As many of you know, turning the big 4-0 is a milestone birthday for many. For me, however, it was the catalyst to discovering my “why” in this world. As I embarked on a journey of completing 40 acts of kindness and blogging stories about each event, I realized by the end that I wasn’t simply changing the lives of those around me – I was transforming into a changed person as well.
This year I am turning 47. As I look back on the past seven years, I am awestruck by the incredible joys I’ve experienced in giving, receiving, and witnessing kind acts in this world. There are times when kindness is a fleeting spark in a darkened sky, a light that twinkles and sparkles with an effervescent glow. There are other times when kindness brings tears to my eyes and leaves me speechless, feeling humbled and unworthy of such generosity from others.
Throughout the month of September, I have been quietly working my way through forty-seven acts of kindness to kick off the year when I will be in the prime of my life. (Literally. Forty-seven is a prime number! A little birthday pun for my math friends.) I didn’t make a big plan or map out my RAKs as I might have done when I turned forty; rather, I’ve simply made kindness a priority, blessing others when the opportunity arises.
To reflect on my experiences this month, I jotted down kind acts I completed on a Google Docs. I discovered that the more acts I added to my list, the more I wanted to complete. Some kind acts were deliberate, others were being in the right place at the right time and making a decision to “Go. Do.”
Such was the occasion this weekend. I was making a quick trip to The Dollar Tree to purchase some helium balloons for my son’s birthday party later in the day. While in the store, I secretly hid a few dollar bills throughout the toy section – one of my favorite RAKs to complete – then went to the checkout line to get the balloons I needed.
There was a bit of a long line as only one cashier was in the store. I patiently waited for my turn, then showed the cashier which balloons I needed. She filled the balloons and returned back to the cash register, chatting freely as she rang up the item numbers.
In a matter of minutes I learned a lot about her by listening to what she shared. She was, indeed, the only cashier in the store as the other two workers called in sick. The next person wouldn’t arrive at the store until four in the afternoon, so she had a long day ahead.
I learned that she just had a baby who is now one month old, her fourth. She had to come back to work right away as they needed two incomes to survive. She just lost her home and was staying at a local extended-stay motel just to have shelter. But she was determined to do whatever it took to provide for her four children.
In that moment, when she asked me “Cash or charge?” I knew the $20 bill in my wallet was meant for her and not my purchases. I took out my charge card to swipe my payment, then grabbed the $20 bill and handed it to her. “I want you to have this. It’s my birthday month, so I’m doing acts of kindness all around town and today I want to bless you!”
Oh. My. Goodness.
She stared at me with complete shock on her face and her fingers started to tremble. She immediately came out from behind the counter to give me a hug, saying, “You have no idea how much this means to me!” As we embraced, I reminded her that it takes a village and these setbacks are only temporary. “Keep pushing through,” I whispered, “You’re doing a great job.”
As we finished my transaction, I said, “Now go and do something frivolous and fun with that money!” to which she replied, “Oh no. I need diapers! First place I’m going is the store!” We laughed, as did the other two ladies standing behind me in line, then it hit me hard as I walked back to my car.
She needs diapers.
She has a one month old baby.
She’s working a long shift today.
I knew exactly where I needed to go next. Not to the grocery store to pick up my son’s birthday cupcakes. Not to my house to bring in the helium balloons and decorate for the party.
I needed to go to Target.
To buy diapers.
For a woman I didn’t even know.
I’ve been there. I remember the days of cutting coupons to make sure I had enough money to buy basic needs of my children. It’s really tough when you want the best for your children, but you are struggling to make ends meet.
I went straight to the baby aisle and bought a package of diapers, some wet wipes, and even some Desitin (because diaper rash is real, folks!) Then, as I was in the checkout line, I spotted a Starbucks in the front of the store, so I stopped there next to get the largest sized Caramel Crunch Frappuccino I could buy.
A few minutes later, I was back at The Dollar Tree, ready to surprise the sweetest cashier with gifts that would brighten her day.
I didn’t get her name, but I will always remember how tightly she hugged me when I appeared at the front of her line, my arms holding out the diapers and drink. The look on her face was absolutely priceless – it was like something out of a Lifetime movie! This time when we hugged, I whispered how proud I was of her and how deserving she was to be appreciated.
That’s when I realized we both had tears in our eyes.
As you go about your day, celebrating birthdays or just the joys of being alive, I challenge you to listen to that quiet whisper on your heart and be the hands and feet for others. You will be amazed at how good kindness makes you feel!
Thanks to each and every one of you who take time out of your day to read my blog and share in my life’s adventures. It means the world! I am excited to start my 47th year with a smile and happy heart, knowing each and every day I’m living out my “why” the best way I know how.