kindness activist

kindness activist

Monday, July 31, 2017

Crying Kindness

I remember one man’s actions so well. 

I used to travel a ton for work.  So, it was not surprising when I look back on it now that I happened to be in an airport when I got the phone call with the news that my dad had prostate cancer.  I can’t remember which airport I was on a layover in, and I can’t remember the details of the phone call.  What I DO remember is wandering aimlessly around the airport crying after hearing about the cancer.

And I remember a man coming up to me.  He was a fellow business traveler, in a suit if I recall.  And he asked if I was ok, and if there was anything he could do.  I blurted out, with tears rolling down my face, that I just learned that my dad had cancer.  “What kind of cancer?” he asked gently.  I explained it was prostate cancer, and he was so sweet to me.  He calmly explained that if my dad had to get cancer, any kind of cancer, prostate was the best he could get.  It was the slowest growing and very treatable.  He didn’t talk down to me, didn’t “mansplain” it to me, he just reassured me. 

I can’t remember what he looked like, I never learned his name, but I certainly remember his actions.

I wrote in this project about a kind stranger being in the right place at the right time when my sister got the news that she had breast cancer.  The stranger’s name was Heather, and she embraced my sister and let her cry after the doctor broke the news to her on the phone.  Our family still calls Heather “Angel” when we talk about that day.

So tonight, when I was walking on the beach, when I came across a woman crying I knew it was my turn to be the hugger, the reassuring voice. 

“Maam, are you ok?” I asked the woman who looked around my age.  She kept walking.  I wasn’t sure if she didn’t hear me because of the strong wind blowing due to the big storm rolling in, or if she heard me but didn’t want to connect.  I followed her a step or two and moved in closer to make sure she could hear, “Maam, are you alright?”.

And she turned to me, tears in her eyes and her face showing so much pain.  She didn’t speak, but I just took her gently and hugged her.  I held her tight, and she cried and cried.  She put her head on my shoulder and sobbed. 

Tonight's wavy, windy, peaceful beach
“I am sorry you feel so bad,” I heard myself say.  I was genuinely sorry, but the words could do nothing to help her feel better.  I rocked her a bit side to side, the two of us just standing on the shore with the wind all around us.  I rubbed her arms.

Finally, she could calm down and breathe a bit.  She explained that the man she was with, the one that she thought was the right fit – who had introduced her to all his friends and spent so much time with her – had just said he didn’t want to be with her anymore.

In times like that there is not much to say.  So, I just held her.  When she calmed down a bit she was embarrassed, saying she must look like a blubbering fool.  “Hey, I have been there!  And if you want to cry or scream, the beach is the perfect spot to do it”.  I rubbed her arms and hugged her a bit more.

After a few minutes she thanked me, and we each walked on in different directions.

I didn’t help solve her problem, but I gave her my shoulder to cry on.  I am glad to be able to pass the kindness on that the man in the airport gave to me, and that “Angel” gave to my sister.

If you see a person in need, stop.  It is not a comfortable thing for many people, and it might be easier to pretend you didn’t notice and walk on.  But if the person you hug is anything like me, they will remember your kindness for the rest of their life.

Beach walk selfie.  THANKS, man in the airport.  You listened, calmed me down, and reassured me.
And hey - you were right!  My dad WAS ok after that diagnosis.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Relationship Kindness

So, today was the last day I was going to write a short piece about kindness for the week.  I had set a goal – one piece per day – and this was to be IT.

But the day is practically over, and I had not been inspired.  When I thought about it, I panicked a little.  I didn’t want to “fail” at this easy goal.  But if there was no kindness to write about that happened today, then no kindness story, right??

Then I realized something:  how my partner David and I treat one another is KIND.

I think of it as just “us” – I mean – it is just the way we are, the way we interact.  We have been together for 29 years, it is just “how we do”.  I don’t think either of us consciously does kind acts for the other, they just sort of happen. 

Here are the examples I thought of today:  last night I set my alarm super early.  I am NOT a morning person, but I always love it when I can get to the beach and watch sunrise.  I love it, I just don’t DO IT, because I hate waking up so early.  But last night I decided, today was the day, I would wake up and walk to the beach to watch the glorious sunrise.

Then this morning the alarm went off…

And all of the sudden, the whole idea of watching the sunrise didn’t seem that great.  It seemed downright silly, really.  And the pull of the toasty bed was very strong.  So strong, in fact, that after I turned off the dumb alarm I crawled right back into bed and announced I would watch sunrise “another day”.

David doesn’t enjoy mornings, either.  And he isn’t even all that into sunrises (crazy, no???).  But he knows I LOVE THEM.  So, do you know what he did??  Even though it was MY plan, and I don’t even think he was originally planning to get up and go to the beach this morning, he crawled out of bed and said, “Let’s go watch the sun rise today”. 

He was kind.

That was all I needed – the little nudge to get my lazy bones out of bed, throw on some clothes, and walk to the beach.  He went with me, and it was as lovely as I expected.  (Not to mention we just crawled right back into bed after we came home.)

Why don't I get up early EVERY MORNING to watch this?  
Then, this evening, it came time for him to do something HE enjoys – trimming the trees and bushes.  This is a chore he really likes.  The limbs and brush are picked up every Tuesday and David always wants to have a nice neat pile out there waiting to be collected.  But he hadn’t done any trimming this week and we are planning to be out most of the day tomorrow, so really, this evening was his last chance for the week.  So out he went – chop, chop, chop.

We had just come back from the beach and showered.  I was nice and clean.  I had on clean clothes.  Honestly, the last thing I wanted to do was start hauling branches around to the front of the house to make the pile.  But I did it, without being asked.  I was kind.  And I know David appreciated it.  He isn’t the type of person to ask for help, but that “division of duties” – him trim and me lug – works well for yard work, and I was glad to pitch in.

David taking out an old, dead bush.  He loves that stuff!

January morning - David, in his jammies, watering Trixie (our fruit cocktail tree!)
So there.  Thinking about those 2 things reminded me that kindness doesn’t even have to be a deliberate act.  Kindness can just be something that is sort of “built into” your actions, your relationships, your communication. 

Sunrise selfie 
The colors of sunrise amaze and delight me
Thanks for sharing this week of “small kindnesses” with me.  More kindness – large and small – to follow in this blog.  Be on the lookout for kindness and please share it with me!!  I would love more examples to share with the world!  Email me at:

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Scepter Kindness

This is the 6th short piece in the week-long drive to write one kindness story everyday about “small kindnesses” I see, do, or hear about.  This one was lovely!!

We were waiting in line at Office Depot to get some things laminated.  We noticed a little girl with a super pretty bracelet and summer dress with her mom in line ahead of us.  Little did we know that very soon we would be twirling and spinning with that girl!

But, you see, it happened…  Instead of boring elevator muzak, Abba’s “Dancing Queen” came on, and, well, when “Dancing Queen” comes on, how are ya gonna hold back???  

Click here if you wanna dance - Dancing Queen by Abba

At first, I managed to stand still.  Then I noticed the little girl swaying.  And raising her arms a bit…  And, well, the music got the best of me!  I grabbed David and we spent the time in line dancing.  We were quiet, but with our spins and dancing “beauty”, well, the little girl turned around and noticed us.  And boy, did she grin.  So, of coooourse she was invited into our groove, and she joined in eagerly!!!  She wasn’t shy at ALL.  Pretty soon the 3 of us were cutting a rug right there in Office Depot – spinnnnning and twirrrrrling and oh so synchronized.  We were great!!!!

When the song was done she smiled a huge, huge smile and said, “That was GREAT!!!”.  Turns out, dancing with strangers is a terrific conversation starter, cuz once we finished dancing we could ask her about that awesome bracelet she was sporting!

She told us her name is ABBY and she is 6 years old.  She and her mom were at Office Depot to get a pretty rainbow poster laminated for an upcoming birthday party.  She explained to us that her bracelet is part of an outfit she has that looks like one of her favorite characters, Elena of Avalor.  We had never heard of this character, but Abby told us all about one special part of Elena’s costume that she didn’t have yet – a SCEPTER.  I brainstormed with her different ideas to make a scepter – she was thinking stick or something like that, then I came up with empty paper towel roll.  We were talking about how she might paint it and what to put on the end – it was a pretty detailed craft discussion. 😊  . 

As Abby animatedly talked through all of this, unbeknownst to us, the Office Depot employee in the copy department, Kelly, had been listening in.  Pretty soon Kelly reached over the counter and handed Abby a BEAUTIFUL long, empty tube – perfect scepter making material!!!!!  Abby’s little face lit up!  What might have been trash to someone else was A COSTUME IN THE MAKING to this adorable girl.  She knew just what ball she was going to have her mom hot glue to the end of this tube, and she had blue glitter at home just waiting to be used on this project!!!

Meet Abby - the sweetest, kindness, most genuine 6 year old the world could ask for.
And isn't the tube GREAT for scepter making?
I talked to Abby’s mom about the Kindness Activist project and she told me that Abby spreads kindness wherever she goes.  She said recently Abby had cheered up a stranger at the grocery store, just because she innately knew that person wasn’t having a good day.  AT SIX, this little girl is chock full of kindness.
This is the front of the Elena of Avalor CD - isn't she a great looking princess??
And the scepter is obviously a super important part of her costume!!
This story was meant to be about the kindness of the Office Depot employee Kelly helping a little girl make the costume of her dreams, I must also applaud Abby for being a ray of sunshine and kindness for the world.

Thanks for introducing me to Elena of Avalor, Abby.  From what I see online she seems very similar to YOU – smart, a great leader, and kind. 

And to Abby’s mom – if you see this, when Abby makes that scepter, please post a photo in the comments!!!  I so want to see the shining finished product!!

Friday, July 14, 2017

Turtle Kindness

Here is today’s entry in the week-long “Write About A Small Kindness Everyday” series.  😊

Lately I have been scouring Facebook events to find fun stuff to do.  It is a great way to happen on things wherever you are – I recommend it!!  One thing I found was a TURTLE RELEASE – 2 turtles had been rehabbed and were healthy enough to get released back into the ocean today!  “Turtle Release”???  You don’t have to invite me twice, I’m there!!!

We normally go to the beach with practically nothing – just us, our hats, and sunglasses.  But we were not sure how long we would be there today so we packed the car with all of the items “reasonable” people bring to the beach (that we never do…) and headed out.

It was suuuuper hot today and the release was scheduled for 1:00 pm – meaning the sun was bright and right overhead.  We brought a “beach sheet” to lay out to sit on, but quickly realized that laying it out would be as much for holding our spot to get a good view of the turtles as it would be for resting.  We nabbed a spot right on the rope where we were told the turtle would “parade” before being set free.

We were waiting around, excited, when I noticed a woman holding a toddler in a baby carrier.  If I was hot, I couldn’t imagine how toasty it would be with a tiny human snuggled up against me!  I asked her if they had a place to sit, and when she said they didn’t offered her space on our sheet.  She was super grateful and then pointed out that it was not just her and the baby – there were 3 other adorable kids that belonged to her.  Of course, we said they were all invited to share the sheet to sit. 

Her sons were super into collecting jelly fish from the beach, and her daughter, it turned out, is a MERMAID FAN (as am I!).  Lucky I had on my “Mermaids Are Real” t-shirt so the two of us could spot each other.  😊 My new little friend and I made a mermaid connection (she has a tail, as do I!  She has been to Weeki Wachee, as have I!!!).  She was adorable.  

Just a couple of mermaid fans, waiting for turtles!
We hung out and got to see Mean Joe Green and Tamatoa get released.  It was lovely!!  David was out in the water as the two turtles swam off.  So fun!!!  We stayed and swam a while, but our new friends took off. 
I am not sure if this is Mean Joe Green or Tamatoa, but isn't he cute???

Each turtle took a quick "lap" to meet the adoring fans before being released into the ocean

All healthy now and ready to go home to the ocean!!!
There is another turtle event tomorrow evening – they are cleaning out a turtle nest that recently hatched to see if there are any live turtles still in there.  We are hoping to go to that, and I hope I get to see my friend and her family again.  I need to show her my new mermaid kite!

In the meantime, sharing our beach sheet turned out to be a super fun kind thing to do, cuz we got to meet that sweet family.

Being kind is FUN!!!
Do you have something you can share - an umbrella, some grapes, a pencil?  Seems like we shared more when we were kids...  I say it is time to bring sharing back!  It’s easy, will make you feel good, and might make someone else’s day a little easier.

Bonus photo - David got hungry and "ate" a jelly fish...  :)

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Confederate Kindness

This is a story about kindness, and about making generalities, and about prejudice.  My prejudice.

Recently we were driving down the road in Florida and got passed by a vehicle.  We get passed by vehicles often, we drive sort of slow, but this vehicle that passed us was memorable.  It was a big pick-up truck, the kind up on large tires, with a confederate flag strapped to it that was flapping in the breeze.

I don’t think I said anything out loud this time, I often do, but I know that inside I felt it: disgust, resentment, anger, and a judging – that these people who would so brazenly wave such a racist symbol were ignorant, mean, and unkind.

Stock image of a confederate flag, I did NOT take a photo of the truck passing us
They drove on.

Then, at some point, the pick-up truck and our little Prius, yes, our tree hugging, politically correct hybrid, ended up next to each other at a red light.

We didn’t even look their direction.  Inside our air conditioned car we were talking or singing or something or other. 

Then they HONKED.  At us.  To get our attention.

I jumped.  And my first reaction was fear.  I was SCARED of people I didn’t even know, had never even SEEN before, because of what I perceived as a symbol of hatred being displayed by them.

My partner David was driving, and he rolled down the window to see why they had honked.  A 20-something woman leaned out the truck window, which towered above our window, and said, “Hi.  Your brake lights are out”.  She didn’t say it angrily, or judgementally, or anything negatively at all. 

She said it KINDLY.

She was simply being kind – letting us know that we needed to get our brake lights repaired.

The light changed.  We all drove on.  David and I continued talking about whatever we had been discussing, but later in the evening came back to that moment.  It turns out, he had thought the worst, too.  We had both ASSUMED incorrectly that these people would be unkind.

And we were wrong. 

It was a good lesson in not stereotyping.  And that kindness can be displayed by anyoneBy everyone.  It was a lesson I needed, and I am glad that woman took the time to teach it to me.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Art-O-Mat Kindness

This week I am going to write of one “small” act of kindness every day.  Lately I have been lax in noticing kindness, and I think by taking time to sit down and think about, then tell you about one seemingly tiny act of kindness given or received everyday, I will get back into the groove of being alert and receptive to kindness.  And I hope the stories of “little” kindnesses will help you to be more alert and notice them in your lives, too.

Day three:

Art-O-Mats*, if you have never been lucky enough to happen upon one, are old cigarette machines repurposed to dispense ART.  I am kinda sorta in love with Art-O-Mats.  We have one in DC at the Smithsonian Portrait Gallery, and I am a huge fan of it!!!  Anytime I take a visitor to that museum I make sure to take them to the out-of-the-way room that houses the Art-O-Mat, and I try and make sure my enthusiasm is clear and contagious so that they will invest in art!!

The thing about Art-O-Mats is, see, they are a SURPRISE!!  You put your money in, then choose a knob to pull, and bam, just like that, your little piece of real live art pops out!  You can have a general sense of what you are getting – there is one little space for the artist to “advertise” their work, but trust me, it is a total crap shoot.  (Side note:  once my sister Sherry and I laughed soooo hard we cried when the art I got turned out to be, well, not really something we thought was attractive…  That artwork is now proudly displayed on our mantle.  Another Art-O-Mat piece hangs in our hallway.)
Art-O-Mat in DC

My sister and I examining our choices...

Anyway, recently we went to the Appleton Museum of Art in Ocala, Florida and I was thrilled to see an Art-O-Mat!!!!  I got the required token ($5) from the gift shop and headed back to the machine to make my big decision on which knob to pull!

When I got there, 2 young girls were also intrigued by the machine.  “You have to get a token!!  You put it in there!!!  Then you pull a handle!!!!!” they excitedly told me.  “I know!  Isn’t it great???” I replied.  The three of us nervously examined all of the choices – it is so hard to pick!  One girl really thought I should invest in the “mystery” choice – whose only “sneak peek” was a bunch of question marks…  But I had my heart set on a Florida artist, and I didn’t know where the question mark artist was from, so I moved on… 

I finally decided I wanted to pull the knob of the art whose provocation was “Wednesdsay: Washday, World’s Smallest Solar Dryer” crafted by Washday Miracle Clark Houck from Deland, Florida.  (The fine print said, “Wow is it tiny!” 😊 )  My two new friends were happy with that choice. I put in my token.  And let me just tell you, those two little girls and I were psyched!! 

Can't you just feel the excitement???
Then I decided to let the little girls pull the knob for me.

Maybe that doesn’t seem like a lot to you.  And I agree, it is not a huge thing.

But, for me, it was a tiny act of kindness.  Cuz, let me just be honest here, I really wanted to pull that knob myself…  I don’t have kids, and I guess I am a pretty independent person.  And really, the fun part of Art-O-Mat machines is pulling that knob and seeing your artwork pop out…  But those little girls deserved that fun, too, so I was happy to say, “Do you want to pull the knob for me??”.

Well, I thought they would pull it together, but it turns out the older sister was maybe a bit bossy, so she pulled that sucker out on her own, which was fine, the younger girl was happy just to be a part of it all I guess.  And that older girl quickly ripped the box holding my artwork opened, and the three of us smiled and marveled at what was revealed: it was indeed the world’s smallest solar dryer!!!!

Isn’t it fabulous?

Look!!!  It is the World's Smallest Solar Dryer!  Thanks, Clark Houck!  It is terrific.
Close up, with hand for size :)
* In writing this piece I did a bit of Googling and found some info on Art-O-Mati.  You can learn more about them here:

Keep your eyes open for kindness, and keep buying art!

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

SUP Kindness

This week I am going to write of one “small” act of kindness every day.  Lately I have been lax in noticing kindness, and I think by taking time to sit down and think about, then tell you about one seemingly tiny act of kindness given or received everyday, I will get back into the groove of being alert and receptive to kindness.  And I hope the stories of “little” kindnesses will help you to be more alert and notice them in your lives, too.

Day two:  We recently got a Stand-Up Paddleboard (SUP) and are having a blast with it.  It is a blow-up SUP, and you pump it up using a manual pump, which takes quite a bit of work and energy.  We have been leaving it blown up so that we don’t have to keep re-pumping it, but that means lugging it back and forth to the beach. 

We live 1 and a half blocks away from the ocean.  Yes, that is very close, but when David is balancing a 10 foot long, 33 inches wide SUP on his head for the walk, it is not that easy!!  Especially because, to get to the beach, we have to cross A1A, a highway that goes down the coast of Florida and sometimes has a bit of traffic.

But you know what??  David told me that he noticed that every time he gets to A1A and is standing, SUP on head, ready to cross, traffic stops for him.  Cars give him the right of way, even though he is not crossing in a pedestrian crosswalk!  Isn’t that kind??

Thank you, random strangers driving down the road.  Your acts of kindness – stopping to let David cross – have not gone unnoticed.

David rocking the SUP - in the waves!
And now – surf’s up!!

Monday, July 10, 2017

Peachy Kindness

This week I am going to write of one “small” act of kindness every day.  Lately I have been lax in noticing kindness, and I think by taking time to sit down and think about, then tell you about one seemingly tiny act of kindness given or received everyday, I will get back into the groove of being alert and receptive to kindness.  And I hope the stories of “little” kindnesses will help you to be more alert and notice them in your lives, too.

Day one:  We stopped at a roadside produce stand.  I used to love those, but the last couple of years they tend to disappoint me.  The produce often doesn’t seem “fresh” – it looks more like someone just bought a bunch of the same boxes of fruits and veggies the grocery stores sell and laid it all out on tables on the side of the road.

And that was the case with the stand we pulled over for yesterday.  Many of the veggies had STICKERS on them, just like you find at Safeway or Wal-Mart.  Disappointing!  If I wanted regular old produce, I would get it at the grocery store… 

David did pick up a basket of oranges to make juice, even though (when asked) the “farmer” told us they were from California (we are currently in Florida…).  Ooookkkk, so once again, these are probably the same oranges we could get at any big grocery store.  Sigh.

But as we were leaving, we saw some pretty peaches.  David eyed them, then asked the old man working where THOSE came from.  “Carolina!” he replied, and then gave us a toothless smile.  “They ain’t never been chilled or nuttin’.  Just picked.”

One lovely, juicy, fresh picked, full of kindness peach
“How much?” asked David. 

“$2 a pound,” replied the toothless man.

David picked up one peach and said, “We will take this one.”  He handed it to the old man, who put it in a bag for us and handed it back to David, who was getting money out to pay. 

“It’s yours,” the old man said, and gave David a wink and a toothless grin. 

Thanks, sir.  That juicy peach is a perfect reminder to me that small gestures of kindness can make my heart happy.  

Friday, July 7, 2017

Kindness is Contagious

One of the main premises of this Kindness Activist project is:  KINDNESS IS CONTAGIOUS.  When we see kindness, receive kindness, or even hear about kindness, we are in turn inspired to go out into the world and CREATE KINDNESS – SHARE IT!  One little act of kindness can be a ripple that goes out into the world and makes more ripples – spreading, expanding, and filling the space with KINDNESS.

That is what I have seen to be true.  That is what I believe.

With that concept in mind, that sharing about kindness inspires more kindness, I set up something special on our front gate. 

We live on a very busy intersection right outside Washington DC.  Cars pass by day and night, as do bicyclists, walkers, and runners.  I wanted to see how many people would be willing to stop and get involved if they spotted THIS sign:

Kindness is Contagious sign - day one!!!
It was quite bright, neon in fact!  And it was really noticeable.  Hanging from it was a bag of post-it notes and markers, and another bag with Kindness Activist cards with contact info. 

But these days so many of us (myself included) have our heads buried in our cell phones or our minds focused on “more important” things than what is right in front of us…  So how many people would, a: NOTICE the sign, and more importantly, b: be willing to get involved and share a message???

I started by putting my own message on the board.  I invited my partner to post his.  Then I waited and hoped people would join in.

And they did!!  One of the first person to be bold enough to participate wrote this:

I couldn't agree more, Georgia (who I have never met but would like to!)
You can’t imagine how much that made me smile!!! 

I wrote about the board on Facebook, and loads of friends gave me stories of kindness to post.  So those were added!  Two friends even wrote their own post-its from afar and sent them snail mail to add to board. 

And neighbors, passersby, continued to stop and share.  Their messages filled me with joy.  With happiness.  And I guess, ultimately, the messages filled me with HOPE.  Some days it is hard to believe in kindness – when the news is all negative and the workday seems to never end.  But on those days I would pop out to the front gate and find notes like this one:

I have often thought about doing this, buying a stranger's coffee, but have never
actually DONE it.   Thanks, whoever wrote this, for reminding me what a
KIND thing it is to do, and not difficult!
 Or this one!

Hey Mike at Safeway - your kindness made a big difference in
the day of the person who wrote this note!
And look at this one!

What a great way to give back to the world.
Even kids got involved, which really made me grin.

Because to help people    :)

Once I fell down and someone helped me get up.   :)
Some were very serious:

Amazing kindness

You are lucky to have such an inspirational friend, JH.  Thanks for
being open and honest and stopping to share!

I bet your friends were happy to be able to help
Others more light-hearted:

You are VERY WELCOME!  It was totally my pleasure.
I guess, in the end, this project was a tiny bit selfish…  I am certain that I received more than I pitched in on this one – all I had to do was make a sign and keep the bag stocked with markers and paper, passersby did the amazing work of opening their hearts and sharing kindness.  Thank you, kind souls, who took time to stop and share your stories of kindness.  

This project was a tangible way to remind myself, and to share with others, that KINDNESS IS CONTAGIOUS. 

Share some today, won't you?   

And if you know of a kind person, please tell me about them!  I am looking for more stories to share so that we can spread kindness even further.  Please email me at to share YOUR story of kindness received, given, or witnessed.  THANKS!