kindness activist

kindness activist

Monday, February 29, 2016

Locker Room Kindness

This story of kindness happened 11 days ago.  I have been wanting to write about it ever since, but it is a tough one to put out there, and I have not been able to bring myself to write about it.  It involves someone I love being on the RECEIVING END of an amazing kindness.  But before I can introduce you to the newest Kindness Activist, I have to tell you something I have not wanted to admit:  my big sister has breast cancer.


Sherry during less stressful times, checking out cherry blossoms when she was visiting us in DC
There are 3 sisters in our family – Sherry, Annette, and me (Susan).  Sherry is definitely the glue that holds the Thompson family together.  She is smart, loving, extremely organized, giving, and KIND.  In fact, she was one of the first Kindness Activists featured in this blog, because she is practically the definition of Kindness Activist.  In fact, if the dictionary ever decided to make “Kindness Activist” an official word, I would not be surprised if Sherry’s picture was what they used to illustrate the word.  To read the story of Sherry’s kindness (one of mannnnny she does) go here:  Sherry's Holiday Kindness

Here are the 3 sisters with our mom - Annette, Mom, me, Sherry (back in 2002)
So let’s put it out there – Sherry has breast cancer. 

She doesn’t have all the details yet.  She has had a biopsy, met with the surgeon, had an MRI today, and has a meeting with a plastic surgeon coming up.  Right now it is “wait for MRI results” time, then comes the treatment.  She doesn’t have a stage yet, doesn’t know for sure what next steps are, and isn’t sure what these next few months will involve.  It is obviously a very scary time for her.

Now let me introduce you to a GOOD part of this story.  Her real name is Heather, but we like to call her ANGEL. 

Sherry had her biopsy and was waiting for results.  They didn’t come as quickly as she had hoped (do they ever???) and when the call from the doctor finally came in, she was at the gym doing her early morning workout.  When the doctor asked if she had someone with her and if she was sitting down, that was a pretty good indicator that the news coming up was not going to be good…

She grabbed a pen and paper and scribbled down what the doctor was saying.  And when she hung up, she crumbled into a puddle on the locker room floor, crying.

Enter ANGEL.

Angel saw Sherry, a complete stranger, crying and came over to her.  She held her, comforted her, and talked to her.  ANGEL WAS THERE FOR HER.  Here is how Sherry described it:  “I have to tell you this story because it shows me that when I am without strength, God provides others to hold me up. I got the call from my doctor yesterday when I was at the gym. I quickly grabbed my phone, jumped off the treadmill, and went into the locker room.  I knew it wasn't good news when he asked if I had someone with me (no, I did not) and if I could sit down (I was too stunned to sit, but stood there).  He proceeded to tell me the biopsy showed I had breast cancer and he gave me a bunch of into to write down.  I somehow opened my combination lock, found a scrap of paper, and wrote the names and numbers he repeated for me.  When I hung up, I burst into tears and fell to my knees.  It was at this moment that a woman walked into the locker room.  She quickly walked over to me, asked if I was okay...  pretty obvious I wasn't, and threw her arms around me.  She held me as I sobbed there on the locker room floor.  She cried with me as I told her the news I had just received.  She stayed with me and softly reassured me that I could do this.  I had never met this woman, I don't know her name, but she was a gift from God to me yesterday.  I think I will call her Angel."  

Angel was there at just the right moment.  And she didn’t turn away, avert her eyes in embarrassment and leave my sister there alone.  She walked over, hugged her, and let her cry.  She even cried along!  And until I communicated with Angel, I hadn’t thought of what the whole situation must have looked like from her point of view.  She said, “I turned the corner to the locker room and saw her struggling to stand and she was sobbing.  I was just drawn to her, as she was clearly in distress.  I went to see how I could help, as anyone should when they witness another person in need. I was panicked at first, because I wasn’t sure what was going on.  After wrapping my arms around her and hearing her voice say to me, “I have cancer, my doctor just told me I have cancer,” I was overcome with emotion and cried with her.”


You know, I had an experience a few years ago in an airport where a stranger helped me when I was crying.  I was on a business trip and I got a call while on a layover saying that my dad had prostate cancer.  I walked up and down the halls of the airport in a daze, crying.  And one person, one business man, didn’t ignore me.  He was not put off by my tears, but instead gently approached me to ask what was wrong.  I cried harder and told him through tears that my dad had just been diagnosed with prostate cancer.  And I remember that stranger’s kindness, his sweet voice and his gentle words, reassuring me that it would be ok, that my dad could beat this, that this type of cancer wasn’t a horrible diagnosis.  He was right, my dad is still living.  And I have often thought of that kind man and wished I could thank him.

So I told Sherry, we MUST FIND ANGEL!  She is a true Kindness Activist, and needs a Kindness button to wear!!  I wrote a little note for Sherry to print and put up in the locker room, and she edited it to make it just perfect.  She printed it and hung it, and our “fishing expedition” started.  We were fishing for ANGEL!
This is the note Sherry hung in the locker room...  Let the fishing begin...
And it didn’t take long – Sherry found her!  First Sherry texted to say, “The note is missing!!”, but we were not sure if Angel had found it, or if the manager took it down.  But Angel found it!!!!  And she saw Sherry (at the gym) and came over to her!  Sherry later said something like, “I can’t believe I didn’t realize how TALL she was!” J. 

Angel (aka Heather) and her sweetheart.  Doesn't she just LOOK like an Angel???
When I told Angel how special her actions were, she humbly replied, “I feel so blessed to be called “Angel” but I am really no angel at all.  I just saw a person in need of support and was happy to be there.  It’s just the right thing to do.  J  I would hope anyone in my shoes would have done the same for her.”  I can tell you this much:  not everyone would.  It takes a kind person to be willing to comfort someone.

So Sherry has been able to thank Angel in person for being there at just the right moment and being so, so kind.  I would like to thank her, too.  I live quite a long plane ride away from the rest of my family, so being there at “just the right time” is difficult when it is not something planned in advance.  I feel bad that I wasn’t there to help Sherry through these difficult first steps on this journey, but I am very grateful that Angel was.  Angel told Sherry that she had thought a lot about her since they met in the locker room, had prayed for her and even cried for her.  And she told me that she has now been praying about ways that doctors can deliver this type of very difficult news in a more sensitive way.  She said, “I hope to help our hospitals adopt new best practices on ways of communicating unfavorable news to patients”.  Yes, the woman who was such an angel to my sister works in HEALTHCARE.  It is lovely. 


And Heather, I hope you don’t mind if we don’t use your given name.  To our family, you are Angel.  And you told me that you hope that Sherry felt some warmth and comfort from you – TRUST ME, she did.  
The 3 Thompson girls when we were a bit younger :)

If you are the praying type, prayers for Sherry are appreciated.  If you are the wishing on stars type, can your wish tonight be for her?  And if you are the “sending good vibes” type, send them her way please.  And if you are the commenting type, she is an avid reader of this blog and will read your messages.  However you can support her, she (and her sisters) appreciate it. 

This type of thing normally happens when the 3 of us get together, so if Sherry has to have chemo,
that hospital is gonna be a mess...
Thank you, Angel.  And LOVE YOU Sherry.


I can't resist one final photo - us with our mom again.  I am not sure why Sherry didn't have to wear a matching itchy plaid dress, but at least we all had the same gogo boots.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Cashier Kindness

Ever since I started the Kindness Activist project, friends have been sending me things they find online about KINDNESS.  It is lovely!  I really enjoy reading them, but have not featured any of the “forwarded” stories because one of the premises of the project is that I want to hear firsthand about the kindness.  I love hearing about a man who feeds homeless people or a lady who saves dolphins, but I want to be able to talk with the people involved, hear their story firsthand, and then officially name them a KINDNESS ACTIVIST by giving them a button!  I have tried to reach out to a couple of the people I read about online but haven’t heard back from them.

Recently another forwarded story was brought to my attention, and it was lovely.  As my friend said, it brought together two of my interests:  kindness and Trader Joe’s!  You may not know this, but in 2015 I did a big project where I reviewed one Trader Joe’s product every single day of the year.  (You can see it here:  Trader Joe's 365  ). 

Anyway, I thought I would try reaching out to the woman in the story, Alisen.  Well wouldn’t you know it, she REPLIED to my Facebook message!  J  I was so excited!  And she gave me permission to share her story of kindness received.  I also called the Trader Joe’s where this kindness happened and got lucky enough to talk to Elise, the kindness activist!!

Here is what happened from Alisen’s perspective:

It was just another random day and I needed some things from Trader Joe’s, so we went to the Antioch, California store. I was there with my son Hank, age 5 who has autism, and my son Andrew, age 2.  We also had a replacement aide named Hillary with us since Hank’s regular aide was on vacation.

Hank was not having a good day, having fallen at school.  When the shopping experience lead to sensory overload we headed for the check-out.  And that is where the cashier, Elise, showed such kindness to Hank.  She really was a genuinely nice person.  She talked to Hank and totally engaged him – taking him around to her side of the counter and teaching him how to ring groceries up.  He rang up our whole cart full of things!

Hank and Elise at work!  
It made me feel grateful to know that there are people out there that are still kind and care. No one had ever done anything like that for us before.  If I had to guess, I would say that I think it made the cashier feel proud. I think that she was such a nice person that she didn't think twice about what she was doing.  She gave both boys stickers when we were done, and when we got out to the car I cried.  She was so caring, she just wanted to help.

I just think that people should be kind in general because you never know what another person is going through. A simple smile or what seems like a small gesture can change anyone's day around for the better!  It sure did mine, and it did Hank's.  In fact, he now says that when he grows up he wants to be a Trader Joe's cashier.  J

Hank - calmed down, engaged, and happily doing his job
So that is Alisen’s side of the story, and now here is what Trader Joe’s employee Elise said about the experience (these are not direct quotes but a reconstruction of our phone conversation based on my hastily scribbled notes):

I am a mommy of 2 and kids are my passion.  I worked in a church nursery for 14 years.  I saw Hank had been crying and upset while they were in the store and his mom looked irritated and embarrassed.  I am the kind of cashier that always wants kids to come in my lane, so I was glad to get them.  I told Hank’s mom that he just needed something to do, a JOB.  And that is when I taught him how to check out the groceries.  Once he learned to do his job his whole demeanor changed!  He told me about school and his little brother in the shopping cart.

I really didn’t think anything of it.  I just try to make experiences special but you never really know if people notice.  The coolest thing is that I now work with the Junior High kids at church, and that night at church the sermon was about “Compassion” - having a heart of compassion.

Everyone today is so busy and rushed.  It would be good if we all just took a deep breath and thought about others.

Sometimes the “little things” are not “little”.


Isn’t that fabulous??  The cashier took time to connect, to be KIND, and it made all the difference.  And the story has gone viral, which I believe means that many people will read it and be inspired to BE KIND themselves. Elise, your KINDNESS ACTIVIST button is on the way!  Wear it with pride.

Your button (yours is orange though, not pink!) is on the way Elise

Here is a link to the original story on The Mighty about this kind experience that got my friend’s attention:  http://themighty.com/2016/02/trader-joes-employees-moment-of-kindness-moves-special-needs-mom-to-tears/


Do you know someone who is a KINDNESS ACTIVIST?  Have you received, given, or seen kindness?  Please tell me about it!  I would love to share more stories and inspire more kindness in the world.  Email me at:  kindnessactivist@gmail.com

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Monogrammed (Decades Old) Kindness

Beth Guest is a KIND person.  She just IS. She is one of those people who even have a kind SMILE.  See??

Beth and her main squeeze Tony.  Doesn't she have a KIND SMILE?
So recently I asked her if she would be willing to tell me about a kindness she had given, received, or seen.  To be honest, I expected her to tell me about some super kind thing that she had done.  But instead she surprised me with this utterly delightful, perfectly persevered in her memory kindness from her youth:

“This is of a story of a kindness that was shown to me in my childhood. 

When I was in 3rd grade, I took a class trip to the Kellogg factory. We boarded a big Greyhound bus and headed off to Kalamazoo Michigan, thrilled by the prospect of taste testing all that sugar cereal! The trip started out well, but I am prone to car sickness, and the jostling of the bus, mixed with the diesel fumes and the smell of the on board bathroom proved lethal to my stomach. I found myself feeling sick.


Beth, circa 1978-ish (note:  this is OUR Beth, the Beth telling the story, not Beth Patterson.  Oh this is getting confusing...)
Assigned to the seat next to me was a girl named Beth Patterson. Beth Patterson was a well-dressed, preppy girl, with long, perfectly straight, "Gee Your Hair Smells Terrific" kind of hair. She was the kind of girl who sported barrettes on either side of her head, you know, the fancy ones with ribbons that hung down. She was the type that looked effortlessly lovely and stylish all the time.

On the day of our class trip, Beth was dressed in a white turtleneck topped with a dark blue monogrammed sweater and tailored khaki slacks. To be honest, I was always jealous of her monogrammed sweaters, because I thought it must take so much care, foresight and money to get clothes inscribed with your own personal initials. It was so luxurious!  I didn't know her well, but she had always been a pleasant girl.

This is the type of monogrammed sweater that my lovely seatmate had.
(Editor's note:  this is obviously not Beth Patterson's ACTUAL monogrammed sweater.
Why would she wear a sweater with someone else's initials?  :) )
I tried to hide the fact that I was getting sick on that bus, but she noticed I was turning green. She asked me if I was ok, and I told her that I thought I was going to barf. I was starting to panic and I felt my stomach churn.  I looked around for something to hurl in. I was sitting next to a window, but it didn't open, and there was nothing around me but my own lap.  I knew I could never make it to the bathroom in the back of the bus. I was mortified and looked at my monogrammed seatmate in a panic.

Then Beth Patterson did something that I will never forget.  She performed an act of kindness and mercy that will go down as one of the kindest acts ever shown to me.

As she saw me begin to wretch into my lap, she pulled off that monogrammed sweater and cupped it in her hands like a bowl, and said "Here, use this."  My stunned eyes met her concerned face and she nodded. And so I did - I lost my cookies into that gorgeous monogrammed sweater.”

Isn’t that a KIND act??  That Beth Patterson was willing to sacrifice her beautiful sweater for her seatmate.

Really, what I love most about this story is Beth Guest’s DETAILED MEMORY of the experience.  Not only does she remember the sweater, but she remembers the pants, the barrettes, the whole ball of wax!!  J  I think that just proves how important KINDNESS is – that experience was over 30 years ago and she remembers that kindness like as yesterday.

Beth Guest and I both wish we could find Beth Patterson to see whatever became of her.  We know she married and at one point owned an RV, but not sure of much else.  If anyone out there reading this happens to know Beth Patterson, former monogrammed sweater wearer who went to 3rd grade at Waterford Village Elementary School in Waterford, Michigan, please comment here.  Also, tell her I need to contact her to make her an official KINDNESS ACTIVIST!!


Please take a moment to tell me about a kindness you have given, received, or seen.  You don’t have to go into detail, just shoot me an email at kindnessactivist@gmail.com and tell me about it briefly.  And make sure to “like” Kindness Activist on Facebook so you can read about more KINDNESS ACTIVISTS!

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Secret Shoveling Kindness

Recently in the piece called “Neighborly Kindness” I mentioned that some neighbors were shoveling sidewalks that were not in front of their house.  They were just randomly, secretly, KINDLY shoveling for people!!  Not asking for payment, not even knocking on the door and announcing their good deed, JUST SHOVELING. 

And this was no LIGHT SNOW they were shoveling either!  It was deep (around 3 feet total) and it was heavy!  So these neighbors were, in my humble opinion, going well above and beyond being “neighborly”.  They definitely crossed into the KINDNESS ACTIVIST category!

One neighbor whose walk they shoveled, Kia, figured out who was doing it.  I asked her to reveal the secret shovelers’ identifies to me, and she did.  Turns out it was a family that lives next door to her.  I walked down and saw them in action and asked if I could take their photo. 
Not only did they SHOVEL, they also SMILED!  They were having a blast.
THIS IS THE AMAZING SECRET SHOVELING FAMILY!!  Aren’t they fantastic??

The problem is, they speak Spanish, and I do not.  Of course, I know “gracias” so I did convey that to them.  But I wish I was fluent so I could tell them how awesomely kind their actions were.

You know the old saying, “A picture is worth a thousand words”??  I hope that is true, because I just framed a 5 x 7 print of the photo above to give to them.  I will walk down to their house to deliver it, plus their KINDNESS ACTIVIST buttons.  Hopefully a SMILE is worth a few words, too, because I imagine smiles will be exchanged.

There was a LOT of snow...
Kindness knows no linguistic boundaries. 
Tell me about kindness you have seen!  Send me an email at kindnessactivist@gmail.com .

Here is how deep it was in our yard (this is before it stopped snowing...).  That family shoveled a TON of snow!

Friday, February 19, 2016

Blanket Kindness

When you meet Jody and Gerard, you can tell they are COOL.  Like, super cool, neat people.  They are fun to talk with, smart, COOL!  Another thing they are is KIND. 
Gerard, Jody, and Baby Siobhan (baby #2 is now on the way!)
They have a tradition called a BLANKET PARTY.  Trying to imagine what that is?  Check it out:

“Every other year when we are in town for the winter holiday we host a BLANKET PARTY. We invite as many friends, family, and neighbors as we can to come over.  We ask them to bring a new blanket to the party.  We then collect all of the blankets and donate them to a homeless shelter.

Growing up my (Gerard's) parents hosted an annual blanket party. Originally they collected coats, but feedback they got from shelters was that coats only fit specific people, whereas anyone can use a blanket. The shelters also requested new blankets rather than hand me downs, not only for health/cleanliness reasons, but because people who are homeless like to have nice, new things too, not just hand me downs.  Also, when you think about it, threadbare old blankets just aren't as warm.

Teaching KINDNESS to their baby right from the get go

So, like I said, my parents started this tradition, but as they aged my wife and I started to take up the banner. We feel really good about hosting the blanket party. Instead of just being a party for the sake of a party, when you bring people together to do something for the benefit of others it has an entirely different vibe. Friends who are invited to the party but can't come often either send a blanket or donate one on their own.


We donate the blankets to a shelter (Community for Creative Nonviolence in DC).  The two people who accepted the donation at the shelter were of course friendly and a bit surprised by the volume of blankets.  I mean, maybe 34 blankets doesn't sound like a lot to you, but when you see them all together it is a significant cubic footage of blankets.  The women from the shelter are grateful, but there isn't any effusive thanks or anything, which is fine with me. We don't do it to evoke a sense of gratitude in others. The people who eventually get the blankets have no idea where they came from. 

A car full of NEW BLANKETS to donate!  I don't know, 34 blankets DOES sound like a lot to me!

We do it because I just think people should be warm if possible. Growing up, blankets (or "coeys" as we called them at my house) were a real source of comfort and relaxation. Everybody should have that.
We are going to keep hosting a Blanket Party every other year. We want our daughters to grow up seeing this and keep it going!  I would also love to inspire others to host their own blanket parties in other parts of the country. Without firsthand experience it's hard to catalyze people to get momentum.”
Gerard and Jody, I hope that reading your story about the BLANKET PARTIES inspires some other people to throw their own!  Let’s do it – BLANKET PARTIES all across the world!  J  Like Gerard said, everyone deserves to be warm.  A “coey” for every person!!  Thanks for sharing about your kindness activism.  I really do think it is inspirational. 
If you know of a kindness activist – be their kindness large or small – tell me about them.  Send me an email at:  kindnessactivist@gmail.com

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Smiling Kindness

The other evening my friend (and former co-worker) Margaret said this on the Kindness Activist Facebook page: 

“I live in a community of mostly retired people. Many of the residents in this area have lost a spouse, a child, a job, and some a best friend. I make it my mission to smile at them, give them hugs, call to check on them, or visit them. The joy they get from our interaction warms my heart and makes my day. Reaching out, listening and hugs are all free. Love it!
Doesn't Margaret have a great smile?  You can see why people love her!
I thought that was fabulous.  I mean, smiles and hugs are something we ALL have, don’t cost a dime to share, and are capable of making someone’s day infinitely better!!!  So I asked Margaret a bit more about her kindness activism, and here is what she told me.

“I embarked on these acts of kindness (listening, smiling, hugging, and interacting) because I started to see that many, many people were hurting and alone. I figured that I always love to see smiles and get hugs, so why not share some of them myself!

I try to make a connection with anyone that I notice that I think can benefit from my kindness.  And do you know what?  In the end, I always feel like I get more from it than they do!  But I often see that our interaction puts a spring in their step, and when we part they are smiling. 

There she is - stilllll smiling!
Some people tell me that I am the glue that keeps our family together and people gravitate to me. I think that is because of my actions and how I treat others.

I believe by sharing myself with others I help make their day better.  As I see it, this is a lifetime choice.  YES, I will continue to do this. I love to make people happy.”
THANK YOU MARGARET!  Just hearing about your outlook on interacting with others made me smile, and I didn’t even get your in-person hug!  If we are ever in the same place at the same time I will sure ask you for one.

How many people have YOU made eye contact with today?  Shared a smile with?  Or delivered a hug to??  All of those things are easy to give, they just take a watchful eye to find a receiver, a willing heart to share, and KINDNESS. 

Kindness Activism comes in all shapes and sizes.  It can be a big project, or a simple smile.  BE KIND.  Your kindness will inspire others to do the same.  If you have an example of kindness, please let me know.  Email me at kindnessactivist@gmail.com .

Monday, February 15, 2016

Warm Kindness

Last winter I started something I call “Project Warmth”. 

We live on a busy intersection, and a lot of people walk by our home.  Sometimes in the wintertime, when I am snuggled up inside our warm, cozy house, I see people walking by that look so cold.  I don’t feel like I can open the door and invite every stranger in for a cup of tea to warm up, but I CAN give them something to help protect them from the freezing weather.  So I do!

With this project, every day I put an item of WARMTH outside on our front gate.  Some days it is a hat.  Sometimes a scarf or mittens.  Sometimes I put out a coat or sweater.  They hang on our gate next to notes (one in English and one in Spanish) that tell passersby that if they are cold, they can take this item for free. 

Someone in our town is now sporting this pretty and WARM hat.
 

A sweater might not seem extravagant to you, but it is an extra layer of warmth for fight the winter cold.

Many of the hats, sweaters, etc. are items I have collected from Freecycle, an online sharing organization where people give away items they no longer need.  I put a “wanted” post on Freecycle a couple of years ago asking for winter gear and several people donated.  So I washed it all up and keep it in two big “homeless giveaway” bins.  Once, after someone saw Project Warmth on our gate, I even came home to find a bag of hats and scarves on our porch with this note from a neighbor I do not know:

Someone else got into the kindness act - she left me a bag full of warmth to pass around!
I love Project Warmth.  It makes me happy to imagine that I helped someone make their walk to the grocery store a bit more bearable.  Or a day laborer’s wait for work a bit less cold.  Or a homeless person’s night more humane. 
 
Signs in English - I change the "item" part depending on what I am giving away at the moment


 
Signs in Spanish, which a kind friend from Puerto Rico translated for me :)

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Sure, one scarf is not going to change the world.  But it MIGHT bring a smile to someone.  It might remind them that they are not alone.  And I believe it will add a little more WARMTH to their life, and a bit more happiness to mine, because I was able to share the warmth, and share the kindness.
 
Bringing a bit of warmth to my community, one stocking cap at a time.
Here is a piece I wrote about Project Warmth when it began:  Project Warmth

Do you know a Kindness Activist?  Maybe it is YOU, maybe it is a neighbor or your cousin.  Whoever it is and whatever they do that is kind, please let me know about them.  I would love to feature more KINDNESS ACTIVISTS here.  If people read about kindness that others do, they are inspired to go into the world and spread their own kindness!  Send me an email at:  kindnessactivist@gmail.com 
 
Now if you will excuse me, I have a scarf I need to go hang on our gate.  :)

Saturday, February 13, 2016

A Flood of Kindness

My friend Missy recently heard about my Kindness Activist project, and she immediately thought of one of her friends that she thought should be included.  “You have to write about Tiffany Taylor!!” she told me.  We then talked on Skype and she told me Tiffany’s story.  I think you will agree, Tiffany is indeed a Kindness Activist.  Here is what Missy told me:

In October 2015 there was a big flood in South Carolina.  It impacted many families, and Tiffany posted to a local Facebook page asking for specific items that some flood victims needed, like diapers, clothes, and supplies.  People agreed to donate the items, and Tiffany drove around to meet the donors and collect everything.  She then drove around a lot to deliver everything collected to those in need. 
Horrible flooding in South Carolina

Many people lost everything
Another example of her kindness was when she helped a local elderly man.  He had taken in a homeless person (an example of HIS kindness!) and then lost his mobile home to a fire.  Tiffany met with him in person to figure out what exactly he needed.  He said he would be perfectly fine with a used mobile home – he just needed a place with water and heat, no more.  So Tiffany set up a Go Fund Me page for him to help him, his pets, and the man he was assisting all get back on their feet. She checked in with him frequently and contacted electricians and other specialty type workers to assist this man. 

Tiffany also set up a community Facebook page.  Through it she can quickly reach out to 2,200+ members to let them know of things going on in our town, including if a crime is underway (such as a break-in, a suspect fleeing, or other suspicious activity.  This is a very valuable resource to our community.  She is also a crime watch informant.

As Missy said, “These things are only things that I have seen her do.  It is not a comprehensive list, I am sure she has done many more things that I am not aware of that are kind!  She is such a kind hearted person and I am sure that she will continue to do many more of these types of acts of kindness and helpfulness.”

So, when Missy explained all of that to me, I thought Tiffany rocked!!!  But then Missy told me (as Paul Harvey would say) the REST OF THE STORY.

Tiffany and her son Trey
“While Tiffany was so involved in crime watch, collecting and delivering items for flood victims, and raising money for someone else in need, unbeknownst to me she was self-employed and caring for 5 children!  Plus, her oldest son Trey (age 20) has had 13 brain surgeries since birth.  Four of his brain surgeries happened in three weeks’ time this winter.   She does not have medical insurance and is now facing huge medical bills.

Through all of that, she never once asked for help for herself.  She is all about helping OTHERS.  It is so inspiring."
Trey doing rehab

So, although this Kindness Activist project is not meant to advocate for any particular person or cause, I do want to share Tiffany’s Go Fund Me page with you.  She recently set it up (after Missy first told me her story) to try and cover some of the costs her son is incurring.   You can see it at https://www.gofundme.com/6tndw75g . If you would like to contact her you can do it on that page in the upper right-hand corner by clicking the email link.  And if you can spare a bit of money to help someone who typically helps others, I know she would appreciate it. 
Tiffany and Trey
Tiffany – thanks for being a Kindness Activist in your community.  You are appreciated.
If you know of a Kindness Activist, please tell me about them!  Shoot me an email at kindnessactivist@gmail.com .  Kindness SHARED will inspire others to go out into the world and be kind!

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Bicycle Kindness

Phoenix Bikes
I saw a post on Facebook written by A-SPAN – Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network.  It mentioned that Phoenix Bikes (which I had never heard of) had given a bike to A-SPAN client Mr. Johnson, who could now use those wheels to get himself to job interviews.  I was impressed that a bike shop would donate a bike and decided check it out.  What I found was not what I expected.

The gift of INDEPENDENCE - the ability to go to interviews and work!
First, there was ART.  Like, really cool ART.  Art made of bikes and bike parts. 

Before you even step foot inside - something is different...

Isn't this guy adorable?

Beautiful art against a blue sky. 
Then, there was COMMUNITY.  You could tell right when you walked into Phoenix Bikes that they are a community.  They were so welcoming!  And they seemed genuinely proud of the influence they have on the people whose lives they touch.  And they SHOULD BE PROUD!  I can’t believe that this gem of a place has been less than 2 miles from my house for almost a decade and I had never heard of them…

Phoenix Bikes in action
I thought Phoenix Bikes would be a BIKE SHOP.  You know, clean, fancy, rows and rows and spandex shorts, shiny helmets, and expensive water bottles for sale.  But I was wrong.

Now that I went in and looked around and talked to Maddie, the head of the Youth Program, I realize that the bike I read about them donating to A-SPAN was quite literally the tip of the iceberg.

Maddie at work
Phoenix Bikes is all about building a community and being a part of that community.  It is a non-profit bike shop.  People donate bikes (and get a tax deduction for doing so!) and Phoenix fixes them up and sells some of them.  And the profits from those sales go into doing fabulous things, like their YOUTH PROGRAM!

Any kids age 12 – 17 can go to Phoenix and learn to build a bike.  FOR FREE.  Like, no charge.  Isn’t that amazing???  Maddie told me that around 300 youth per year start that program (not all finish)  – learning all about bikes and what makes them work.  As part of the program, they make a GIVE-A-BIKE.  “Huh?  What’s a “give-a-bike”?” you may be wondering.  Well, a GIVE-A-BIKE IS A GREAT BIG BALL OF KINDNESS if you ask me!!

A give-a-bike is a bicycle put together by a young person and then donated to one these organizations:  A-SPAN, AFAC (Arlington Food Assistance Center), Alternative House, Linden Resources, OAR, or Phoenix House.  So you see, a GIVE-A-BIKE is what graced Mr. Johnson’s life (the man in the photo I had seen on Facebook, which started my curiosity about this bike shop!), giving him much needed transportation!  So some young person not only got to learn all about how to build and repair bikes, but they gave someone some much needed independence on wheels!!

A whole bunch of Earn-a-Bikes!
Once a youth has made their GIVE-A-BIKE, they can start building their EARN-A-BIKE!  Just like it sounds, the Earn-a-Bike is a bike they build for themselves!  They get to keep it.  AND THE WHOLE THING IS FREE.  It’s awesome! 

Phoenix Bikes also does some other cool stuff, like having “open shop night” the 1st Thursday of every month, where people can bring their bikes in and use the tools and equipment in the shop.  I mean, WHO DOES THAT?  Like, what bike shop says, “Here, come use our tools to fix your own bike.  You don’t need to pay us to repair it.”  J   And every 3rd Wednesday they host “All the Cycle Ladies” – a women’s only free bike repair workshop.  (I can only imagine the Beyonce music playing in the background during this workshop – all the cycle ladies, all the cycle ladies…)
Inside the shop


But if you DO want to pay someone to repair your bike, they will do it at a much cheaper price than a traditional bike shop.  They told me that a tune-up at a normal bike shop would cost around $130, PLUS parts.  But at Phoenix, they do tune-ups for just $76, and that includes $20 for parts!!  Now, some of the parts they put on might be used, but from what I could see they take great pride in their work and are going to make sure the bike you leave with is in tip top shape.

It is a small space (they are hoping for a larger one someday) with a small staff – 4 full time people and 1 part time. But they sure seem to have a great time working there!  It just looks like they are doing what they love. 
Paul working on a bike
Thanks, Phoenix Bikes, for being so KIND to the youth of our community.  And for teaching them not only bike repair and maintenance, but KINDNESS via your GIVE-A-BIKE program.  That is a lesson sure to stick with them throughout their lives.

Maddie and team, thanks for taking time to talk with me and letting me poke around your space a bit.  I enjoyed it!  If you live in the DC metro area, make sure you check out Phoenix Bikes.  And if you live somewhere else, see if you have a non-profit bike shop in your area! 

And, as always, if you receive, give, or see KINDNESS in action, please tell me about it!  I am always looking for more Kindness Activists.  Email me at:  kindnessactivist@gmail.com

Links to resources mentioned in this piece:
AFAC - https://www.afac.org/
Alternative House - https://thealternativehouse.org/
A-SPAN - http://www.a-span.org/
Linden Resources - http://www.linden.org/
OAR - http://www.oaronline.org/
Phoenix Bikes - http://www.phoenixbikes.org/
Phoenix House - http://www.phoenixhouse.org/

As if all the other amazing stuff they do isn't enough, they apparently teach kids to ride bikes, too.  :)