Random Acts of Kindness: Surprise with a Note of Thanks

Random Act of Kindness

 

One of my favorite acts of random kindness is sending an unexpected basket from Edible Arrangements. While I love flowers, I love fruit more :-)

One year, I sent a basket to the compliance department at Scentsy, which is based here locally. The Scentsy employees had the unfortunate task of contacting consultants who were not adhering to corporate policies. I couldn’t imagine having to deal with that on a day to day basis, and the basket was a way to show appreciation, knowing that their work is important.

Another time, I sent a basket to a friend, whose daughter was hospitalized with a horrible respiratory infection. I knew that eating healthy foods was difficult in this situation but also important for this particular mom.

And today, I sent another to a group of people who I am sure work very hard, are often under-appreciated, but who make our literary world that much better.

Often I find myself surrounded by people whose jobs aren’t glorious, are sometimes messy, and sometimes even make others disappointed. But their roles are just as important, and they help keep order. Who do you know who may be under appreciated? What can you do tonight to reach out and say thanks?

I hope this finds you surrounded by peace and joy. And if not, let me know how I can help.

Gift of understanding

I fell to the floor, hysterical. In hindsight, it feels like an overreaction. You don’t really know how you are going to react, though, when you hear something so life changing. Cancer. Lymphoma. Stage Four. Fifty percent survival… at best.

My dad was on the other end of the phone. He had just spoken with the doctor who found the grapefruit-sized tumor in his abdomen and immediately called to tell us he’d be in surgery the following Monday.

My dad lived in Boise, a 2,000 mile plane ride with a layover in O’Hare between us. I was used to spending my summers there; I had been doing it since I was two. The summer after my freshman year of college was supposed to be one of the first where I stayed in one place, got to do what I had planned and wanted to. Instead, I would be on another plane, traveling across country again, hoping that this time wouldn’t be the last.

I’m kind of a take-charge, no bullshit, Type AAA person. Even though I was eighteen, I fell right into line, stepping in to coordinate my single dad’s treatment and care for the summer.

It was exhausting. My dad and I had a somewhat strained relationship as it was. Chemo and steroids and mortality looming did little to improve the underlying issues created when I was much, much younger.

The one thing I did have was hope. And humor. I researched my dad’s cancer to the point that doctors asked about my medical background. I questioned my dad’s oncologist when she seemed overly concerned about his lack of response to the treatment… I had read it could take several months (and as it turned out, I was right). When my dad’s hair started appearing around the house and I told him it was time to shave it, I bought hot pink and neon green hairspray and turned my OCD, attorney father into a punk. It might be one of the greatest memories he and I share.

There were many days still where I felt very alone. It is hard to understand the realities of being a caregiver until you are sitting in a hospital chair with a sleeping family member trying to figure out when you can go grocery shopping between chemo sessions, blood draws, and appointments with specialists.

On my birthday, one of the greatest moments of my 30 acts of kindness was taking flowers to the oncology floor and asking them to give them to someone having a particularly rough day. Today, I will take flowers not only for a patient but also a caregiver. Those are lonely days filled with fear. It is very easy to believe that no one understands. I hope that today there is at least one person who knows that someone does. And that they care.

30 Acts of Kindness

I turned 30 this year.

Thirty.

Unlike many of my peers (and those who have come before me), I’ve always been kind of excited for my thirties. My mom always said I was three going on thirty, so maybe I internalized it as my true age. It wasn’t like my twenties had been all that kind to me either: my dad’s cancer, a house fire, and neuro Lyme are enough to make one long for better days. And that’s what the dawning of a new decade was for me.

I thought a lot about my thirtieth birthday through time. I wanted to do something big, something special to bring in the decade that seemed to announce to the world that, twelve years later, you are actually now an adult (for me, an adult with a house, two dogs, a husband, and two young kids). What I planned for a decade was a trip to London and Scotland. While I had been to London when I was fifteen on a school trip, I wanted time to soak in the English culture. And I wanted to spend my birthday at Wimbledon.  I also wanted to travel the Scottish Highlands, hoping that Diana Gabaldon had not led me astray in my love of the Scottish heritage. And then they announced London as the host city for the 2012 Olympics, an event that would fall shortly after my birthday. And then I got pregnant. I didn’t want to travel abroad with a four month old, and I didn’t really want to be caught in the chaos that would be preparation for the Olympics (though I would love to go to those one day as well).

As it turned out, Dan’s brother planned his wedding for the week before the big 3-0. And he was getting married two hours from where I grew up in Virginia (across the country from where we lived and where his brother had grown up). The beach, rolling hills of Virginia, and D.C. were going to have to be an adequate substitute for Scotland. But still, I had no idea what I wanted to do to mark the birthday that I felt was one of the biggest in my life thus far.

My mom turned sixty two days before me. Thirty had been rough for her (though who could blame her since she was nine months pregnant), and sixty seemed to be another birthday milestone that reminded all of us that this life is short. We were together in Virginia, and I felt like there was a missed opportunity for embracing what should have been a celebration of her life thus far and all of the life left in front of her. I wanted to mark my birthday in a meaningful way, doing something that reflected both the struggles and triumphs of my first thirty years. Thirty acts of kindness was created. Thirty acts for thirty years.

I can honestly say that it was the best birthday I’ve had. I asked friends to participate as well, doing an act of kindness for others in lieu of gifts. What was amazing to me was that in being selfless, I found that others were actually more invested in my birthday. Instead of just the Facebook Happy Birthdays, I had messages of dinners made, Starbucks bought, neighbors called. What a gift!

As it turned out, the day was over before thirty acts were complete. But the day wasn’t about hitting a number, achieving a goal. It was about happiness and love. And the twenty+ acts I did perform were meaningful. I took Subway sandwiches to a fire station, honoring the firemen who go out of their way to protect us; I handed out $10 bills to random people, which was actually one of the most difficult acts, not because I had a hard time letting go of $10 but because it’s kind of awkward and outside the bounds of societal norms to hand people money, telling them to have a good day; I picked up shopping carts at Target. We posted messages along a walking trail; I brought flowers to a cancer wing at the hospital and asked them to give them to someone having a particularly hard day; I visited the mother of my oldest friend from preschool who lost her husband when I was in college and who I hadn’t seen in over a decade. I spent time with my husband; I treated myself. Kindness.

I’ve reflected a lot on that day, about how much joy was created in my life as a result. Christmas, too, is a time for kindness, for joy. I have complained in the past about how much I give to others, how much time I invest in finding the right gift (I truly love getting people the perfect gift). And yet, I never feel that time reciprocated. I get cheese puffs (we don’t eat cheese puffs), cash, and from others, nothing. So I decided to pare down my Christmas list, buying only a few things for a few family members, and instead focusing on others, those for whom I expect nothing in return. This year Christmas will be about investing in others, giving – but in a way that gives more meaning to the Christmas season to me. And in a way that brings me joy. I hope you will join me on the journey.