kindness activist

kindness activist

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!).