kindness activist

kindness activist

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Fresh Squeezed Kindness

This example of kindness is to show that helping others need not be difficult.  Heck, sometimes you don’t even really need to go out of your way!

When we were in Florida over the holidays we treated ourselves every morning with fresh squeezed orange juice.  This was possible because there is a cute little store there that has bags of fresh oranges – an employee brings in bags of them right from her grove and sells them very cheap ($6.50 per bag).  We love ‘em!  They are super juicy so obviously make great orange juice.

Ormond Beach, Florida December 2015
When it was time for us to hit the road and drive back to cold Northern Virginia, I took a moment to post this message to my neighborhood group in South Arlington:

“Perhaps an odd offer, but putting it out there... If you are missing summer, we are heading back to Penrose from Florida. There is a store here in Ormond Beach, FL that sells 1/4 bushels of oranges right off the tree for $6.50 per bag (really cheap J ). They are not FANCY oranges - different sizes, some have spots on the outside, they are not FANCY GROCERY STORE looking. But they make delicious fresh OJ. We have had it practically every morning while we have been here. 1 small and 1 large orange usually fills 2 juice glasses for us. If YOU would like a bit of summer in the winter, we have room in the car to bring some bags back. I could even drop them by your house on Monday. Just private message me and let me know how many bags ($6.50 each). The store doesn't always have a lot of bags as they are picked right from the owner's trees, so it depends how many she has brought in. But if there are bags and you want them, we will emoticon You must let me know by 1:00 pm Saturday if you want some. HAPPY OJ DRINKING!

Four people messaged me and asked for oranges.  So when we loaded the car to drive home, we had lots of citrus in back!  I delivered the oranges and I like to think it brought a tiny bit of sunny Florida to people.

Here come the sunny Florida oranges to cold Virginia neighbors!!
See, it didn’t cost me MONEY, the people paid for their own oranges.  It didn’t even really cost me gas money because everyone lived in the neighborhood so I didn’t drive far at all delivering them.  It just cost a tiny bit of time, and I like to think that I have that to spare!  And for that little investment of my time, some neighbors got a bit of kindness!

Here is what one neighbor said when she posted this photo after the blizzard:
“Last fresh fruit standing at our home.  Going, going – all gone!  Thanks neighbor!  They were yummy!”

Going, going - all gone!
And another neighbor said that they had a house full of teenage girls at a sleepover and served them fresh OJ for breakfast. 

Being kind is EASY.  And it spreads joy.  What can you do today to be a kindness activist???  Take a minute to tell me about it – send an email to

Thursday, January 28, 2016

7 Year Old Kindness

Kemper is 7 years old.  Vito is 97.  They are neighbors.  And buddies. 

Kemper is my great-nephew, and by that I mean the son of my niece, so great-nephew, and so a terrific nephew, so GREAT nephew!  He has the most kind heart of any child ever (in my proud aunt opinion).
Kemper, November 2015
But it isn’t just ME who thinks he is kind!  Everyone who meets him does!  This Thanksgiving I made “word clouds” for my family.  I had everyone email me a few words that they associated with each family member.  I then put those words into a “word cloud”, which makes the most mentioned words the biggest on the page.  It is easy to guess what Kemper’s big words were – “kind” was mentioned by 2 people and “kind hearted” was mentioned by 3 more!!  (People also associated “funny”, “smart”, “open minded”, “compassionate”, “fast”, and “Legos” with him J among other words, which I think all fit him perfectly, too.)

I called Kemper the other night to ask him about why he is so kind to Vito.  Here is what he told me:

Me:  Kemper, why do you do kind things for Vito?
Kemp:  He really needs help.  He is nice!  One day I went to his house to rake his leaves. 

Me:  Did you ask him to give you money for your work?
Kemp:  NO, I didn’t ask for money.  It was just volunteer.

Kemper raking leaves for his buddy

Me:  Did you rake the leaves by yourself?
Kemp:  Another neighbor lady came over and helped, too.  (Note:  I think sometimes Kemper’s parents help him at Vito’s house, too J .)

Me:  And how did helping Vito make YOU feel?
Kemper:  It made me feel good.  I felt good because I helped him out.  Being kind makes me feel good AND it helps Vito. 

Me:  How do you think it makes Vito feel when you do kind things for him, like rake his leaves?
Kemper:  He probably feels happy.  He smiled when he saw us raking. And he thanked us. 

Vito, age 97, and Kemper, age 7.  Buddies.
Me:  Will you do more kind things for him do you think? 
Kemper:  Yes!  Sometimes I bring his newspaper to him.  Sometimes when we make cookies we share them with him!  I have carried his trash cans for him. And I will probably shovel his snow.  (Note:  word on the street is that Kemper really wants to shovel for his buddy!)

Here is Kemp when he was the ring bearer in a wedding.  I shot this DURING the wedding.  :) 
He was taking a little break from the official ceremony.
Kemper’s mom, Ashlee, talked to me also and said that sometimes Kemper might be considered a little TOO kind!  Hahaha.  One example she gave is that last year his school had “stereotypical” lunch ladies, and this year they were all replaced with really sweet, nice ones.  But when asked which group of lunch ladies he prefers, Kemper “doesn’t want to make the old lunch ladies feel bad by complimenting the new lunch ladies” (even though NONE of the lunch ladies are present when he is asked the question!! J ).  That’s Kemper, always kind to everyone!!

I love this photo of Kemper in the outfield.  I think he was only 5 when I shot this, but it just feels so representational of Little League to me.  :)  By the way, Kemper is a really good ball player!
So you see, even 7 year olds get it!  Kindness is good.  Kindness is easy.  JUST DO IT!  Your Kindness Activist button will come in the mail soon, Kemper!!! 

Do you know a kind kid??  Or a kind adult??  Please send me an email at and tell me a little about them!  I would love to declare them a KINDNESS ACTIVIST!

Bonus photo!  This was a project Kemper did recently at school.  Let's just say, his dad (whose name "coincidentally" is PETER, just like this colorful elephant!) is very proud of it.  Doesn't Kemp have good handwriting, too?

Monday, January 25, 2016

Volunteered (Not Creepy Creep) Kindness

Matthew McGee is a performer in Washington DC.  I think he is funny, I thought that even before I met him.  That is because EVERY TIME my partner David would have some cool thing up on Facebook and I would say, “Who posted that?” and David would say “Matthew McGee” I would say, quite genuinely, “Do I know him?.  EVERY.  TIME.  I could never remember who he was!!! 

So when we were in the audience for the same show as he and his wife one night, David introduced us.  I laughed out loud.  I couldn’t help it!  And I explained how he had always been this mystery person to me, the guy who I couldn’t remember for the life of me!!  Now I am his FB friend, too, and when he posts stuff my brain goes, “Oh!  That is Matthew, the guy you never know who he is!”.  J  So that’s my mental connection to him.  Bizarre.

Preseeeeenting - Matthew in the snow!
Before Washington DC got socked with the blizzard, I saw a post on Matthew’s wall that inspired me.  He wrote:  If anyone in Takoma Park or Silver Spring needs anything this weekend let me know. Don't want anyone stranded anywhere without power or other essentials. I care about you people and want you safe and protected, so if you need a place to stay you are welcome here. For those who might live farther're dead to me.  J/K -  I like you too, but I can only go so far. Find some other friends, dangit! I can't save everyone!”

This made me smile and I contacted him right away to ask if I could share his kindness for this project.  He agreed, so I sent him a list of questions and asked if he could answer them for me.

Well, instead of answering about THAT act of kindness, opening up his house to anyone in need, he sent me a whole OTHER act of kindness that is also marvelous!!  Here is what he wrote:

“This morning I chose to get out of bed and see what could be done about the snow around my neighborhood. Now, I could have said, “I had that opportunity this morning to do such and such” but an opportunity is generally something you have to wait for, a door that opens that then you can act upon. While many opportunities for service come in this form, sometimes you can make the active choice to do something now. Which is what I did.

I knew it had snowed for two days, I knew neighbors were probably needing sidewalks and driveways shoveled, and I knew I was an able-bodied individual who could help. So I got up, kissed my wife, grabbed a shovel, and went looking.

I first started out by helping a neighbor from my complex shovel her car out of the parking lot. Then another couple neighbors came out to work on their cars, so I helped them too. When I felt like they were pretty free of their snow cave I went around the corner and found many people out and about on the street. Kids sledding down the roads, parents visiting with each other, and some shoveling.

This photo is not from Matthew's story, but I wanted you to get a sense of what he meant when he talked about shoveling out cars.  This is a police cruiser in our neighborhood.  Every car in the area had at least this much snow on and around it.  Digging them out was DIFFICULT.
In summation, I shoveled the porch and sidewalk of an older woman a neighbor lady told me about when I tried to help her, then went back to help that neighbor lady with shoveling her car out of the mound that had cocooned her car, and finished with another driveway of a young mother who lived right next to where the car was parked. The mother didn’t ask (none of them did, to be honest), in fact she commented on how nice it was that I was helping her neighbor with her car, and while she was talking to some of the other neighbors a couple houses down, I went ahead and started working on her driveway.

Acts of kindness don’t require an invitation. If you see a need, do it. Don’t be a creepy creep about it, but step in and help rather than wait to be asked, because people sometimes tend to be very prideful and therefore don’t ask for help (I use sometimes graciously here, because let’s be honest, people are prideful most of the time). The mother came back and was so grateful for the help. I found out her husband had a back injury and couldn’t do it himself so she was coming out to do it all by herself (with her little daughter). Now, granted, I’m sure she is fully capable of doing it herself, but now she can spend her morning with her kids and visiting with neighbors, rather than breaking her back and joining her husband on the giant massage chair that they hopefully own. The lady with the car was very grateful for my help too, not only for her but for her neighbors as well. Her husband and kids came out earlier and we were introduced.

It was great getting to know some of the people who live right around the corner from me that I haven’t met in the two years I’ve lived in the neighborhood. How selfish of me, I know. But now I know them. And they invited my wife and I over to their place for a visit sometime. It was great helping people in my community. To ease their burdens. To make them smile. To even learn their name. People may be less inclined to ask for help, but they are almost always glad when it comes.

Serving others makes others want to serve you back, in some way that they can. If we developed these types of relationships with our neighbors more often, think of how much easier and happier our lives would be. So now that I know some of my neighbors, I plan to continue to foster that relationship of kindness and service in the days to come. How will you turn your neighborhood into a community of kindness, service, and helping hands?”
Marvelous photo of Matthew in the blizzard.
Isn’t this a fabulous example of a KINDNESS ACTIVIST??  I think his point about not waiting to be ASKED, but just rolling up your sleeves and helping someone out, is so perfect.  He is right, so many of us are too proud or embarrassed to ask for help.  But when it is offered with a loving heart, we are very grateful to receive it.

Thanks for being such a great guy Matthew.  I promise I will remember you (and your kindness).  You will get your kindness activist button soon.

Are you a kindness activist??  Do you know one???  Tell me about it at: .  And check out the Kindness Activist Facebook page, give it a “like”!

P.S.  Matthew's original kindness that I contacted him about, opening up his house if anyone was stranded near him, caused a ripple effect.  He inspired me to open up OUR house.  And I am guessing that me doing that may have caused other homes to be open to people who needed shelter.  Kindness is like that - it ripples.  :)

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Sandbox Kindness

So yeah, the DC metro area is getting slammed with snow.  It is, in my humble opinion, fabulous!  And it really does bring out the best in some people!!

Local hardware and grocery stores (and liquor stores!) have been super busy the last few days with people preparing to “hunker down” and ride out the blizzard. 

Longest line ever at a local Trader Joe's 2 days before the storm
Lots of things were sold out – bananas (??), milk, bread, eggs…  And apparently, SALT.  Not salt for eating, but ice melt salt for steps and sidewalks.  So when I saw this Facebook post in a neighborhood group yesterday, it made me smile:

       “Since there is no more ice melt to be had, we are opening up our full sandbox!   
        Anyone who would like to come by with a bucket and fill up, you are welcome to do so 
        now (address redacted for this blog J ). Come up the driveway to the backyard,
        sandbox is next to deck and covered. Just put cover back please.

Talk about sweet neighbors!!!  And, like so many gestures of kindness, it was not DIFFICULT, not EXPENSIVE, just KIND!!

When I finished work for the day we set off to meet these neighbors and ask them about their kindness.  We walked half a mile in the snow (which was really fun!) and found their house.  I knocked on the door and was greeted by Harold who explained that the sand box was in the back and we were free to take as much as we needed!  Other neighbors had stopped by before us to avail themselves of this sweet gesture. 

Harold and Janet, the sandbox owners, didn’t want their photo taken, but David didn’t mind if I snapped a couple photos of him while he unburied the sandbox and put some sand in our beach bucket.   On our hike back home we passed some other walkers and David, beach bucket in hand, said we were looking for the shore.  Like many of his jokes, the recipients didn’t get it…  Oh well, I thought it was funny!

Photo is a bit blurry, but it was getting dark and cold out!!  David prepares to put some sand in his purple bucket.

Such a kind gesture - to share sand!
KEEP UP THE KINDNESS, folks.  It really does make the world a happier, more livable place.  If you see, receive, or do an act of kindness, please tell me about it so I can dub you a KINDNESS ACTIVIST and you can proudly sport your “kindness activist” button!  Email me at:

Me when we got back from our walk - the roads were EMPTY (which is unusual in this neighborhood)

Friday, January 22, 2016

Snowplow Kindness

HAVE YOU HEARD?  DC is getting hit with a blizzard of “historic proportions”!!  It’s so exciting!!  I was stuck indoors all day, but as soon as I could I pulled out the old long underwear, grabbed my ski mittens, and strapped on my brand new boots to take off into the snow!!!  I really wanted to go for a walk in the snow, plus I had seen a Facebook post earlier in the day about a wonderful kindness someone was offering!
Here are my new boots :)
But it turned out that on the way to participate in the intended kindness, we happened on ANOTHER KINDNESS!    It took us quite a while to track him down, but eventually we caught up to the gentleman we were calling SNOWPLOW MAN!!

He paused long enough to talk to me and boy, was he nice.  Turns out his name is Tim Muzik and his lives in our neighborhood (about a half mile away).  He was using his little ATV(all terrain vehicle) to remove snow from South Arlington sidewalks.  Yes, I said sidewalkS, plural.  Because he wasn’t only cleaning HIS sidewalk, he was driving around the whole neighborhood and plowing, including the sidewalks around the local park!!  Aren’t the neighbors on his street LUCKY???

I asked him about it and he explained that basically, it is just as FUN as it is HELPFUL.  He likes to keep the sidewalks clean for the neighbors because, as he put it, the area is so “walkable”.  I agree!!  He said he would be making several passes around the neighborhood during this blizzard because so much snow is falling.  I asked about having enough gas to do repeated plowings and he said he got all of the gas ready yesterday.  Way to prep, Tim!!
SNOWPLOW MAN IN ACTION!  (Well, he paused to talk - he was doing the sidewalks in the park)
He also said he really likes doing this, because this is basically the only time he can drive his vehicle around in our city!  J  I say that helping others out like he is doing is wonderful, and I am glad he can have some fun while he is doing it!  (Selfishly, I just wish he lived on our street…)

Maybe bad weather brings out the kindness in some people.  It sure does in SNOWPLOW MAN.  You, Tim, are a kindness activist!  Thank you.

More about the other kindness we received in another post soon.  For now – stay warm.  And if you see, do, or receive a kindness PLEASE tell me about it!  You don’t have to write much, just shoot me a quick email at .  Because kindness shared inspires kindness. 

P.S. – after we came back from our walk (and had a snowball fight with the neighbors…) we shoveled our sidewalk.  I reckon there are between 4 – 5 inches of snow out there so far!!

This is me, standing in the middle of our normally VERY busy intersection at 6:30 pm on a Friday night - rush hour! 

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Artistic Kindness

I rarely carry cash on me.  And I am very careful with how I spend money.  Yet, I love the arts and want to support artists however I can.  So this summer, I came up with an idea.  I put $25 one dollar bills in an envelope, marked it “for art”, and carried it in my purse. 

Then, anytime I saw a street musician, busker, or artist, I took time to STOP, watch, and/or listen.  And I gave the performer one dollar. 
Street Musicians in New Orleans this summer
A dollar might not seem like much, but I think my donations were appreciated.  Perhaps even more appreciated was my attention to the performer.  I became an “audience”, and when one person stops to listen/watch, others will, too.  So I hope that my small donations encouraged others to pitch into the hat with me!

This was a simple idea and not expensive.  Because I had already ear marked the money to be spent, I didn’t feel like I was giving away money I should be saving to pay bills.  And I really enjoyed doing this project because it gave me opportunities to STOP and enjoy art. 

See – kindness isn’t complicated!  It is easy and doesn’t only help the people who receive the kindness, it also helps the GIVER!  I really had a good time listening to music and watching artists.  I plan to refill my envelope with one dollar bills when the weather warms up and I am out on the streets more again. 

What will YOU do to spread kindness?  Please tell me about your kindness at:

Monday, January 18, 2016

Dreamt Kindness

I slept in today, and I am so glad I did, because this morning I had such a VIVID dream. I didn’t realize until I was in the shower thinking about it that I DREAMED ABOUT KINDNESS.  I love it!  Maybe that is the type of thing that can happen if we surround ourselves with kindness – we can even experience it while sleeping!

In my dream, I was in the house I grew up in on Borman Street in Omaha, Nebraska.  But the feel of the neighborhood was not like it had been when I lived there in real life…   In the dream, my house was full of Muslims who had come to America expecting to be accepted, and the street was filled with protesters who were angry that the foreigners were there.  The protesters were all dressed in WHITE.  We were preparing for a MARCH through the neighborhood, and the protesters came and were very, very mad.

I stared out the window at the angry people outside and worried.  I was not sure how to explain it to my friends who were almost ready to march.  What would I tell them?  I worried for their safety.  I stepped out onto the front porch to assess the scene and noticed a woman dressed in PURPLE in the neighboring driveway.  As I approached her I realized – she was KIND.  She was on “our side”.  She was there to be supportive! 

I looked up and down the street and saw that the angry mob dressed in white were all standing on the LEFT side of the street, and this woman in purple was on the right.  Then I saw them – other people in purple – standing every few houses along the march route.  They had come out to support us, to support love.

I thanked the woman in purple and gave her a hug.  She radiated kindness and her smile gave me strength.  I went back into the house and told my friends that, indeed, there were many angry people outside who were sure to yell things at us as we marched the route.  And then I told them about the supportive people, the kind ones, dressed in purple.  And I told my friends, “As we march, look to the right.  There is KINDNESS on the right”.

I woke up before we all stepped outdoors and faced the scene, so, like many dreams, I am not sure how this one ended.  But I have seen the kind people at protests in “real life”.  They are the quiet ones, the calm ones.  They provide balance to the hatred and the screaming.  I am grateful for them. 

I think THESE people are who inspired my dream.  They are UUs - Unitarian Universalists. 
UUs STAND ON THE SIDE OF LOVE and show up at many rallies.  They are amazing. 
These UUs were at an Arlington, VA high school November 2012 when
Westboro Baptist Church was planning to come protest.
This high school student was at the same rally.  He got up EARLY
 and showed up with his sign on a day there wasn't even any school.  He was kind.

I saw this billboard was in Topeka, KS near the Westboro Baptist Church. 
Isn't it fabulous?
This is my WHOLE FAMDAMILY (most of us) at a PFLAG march in Omaha, Nebraska the summer of 2015.  There were a few protesters along the route that were not happy with our message of equality, but as Jordan's sign says, love is greater than hate.

This man was a tourist from Italy.  He happened across the Westboro Baptist Church protest at Arlington National Cemetery on Veterans Day, 2012.  We explained what was happening to him and let him hold our sign. 
He was on the side of kindness.

Us at the 2012 Veterans Day WBC protest at Arlington National Cemetery.  The message is simple - BE KIND.

I am thankful for all who stand up for equality and kindness for ALL.  May Martin Luther King’s dream live on in all of us. 
And may dreams of kindness visit YOU.
Look to the right - there is kindness on the right.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Intergenerational Kindness

A Facebook friend, Karen, shared an amazing example of intergenerational kindness that she and her family undertook over the Christmas holidays.  Her family’s deliberate, intentional kindness touched many people and the effects of it rippled out into the community.  Here is her story:

“Acts of Kindness started out as an idea for a new family tradition introduced by my daughter-in-law, Callie. The intent was something fun and meaningful for Advent for our family. We wanted to incorporate a new tradition that felt true to the real celebration of the season, but still be lots of fun, too.

Karen's grandchildren getting into the holiday spirit
Together, we decided that every day we would each commit to a random act of kindness. This would be a wonderful opportunity to help teach their children (our grandchildren) to be generous and thoughtful during the holiday season, as well as a reminder of how really powerful and simple kindness can be. Participants were my husband and I (Karen and Roger, the grandparents), our adult children (Kevin and Callie), and our precious grandchildren, Molly (in kindergarten, 6 years old) and Ben (4 years old).

When doing our Acts of Kindness we noticed that when randomly helping others there was a feeling of REAL joy inside. It is the kind of joy that can only come from serving others. It’s a joy you cannot fully comprehend unless you are engaged. And how quickly the little ones were able to understand and really feel the joy!

JOY personified - Molly in a Christmas pageant 
One day Ben and I were walking back to the car when his school day was over. A man was on the roof of the church and Ben called out, "Hi up there!" The man broke out in a huge smile and said "Hi!. Ben immediately turned to me and said "That was an Act of Kindness!.  Of course, being only 4, he also used “acts of kindness” in his favor – one day after school he asked if we could go get ice cream.  When I hesitated a bit he piped up, “It would be an act of KINDNESS!”.  Needless to say, we got ice cream…

Ok, maybe THIS example of kindness was a tiny bit self-serving, but you have to give it to the kid for trying! :)
We will absolutely do this new tradition again. We so underestimate the power of kindness and the "ripple down" effect it has on others. One act of kindness the children did was to set up a lemonade stand in the front yard. The proceeds they made were donated to the ECHO Food Pantry. Well, the morning after the lemonade sale, 4 large bags of groceries appeared on my front doorstep. There was no name on the bags or any explanation. It took me a few minutes to figure it out, but I realized – this was a food donation to the Pantry!  Because of the acts of the children someone saw the day before, a stranger was moved to help others, too.  Do you see what I mean by “ripple down”?

I regret that I was not in town to stop at this lemonade stand!  LOOK at the signs!  I love the sign Ben is holding "WELCOME FRIEND    S".  It is perfect!  The kids took all the money they earned to the grocery store and bought food, then donated it to the local food pantry.  What a generous act of kindness.

Most everyone reacts positively to kindness. Oddly enough, when sharing kindness with strangers, it sometimes felt like a barrier was lifted. It was as if, for a brief moment, we shared a kind of kinship with each other.

Molly (kindergarten) even asked to help the teacher and read to some of her classmates. When Kevin and Callie questioned Molly about her actions, she replied that she was doing her Acts of Kindness at school. Kids really do "get it" when they do it themselves. I give so much credit to my amazing daughter-in-law. She lives her faith and is teaching our grandchildren by example!

The whole family went to a "Fun Run" for Tidwell Hospice.  
Hopefully, doing Acts of Kindness will continue to be something we are deliberate in thinking about and will be a gentle reminder to take advantage of the daily opportunities to make our world a better place.”


Susan here - are YOU a kindness activist??  Have you given, received, or seen KINDNESS that you would like to share?  Please  write to me at and tell me about it.  Kindness shared with others starts the RIPPLE EFFECT that Karen explained - when people see/hear about kindness, they are inspired to share kindness, too!  Help me get the word out, and be a KINDNESS ACTIVIST!

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Waffle Kindness

The Bergman family (Michael, Sam, Amy, and Zach) live in the DC Metro area (as do we) and we run into them at a lot of theatre events.  It is always fun to see them, and I was particularly happy when I saw a Facebook post mentioning a very sweet gesture of kindness that their family shared.  I asked them if I could include it here and they agreed.

“Here's the story of our Waffle House encounter.

Anyone who has made a cross country drive will recognize this sign.
My family had spent the better part of a week at The Happiest Place on Earth (Walt Disney World) in Orlando, Florida. It takes a tremendous amount of work on the part of the employees (cast members, they’re called) to keep everything running smoothly and to keep all of the guests happy, especially when the parks are very crowded. 

This event happened on December 30th, and the entire park had been turned into a huge dance party, which had the cast members in the streets, dancing with guest until past midnight, while they directed traffic to keep the huge crowds moving. I remarked to my family that while it certainly looked like the cast members were having a lot of fun, but were, after all, still on duty. It was after 1:00 AM by the time the fireworks were over and we left. 

My wife said that she was hungry, and since all of the restaurants on-site were closed by then, we drove to a Waffle House nearby. We walked in, and there were two Disney employees, still in their Magic Kingdom uniforms, having something to eat. I said to my wife, “I’d like to pick up their check."  She agreed, sharing the thought that our vacation would not be as fun, as engaging, were it not for the positive attitudes of the cast members, even in the face of cranky guests and long hours.

So we called over their waitress and told her not to make a big deal out of it, but to simply bring us their bill and tell them we were "sharing the magic."  When they signaled to the waitress that they wanted to leave, she told them that everything had been taken care of. They were surprised, to say the least. They came over to our table. “No one has ever done this before. You made our night. Thank you so much.”  We told them that this was just a small gesture to thank them for how much joy they brought to families at the park. There was lots of hugging and thanking all around. They wanted to take a picture with us, so we asked a waitress to take one for them and one for us. 

I love this photo - you cannot NOT smile when you see it.  
It’s such a simple thing really - to recognize the people who make our lives more fun, more interesting. It really took no effort on our part, and it made these two folks feel good about themselves and what they do.

And for a brief moment, a Waffle House just outside of Walt Disney World became The Happiest Place on Earth.

All members of our family have many more stories similar to this one, as we place a great value on being nice people. To quote Felix Unger, "It's nice to be nice to the nice". “

Thank you again for sharing Bergman family!!!  Your kindness most certainly makes the world a better place.  You are KINDNESS ACTIVISTS for sure (you will get kindness activist buttons soon!). 

What about YOU - have you been the recipient of kindness?  A giver of it?  Witnessed kindness?  Please take a moment to tell me about it so that I can share it here.  KINDNESS SHARED IS KINDNESS MULTIPLIED!  Send me your kindness at:

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Stranger Kindness

We are not rich people.  Rich in fun – yes.  Rich is experiences – YES.  But “rich” in the traditional way that most people define the term – ummm, no.  So even though I am all about spreading the kindness around, most of the time our kindness is not the type that involves money.  For example, we donate TIME to National Public Radio (answering phones in the fund drives) instead of donating actual FUNDS. 

But recently I switched it up.  I wanted to see what would happen if I surprised a stranger by gifting them something that, to me, is important:  A CHRISTMAS TREE.  I was nervous about it for some reason, but went for it.  Here is how it went down.

We went to Walmart mid-December to buy our Christmas tree. They were $22, which, although not expensive, was more than I remembered them being last year.  We didn’t get one on that first outing but went back a few days later to choose.  When we got there we were surprised to find that they were marked down to half price!! 

Well, we had expected to spend $22 bucks on a tree, so I decided to keep with that expectation, but buy TWO TREES – one for us, and one for complete strangers. 

It was so bizarre.  I had to convince myself (out loud) that this was the right thing to do.  Then I had to convince my partner David!!  I rationalized it by saying things like, “It’s only $11.  I mean, that’s not a lot, right??” and “Surely someone else will come in tonight that hasn’t gotten a tree yet, don’t you think???” and “If we do not see someone to give it to, I can always just take the receipt up to Customer Service, explain the situation, and they will give me the money back, don’t you think?”.  Maybe I was trying to rationalize it to myself or to prepare myself if it all back-fired.

Anyway, I paid for two trees.  David delivered one to our car.  Then we set about finding someone to gift the second tree to.

Two trees....
We waited.

And waited.

It got chilly.  The trees were outside in the Garden Department, and even though we were in Florida the temperatures were cool enough that we should have had jackets on.  David went back to the car and got a blanket and I pulled out two lawn chairs for us to sit on. 

David in "waiting" position

And we waited some more.

Shhhhh - a gift of a Christmas tree!
A couple of people walked in the Garden Center entrance, and I could feel my nerves, excitement, and concern building.  Were these the right people to gift the tree to???  How would I know?  Would I offend them if I offered?  Would they think I was nuts?  Should I do it??? 

Drat – they weren’t looking for trees… 

More people came in, and they seemed to maybe be looking at trees…  But should I approach them??  They seemed to have plenty of money to buy a tree of their own…

And that’s when I started to consider my actions…  Was I “judging” who I would gift this to?  Did someone have to “qualify” for my kindness by meeting some unwritten/unconscious “standards” I must have had floating around in my head??  Oh my, the whole idea seemed to be getting worse and worse every moment.  I thought about just giving up, going in the store and getting what we needed and leaving.  But we stuck it out a bit longer.

And that’s when a couple walked in.  A couple.  No kids.  Didn’t look poor, didn’t look rich.  Probably in their late 20s, early 30s.  They were definitely looking at CHRISTMAS TREES.

So I did it!  I mustered my courage, sprung up out of my lawn chair, and approached, “Are you shopping for a CHRISTMAS TREE tonight?” I asked. 
“Yeah, yeah we are.” 
“Great!  We would like to give you one.”
Silence.  Smiles. 
“Listen, we also got our tree tonight.  And we are glad we are not the last ones in town still looking for a tree.  And we just wanted to share a tree with someone, and it is you!  Can we give you a tree?”
“WHY SURE!!!” – big smiles. 

It worked!  They were happy!!  They were thrilled.  They were grateful.

They chose their tree and thanked us several times.  The man had the hardest time understanding the concept of what we were doing, and when it finally sank in he said, “OH!!  So you BOUGHT this tree for us??!!!  That is so cool.  We are going to PAY THIS FORWARD!  We will!  We will pay it forward!”. 
We exchanged hugs – right there in the Walmart Garden Department, hugs with strangers.  We exchanged “Merry Christmas”es.  Then we all went about our lives.

We saw them later in the grocery part of the store – they saw us first.  “Merry Christmas – thanks again!!!” they said.

Here is what our tree looked like after we got it home and decorated it
So we spread a little Christmas kindness.  Sure, it was only $11 of Christmas kindness, but it was accepted as if it were worth hundreds.  J  It was worth the angst, worry, self-examination, and definitely worth the money. 

What sort of kindness will YOU spread today?

Fun bonus Christmas photo - us as Mary and Joseph at the DRIVE THRU BETHLEHEM in Daytona Beach, Florida - complete with LIVE FARM ANIMALS!!