kindness activist

kindness activist

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Blue Kindness

This is a story of BLUE KINDNESS. 

Today was “National Hamburger Day”.  Of course it is a made-up holiday, but when you think about, what holiday isn’t??  My partner David got a very clever message from Smashburger (an awesome burger joint) that heralded the new holiday, and offered a buy one/get one free burger offer.  That was all the nudge we needed to head out for lunch.

We went to Smashburger in Alexandria, Virginia.  On our walk in, an older man stopped us and asked if we could spare any money for the homeless, and when I said, “No, sorry” he said, “I haven’t eaten in 4 days”.

And on we walked.

Of course, as we looked over the burger menu, my heart was heavy with guilt.  How could we eat TWO burgers when that man had NONE??  Sure, we didn’t know if he was being completely honest with us, but what does it matter really?  If a person is hard up enough to ask strangers for money or food I am of the opinion that if you can help them, you should. 

So, we ordered our two burgers, then added a third for the stranger outside.  Yeah, that sort of defeated the whole purpose of going out to get a free burger, but hey…

We went outside to sit at a table and wait for our order, and the man walked over to us as if he were going to ask for money again (perhaps he forgot he had already hit us up and we didn’t give).  Before he could talk, I said, “A burger is coming out for you soon”.  That seemed to make him happy, and he backed away a bit.  A guy gave him a buck, and he popped into the Starbucks next door.

Then a police car pulled up.  I figured they were just coming for coffee.  The homeless man came outside as the cops were ready to walk into Starbucks, and they said hi to him.  He immediately became defensive, to which the officer said, “Hey, it’s ok, I just said HELLO”…  That calmed him down, but it soon became clear that the cops were there on business, and the homeless man was the business.  They explained that Starbucks had called to report him and they were here to check up on the situation.

Alexandria Police vehicle (courtesy of the Alexandria PD Facebook page)
They started asking him a lot of questions, and from his response to them it seemed clear that he had gone through this type of thing before.  He didn’t argue with them and answered everything they asked.  He did get defensive at times, and the cops would gently calm him back down. 

So here’s the thing:  police officers often get a bad rap these days.  And yes, some of the things you hear and see on the news that happen between cops and citizens are horrible.  But seeing these two Alexandria, Virginia officers interact with this homeless man was such a good reminder of how helpful, respectful, and KIND police officers can be. 

The officers were just so genuine, so caring with him.  When he didn’t have an ID, they got his information verbally.  When he seemed offended that they would run his info to see if he had any warrants, they smiled and said they were just doing their job, and though they believed him, they needed to check.   When it started to rain, they walked him over to stand under an awning to keep dry.  One officer was inside talking to Starbucks employees while the other stood with the man, and he had calmed down so much and got so comfortable that I even heard him ask, “So, who do you think will win the NBA championship???”. 

It took a while to process everything, but every time during the interaction when he got agitated, they reminded him that they were not arresting him, that he wasn’t in trouble, but that Starbucks had called him in and they needed to check out the situation.

In the end, he got barred from Starbucks.  It looked like he had been barred from other places and he knew the drill.  He was ticked at the store, said they were lying about him.  And the officers were so sweet about it.  They didn’t side with the store, they just explained honestly that hey man, even if they are lying, it is their private business and they don’t want you in there, so don’t go in. 

The officers left, the burgers came, we gave him his, and off he went.  Not sure if we will ever see him again.  But I wish we could see those police officers again to thank them for doing their job with sincere respect and kindness.  They treated that man like an equal, and it was very impressive. 

Good on ya, Alexandria PD.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Belief In Kindness RESTORED

Here is a strange thing about kindness: sometimes the most UNKIND action can, in the end, lead to a KIND ACTION.  This happened to me a couple of months ago.

We live on a super busy street corner right outside Washington DC.  I sometimes have posters and signs up on our fence for passersby to see.  But twice, signs were stolen from our property.  Twice!  The first time I was mad, but the second time I was so angry!!  I mean, these signs were not offensive, they were not blocking anyone’s view, and they were MINE, and people STOLE THEM.  Some people tried to say they might have “blown away” (no), that someone might have “liked them so they took them to put up at their own house” (ummm, negative…) or that the county might have “taken them down” (NO).  When the second sign was stolen the jerks* who took it threw the metal sign holder down a few feet away on our sidewalk and left it there!  That is not something the county would do, or someone “borrowing” the sign to use in their own yard (and, by the way, who would do that??).)  No, this was clearly vandalism, and the fact that someone could be so callous as to rip-off signs about kindness honestly made me doubt my belief in kindness as a philosophy.

First this sign was stolen.  It was made by my brother-in-law shortly after
the election when we had a sign painting/dinner party.

This THIS sign was stolen.  It only hung a few days before someone was apparently so "offended"
by it that they ripped it down (link at bottom of post to order your own sign!)
To try and sort through my own feelings, and to loudly proclaim to the haters that they had not “won” this battle of the signs, I got the paint out and made a new sign:

My "kindness fighter", David, by the newest sign.  
Yes, in this one I announced to all passersby that vandals had taken my sign, but that I still believe in kindness.

It made me feel better to hang the new sign, and I wondered if the thieves would see it and rip it off, too.  It has been hanging for over a month now and has not been vandalized or stolen (yet). 

Making and displaying the new sign made me feel a little less violated.  And then something downright amazing happened that wholly restored my believe in the kindness of strangers.  I found THIS NOTE on my porch:

ISN'T THIS AN AMAZING ACT OF KINDNESS??
And with the note, was THIS SIGN!!

No matter where you are from, we're glad you're our neighbor
(link at the bottom of the post if you want to order a sign like this one!)
A complete stranger had seen my sign, stopped, and given me a brand new sign to hang!!!  ISN’T THAT SO KIND???

I called Jessica (she had put her phone number on the note) and we talked.  What a sweetheart!!!!  I asked if I could write about her kindness here, and she agreed.  Here is what she told me:

She had bought not one but TEN signs from a man who wants to cover the city in welcoming signs. She said, “I figured I'd buy extras and give them to friends. The divisiveness in the media and during the election (and after) was really getting to me because I could only imagine how it was making some of my neighbors and friends feel. I wanted to do whatever I could to reinforce that wasn't how I felt.”  What an awesome idea – buying signs for friends to share the kindness!!  I love it!!

This is Jessica- a kind, kind person!
Jessica told me that she had overestimated how many signs she needed to give to her friends, so she had an extra one sitting in her car.  I asked how I happened to be lucky enough to receive one of the signs, and I love how she explained what happened, “I was sitting in traffic southbound on your road, and the words EQUALITY and KINDNESS caught my eye. When I read the sign, I thought how shitty it was for someone to steal a sign, so I made a quick u turn and dropped off the sign. It felt like the right thing to do, and I figured the sign wasn't helping anything sitting in my car : ) .”  I was the only stranger she graced with a sign!  And let me tell you, I was most certainly a happy recipient!   

I asked her how it felt to leave the sign on my porch.  I mean, she didn’t know me, and I didn’t know her, and here she was writing me a note and giving me a gift.  She said, “I was a little nervous. That probably sounds silly, but with the current political climate, you never really know. I figured I was doing a good thing and the worst thing that would probably happen is someone would yell at me so I decided to go for it. I was a little sad when I drove back by and didn't see the sign up and hadn't heard, but knew what I had done was coming from the right place, so I had almost forgotten about it when you called me; it was a very nice surprise.”

(What she didn’t know about me is that I am very slow to get things done…  I am sorry I made you sad by not hanging the sign right away, Jessica!  Actually, I have been nervous to hang signs, afraid they would get stolen.  But I figured out a new system to hang them more securely now so they are harder to get off the fence.  😊.)

OK, one more twist to the story.  It turns out that a couple of weeks earlier I had actually PURCHASED the exact same sign that Jessica gave me.  I bought one when the local Unitarian Universalist Church (in Arlington, VA) sent a message out offering to place a bulk order if anyone wanted to purchase one.  So, I HAD ONE, but had been too scare to hang it lest it get stolen.  I explained that to Jessica on the phone and asked if she would rather I give the sign she gifted me back to her so that she could re-gift it, or if I should pass the kindness on to someone else.  She said I should give the sign away, and yesterday the perfect opportunity to do that presented itself!!!

I was out watering plants on the front porch when a very sweet young lady on a bike stopped in front of our house.  She introduced herself as Emma and told me that she bikes by our house often and loves our garden and our signs.  We talked a while and I could tell she was a very kind woman, a neighbor who I had never had the pleasure of meeting.  Since she liked our signs, I asked if she had one of the “welcome neighbor” signs in her own yard.  When she said she did not, I asked if she would like one, and her eyes lit up.  I gave her the extra sign that Jessica had given me, and off she biked toward home to put it in her yard.  And thus, the message of kindness and acceptance spread a few blocks further in this world.

The sign found a perfect home!
I.  Love.  Kindness. 

The whole premise of this project, Kindness Activist, is that hearing about/seeing/reading about kindness inspires others to be kind.  I truly believe that.  So, go out and spread some kindness today, won’t you.  And tell me about your kindness, so I can share you story!  Send me a message on Facebook (Kindness Activist) or shoot me an email at kindnessactivist@gmail.com .  I would love to hear more stories of kindness and pass them on in the world.


Thanks!

Bonus photo!  We swung by my new friend Emma's house and she ALREADY HUNG THE SIGN!
P.S.- If you would like to order a "In This House We Believe" sign like the one that was nicked from our fence, you can find them here:  Cafe Press sign link

P.P.S. - If you would like to order a "No matter where you are from" neighbor sign, you can find them at this link:  We're Glad That You're Our Neighbor signs

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Springtime Kindness

We live smack dab on a busy corner.  We have traffic pretty much 24/7 and people biking, jogging, and walking by a lot.  To some people this location might be a bit too noisy, too busy, and annoying.  To me, it is LOVELY!  I like to eat breakfast and look out the window to see people walking by.   I like to have dinner on the front porch on warm summer nights and see cars driving by (though the occasional fire truck that blares past the house can be a bit loud…).  In short, this is a great location for us.

Another reason that this corner of two busy streets works so well is that it means I can use our little piece of the world to SPREAD KINDNESS.  I often have what I call “front gate projects”, especially when spring and summer weather hit.  I have done front gate projects asking people to examine what Inspiration, Beauty, and Joy meant to them ( Inspiration, Beauty, and Joy link ), in winter I giveaway warm clothing ( Warm Kindness link ) and lots of other things.  I express creativity and kindness on our gate!  😊 

So, when the weather started warming up last week, I started planning my newest front gate project – PROJECT SPRING!!  I got some plastic Easter eggs through our local Buy Nothing group (Buy Nothing is a cool concept – the sharing economy.  Here is a link to a story about Buy Nothing - Washington Post Buy Nothing story link.  Check and see if there is a Buy Nothing group near you, and if there is not, set one up!!)  So anyway, with Buy Nothing, you list things that you have that you want to GIVE AWAY for free, and people contact you if they would like them.  Someone listed a big bag of plastic eggs to give away, and I picked them up.

Each egg has a ribbon on the top and TREATS inside!
I cleaned them, sorted them, and glued ribbons onto each of them.  Then started the FUN PART:  filling them!!  I put treats in each egg – candy, bubble gum, super balls, little toy cars, stickers, change, 1 egg was larger and I fit a little bottle of bubbles in there, and 2 of the eggs had dollar bills 😊.  Each egg also contained a little slip of paper wishing people a happy spring and telling them about Kindness Activist, so they can join in the movement!  I also made a sign to hang on the gate so people would understand that these eggs were for SHARING, not just for decoration.



Then I HUNG THEM UP!!  I tied them with ribbons carefully to the fence on the Saturday before Easter.  Oh, I should point out that I wanted to make sure that these eggs were not seen solely as gifts for those who celebrate EASTER.  I mean, the egg is traditionally a symbol for Easter, but I have Muslim neighbors, Jewish neighbors, and I am sure many who do not have any connection to a religion.  So when I posted about the project to my local neighborhood Facebook group and to the Buy Nothing group, I explained that the eggs were for all ages and all beliefs – they are to celebrate spring time!!
Pick an egg, any egg
Celebrate SPRING!
















It has been so sweet seeing people come and get eggs!!  The first 2 people I saw stop were teenage girls, and they were excited to get involved!   I have seen families come by and get eggs, couples, and kids.  Everyone left with an egg in their hand and a smile on their face.

Kindness can be super easy to spread.  It just takes an bit of inspiration, an idea, and in my case, a front gate.

HAPPY SPRING.  May the sunshine inspire you to spread kindness.  


(You can follow Kindness Activist on Twitter at @KindActivist and on Facebook at Kindness Activist  

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Stuffed Animal Kindness

I parked at Ikea this sunny afternoon and was surprised to find THIS on my walk into the store:

A MONKEY ON A CAR!!!
A vehicle with a STUFFED MONKEY on the side mirror.  Isn’t it fabulous??? 

It made me smile.  It made me curious.  It made me so happy!  And it made me wonder…  How did that monkey GET there???  Did someone see it outside the vehicle on the ground and think the people dropped it getting out, so “returned” it??  Did the owners always put a little monkey on their mirror when they went in places, maybe making it easier to find their car later??  Or did someone GIFT it to the people from the car, put it on there while the car owners were in Ikea shopping????  That was the theory I went with – a GIFT!

But then, of course, my mind started wondering MORE…  Who gifted it??  And WHY?  Was it maybe an inside joke between friends?  Was it a gift between lovers??  Or did a complete stranger just decide, “I am going to give these people this adorable stuffed monkey!”???  Such a MYSTERY!

But since I was the one that saw it, and since I got to do the pondering about it and enjoy it, I decided on this theory:

A complete stranger bought this brand new cute stuffed monkey.  They bought it for the sole purpose of surprising a stranger with it, and today was the day! 

And then I became inspired… 

You know, the whole premise behind the Kindness Activist project is this:  if we see kindness in action, if we receive it or are told about it, we in turn are inspired to BE KIND – to go out and spread more kindness in the world ourselves. 

SO THAT IS JUST WHAT I DID!!!  I got everything I had come to get at Ikea (and then some, because that is what always happens at Ikea…).  Then I headed for the children’s section to check out the stuffed animals.  To my surprise, the monkey from the parking lot was NOT being sold at Ikea.  But there WERE lots of other stuffed things to choose from!  (Side note: I often look at Ikea’s stuffed toy collection, and it is bizarre…  I don’t know if you have checked it out before, but they have strange stuff!!  For years they have had a stuffed red heart with ARMS – why it has arms I am not sure – but that one is on clearance now (so if you are really hankering for a heart with arms better rush to Ikea soon…).  They have, I am not making this up, STUFFED VEGETABLES.  Today I saw stuffed BROCCOLI.  I like broccoli as much as the next guy, but I don’t think if I was a kid I would want to PLAY WITH IT.  And they have these little stuffed RATS.  I have always thought they were gross and wondered WHO in the world buys them.  Today I found out – 7 year old boys seem to think they are amazing!  “Mom, look, a little stuffed RAT!”.  Ewwww.

Anyway, I narrowed it down to a stuffed bunny and a stuffed panda.  In the end, the panda won out.  I checked out, put my purchases in my car, and set off with the panda to find the perfect car to put it on!! 

The Ikea parking lot is crowded on the weekends,
so there were loads of cars to choose from
I decided I would choose a car with a car seat in it, because not all adults dig stuff animals but I THINK all kids car seat size do.  So I found this car, and I put the panda on it:

Panda hiding on unsuspecting car...
Doesn’t it look cute??? 

Cute little panda butt
I watched as a couple of people walked back to their cars in the area, but they weren’t the owners of the “lucky car”, so I left.  I put a Kindness Activist card with the bear, so the people who find it would know it was done in kindness and wasn’t, like, some skanky old bear with poison on it or something 😊.  So maybe they will find it and send me a photo, who knows.

What I do know is that was $4.99 well spent.  It was fun picking it out, fun choosing which car to put it on, and fun imagining the people’s surprise when they found it. 

Thanks for inspiring me, stuffed monkey giver

And maybe reading this has inspired YOU to do something kind for a stranger on a sunny spring day.  I hope so!


(You can follow Kindness Activist on Twitter @KindActivist and on Facebook at Kindness Activist)

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Books - WE DID IT

My friends, we did it.

I asked for your help, your kindness, and you overwhelmingly responded.  It was the perfect reminder to me that, as Helen Keller said, “Alone, I can do so little.  Together, we can do so much.”

When I heard that the Reading Coach at Gomez Heritage Elementary School, Tanya Becker, had died suddenly at only 48 years old, it moved me.  And as I saw her co-workers, mostly my sister Sherry, grieve for the tremendous loss, I decided that I wanted to do something.  But in situations like that, what is there to DO, right?  Send a card, maybe bake a casserole… Those types of situations feel so overwhelming that it seems like nothing can be done.

Gomez Heritage Elementary School
Maybe it was because I was taking serious painkillers for a surgery I had just had, but I thought of an idea: COLLECT ENOUGH DONATED BOOKS TO GIVE ONE TO EVERY CHILD AND STAFF MEMBER AT TANYA’S SCHOOL.  Reading was her mission, and by giving everyone a book, we could help carry that mission on!

Tanya Becker, an inspirational woman
So I texted my sister and asked if she thought the idea would be a respectful way to honor Tanya and if the school would allow me to do it.  She thought it sounded great, so a plan had been born. 

Only, in my drugged up post-surgery state, I hadn’t considered EVERYTHING…  Most blatantly, I hadn’t asked the critical question, “How many books/people are we talking about here?”.   And now that the project is done and we have succeeded, I guess I am glad I didn’t ask for numbers in the beginning, because hearing the answer – a little over 1,000 books needed to be collected in only one month – might have scared me away!!

I set about DOING.  I looked through my own bookshelves for books in good shape that I could donate.  But the most important thing I did was to write a blog piece that explained the mission, the project.  I posted it, and it started to spread.  People read it.  People contacted me.  People shared the post.  And it grew, oh boy did it grow!!  To date well over 4,000 people have read it!  You can see the original story here:  Your Kindness Needed post

Then, the most beautiful thing happened -  people got involved.  I got emails from so many kind-hearted souls wanting to pitch in!  I was honored to hear from some of Tanya’s family members, sorority sisters, and former classmates and students.  Her co-workers at Gomez contacted me.  Schools contacted me.  Offices pitched in.  Facebook groups of KIND PEOPLE shared and donated. People from all over the country were eager to help out, many (like me) who had never had the good fortune of meeting Tanya.

Books starting arriving.
And they just KEPT ON COMING!


Kemper and Tallis with just a few of the
donated books at their house!

















And before long, the books and gift cards started arriving.  It was fabulous!!  We set up 4 drop off points: my house in Arlington, VA for my neighbors who had read the story, my 2 sister’s houses, and my niece’s house (all in the Omaha area).  About a week after I wrote about the project, my phone started buzzing.  Things were arriving every single day!!  One sister would text and say, “A box of books from this person was on my porch when I got home from work!”.  The other sister would text and say, “The UPS man brought another box of brand new books!!”.  My niece would text and say, “My friends all chipped in – we have lots more books!!”. 
This one was great -
Sam I Am becomes Juan Ramon in the Spanish version!
Dr. Seuss books arrived!
We got "Goodnight iPad"


"Goodnight Moon", too




Authors like Mary Amato sent autographed books!
You guys, seeing people getting involved was so inspiring!  Our goal of 1,000 books seemed huge, but as more people pitched it, it began to look more and more doable.  Even AUTHORS donated and were gracious enough to autograph their books!!  A non-profit group in Omaha offered to help us meet our goal if we needed assistance.  And one retired teacher in Omaha donated her WHOLE COLLECTION of books that she had used in the classroom for years – boxes and boxes and boxes of books!  It was amazing!

Mrs. Rohwer's husband delivered her entire collection of classroom books!


A very special in-person book deliver from Mrs. Becker's family 
You might recognize Kindness Activist Brenda,
seen here delivering books she and her
office mates collected!




















Author/Editor Megan Scribner autographing two very special books to donate
We got books of every type you can imagine.  We got:  paperbacks, hard covers, Spanish, picture books, adult books, kid books, books of literally every size, shape, and topic imaginable!!!!  And I had some stickers designed to put inside the front covers of each book to remind the recipients how much Mrs. Becker loved them, and of the importance of continuing to READ!

This was the image on the stickers - Mrs. Becker often made her hands into this heart shape
As books continued to pour in, I realized I had to go to Omaha for the delivery.  I mean, the whole project was so inspiring and it was growing by leaps and bounds, so I didn’t want to miss the big delivery day!  I booked a ticket on Southwest Airlines, knowing that they allow for 2 free checked bags and anticipating I would use that allowance to haul BOOKS! 

I flew to Omaha (with 98.5 lbs of luggage, most of which was books!) a few days before the “giveaway” day and we set about ORGANIZING.  We needed 1,000 books, but we got FAR, FAR more than that!!  We ended up getting over 5,000 books!!!  Yes, FIVE TIMES the amount we asked for!!  We didn’t even have to contact the non-profit who was our “back-up” in case we didn’t meet the goal.  It was so inspiritng!!!  It was also exhausting, and took a houseful of family members hours and hours to organize. 

Annette, going through a box of donations

Even the school PRINCIPAL, Mr. Campin, helped out!

At the end of the organizing party - whew there were LOTS of books (this picture only shows a fraction of them!)

Stickers getting ready to be put in
Because we had so many books, it allowed us to not only give a book to each Gomez person, but to help stock a reading area at the school that the PTO Is planning in Mrs. Becker’s memory, and ALSO to help some brand new teachers at the school start their very own classroom libraries!  We know that Tanya would have been thrilled to help with that. 

My sister Sherry and I filmed a piece to be shown on the school news the morning of the giveaway so that each classroom would understand the project.  We wanted to be honest without being too sad, and to speak to the students on their level.  We decided to end the piece by reading a book called, “The Goodbye Book” by Todd Parr, a children’s author that I love.  Let me just say this; we had to practice a few times before filming to make sure we could get through the book without crying too hard.  You can see the Gomez video here: Gomez TV Mrs. Becker story (scroll down until you see us in yellow and blue t-shirts).

The day of the giveaway was overwhelming.  Students and staff were SO APPRECIATIVE.  

We began by displaying the adult books in a teacher work room, and also putting up a shadow box we had made in Tanya’s memory.  As soon as the books were out, teachers and staff began coming in and looking through them.  It was terrific.   

Shadow Box for Gomez

Adult books ready for staff to peruse!
We had pre-sorted the books separated into reading levels, so when the bell rang and school started we were ready to go!  My sisters and I each had a decorated cart piled high with books for the grade level we were going to visit, and off we went!!  We started with the itty bitties, and boy was it beautiful!!

Would anyone like a BOOK??  :)
In each classroom I explained why I was there and then laid far more books than were needed on a rug.  We wanted to make sure that not only did students get a book, but they had a CHOICE in their book.  They.  Loved.  It.  Some kids literally squealed with delight at the idea of getting their very own book to bring home with them!!!  I heard this phrase often throughout the day, “But there are soooo many books, too many to choose!!!!!”  One little boy described the rug full of books to choose from as a “BOOK VOLCANO”!!!!  And one child in a second grade classroom that Sherry visited proclaimed that the book he was given was his very first ever book to keep.  Imagine!! 

The book hand-out crew
We got so many hugs, so many thank you s, and some tears from teachers.  But most of all, we got LOVE.  It was clear that this day of giving, this day of books, meant far more than words on paper.  It was a day to remember Tanya, to celebrate her life and her mission, to grieve. 

So friends, THANK YOU.  Thanks to those who sent books, donations, or gift cards.  Thanks to those who sent encouraging words.  Thanks to those who believed we could do it!  WE DID IT!!!!!!

Special thanks to the on-the-scene helpers:  Sherry, Jim, Annette, Jordan, Zach, Ashlee (who also helped at Gomez), Kemper, Tallis, and Ryker

Lessons learned from this humongous act of kindness:

·         If you ask for help, you are likely to get it
·         In times of sorrow, people want to help but are not sure how to.  If you give them something concrete to do, they appreciate it.  They have a way to help, and their actions make the world a better place.
·         Children are very appreciative.
·         There are plenty of kind people in the world.
·         Don’t be afraid to set a lofty goal – because you just might reach it.

That’s a wrap!  We do not need any more donations, so if you have books to give, please consider donating them to another charity. 


Thanks for being SO KIND.

The end of a very long, very beautiful, VERY SPECIAL day.  There are signs all around the school that proclaim their values, but I didn't notice the one on the door behind us until now:  GRATITUDE.
Yes, gratitude that such a wonderful lady touched so many lives and brought so much love to the world.
Tanya Becker, you are missed.  

Saturday, February 25, 2017

YOUR Kindness Needed Now - Please Help Keep A Reading Mission Going

There are times in everyone’s life that are hard.  Difficult periods.  Rough patches.  And this is most certainly that time for the students, faculty and staff of Gomez Heritage Elementary School in Omaha, Nebraska. 

My sister Sherry is a para at Gomez.  It is an amazing school, full of kids who come from homes with very hard working families, many of whom have immigrated to the United States. They come from homes filled with hope and full of love.  The majority of the students do not speak in English at home.  School is a place where they not only learn subjects like math and art, but they also work hard to develop English as a second language.    

Gomez Heritage Elementary School
Gomez Elementary is FULL of caring, inspirational teachers and staff.  The adults at the school work very hard and are deeply committed to the children they work with.  They see the big difference they are making in the lives of these kids, and that gives them strength to continue through the tough times, like this week.

One of their own suddenly passed away.

Tanya Becker
Tanya Becker, the literacy coach at Gomez, was only 48 years old when she died in her sleep.  I can’t imagine how hard the loss must be for her children, her family, and her students.  She was a beloved teacher at the school, and touched the lives of many students and parents during her nine years working there.

My sister Sherry was understandably upset.  She explained how Tanya was the “sunshine” of the school.  She met the children at the front door when they arrived at Gomez every morning.  She often put her hands into a heart shape on her chest to show the kids how much she loved them.  And it was Tanya who rallied everyone at Gomez to become “Team Sherry” and help her get thru treatment when Sherry was diagnosed with breast cancer last year.   

Tanya and Sherry.  Team Sherry had her back all through treatment.
At times like this it is often difficult to know what to do or say – how to help.  I would like to ask for YOUR ASSISTANCE to do something to keep the mission of Mrs. Becker going, to remind her students of the importance of READING.  In honor of their reading coach, I would like to make sure each and every Gomez student has a new book to read.  I will place stickers in each book reminding them how loved they were by Mrs. Becker and how important it is to continue her mission of reading.    

Can you please help me out with this massive goal?  Gomez serves children pre-K – 4th grade.  We need 875 books for students, and 140 adult books for faculty and staff, who miss their colleague dearly.  Can you donate a few new (or gently used) books to this cause, or perhaps a gift card to a book store we can use to get enough books?  Is your child ordering through Scholastic at school and willing to share a couple of books with some “new friends” in Omaha?  Can you share this request for help with your circle of friends and family to get the word out??  I would be very appreciative of any help you can give. 

Please email me at:  kindnessactivist@gmail.com (email link here )  for a mailing address to send books or gift cards to.  If you are local to the DC metro area I will happily come to you to pick up whatever you can donate.  I hope to have all books collected and ready to hand out to the students by March 26, 2017. 

Tanya's "signature move" with the kids - hands of love
Here are some links to online ordering resources:


Again, please share this request with others.  The more people willing to pitch in and donate, the sooner those kids will have books honoring Mrs. Becker in their hands.  THANK YOU for reading, for caring, and for helping.

Here is the Gomez website:  Gomez Heritage Elementary School

If you would like a flyer to hang in your workplace, school, or place of worship to help bring in more donations, I have a flyer you can print.  This site will not let me attach files, so please email me at kindnessactivist@gmail.com and I will send you the flyer.  
  
The following is Tanya Becker’s obituary from the Omaha World Herald newspaper:

Beloved Gomez Heritage teacher Tanya Becker was devoted to increasing literacy, 'called everyone friend'
By Marcella Mercer / World-Herald staff writer
Feb 23, 2017 

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Tanya Becker’s office at Gomez Heritage Elementary is a testament to her teaching.

The South Omaha school’s principal, John Campin, said the room is full of notes from students thanking their literacy coach. Sometimes, there’d be messages like “We love you Mrs. Becker” or “Thanks for teaching me how to read,” on her whiteboard.

Becker died unexpectedly in her sleep Monday. She was 48. The cause of death is unknown, said Tanya Becker’s father-in-law, Neil Becker.

Tanya Becker was born in Omaha and lived in the city most of her life. She left the area briefly to earn her bachelor’s degree at the University of Nebraska at Kearney, and two master’s degrees followed, in literacy and academic leadership.

Becker used her education to further that of others, her father-in-law said. For 25 years, she taught at Omaha Public Schools and also served for some time as an adjunct professor at Concordia University in Seward. Then in 2009, she landed at Gomez-Heritage.

Her focus there was increasing literacy in a school where 58 percent of students learn English as their second language. It was a role she tackled with monthly reading nights, coaching for teachers on literacy strategies, and one-on-one work with students.

On top of these responsibilities, Becker organized literacy groups for her students’ parents. At these meetings, she sometimes helped adults who couldn’t read in English, or at all.
But Becker could connect with any student, Campin said.

“Our reading scores increased significantly because of her ability to teach students, teach teachers, teach parents,” Campin said.

Every morning, Becker stood by the doors of the school and greeted students and parents.

“She was always happy and energetic,” Campin said. “She just called everyone friend.”
When the students were smiling, she could be quick with hugs. And when people looked sad, Becker was known to fold her hands into a heart to show she cared.
“She was a defender of people, family, friends, students,” Neil Becker said.

The marquee outside of the school now shows how much Tanya Becker meant to those she met. Students helped make the sign read “We love Mrs. Becker our sunshine”

Becker is survived by her husband, Patrick Becker; children, Jason and Ellie; parents, Michael and Kathryn Farrens; siblings, Bryan Farrens and Scott Farrens; and father-in-law and mother-in-law, Neil and Paula Becker.

A mass of Christian burial is scheduled for Friday at 11 a.m. at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church.