kindness activist

kindness activist

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Thompson Family Kindness


I firmly believe that doing, witnessing, and receiving acts of kindness makes a person’s life better.  When I feel “down”, if I purposely open my eyes and look for kindness, or better yet, go out into the world and do something kind, I cheer up.  I feel more alive.  I feel engaged with society. 

It was in that vein – the spirit of GET INVOLVED, BE KIND, and FEEL GOOD - that I set about organizing a big holiday time kindness! 

I had seen photos going around of people leaving scarves tied to trees and things with little notes telling people to feel free to take them.  So, I decided to do a project like that with my whole family in Omaha. 

First, we needed WARM THINGS TO GIVE AWAY.  To find those, I cleaned out our closets and asked my family to do the same.  I also posted to a neighborhood list serve called “Buy Nothing”* to see if anyone on there had anything they could donate for the cause.  As usual, my fellow “buy nothing-ers” jumped in to help out, and BOY did they help out!  Soon I had piles of coats, scarves, fleece shirts, mittens, hats, and gloves - 109 different items to be exact!**  I washed them all up and packed them in a big box bound for Omaha.  I also printed little tags (written in English and Spanish) – one for each item.  Then we headed for Nebraska, where my sisters and niece added even more items to the collection!

Getting organized with some of the warm items soon to be shared!
This was a project that the whole family could get involved with and help – from the youngest to the oldest.  We thought the tags would be more special if they had drawings on them, so the family artists set about decorating them.  They were lovely!  The drawings made the items feel more like GIFTS to people who needed them than “donations”.   The two oldest family members were in charge of making a hole in each tag and tying on a pretty ribbon.  Those were then pinned to each item.  
Sherry making pretty drawings on cards
Evelyn was in charge of ribbons
Annette making the cards pretty
Table full of artists

My dad was in charge of punching holes


Kemper is a great artist

One of the cards - isn't it sweet?
Jordan attaching tags to items
We picked December 23rd for the giveaways, right before the holidays, and decided on two shifts so that more schedules could be accommodated.  It was a cold day, so we bundled up.  My niece even baked cookies to hand out with the warm clothes (those cookies were a huge hit!!).  We relied on the locals to know some places to leave items.  We wanted to make sure that people who needed them would find them and feel comfortable taking them.


SHIFT ONE - my niece Ashlee, great niece Tallis and 2 great nephews Kemper and Ryker, friend Jeannie,
my nephew Nate, me and my sister Annette (plus David, who was behind the camera)
The giveaway was lovely!!!  We put a super warm fleece shirt and hat (and cookies!) under an underpass that my great-nephew and great-niece had noticed a homeless man living.  We hung items around a big park area downtown.  We put things outside the public library (and handed some things out inside the library, got in a bit of trouble for that…  But hey, the group of homeless teens who got some of our things inside really loved them!).  When we were leaving the library after shift one, we put several items under the Christmas tree.  But when we went BACK to the library on shift two, a librarian returned those things to us and said we were not allowed to leave them there…  Oops! 
Organizing things to give away

Nate, teaching his son Ryker to share and be kind.  I love that all ages got involved!

See Diesel, the dog?  The guys at the shelter
loved him and wanted to keep him :)




The Emergency Shelter was happy to have warm
clothes to share with their clients
































That’s ok, we just took them to other spots!  We put some outside a women and children’s shelter.  We put some under a Christmas tree at that shelter and gave some directly to the moms there (who were very appreciative).  We tied a couple things onto an RV that appeared people were living in it. We took items to a big homeless shelter (where Diesel, the chihuahua that came with us, was very popular!).  We left some things in bus stops where we knew people would have to wait in the cold – we put them all over!  It was nice to see that when we were driving around during shift two, we drove by some of the spots we left items earlier in the day and they had already been taken! 

Shift two (minus David, who was behind the camera again...)

We tied warm clothes everywhere 

Sharing is KIND


















I am so happy that my family all got involved in this big kindness project.  It felt good to be out in the community.  It felt good to share some warmth on a cold, cold day.  It felt good to be KIND. 

David giving a parking meter a hat :)

Scarves - clean, warm, and FREE
Gloves, free for the taking if you have cold hands






















Waiting for the bus can be cold, especially if you are not dressed for the weather. 
We hope that some people who needed extra layers happened on this bus stop.
*Buy Nothing: if you have not joined a Buy Nothing group in your community, check and see if there is one!  Buy Nothing is a group that believes in a SHARED or GIFT economy.  If you have something you do not need, you list it in Buy Nothing and someone who wants it comes and gets it (for free).  It is fabulous!  Freecycle is a similar group.  I highly encourage you to get involved with one or both! 

**We gave out 109 items.  It broke down to:  5 shirts, 1 pair of long underwear, 5 coats, 26 pairs of mittens/gloves, 22 scarves, 20 adult hats, 25 children's hats, and 5 fleece shirts.  :) 

Friday, February 9, 2018

Coupon Kindness

This post is to show you an EASY WAY to spread kindness.

COUPONS!

I like to cut out coupons (yes, real live paper old-school coupons) and use them to save money on our groceries, toiletries, and cleaning products.  I am not like the people you see on the television shows who cut every single coupon they come across and buy tons of products they do not need (or really want) just because they have a coupon and can get the item for cheap or "free".  My system is to only clip the coupons for products that we typically use.

But even though I am not clipping stacks and stacks of coupons, there are still times when I have extras that I am not going to use.  For example, if I know we need toilet paper, I may clip coupons for 3 different brands and then go to the store and compare prices, choosing 1 and using only 1 coupon.

What to do with the other 2 coupons that we don't use??

COUPONS!  
GIVE THEM TO SOMEONE ELSE, OF COURSE!  Why let them go to waste??

I used to just leave the coupons on the shelf next to the item, but I worried they would get lost or people wouldn't see them.  So I came up with a new, very simple solution:  tape.  I now keep a roll of tape in the glove box of my car.  When I grocery shop with coupons, I bring the tape into the store with me.  When I have a coupon I am not going to use, I simply tape it near the item on the shelf.  Or you could tape it onto the item itself.  This makes it very easy for the next person to find and use.

You are already bringing coupons with you, might as well carry a roll of tape, too
I like to think that this tiny act of kindness makes the shopper who finds the coupon smile.  Who doesn't like to save a bit on their grocery bill, right?  Every penny adds up.

Taping up the extra coupons only takes a moment, but it spreads a bit of kindness
What little acts of kindness do YOU do to make the world a bit brighter?  Email me at kindnessactivist@gmail.com and tell me about them!  

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Beachy Boho Kindness

Do you ever meet someone who just emanates KINDNESS?  Like, before you even really get into a conversation with them, their kindness just sort of radiates out of them?  I am not trying to be all hippy-dippy-woo-woo here, but that is how it felt when I met Lyn.  She was a shining, quiet, beautiful beacon of kindness!

Beachy Boho Kindness
Here’s the scoop:  I was in Ormond Beach, Florida.  It had been “cold” there for a couple of weeks.  I must put the word “cold” in quotation marks because, well, let’s be honest, temperatures in the 50s are not exactly COLD to the rest of the country…  But to be fair, there WAS a frost warning 2 nights in Ormond Beach and everyone had to cover up plants for safety!  😊 But when it gets down in the 30s at night, that is COLD for this neck of the woods.  And people here, especially homeless people, do not have scarves, hats, gloves, and warm sweaters at the ready when the temperatures drop. 

During the cold spell, I drove by a shop that had a rack out front and a handwritten sign saying the items on the rack were free, and people could take one.  This caught my attention…  A couple of days later I saw a short write-up in the local paper about it, and I decided I needed to go check it out myself.  And that is how I ended up at OCEAN CHILD (A Beachy Boho Boutique)*…

Ocean Child A Beachy Boho Boutique in Ormond Beach, Florida
I was greeted by Lyn, the mom of the owner, Andrea.  Lyn and her husband were working the afternoon I stopped in.  They welcomed me, and we sat down to talk about the shop and what the front rack on the sidewalk was all about.

Lyn and Andrea are women with huge, kind hearts.  They do a lot for the community.  When weather got cold in Florida, they were concerned that not everyone had a roof over their heads or a sweater to keep warm.  So, they put a few of their own warm clothes on a rack outside the store, with a sign inviting passersby to take something if they would like (or to leave something).  Well, it wasn’t long before people noticed…  People started helping themselves to the lovely gift of warmth, and they were gone almost instantly.  (Sure, some teen girls who think “vintage fashion” is cool also got a free item or two, but things mostly went to the homeless men and women who really needed the warm clothing.)  There are quite a few homeless people in the area, and I bet they were thrilled when this rack of warm clothing went up.  I am guessing that word got ‘round quickly!

Pretty soon Ocean Child needed MORE items to put on the rack, so Andrea ran down to the Humane Society Thrift Store to pick up some coats.  Only, because kindness begets kindness, the thrift store was kind to her, and when they heard about what she was going to do with the coats she was buying, they reduced the price from $5 each to $1 each!  (And, again, because kindness begets kindness, Andrea promised to donate any unused coats back to the thrift store when the weather warms up!)  Ocean Child also put a post in a local “What’s Happening” group on Facebook, which got over 700 “likes” and many offers of donations.  Someone called into a radio station and told the listeners about the amazing project, too.  Donated items are coming in at a steady stream – children’s, men’s, and women’s items.  Some people have brought in blankets, which Andrea reports are taken by those who need them almost immediately.  

Simple rack, simple concept, MUCH KINDNESS AND WARMTH SPREAD
Andrea told me the story of one of the people who stopped by, “I had the sweetest man on a bicycle earlier.  I went out to hang up some new items. He had a blanket that had just come in.  But he was just wearing a lightweight shirt.  I said, ‘Don’t you want a jacket?’.  And he said, ‘Well the sign says to take ONE or leave ONE…’  And I told him, ‘Oh honey, you take whatever you need.  If you have friends wherever you are headed to, you take some for them.’  And he grabbed my hand, his hand was so cold.  And he just said, ‘Bless you’ over and over.  It brought tears to my eyes.  I wish there was more that we could do.”  Another woman that stopped was a teacher of disabled children.  The kids were coming to school during the cold weather without anything warm to put on for recess.  Andrea hooked the teacher up, sending her on her way with warm child size clothing for the class of 5, ensuring that recess could continue.    

The kindness just keeps on spreading!  “One woman went to WalMart and bought brand new knee socks and sweater boots to donate.  Those went almost immediately!” Andrea told me.  “And 3 people tried to pay for things on the rack!  We told them no, no!  Those were donated to US, they are for YOU.”

The rack is right in front of the store
I asked Lyn where her inclination towards kindness came from, and she explained that her family has always done charitable things. 
·         She grew up in a military family.  On holidays, her father would always bring men home who did not have family nearby.  They would eat holiday dinner with the family. 
·         The family makes “kindness bags” full of things like crackers, socks, toiletries, candy, Sunny D drink, etc. and keeps them in their car truck to give out to people in need.  “The Sunny D is always a bit hit,” she told me. 
·         On the anniversary on the death of any of their female friends, they get a purse and fill it with “female” items.  They draw a heart that says, “In Memory Of ___”, put it in the purse, then give it to a homeless woman.  It doesn’t cost a lot of money – they get a very nice purse at a thrift store and items to fill it at a Dollar Store.  It is a beautiful way to keep the memory of their friend alive and to pass on kindness in her name. 
·         At Easter time Lyn invited a homeless woman to their family home to eat dinner with them, but the woman was not comfortable coming.  So, the family made a plate of food from the meal and took it to her.  They also gave her a battery-operated fan in the summer to help her keep cool. 
 
This family really shows how kindness spreads from generation to generation.  Lyn was taught to be kind by her parents.  She taught her daughter Andrea to be kind, and now that is being passed on to her 13 year old granddaughter.  “When we are driving down the street if my granddaughter sees a homeless person she says, ‘Oh!  We have to go get food for them!’.  There are a couple of homeless people outside the McDonald’s that we go to.  We always include them in our order as we go through the drive-through.’ “

The store is lovely.  The paintings on the wall that you see here were made by Lyn!
Please keep the kindness going.  Be kind to those who are less fortunate.  If you are in the Daytona Beach area, swing by Ocean Child (164 West Granada Blvd).  Donate some warm clothing (they would especially like gloves and hats).  The boutique hopes to give out free sunscreen and bottled water to those who need it this summer, so you could also bring in some sunscreen to help them stock up for the warm weather that is around the corner.  And while you are there, THANK THEM for their kindness and check out the amazing work of local artists. 


* Ocean Child (A Beachy Boho Boutique) is a lovely store!  It is a warm, welcoming space that carries gift items, clothing, and artwork (on consignment) made by 26 local artists.  When Andrea opened the store one of the main goals was to have a space for local artists to sell their work without having to set up and tear down repeatedly at local art shows.  Artists who sell their work at Ocean Child make a wide variety of things – bath products, crocheted items, painted wood, jewelry, purses, clothing, etc.  Please stop in and shop (164 West Granada Blvd, Ormond Beach, FL) – support local artists.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Snowflakes of Kindness

Last year around this time I was gearing up to march in the Women’s March in Washington DC.  I had ideas on what I wanted to paint on my sign, but I do not know how to knit and therefore didn’t plan on adorning my head with one of the iconic hats of the march.  I didn’t plan on it, that is, until someone I had met only one time in my life asked if I would like her to knit one for me…  I was blown away by the kindness, and you can bet I was proud as punch to pull that hat on the day of the march and join thousands of other people in the streets.*

Fast forward one year…  I was reading through the online discussion about the Women’s March on Washington 2018: March to the Polls.  Part of the discussion was about attire, and the idea of wearing SNOWFLAKES surfaced.  The concept was to sew or pin snowflakes to coats, hats, mittens, whatever, and OWN THE SNOWFLAKE LABEL.  Not only own it, but show the world that a blizzard is-a-comin’, and everyone had better get prepared!  In the snowflake discussion thread I saw a woman asking if anyone would like her to crochet snowflakes for them.

Could it be?  Could crafty women be willing to share their talents with complete (and/or nearly complete) strangers just for the sake of camaraderie and kindness???  First, I quickly wrote a “Me please!!” message to make sure I didn’t miss out on the generous offer, then I sent a private message to the kind woman behind the snowflakes, Julie.  I had to know why she was willing to go out of her way and use her time and talents to adorn women she didn’t know!

Beautiful, handmade snowflakes!  Aren't they amazing?

Once she was finished crocheting, Julie wrote me back.  She is a kindness inspiration! 

Julie explained that she got the idea to make the snowflakes on Facebook.  “I saw that someone posted the idea of wearing snowflakes (to embrace the ‘liberal snowflake’ insult and make it our own) and I thought, ‘I'm going to do that!’,” she told me.  “Then I saw that someone else posted about looking to buy some snowflakes, and it occurred to me that I could make them for more than just me and my friends, so I offered them up to anyone who wanted them.”  Did you catch that?  She was already going to make them for her group of friends, but she opened up the offer to complete strangers!  Isn’t that awesome?? 

And it wasn’t only Julie.  Her 11 year old son Zachary got involved, too!  He made an illustration that she included with each envelope of snowflakes, and he also helped package and mail all of them out.  Way to use your own creativity and kindness, Zachary!

Artwork by Zachary, included with each and every snowflake!  :)

And before you get to thinking that this was a light snow fall, no, this was a BLIZZARD.  Julie crocheted and mailed out around 90 snowflakes, and she is making 50 more to hand out in person at the march!!!  Imagine the smiles on strangers faces when Julie walks up to them on march day with a handmade snowflake to wear!  I asked her how this act of kindness makes her feel, and she said, “It makes me feel great! I love being able to contribute in some way and love the community of interdependence and teamwork that the marches help foster. I've heard from people who've received them and they're so happy.”

The snowflake maker in action (with a little "help" from a furry friend...)
Of course, like many kind people, Julie gives back in other ways, too.  She volunteers at a local high school theater sewing costumes, an activity that she reports is “chaotic, but so much fun”.  Julie, as a theater nerd who was involved in many high school productions, I say thank you on behalf of the kids that you (and all of the other amazing seamstresses) have costumed.  😊

Julie summed up this kind snowflake effort by saying, “I think everyone has talents and the ability to use those to make others feel better, so I just encourage everyone to look for what they can do to contribute to the common good.”  You got that right, Julie!  We all have talents we can share.  Oh sure, maybe they are not as crafty and skilled as your ability to crochet, but we all have SOMETHING we can share with others.  And if we all did, well, just imagine the kindness that would snow down on the world!

* Here is a link to the story of the kind woman who made me an amazing hat last year:  Knit Hat Kindness

Thursday, January 18, 2018

What Would Carol Do?

My heart is sad today.  A ray of kindness has gone out. 

Our neighbor, Carol, passed away last night.  She was a sweet, caring, KIND woman, and the neighborhood simply will not be the same without her.

The story of Carol's kindness, just one small act of kindness of the many that she put out into the world, can be seen here:  Carol's Coke Kindness

I was honored to spend time with Carol over this last month, and one thing I noticed is that she kept her official Kindness Activist button pinned to a little curtain in her home.  It made me smile every time I saw it.

Please do me a favor:  go out today and BE KIND.  Spread kindness.  And if you could do one kind thing in Carol's name, it would make a world of difference. 


Thank you. 

And Carol, you will be missed.

P.S - As the original story of Carol's kindness mentioned, if you see someone working hard today, think, "What would Carol do?" and bring them a cold Coke (or, if you are in a cold climate, a cup of coffee or hot cocoa!).