Random Act of Kindness #21 of #26acts – Jellyfish, Vinegar, and Sharpies

Yesterday was a great day for a mini beach trip with the kids and my mom.  High temps coupled with beautiful, fluffy white clouds – such a change in the rainy, unstable weather we’ve had recently.  I packed the van with chairs, towels, beach toys, cooler, bags of snacks… everything we could possibly need for a fun day in the sand and surf!

We chose a small beach about 45 minutes away – a little inlet that would allow the kids to play without the crowds of tourists.  What a quiet, peaceful way to spend the day!


We settled in, three kids coated from head to foot in 70 SPF sunscreen, and after a brief bout of a three year old screaming at the top of his lungs, “CARRY ME!  CARRY ME!  I DON’T WANT TO WALK ON THE SAND!!” everyone was soon playing and having a good time.   My daughter approached me, her small red sand shovel extended away from her body, her voice equally filled with fear and fascination. “Mommy!  Look what I found!  Is this a jellyfish?”


Lo and behold it was!  Now, I don’t know what your experiences are with jellyfish, but I have vivid memories of going to the beach in late August and battling the waves while trying to avoid the inevitable encounter with a stinging jellyfish.  “Oh no!” I said as I cautioned her.  “Don’t touch it!  You’ll get stung!”  No sooner than the words escaped from my mouth, a nearby teenager looked my way and said nonchalantly, “Oh, you don’t have to worry.  Those jellyfish don’t sting.”  She then proceeded to tell me all about the “moon jelly” type of jellyfish that are more like round blobs floating in the water, not like the stringy, tentacle laden jellyfish of my youth.  “You’ll see lots of them here.  Won’t hurt you a bit.  Touch it!  You’ll see.  You’re fine!”  We took the dare, touched the jellyfish, and were surprised how squishy and non-threatening the little sea creature was.

Well, my son overheard this conversation and that was all he needed to spark his curiosity.  Within minutes he transformed from an ordinary nine year old into a professional jellyfish scientist, collecting specimens to compare and contrast cellular shape, size, and color.



After an hour of this, and a brief break for lunch, the kids were back in the water splashing and playing their own games.  It was easy to lose track of time as my mom and I chatted, baking in the warm sun.  Suddenly, my son came running out of the water, holding his upper right arm, screaming and crying.  “I got stung!  I got stung!”  At first I thought he might be joking, but the closer he ran to me the faster I ran to him.  “Put sand on your arm!” I shrieked, realizing too late that despite my careful packing, I was completely unprepared to deal with a jellyfish sting.

“Here!  Use vinegar!”  I turned towards a deep voice noticing a man surrounded by his family,  holding out a Ziploc bag with a bottle of clear liquid inside.  “For the jellyfish sting.  This will make it go away!”  As I tried to calm down my son, this stranger came towards me and quickly removed the bottled liquid, uncapping the lid and pouring it generously over my child’s arm.  “Thank you!  Thank you!”  I couldn’t find any other words to express my appreciation at his act of kindness.  He poured more vinegar on my son, calmly reassuring him that the pain would dissapate quickly.  “You’ll be OK. I promise.  The vinegar will make the pain go away.  You’ll see.  You’ll be fine.”  As he poured just a little bit more vinegar on the bright red welt now very apparent on my son’s skin, I looked at him with unabashed gratefulness.  “But we used almost all of your vinegar!  I’m so sorry!”  He smiled at me, his eyes reassuring my panic, simply replying, “It’s fine.  That’s why we have it.”  He gazed back at my son with a final nod of a job well done and patted him on the head.  “All good now?”  Just as he promised, the pain had diminished and my son was back in the water, enjoying his day.


I returned to our spot on the beach and asked my mom for a pen, so I could write a quick note of appreciation to the kind gentleman as I knew this was worthy of a #26acts RAK blog entry.  We searched through our bags and containers, but couldn’t find a single writing tool at all.  I decided I would just approach him and tell him about the blog, but when I turned to make my way towards his family’s spot on the beach, there was no one there.  NO ONE.  No chairs.  No towels.  No family.  Nothing!

Now, I am not going to go off on a religious tangent of what I believe this encounter could have been.  All I will say is this man was in the right place at the right time to save the day for my son.  I’ll let you draw your own conclusions about this heaven-sent angel in my midst.  🙂

This RAK is dedicated to Grace McDonnell, age 7, a beautiful blue eyed, blond haired girl who loved the beach, seagulls, and lighthouses.  Shortly after this encounter with the stranger and the vinegar, I captured the graceful flight of a seagull, an image I know would have brought a smile to Grace’s face.


Grace was an artistic child, one who loved to paint and draw pictures for her parents and loved ones.  She especially loved making peace signs, even drawing them on her bathroom mirror fogged with shower steam.  At her funeral, her parents and her brother Jack brought sharpie markers and decorated her white coffin with colorful drawings of her favorite things:  ice cream cones, lighthouses, and of course, sea gulls.  “We had peace when we left,” stated her mom in an interview with Anderson Cooper, noting that her coffin was covered with beautiful pictures, drawings, and notes from those who knew her best.

It’s with that knowledge that I am taking this RAK received and paying it forward in the next few weeks.  I plan to purchase a pack of colorful sharpie markers and will attach one to a small pad of paper with an invitation to “Draw.  Create.  Live Life.  Share Peace and Grace.” I will leave these markers and papers in various places to be discovered by children.  Playground.  Park.  Doctor’s office.  It’s the least I can do to celebrate Grace’s memory and show my appreciation for the kindness of others.

Be blessed my friends!  Always look for ways to encourage one another and pay it forward!

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