sitting around, killing time until the buzzer goes off. It is a convenience I don’t take for granted.

When my husband and I lived in Philadelphia, I begrudgingly lugged a suitcase full of dirty clothes from our studio apartment down to the Laundromat two blocks away. To say I disliked this chore was an understatement. I loathed this chore. There’s something about sitting on a hard plastic chair watching underwear swirl around that makes my skin crawl. It’s my own version of nails on a chalkboard.

The one thing that could make laundry day even worse was when I left either my detergent or roll of quarters back at the apartment. (I know my life was so hard, right?) For this act of kindness, I wanted to make sure the next person that showed up at the Laundromat who forgot their stuff, would still be able to get their laundry done. I left a bottle of detergent and fabric softener sheets on the counter with a sign saying, “Need soap? Use me!” Then I put quarters into all the washers.

While I can’t open up my home to anyone and everyone who doesn’t have a washing machine and dryer of their own, I can make the trip to the Laundromat a little more enjoyable. Or at least a little less expensive.

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Kindness Continues

Just wanted to let everyone know that the 29 Random Acts of Kindness project has still been going on, I just got backed up on writing about the experiences. That’s what happens when you get sick, and then your toddler gets sick. There will be a bunch of updates tomorrow.

Thanks for checking in.

Day 18: Hand Out Scratch-Offs to Strangers

“A little thought and a little kindness are often worth more than a great deal of money.” –John Ruskin

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My Grandma Paula was your typical devout Catholic. She attended church every Sunday, loved Friday fish fries during Lent, and spent most Saturday nights down at the Bingo hall of the Holy Trinity Catholic Church. Among those three, I believe she secretly enjoyed Bingo the most. When I turned 18, my grandma was so thrilled that I could now go to bingo with her that she gifted me with bingo markers, a magnetic board wiper, and my own lucky cards. Every 18-year-olds dream gift.

This love of bingo extended to other games of chance. She’d diligently put her quarters down on the spinning wheel games at the church festival, buy the occasional lottery ticket, and on special occasions, surprise me with scratch-off tickets she purchased on her way over to babysit my sister and me.  We would sit down at the kitchen table together, pick out a lucky penny, and meticulous scratch off one area of the card at a time, letting the suspense build with each new number reveal.

I love my Grandma Paula and still miss her a lot, even though it’s been five years since she passed. I miss her goofy dancing. Her feel-better back rubs. Making perogies and kolachi during the holidays. The hours spent playing games. The way she always let me wear the Pretty Pretty Princess tiara even if I lost. The geometric designs she would cut my bologna and cheese slices into when I was young. She was a kind woman with a vibrant personality.

IMG_2200My mom recently gave me a roll of quarters that she found in her bedroom. She said Grandma had given it to her as a Birthday gift the year she passed away. This didn’t surprise me since my Grandma, who lost a lot of her memory but none of her spunk as she aged, frequently gifted people with random amounts of change in her later years. My mom told me to put it toward my random acts of kindness project because Grandma Paula would have like it.

When I got those $10 I immediately knew what I wanted to do with it. I went out and bought ten $1 scratch-offs to give away. I attached my RAOK print-out and a penny for scratching to each card. This afternoon my mom, Oliver, and I went to the mall to shop for a Birthday present. As we went from store to store I handed them out to the employees that approached us. They were usually confused at first until I explained it was a small random act of kindness.

I won’t ever know if any of those employees won, but that’s okay. Because win or lose, for a little while today I got to bring to life the kindness my Grandma shared with those around her every day of her life. And that’s always a win.

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Day 17: Surprise a Friend with Diapers and Cookies

“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single minute before starting to improve the world.” –Anne Frank

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It’s a known fact that there is nothing pleasant about diapers. They’re a pain to change, they almost always smell, one “value” box can set you back $40, and the second you put a clean one on your baby, he or she is guaranteed to poop. It’s some kind of Pavlovian baby response. I’m convinced if it weren’t for the cute, smiling baby they put on the outside of the box, no one would buy them.

For my friend J who recently had a baby, changing diapers has become a way of life. Barring moving in with her and becoming her personal nanny, I knew there wasn’t much I could do to help on the diapering front. But I could help alleviate some of the expense.

Now giving your friend diapers is not the most exciting gift in the world. I think it falls somewhere below weight-loss DVDs but slightly above feminine hygiene products in the race for the worst gift. But when it comes to a practical thing to give a new mom, they are the clear winner. Second place of course goes to food, which is why I made sure to include some freshly-baked chocolate chip cookies with the diapers.

I used this amazing recipe here. Okay don’t really click on that link; it’s just a picture of Nestle break-in-bake cookies. That was all my baking skills were up to today. But I don’t think J minded. She seemed genuinely excited about the cookies. She liked the diapers too, you know, as much as you can like something that only slightly beats out tampons as a good gift. The best part of this random act of kindness though, is that it was preceded by adult conversation and a relaxing walk in the park with our little guys.

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Day 16: Deliver treats to the Maternity Nurses

“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, and honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.” –Leo Buscagalia

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When you have a baby, most people are surprised by the fact that their primary doctor is not present throughout the whole labor. In fact, your primary doctor is often not present throughout much of the delivery. He or she shows up at the very end, catches the baby, hands it off to a nurse, and then deals with any serious complications that might arise.

Throughout my 23 hours of labor, my doctor was in the room with me for all of 30 minutes. The rest of the time, it was up to my husband and the nurses to keep me calm, keep my morale up, and fetch ice chips when I started to complain about how dry my mouth felt.

The nurses I worked with did a great job of treating me with respect and dignity. They did a great job of listening to my concerns and providing me with honest answers in a nonpatronizing tone. When I was tired and wanted to give up, they encouraged me to just hold on a little bit longer. When I desperately needed some sleep, they made feel less guilty about handing my newborn off for a few hours so I could get some rest.

These nurses are the unsung heroes of the hospital. They work long shifts, do the least desirable of tasks, and unlike the doctors who show up at only the most critical of moments, they are with their patients day-in and day-out. They deserve some praise.

When Oliver was born I never got a chance to properly thank all the nurses that assisted me. Since I’m a “better late than never” kind of person, I decided to use my random acts of kindness project as the perfect excuse to show them my appreciation. I heard through the grapevine that individually wrapped edible gifts are always a hit so in the spirit of the Halloween season I purchased a large bag of candy. I dumped it into a pail adorned with my RAOK sticker and then included a message of thanks. I figure sine they helped deliver my baby, the least I can do is deliver them a gift of gratitude.

I’d be interested to know if any nurses out there have seen this done and how it was received. Was candy a good choice? Comment below!

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Day 15: Tape Quarters to Gum Ball Machines

“Tenderness and kindness are not signs of weakness and despair, but manifestations of strength and resolution.” –Gibran

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Can I have a quarter? My mom heard this question on every single trip to the grocery store when I was kid. There was something about those bright neon gum balls that I couldn’t resist. Now, as an adult I still ask that question every time I walk past a gum ball machine. My poor husband.

I was feeling under the weather most of the day so I needed to pick a random act of kindness that was easy and didn’t require too much preparation. I decided I would head to the grocery store and tape quarters to all of the candy and prize machines and the claw games.

The grocery store is only about a two minute drive from our apartment. Taping quarters to the machines took all of three minutes. That’s a total of five minutes out of my day to do something nice for someone. Sometimes an act of kindness can be very simple.

While I was at the store I ran into a friend who knows about the project. She texted me later to let me know the cashiers and baggers were talking about the random act of kindness and how cool it was. Five minutes. That’s all it takes. Five minutes to do something kind. Five minutes to do something “cool.”

What’s even more exciting is that this friend shared with me that the people she knows who read my blog are doing there own version of the 29 Random Acts of Kindness project. When I set out to do this one of my goals was to be the first domino in a chain reaction of kindness. At only 15 days in I can already see this in motion. I can’t wait to see where 29 days takes me.

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Day 14: Give a Toys R’ Us Gift Card to an Unsuspecting Kid

“Being considerate of others will take your children further in life than any college degree.” –Marian Wright Edelman

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Toys R’ Us used to regularly air a commercial with the jingle “I don’t want to grow up cause baby if I did, I couldn’t be a Toys R’ Us kid.” That commercial made my 8-year-old self so sad.

“I’m never growing up”  I would ardently proclaim each time it came on. It was the same kind of declaration I made when my mom refused to watch cartoons with me because they were “for little kids.”

“Well when I’m adult I’m still going to want to watch Care Bears and My Little Ponies,” I’d say. Turns out I was wrong. Kids do grow up and all people’s interests change over time. But that doesn’t mean I don’t remember what it felt like to be a kid.

I distinctly remember one Birthday where my dad took me to Toys R’ Us and told me I could pick out whatever I wanted. I was ecstatic. Most Birthday gifts involved clothes: some new socks, a pair of jeans, a kitty cat sweater to pull the look together. This was my chance to pick out whatever I wanted. Oh the power I wielded.

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Today I wanted to give another kid that same opportunity by giving him or her a Toys R’ Us gift card. Oliver and I went to Toys R’ Us and started scoping out our possible recipients. When I told Brad about our adventure later he would kindly call this “creepy stalker-like behavior.” I saw a young girl admiring some of the dolls on display. She stopped to pick one up, but her dad continued onward down the isle beckoning her to keep walking. The girl looked sad as she set the doll down and moved on.

I walked up to the pair, briefly explained my 29 random acts of kindness project, and asked the dad if it was okay for the girl to have the card. He seemed confused and responded, “uh, okay?” I handed it over to her. He then followed up with, “it’s her Birthday tomorrow.”

“Well Happy Birthday then,” I told her. “Now you can buy yourself a Birthday present.” And with that Oliver and I walked away.

Unfortunately, I’m not made of money (oh goodness, I definitely am a grown-up), and I only had $10 to give, but I really hope she put it to good use. And not the adult version of “good use,” which would have meant diapers, food, car insurance payments, or some other equally boring necessity.  I mean I hope she purchased whatever toy she deemed to be the best, most fun thing to play with ever. The toy that is going to make her laugh. The toy that is going to make her the smile. The toy that is going to remind her what being a kid is all about.

Because no, I may not be a Toys R’ Us kid anymore, but today I tried my best to ensure that one little girl remains one for just a little while longer.

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Day 13: Support My Dad During the Detroit Marathon

“A warm smile is the universal language of kindness.” –Ward

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This past Sunday my dad woke up at 5am, laced up his running shoes, and ran 26.2 miles in the Detroit Marathon. This is an incredible accomplishment no matter who you are. For my dad, who was running his first marathon at 60-years-old, it was beyond incredible. The amount of dedication, determination, and physical and mental fortitude it takes to put in necessary months of training is inconceivable to most.

When my dad first got seriously into running a couple years ago, he was unsure whether or not he could cover a half-marathon distance. Using our persuasive powers (we went ahead and bought him a finisher’s t-shirt) my sister and I convinced our dad to sign up and complete his first half-marathon. After that he decided to sign up for another half with a faster time-goal. And then another. And then another. Each time with the goal of finishing faster than before.

When he finally took the plunge and signed up for the full-marathon I knew I had to be there to cheer him on. I also knew I wanted to be there at the finish line with a special surprise to commemorate the event. The day before the race, I drove the hour up to Detroit to buy him an official race jacket at the marathon expo. I didn’t want him to know what I was up to so I had to be super sneaky. Note my dad (burgundy sweater) in the creepy, stalker-like picture below. I accidentally ran into him at the expo, but thankfully he didn’t see me.

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The day of the race I couldn’t have been more proud of my dad. He ran a great race and finished in just over four hours, but that wasn’t what impressed me most. Here was a guy that decided, at age 60, he was going to attempt something most people wouldn’t even want to do in their 20s. Here was a guy that proved that if you channel all your energy into an endeavor, anything is possible.

Around mile 20 of the race, my dad got a bad cramp in his calf that kept him sidelined for a couple minutes. The idea that he might not be able to finish crossed his mind. But instead of wallowing in self-pity, he got up, stretched out his leg, and pushed on. It’s that stubborn persistence, that refusal to give-up that makes me the most proud. I presented my dad with the jacket following the race, and he proudly wore it home.

IMG_0563The next day, a small bag showed up on our doorstep. In it was a note of thanks and a gift for Brad and me. It was a random act of kindness returned, or as my dad called, a random act of gratitude. Kindness really is contagious.

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