kindness activist

kindness activist

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Christmas Kindness - All Year Round

Last year my friend Kelly made a Facebook post that really inspired me.  I had begun this project, Kindness Activist, and was on the lookout for KINDNESS in the world.  Kelly’s post really piqued my interest.  She wrote about doing something special with her family for Christmas that she called A WHITE ENVELOPE PROJECT.  She asked each family member to donate to a charity or do something kind, then write about that and put it in an envelope, to be opened and read aloud on Christmas!  I wrote about Kelly and her White Envelope Project here:  White Envelope Kindness

I decided to try a version of the same project with my family! 

KINDNESS - by artist Kemper Englund
I mailed everyone a letter (yes, a real live printed on paper snail mail letter, which I thought would get their attention more than an email).  The letter asked each person to do something KIND during the year, then tell us about it when we got together to celebrate Christmas.  Each letter was personalized for the recipient, with some ideas for kind actions that I thought might be up their alley.  Here is the letter I sent my dad:

“Dear Dad,

I meant to write this letter in January, and here it is nearing the end of April…  I guess I am a bit behind on this, as I am on so many other things!  But I will file it in the “better late than never” category.

I am writing because I want to ask you for something for CHRISTMAS. 

The older I get, the less “stuff” I need.  I know you understand that, every holiday that comes around all of us Thompson girls giggle and say, “What are you getting Dad??  Are you getting him another sweater this year???”. 

So, this Christmas, instead of a THING, I would like to ask for an ACTION:

I am asking each family member to do something KIND.  Some action that you can do for someone else in the world.  Maybe you will change a stranger’s flat tire, maybe you will give a donation to the Open Door Mission, maybe you will pay for another table’s dinner when you are at a restaurant…  Just something KIND.

Then write a note about your kindness, take a photo of it, or draw a picture of it and seal it up in an envelope or wrap it in a box!  At our family Christmas, I would love to open THOSE GIFTS and be inspired by all of the kindness that our family put out into the world. 

There are 8 months left until Christmas.  That means 8 months for you to do something KIND and document it.  If you feel like you might forget and need a reminder or two during the year, just let me know and I am happy to remind you.

Thanks, Dad.  I love you and can’t wait to see what kind thing you do!!”

Every family member got a letter, including the toddlers!  I sent a reminder letter about a month before the holidays, in case anyone had forgotten.  And boy let me tell you, the cost of postage was well worth it – the big reveals were SO WONDERFUL!!

Every.  Single.  Family.  Member.  Got.  Involved!  Everyone!  I was so, so, so delighted!  And people were excited to share!!  The acts of kindness ran the gamut, too – my terrific family spread kindness in all sorts of ways!

Here are just a few examples:

- My dad repeatedly helped two wheelchair bound men get out of the building and into their vehicles.  He also donated to the Open Door Mission in Omaha.  Plus, he paid a woman to come clean the house just because she needed some money (even though the house didn’t really need cleaning).

Classic photo of my dad, 47 years ago

- My dad's wife Evelyn put money in the Salvation Army red buckets each time she passed one.  She also gave her granddaughter the SHIRT OFF HER BACK when the girl complimented it!  Evelyn went right into the bedroom, changed shirts, and let her granddaughter go home with the shirt she had complimented :) .
- One of nephews, Trevor, was amazingly kind to a friend in need.  Even though Trev didn’t have a lot of money himself, he shared what he had with the friend who had nothing and was homeless.  I think we all got tears in our eyes listening to Trevor’s story of kindness – it was amazing.
- David gave a ride to a stranger so the man could make it to church on time, and another time jumped in with a car full of strangers to help lead them to their destination when it was clear that the usual spoken directions were not going to be enough.  He also went out of his way and went into the university on a Saturday (a day off) to help out a student who had a tough semester and missed the final performance.  David giving up a few hours of his weekend meant a better grade (the one she deserved) for the student.

My sisters and I - Christmas 2017

- My sister Annette is great at giving manicures and pedicures.  She gave free 
pedicures to 4 women who needed some extra special treatment and kindness.  She 
also took a couple of friends who she knew were going through tough times out to 
lunch.  Plus, she stocked up on Halloween costumes when the stores marked them 
down after October 31st to have them ready next Halloween when some students at 
the school where she works do not have costumes!  Isn’t that going to be an amazing 
surprise for them?

- My sister Sherry was mindful all year of people who work in service professions. She 
was careful to go out of her way to COMPLIMENT people in stores and other places 
who did good work.  She asked to speak to their supervisor, and made sure the 
management knew that the employee did a great job.  She said most managers were 
surprised that someone would go out of their way to compliment good behavior, and 
that they were all very appreciative.

- My nephew Nate and his wife Lyndsey made a POSTER of many of the kind things 
their family did in 2017!  It was super sweet.  They have a 2 year old and an infant, 
and even the kids got into the kindness!  Baby Keegan donated some of his diapers to 
babies whose families lost everything in the hurricane.  Toddler Ryker helped make 
blankets for animals at a special event.  The family delivered treats to the staff at a 
hospital that took care of their Grandpa.  The whole family did a kindness that I 
thought was really fun and meaningful: they had lots of packages being delivered for 
the holidays, and they left Starbucks gift cards with thank you notes for the delivery 
people!  They left one for the mail carrier, who in return left THEM a thank you note!

Starbucks gift cards for stressed out delivery people = KINDNESS!

Cookies are a great act of kindness!

Nate and Ryker working on a blanket for an animal
My brother in law Jim tried hard to help students who were having difficulty in the college classes he teaches.  He also gave money to the homeless.

- For my kind act, I told my family about a young woman working at an Arby’s we ate at.  I could just tell that was having a tough time in life.  I struck up a conversation with her as she cleaned tables, and it turned out her husband had died a couple of months earlier and she was trying to pay off the funeral.  She had two kids, but had told them Santa was “broke” this year so there wouldn’t be much for Christmas.  I gave her $15.  That’s not a lot of money, and it obviously won’t help pay off her expenses much or buy any great gifts for her children.  But she was very appreciative, and I think it meant a lot to her that someone took time to have a real conversation and listen to her.

- My nephew Jordan had a co-worker who was going through a particularly difficult time.  He took meals to her and collected money to help her out.  

- Hadley Jo is only 2 years old, but that is old enough to be KIND!  She donated some of her toys to kids who didn't have many.  And her mamma, Elizabeth, gave puzzle books to nursing home residents.  The two of them prove that kindness has no age limits!

2 years old is old enough to be kind,but it is not quuuuite old enough
to not be afraid of Santa...  :)  
- And finally, my niece Ashlee and her family (Pete, Kemper, and Tallis) took kindness to a whole new level in 2017!  They took my challenge to heart and did kind things all the time!!  They collected lots of books for a book drive our family organized, they watched other people’s children to give parents some needed time off, they accept a young transgender girl for who she is and welcome her along on many family events, Pete paid for a solo birthday diner’s meal, the whole family made 700 cupcakes to celebrate a co-worker’s special birthday, and many, many more kind things!!!!  They made a whole photo album to inspire us with their kindness!

The Englund family did kind things ALL YEAR!

700 cupcakes????
That is a LOT of cupcakes!

That's KIND, Pete!

Here is a portrait of the whole KIND Englund family :) (by artist Tallis)
This KIND CHRISTMAS was really great.  It was inspirational seeing how my family spread kindness in the world.  The little (and big) acts of kindness that we put out into the world helped to make it a better place.  I like to think of kind acts as ripples – when we do something kind, it creates a RIPPLE in the world.  Those touched by the ripple spread more kindness. 

I think I will ask my family to do kind things again for Christmas next year.  It is not tough – any little kind act is appreciated and goes a long way.  And hearing all of the stories sure helped make my holidays brighter.  Feel free to take the idea and use it with YOUR family – I don’t think you will be disappointed in the results.

Thanks, Thompson family!  KEEP SPREADING KINDNESS!   

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Kindness Rocks

It has been over a month since I last wrote about kindness.  That feels like a big confession.  It is not that I have not done kind things during that time, and it for SURE is not that I have not witnessed kindness.  It is just that sometime I (and maybe all of us?) let “life” get in the way and get too carried away with our “to do” lists to really relax, take in, and appreciate all that is around us.

Then something slaps us in the face and gives us a big reminder that the hustle bustle, hurried life is not a FULFILLED one, and we take a step back (and a deep breath) and re-set.

So, let’s re-set, shall we?

Focus. Breathe.  Re-set.  
I want to share a story of incredible kindness with you. 

I wrote about our neighbor in Florida, Carol, in this blog a few months ago.*  She is a dear, sweet, funny, and KIND woman.  I haven’t gotten to spend as much time with her as I would like, as each time we come to Florida we fill our waking hours with home repair, remote work, swimming, and beach time, so simple things like “visit the neighbors” get overlooked. 

This summer I helped Carol clean out her laundry room.  She had a bee in her bonnet that it needed sorting, so we tackled it.  One of the things we found high up on a shelf was her collection of paints and brushes.  I didn’t know she liked to paint, so we talked about it some as we cleaned.  I told her about the popular new hobby of ROCK PAINTING.  People in many cities are now getting smooth rocks and painting beautiful scenes on them, then hiding them for strangers to find!  Isn’t that lovely?  I had been wanting to try to paint a rock, and when I found out Carol thought it sounded fun to, I put it on my mental to do list; PAINT ROCKS WITH CAROL.

Then I got distracted.  We painted the front of the house.  We went to movies.  We rode our stand-up paddleboard…  And before you knew it, our time in Florida was up and we had to drive back to DC. 

I knew Carol was sick with lung cancer, she had been for a while.  But we come to Florida every few months, and she lives right next door, so, “We can paint rocks next time I am in town,” was the excuse I gave myself.

Then we got the news from her family that the cancer had spread.  And I had crammed my calendar so full of work and travel that I could not find a way to escape to Florida.  The whole situation made me super sad.  I really, really wanted to spend time with my friend, and damn it, I wanted to paint rocks with her!

I am a member of a Facebook group of rock painters called Volusia County Rocks.  I follow their posts and am amazed by the beautiful things they paint on rocks!  They are incredible!  So, after checking with my friend’s daughter to make sure it would be alright, I made a post to the group, asking if anyone would be willing to paint a rock for my friend and deliver it to her home. 

Very quickly, messages started coming in!  It was “rockers” saying things like, “Sure!  I would love to paint a rock for your friend” and “I would be happy to take one over to her”.  My heart melted.  I couldn’t be there to sit with Carol and paint rocks, but these rockers, strangers who I have never met, were kind enough to jump in. 

I told the family to start looking outside the front door to see if anything showed up, and before long, gorgeous rocks started arriving.  Carol’s husband would bring them in to her, and they were both so pleased!!  Carol thought they were beautiful, and her husband, well, he fixated on the rocks themselves – how big and smooth they were – and surmised that they simply had to be from another state…  😊

A sea turtle!  Perfect for Florida

What a fun, happy little rock!  With a hairband! :)

A serene sea scene
We made it to town in time to see Carol.  It has been so nice to sit with her.  She has all of the rocks lined up in her “Florida room”, where she rests in a hospital bed.  Her family and hospice are taking good care of her and keeping her comfortable.  She and I looked through the rocks together, and she held one in her hand.  It made me smile to see – and made my heart sing at the thought of the KINDNESS OF STRANGERS, willing to share their art and their love with my friend.

This marbled effect is so pretty

A MERMAID!  Isn't she beautiful?

It is well.  Simply stated, and so poignant
Love you Carol.  And thank you, rockers.  Your kindness rocks.

The collection.  Kindness in the form of rocks.  
P.S. - I am not here to preach or tell you what to do, but please learn from my mistake:  make time to do the little things you want to do NOW.  Don't put them off.  

*Here is a link to the story of CAROL’S kindness, posted earlier this year:  Coke Kindness

**If you would like to get involved in painting rocks, Google and see if your area is doing it!  Many places are, and it is awesome.

***If you, like me, believe that reading/hearing about kindness is inspiring and makes you more "alert" and receptive to see it in the world, "like" Kindness Activist (this project) on Facebook.  I post stories and photos of kindness there.  

Bonus photo - sea scene with a lighthouse!

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Cookie Kindness

Guys, I am so behind on kindness…  It makes my heart sad, really.  When my head (and my heart) are in a good place, a positive place, I can see kindness everywhere!  And I am inspired to DO kind things, which in turns puts me in an even better place.  Know what I mean?

But if I start feeling out of sorts, down, and buried with “life in general”, then I overlook the kindness around me.  It is as if I put on a pair of kindness blinders – I just MISS IT.  So, I, in turn, DO less kind things…  And that makes me feel even worse, even more “in my head” and consumed with “to do lists”.

It is a vicious cycle.  And it is one I need to work on breaking!  If I can just bring myself around to focus on kindness again, I know my spirits will lift and my eyes will be less foggy – and therefore my outlook on the world will be better!  I mean, that’s the whole PREMISE behind this project – share about kindness you see, do, or receive, and spread the kindness like a ripple to those who read about it.  SO HERE WE GO!

This is a kindness that I heard about way back in August, and I am just now writing about in November.  Sigh.  I apologize.  It is a sweet one and will inspire you!

My friend Vanessa was sick.  She was overwhelmed at work, had lost her voice, and was just having one of those days.  Her friend from college, Heather, was chatting with her over GChat, listening while Vanessa whined (her words, not mine!). 

Heather and Vanessa - friends for over 15 years but now live very far away from each other
Only, Heather did more than just listen.  Heather decided to cheer her friend up in a fun, silly way.  SHE SENT COOKIES!!  From all the way across the country!

Yup, cookies.  Vanessa said she was confused when a call came in and she didn’t recognize the caller ID, but she answered anyway.  “The guy on the other line said, ‘Vanessa, I’m downstairs with a cookie delivery.’  I was like, ‘Huh?  I didn’t order cookies…’ “.  So, Vanessa went to the lobby of her building and sure enough, there stood a cookie man!  The card with the cookies read, “Keep your chin up, buttercup!  Love from Wyoming!”.  Vanessa told me, “My reaction was to tear up.  Everyone has tough days that really seem silly the next day, but not everyone has amazing people who go out of their way to cheer them up.” 

Vanessa and Heather relaxing - now THAT DAY does not look stressful!
I totally agree!!  How many days do you notice a friend who is struggling, down in the dumps, and just having a tough time in general?  If you are like me, it is pretty often.  Yet not once have I thought, “I know what she needs – COOKIES!!”.  But seriously, consider it – wouldn’t ANY DAY get better with a couple of cookies??  I think so!  I had to ask Heather how she decided to treat her friend with such a swell gift, and she said, “I could tell she needed a pick-me-up.  I remembered seeing a cookies and milk delivery service in the DC area and thought, this is a perfect time to surprise her with something nice like that”.  Isn’t that the most thoughtful gesture??  I mean, flowers are nice to get and all, but COOKIES AND MILK takes the cake (pun intended).

I asked Vanessa why she thought her friend went out of her way to send the treats, and she told me, “Really, she just sent those cookies because that is who she is.  She is thoughtful, selfless, and wonderful. She is the founder of People Spread Love ( People Spread Love link) , a social movement that spreads love to individuals through simple notes of love composed by volunteers.  She literally dedicates her life to spreading love because her heart if overflowing with it, obviously.  She sends me handwritten cards all of the time, just because…  When my friend in Puerto Rico was diagnosed with terminal cancer, Heather was one of my biggest rocks from afar (Wyoming).  Ever since college this girl has brought nothing but sunshine and adventure into my life.”

I have not had the good fortune of meeting Heather in person, but just from how Vanessa describes her it is clear she is someone very special.  And listen to the kinds of things Heather does in her home town: “I do things most often in the Jackson, WY area (where I live) through the non-profit organization I started called People Spread Love. I organize random acts of kindness in the community on a monthly basis.  I give free hugs on occasion, leave Heart Reminders on trailheads, airplanes and park benches. Last winter we showed gratitude to our snowplow drivers.  We had the biggest snow fall in 100 years and we wanted to share our gratitude, so 5 volunteers and I got up at 3 am and brought coffee, donuts and held up signs to show them our appreciation. We were all pretty sleepy after that, but it was completely worth it. We have also shown gratitude to our postal workers, because they have so much stress in what they do, especially during the holidays.  So we hold up signs to show our appreciation while we wait in line for our packages.”  I don’t know about the rest of you reading this, but lightbulbs went off in my head when I heard the cool, kind things Heather and her group do!  There are so many opportunities to be kind in the world, we just need to seek them out. 

People Spread Love logo
People Spread Love looks like an amazing organization, one I want to get involved with.  The premise is quite simple as Heather explains it, “People Spread Love gave me an outlet to do kind things for people and to encourage others to do the same. The main purpose of what we do is write notes of love to those facing adversity all over the country and the world. We have Meet & Make public events where we write notes of love together as a community. The circumstances do not matter; whether you lost your job, your dog passed away, you have had a run of bad luck, you are lonely, you need appreciation for all you do, or are sick, we send love to all that need a little extra.”

How lucky Vanessa is to have such an amazing woman in her life.  Friends like the two of them – friends who are there for one another, listen, and act with compassion and love – are rare and valuable.  What I think is great is that Heather went out of her way and sent cookies on THAT DAY.  Like, it was not a horrible, no good, very bad day…  Her friend was feeling overwhelmed, grumpy, and didn’t have a voice, but it wasn’t like Vanessa had just gotten fired or received bad test results from the doctor.  It was “normal crap”, you know?  Vanessa said, “No matter how small the problem, the person experiencing it may feel it tenfold.  These little gestures are always so incredible to receive.  They also inspire those receiving the tokens of love to spread it forward.  It’s amazing what some cookies and big love can do.  Those cookies gave me a BIG AHA moment:  Work is work, my voice would come back eventually, but most importantly, I am beyond lucky to have people in my life to love and inspire me”.  I couldn’t agree more!!  You are so lucky to have a friend like Heather!

Fun times are even better when shared with great friends
P.S. – One part of this story that I thought was so funny is that the cookie order was actually wrong…  Heather had ordered CHOCOLATE MILK to go with the cookies, but for some reason the cookie guy didn’t deliver it.  So, while it all seemed so beautiful and perfect to Vanessa, in the background Heather was going, “Hey, where’s the milk??”.  😊

P.P.S. – Please make sure to check out the People Spread Love website and GET INVOLVED!  Like them on Facebook, their posts will inspire you.  Link to the website here:

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Kindness Kindness

I was the recipient of a really sweet act of kindness last week.

I was in the middle of what can only be described a STRESSFUL out of town assignment.  Many factors contributed to the stress, but the end result was me feeling frazzled and at my wits end.

Then one night my phone wiggled, and I checked my texts.  It was a co-worker, a friend, sending me an apology.  We had a rift almost a year ago - ruffled feathers.  That caused our relationship to be a bit strained, but of course we maintained our professionalism throughout it all.  But here they were, in the midst of this stress that they too were experiencing, offering a sincere apology.

I was so touched.  It was honestly very lovely.

The next morning the co-worker was seated at a table while I was working in another space.  When I came back to the table and opened my purse to get something out, I found THIS:
Kindness Changes Everything - coin purse
And I smiled.

And inside of THAT, I found THIS:

Kindness coin
And I smiled even bigger.

Apologies go a long way.  They wipe the slate clean.  They establish a new, more firm footing to a relationship.  People who offer apologies are BRAVE.  And they are KIND.

Thank you for your kindness friend.  I am grateful for it (and for you).  And I agree, Kindness Changes Everything.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Healing Horse Kindness

My friend Michelle told me a story this spring that was so inspirational.  Then “life” happened and I got distracted by summer – swimming, traveling, hosting guests…  I am sorry to say, I didn’t write much.  And not only that, I didn’t open my eyes all that widely to look for kindness, either.  And that makes me sad.

But, lucky for you and lucky for ME, I am now sitting down and putting “pen to paper” (which is a complete fabrication, because I am actually putting keys to keyboard, but that doesn’t flow as well in English, does it?).  Are you ready to be inspired by Michelle’s story??  Let me share it.

First off, here is MICHELLE. 

Michelle and nature
Isn’t she gorgeous??  I think she should model, but that is a discussion for another time.

Now, to understand that story of her kindness, you need to know about something that I had never heard of until she told me:  NATIVE AMERICAN FETISHES.  She collects fetishes, and here is how she explained what they are to me, “‘Fetish’ is a term used to describe the carvings that Native Americans believed to hold special powers.  According to Native Americans, stone animal fetishes were a source of aid to a person in a time of need.  Some examples are:
Bears are for strength and self-introspection
Frogs for fertility
Owls are protectors of the home
And the list goes on….

Michelle collects these fetishes.  She isn’t sure that she is Native American, but her grandfather believed that the family was.  Michelle would love to find out for sure though!

Michelle and her fun loving son
Another thing about Michelle, she is deaf.  And maybe because of that, and because of the difficulties communication with strangers can bring, she does not like talking to people she doesn’t know. She explained, “Being deaf, I’m always afraid I won’t be able to read their lips.  If that happens, the conversation can get awkward really fast.” 

And one last thing about Michelle before I tell you the story of her kindness, she is a private person.  She does not share a lot on social media, and I rarely see her in person.  So, I was super honored when she opened up and shared this beautiful story:

“Last year I was on a trip and had a layover in Baltimore.  I was in the pre-board area waiting to board my flight, and I notice a VERY ill woman in a wheelchair whose husband was rubbing her back.  She clearly had cancer and was in an incredible amount of pain.  I couldn’t look at her without sobbing.  I was just so heartbroken for her and her husband that it wrecked me.

I boarded the flight after the woman and sat diagonally behind her.  I watched her and I cried the entire flight.  I kept thinking to myself that I wanted so badly to help her, but there was nothing to be done.  I mean, seriously, what could I do?!  And as I was thinking that to myself, I didn’t realize I was holding my necklace and praying into it.  And that is when it occurred to me:  I was wearing my horse fetish necklace

Anyone who knows me knows that I collect Native American fetishes.  Native Americans believe that animals have powers:  buffalo for power, bears for strength, horses for healing…  It was at that moment that I knew my necklace really belonged to her.  My beloved horse had served his purpose with me and now need to go with her. 

Once I realized that I needed to give it to her, I rehearsed in my head what I would say.  I had never given a fetish to a complete stranger before, but I just knew this had to be done – she needed it.  But would she accept it?  Would she be offended??  Might she smile?  Would she throw it back at me – yell?  And if she didn’t accept it, then what would I do??  I was so nervous...

When our plane landed in New Mexico I stayed behind while she got off.  My heart was pounding so hard I could feel it in my head – I thought I might pass out.  I finally got off the plane and saw my aunt waiting for me.  I started bawling again and explained the situation to her.  She then joined my mission to help me get the fetish to the woman.

We caught up with the woman and her husband just outside security, and my aunt ran ahead to stop them and said to her, “My niece has something she would like to say to you”.  I got down on my knees next to the woman and, with a shaking voice, told her how nervous I was.  I explained how I hated seeing her in so much pain.  I asked if she knew about Native American fetishes and their meaning – she did not.  I put the horse in her hand and told her that horses are known for healing powers and strength, and that this horse belonged to her now.  I looked at her husband, who was ready to cry, and told him to keep taking such great care of her.  Then I looked back at the frail woman, closed the horse in her hand, and told her to be well.”

Isn’t that such a beautiful story of kindness???  Michelle took time to notice, to show compassion, and to act.  So often we see others in pain and we think, like Michelle did, “What can I do??”.  Most of us stop there.  Michelle was amazingly kind in sharing of herself, her horse, and most importantly I think – her genuine compassion and feelings.  I think that she not only made the woman feel loved, but I am sure that the husband was also deeply touched.  I wouldn’t be surprised if that couple has told the story of “the nice woman with the horse in the airport” many, many more times than Michelle has!

A genuine heart and a kind soul
Michelle told me, “I was sobbing on the plane.  But when I actually spoke with the woman, I didn’t cry at all, I held it back.  When we parted ways, I started crying again.  After I gave the necklace to her, I felt every bit of tension leave my body. This was a truly different experience for me.  It touched my soul.  I felt like I truly, genuinely did something good for someone.”

I agree 100% Michelle – you did do something good, something amazing.  Michelle said, “Her husband never said a word, he just listened and cried.  And the woman tried to take in everything I was saying and just said, ‘Thank you’.  I could see the smile behind the pain in her eyes.  I didn’t want to drag out a conversation with her.  I just knew this had to be done – that horse belonged to her.  I knew if I didn’t do it, I would regret it.  Words didn’t really need to be said.”

Michelle, thank you for your kindness.  You are an inspiration.  May we all work to be as aware, as compassionate, and as kind as you.