kindness activist

kindness activist

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Little Gestures Mean A LOT Kindness

Do you ever have “those days”?  I think we all do…  Days when stuff just doesn’t feel “right”?  Maybe nothing major happens – you don’t find a dent in your car, you might not be late for an appointment or anything, but it just doesn’t feel like YOUR DAY…

That is the sort of day my friend Sharaine was having recently.  She was feeling a bit out of sorts, a bit down, when out of the blue, a cashier made a big impact.

Sharaine (photo obviously taken on a day she was feeling great)
Sharaine was shopping at Smith’s, a local grocery store where she lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  Sharaine is deaf, and when she checked out she used her voice to speak and her hands to sign to ask the cashier, Dawna, how she was doing.  Dawna replied, “Wonderful!”, to which Sharaine said, “Oh, that is a terrific answer!”. 

Dawna finished ringing up the groceries.  She tore off the cash register receipt, folded it, then did something odd – she came around the counter to personally hand it to Sharaine.  Only, as she handed over the paper, she gave Sharaine a BIG HUGA hug!!!!! 

Well, that was certainly something that had never happened to Sharaine at the grocery store before! 

And instead of being startled, or scared, or upset, Sharaine returned that big hug.  I wish I had been there to witness it – the cashier and the customer sharing a Wednesday afternoon hug!

Sharaine sent me a message telling me about the incident, and told me that the hug really made her feel good.  It brightened her day.  She told Dawna, “You have no idea how much I needed that,” to which the cashier replied, “I needed it more”.

Who knew the power of a single hug?  Sharaine sure does now!
It is such a SMALL gesture, a hug.  But offering a hug takes guts!  You never know how a hug will be received.  And when a hug is perfectly timed, like this one was, it can make a world of difference.
I was so happy to hear Sharaine’s version of the story, but I really felt the urge to talk to the cashier, Dawna, and get her take on it.  Hilariously, I had a ridiculously hard time reaching her.  I am on Eastern time, and she is on Mountain.  I called the grocery store where she works on about 8 occasions asking for her, trying at all different times of the day.  Each time, the people who answered were super sweet and put me on hold to page her or hunt for her.  But each time they came back with, “Nope, she is not here right now, sorry”. 

Sorry I kept calling and having you hunt for Dawna, people at Smith's!
But Sharaine surprised me one afternoon by texting and telling me that she just saw Dawna again at the store (and that she was wearing a “Be Kind” pin, not surprising!), and told her I was trying to track her down. Sharaine facilitated an exchange of phone numbers, and I finally got to talk to Dawna.  And let’s just say, I was very, very impressed but not surprised at how KIND she was, even just on the phone.

First off, I had to know – was Sharaine the only person she hugged, or is this “a thing” with Dawna??  Lucky for the customers at Smith’s, Dawna gives out hugs by the handfuls!!  She explained, “I interact with at least 200 people a day when I work.  I hear so many stories every day.  People love to share if you have the time (and take the time) to LISTEN.  I like to listen!”

Dawna!!!  Doesn't her smile just radiate KINDNESS???
I asked Dawna, who has worked for Smith’s for 14 years, what made her decide to give Sharaine a hug that day.  She told me, “I believe that was the first time I have hugged her.  I could just feel the sadness in her for some reason.  Some people don’t like to voice their feelings, but I could just FEEL it.  So, I gave her a hug.”  Having spoken with Sharaine, I knew how she felt about the interaction, but how did it make Dawna feel?  “It made me feel WONDERFUL.  It was…  I don’t know if SHE needed it, but she RECEIVED it.  That is the wonderfulness I am talking about.  She embraced it, and that made me happy.  And, she said, ‘thank you’.”

Talking to Dawna made me wish I lived in Albuquerque so that I could shop at Smith’s and go through her line!  I surmised that shoppers search for her and go through her queue on purpose, and I was right.  “People get in my line and it gets backed up, but they do not want to move to another line.  Managers sometimes get upset, but it is quite funny.  I want everyone who comes in to grocery shop to walk out feeling GOOD INSIDE.  Now, they might not be too happy that they just spent $300 on groceries, but they feel happy that they feel good inside!  When I am not working sometimes customers ask for me.  I tell them, ‘I need a day off every now and again!’ .”

You know how some people are more “in tuned” to the energy around people than others?  Dawna definitely is.  She is good at reading people, tuning in.  “I don’t have to engage people if they do not want to talk.  I say, ‘Good morning’ and leave it at that.  But a possible conversation can ensue.  I see so many people during the day.  Of course, management wants us to scan groceries fast and get people out the door, but if my customers have something to tell me, I want to hear it.  I want to give them the respect of listening to them.  I may never see them again, but they leave knowing that I LISTENED.  It is all about giving people respect.  That’s all it is.  I don’t care who you are or what kind of day you have had.  If you need to say something, I am here to listen.  And some days I leave work so drained.  But I go home and “plug in my heart to recharge it”.  I think a lot of it is the  Holy Spirit working.”

Albuquerque Kindness
Sharaine noticed Dawna had a Kindness button on that said "Be Kind", so I asked her about it.  She says the simple act of wearing the button can “disarm someone with fire in their eyes”.  She reports that just wearing it can de-escalate a bad situation, because when people see it, it helps them calm down.  “Maybe they have been stuck in morning traffic, dealing with their kids…  But seeing the pin, with just 2 simple words, Be Kind, can change the focus of their day.  Seeing the button makes them take a breath.  It sends a message without saying a word.  Hopefully, it will inspire them to chill out a little bit,” she explained.  

Well Dawna, soon you will have a 2nd button to wear next to that one.  Your “Kindness Is My Super Power” pin is on the way to you!  And honestly, you are an amazing Kindness Activist and the perfect Ambassador for Smith's.  Your store, your managers, and most of all, your CUSTOMERS are lucky to have you around!

Your new button is on the way!
Thanks for being a KINDNESS ACTIVIST.  Your genuine interaction made a big difference in Sharaine’s day, and hearing about the story made a difference in mine.  I am going to seek out opportunities to be brave enough and open enough to listen to people and offer hugs. 

What about you, will you do the same?  The world could certainly use more hugs.

Do YOU know someone who has done something kind?  Please tell me about them!  Email me at: and “like” us on Facebook (Kindness Activist).

THANKS for telling me your story, Sharaine!  I love it.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Coke Kindness (and a bonus "Kindness Tip"!)

This is Carol.  She is part of the “James and Carol” duo that are our neighbors in Florida.

Carol, a very kind neighbor (and aren't her sunflowers pretty?)
(Photo of Carol, in a pink shirt, glasses, earrings, and a cross necklace.  She is standing
in  front of her house and next to her is a bright yellow, very tall sunflower.
David and I have been working in the hot sun and humidity for the last 2 days, digging dirt away from the base of the house, scraping paint, cleaning the cinder blocks, and putting on a primer coat of paint.  It has not been easy.  In fact, it has been downright TOUGH!!

I never realized how much painting the house would be a workout
(Photo of Susan, in a blue tank top and grey and white shorts, scrubbing the side of the house.
She is wearing yellow cleaning gloves, safety goggles, and a hat.  The house has chunks of paint missing.)
But today when we were halfway through the primer coat, over walked Carol.  And she was not just coming to see how our work was progressing – she was bringing us 2 cold Cokes!

Break from painting to DRINK A COLD COKE - ahhhh
(Photo of David in a School of Theater Mason Players t shirt,
 holding a paint brush with white paint on it while drinking a Coke.)
That might seem like a small gesture, but it sure was appreciated.  The chilly drink cooled us down and the caffeine and sugar gave us a much needed energy boost to keep on painting. 

Little gestures like that don’t cost a lot of money.  They don’t take a lot of time.  But they can sure go a long way to help someone else have a good day.

That’s today’s story of KINDNESS, and now here is a little kindness tip from an exhausted house painter: if you are walking or biking by someone’s house and you see them outside working hard – be it painting, roofing, replacing gutters, WHATEVER - pause and give them a little holler.  A simple, “Hey, looks great!” might be just the thing they need to hear.  Heck, even if it doesn’t quite look “great” yet, that little white lie won’t hurt a soul 😊

Thanks for the Cokes Carol!  Next time I see a neighbor working hard on their house, I will think, “What would Carol do?” and deliver them an ice cold treat.

Oops - I leaned against a part I had already painted...
(Photo of Susan on a ladder up by the eaves of the house.  She has a big plop of
white paint on her leg and is holding a paint brush, making a funny face.)

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Lunch Time Kindness

This story of kindness makes me smile so big.  It is an act of kindness I have heard about, read about, even WROTE about near the beginning of this project* (see link at the bottom of this post), but this is the first time I was (almost) around to witness it!!

Ryan and Beth were in a restaurant eating lunch.  They were working at a conference, and had taken their hour-long break to grab a bite to eat.  But before you can understand the act of kindness and how cool it was, you need to understand Ryan and Beth and how cool THEY are!  Smiley face**.

Photo of Ryan and Beth seated and smiling.  Ryan is wearing a green short sleeve t shirt and Beth is wearing a short sleeve dark green shirt.  Beth wears glasses and a silver bracelet.  They are at a table in a restaurant.***
Beth is Deaf.  She lives in Seattle.  She is a “PAP” – Professional Access Provider.  Basically, that means she provides full communication and access to someone who is both Deaf AND Blind, a person who is known as DeafBlind.  Beth does many things in her PAP role – guiding, interpreting menus, interpreting conversations, traveling with a DeafBlind person – she does a LOT.  One thing she does NOT do is HELP.  She is not a HELPER, she is just there to facilitate the independence of the DeafBlind person.  And trust me, if you met her client Ryan, you would understand that he is not looking for HELP, smiley face.

Photo of Beth seated, smiling.  She is wearing a bright orange shirt that says "St.. Lucia"
Ryan is DeafBlind****.  He also lives in Seattle and is who Beth was working with on the day that this kindness occurred.  He communicates via tactile sign language, or preferably via "pro-tactile" - which conveys not only the WORDS that are spoken, but the visual environment and the non-manual responses of those around him (like head nods).  Ryan is wicked smart.  The things you and I “cheat” and look at our cell phones to confirm (you know, like someone’s phone number, the address of where we are staying, a credit card number…) – yeah, Ryan has all of that stuff MEMORIZED.  He communicates using American Sign Language (ASL) and braille.  His cell phone syncs with a Bluetooth braille reader, which gives him access to everything you and I take in with our eyes. 

Photo of Ryan.  He is standing outdoors, wearing a black shirt and smiling.
There are green trees, grass, and a light in the background.
So, on the day this kindness occurred Ryan was working at a booth at a conference and Beth was supporting him.  They took their lunch break, and when I saw them after they ate they were both smiling from ear to ear!!!  I talked with them to ask what made them so happy, and here is what they told me:

Beth: “I was with my client, Ryan.  He and I were wondering what to have for lunch and we decided on the Mexican restaurant, Mi Casa.” 
Ryan: “We wanted chicken salad, but couldn’t find any good looking salads, so we settled on MiCasa, where we had eaten a couple of days before.  We were hungry and pressed for time.”  
Beth:  “When we were finished with lunch, Ryan asked the waiter for the check and was told that the man who had been seated at a table behind us eating and had left had ALREADY PAID FOR US!  We both thought, ‘What???’.  Ryan asked the waiter who paid – what the person looked like and what his name was.  The waiter wrote down the person’s name and gave it to us.” 

How did it make you feel when you realized he paid, I asked.
Beth:  “At first, I was kind of shocked.  Then I thought, “Man, that was totally out of the blue that he paid for us!”.  But it felt good.  It gave me shivers.  I thought, 'How generous for someone to do that!'."
Ryan:  “It was really unexpected, shocking, and nice.  It was a BIG PLUS! It was really inspirational.  I thought it was so nice of him to buy our meal!  It was a very unexpected random act of kindness.”

After they told me the story of what had happened, I could see that they really wanted to THANK this man.  Also, I wanted to make sure he knew how touched they were that he had treated them!  So, I set about FINDING him!!  We had his name from the slip of paper the waiter gave them, so I started where any amateur Private Investigator would start – FACEBOOK!! 

As luck would have it, the secret stranger has a super long (12 letters!) last name, so even though the waiter actually wrote it down wrong and skipped one letter, I FOUND THE MAN ON FB!  I could tell from the name, location, and job description that he was likely our guy!  I did a bit more detective work (part of which was walking around trying to read name tags of conference attendees, but that idea didn’t help much, grin).  But asking at the registration desk was very effective, and resulted in an email getting to the man asking him to come to Ryan’s booth.

Sure enough, about an hour later, up he walked!!!  He was very humble and a bit shy, but happily accepted Ryan and Beth’s profuse thanks.  He was also happy to receive an official KINDNESS ACTIVIST pin (which he said he would give to his daughter). 

The BEST PART of getting to meet the Kindness Activist was learning WHY he had paid for their lunch.  You might imagine it was because he saw them and wanted to “help”.  Or maybe because he is the type of person who likes to “pay it forward”.  But no – he bought them lunch, he explained, because they had helped HIM the day before!!!  He had come up to their booth (which was promoting Sprint IP Relay*****) and asked questions.  Ryan had answered them so well and explained the product he was representing so thoroughly and clearly that the man just wanted to quietly “thank them” by picking up their check!!  Isn’t that great? 

When I asked Beth why she thought he bought them lunch, she said, “I think just out of the goodness of his heart, really.”  Because the stranger paid "in secret" and because we only met him after I hunted for him, I will keep him anonymous and not call him out by name in this story.  But I am very glad we got to meet him!

I asked Ryan and Beth if that had ever happened to them before, that a stranger paid for their meal.  Remarkably, they BOTH had experienced it previously!  “This is the 2nd time this has happened to me, but this one was even more touching,” said Beth.  “The first time it happened was when we ate out and paid for some people from church.  When someone saw we had done that, THEY paid for us!  But this time it was totally out of the blue!”  Ryan said, “This wasn’t the first time it I had experienced something like that.  I had my meal paid for another time this month, too!”.  I told him this must be his LUCKY MONTH – smile. 

Like so many acts of kindness, this one inspired the recipients.  Beth said, “I think that next time we go out to eat we need to “pay it forward” and buy someone else’s meal.  We can inspire them!”  Ryan agreed; “Yes, this inspired me to pay for someone else’s meal, too.  I would rather pay for a disabled person’s meal”, to which Beth added that she, as his Professional Access Provider, can be on the look-out for a disabled person in a restaurant while they are eating.

I have a feeling that someday soon the “Ryan and Beth team” will be secretly picking up a stranger’s tab. 

Kindness – it just keeps on spreading!!

*Link to the previous piece in Kindness Activist about paying for a stranger’s meal:  Waffle Kindness

**You may have noticed that instead of using “emoticons” in this piece, a description of the emoticon was written out.  That is because people who use braille do not have access to emoticons.

***You may have also noticed that the captions on the photos for this post are descriptions of the photos.  That is so that people who are blind/low vision and use braille or a program that reads text aloud for them (a screen reader) can visualize what is shown in the photo.

****For more information about DeafBlindness, check out this link:  AADB FAQ 

*****More information about SprintIP, the product Ryan was promoting, can be found here:  SprintIP