The big 4-0. It’s a pretty big milestone. Instead of being freaked out about this new number and age bracket, I chose to embrace this birthday and set out to make sure it would be a memorable one. Last year, I chose to do to Random Acts of Kindness (RAOKs) for my birthday. It was an immensely rewarding experience – I hadn’t realized how much I would enjoy doing kind things for others and making people smile. Even more special and gratifying was that my Random Acts of Kindness had a magical effect on my own kids. They began thinking of ways to be kind to others and were excited about it. Positive parenting moment – priceless! This year I chose to celebrate with Random Acts of Kindness again and give rise to a birthday tradition. My goal was to do 40 RAOKs and I well surpassed that goal. My birthday was not just memorable – it was my best birthday to date. The following is what I did during my week-long “celebration”.
Gave away cookies
I baked and decorated 60 sugar cookies and packaged them individually with a tag explaining that is was a RAOK. The kids and I distributed the smiley face cookies all over town. Surprisingly, this was the favorite activity of my super shy kids. Cookies must bring out their inner courageous beasts, because they wanted to give cookies to everyone. We handed them out at the gas station, to travelers waiting for the airport shuttle, employees and customers at the post office, our waitress, strangers at the gym, the cashier at Target, people at the library, and the barista at the coffee shop. Everyone was very gracious and thankful for the treat, which may be why the kids enjoyed it so much. It might also be the fact that several of the cookies broke in transit (I’m sure it was accidental) and became a yummy snack for them.
We also took a basket of the cookies to the patients and employees at the Seacoast Cancer Center. I had been wondering what to do with a stack of the cookies and the idea came to me that morning when I logged onto Facebook. A friend battling cancer had posted an update regarding her treatment and ended her post with the following request: “Please do a random act of kindness today for someone.” It was a clear sign that those cookies had a purpose – to brighten the day of someone battling cancer. Unfortunately I know two such people, but they live hundreds of miles away. So I packed up the cookies and took them to the Seacoast Cancer Center in their honor.
Delivered cupcakes around town
You can’t have a birthday without cake! Well at least that’s what my kids tell me. They’re pretty smart kids, so I don’t like to argue with their wisdom when it comes to dessert. I baked 13 dozen cupcakes and boxed them up to be delivered around town. I took them to the children’s museum, the police department, the post office, an assisted living home, the humane society, the elementary school, the middle school, the library, and to the food bank volunteers. And if you’re wondering what kind of cupcakes they were, I made Grasshopper Cupcakes - chocolate cupcakes baked with bits of Andes mints inside and topped with mint buttercream and a sprinkle of Andes mints pieces and Chocolate Caramel Cupcakes – chocolate cupcakes topped with caramel buttercream and a caramel drizzle. They were pretty tasty, if I may say so myself.
Left inspirational notes
I printed little inspirational and motivational notes and left them in various places around town. There are notes to be found in the library, at the police department, the grocery store, the gym, and all over Target. There, I slipped notes in boxes of diapers, purses, luggage, lunch boxes, books, and even picture frames. My most favorite note is attached to the scale in the ladies’ locker room. It reads “This number does not measure how beautiful you are.”
Left quarters on gumball machines
I did this last year with all four kids in tow and it didn’t go very smoothly. They begged for every gumball and rocket ship ride they saw. I could easily have used my entire stash of quarters on my own kids and left without doing a single RAOK. Only Noah accompanied me this year and it was quite a bit easier. It only cost one quarter for a handful of Chiclets to satisfy his sweet tooth. We left quarters on gumball and candy machines at Toys R Us and Pizza Hut and on the bouncy ball machines at Old Navy. We saw one happy little boy running up to claim one of the quarters at Old Navy. Which means that there was one not-so-happy mom chasing a bouncy ball all over the store while she shopped.
Left money on soda machines
There have been several times that I have wanted something to drink and realized that I didn’t have enough change on me to make the purchase. It seemed like a good idea to help someone out in that predicament. So I put the cost of a soda in a clear bag with a RAOK note and left them of several drink machines. And if we’re being honest, the money was most likely used by a changeless mom to hush the “I’m thiiiirrrrrsty” whining from her offspring.
Left money in the dollar section at Target
Are you familiar with the area of Target that has bins of items for sale for $1? (If not, then I’m sorry to say that we could never be friends.) Well did you know that the area has a name? I’m ashamed to say that I had no clue until the other day. It’s called the Dollar Spot. After countless Target trips over many years, I just found out. Embarrassing. Well the kids and I placed several dollars in the toy bins of the Dollar Spot with the hope that kids would find them and buy themselves a treat. While there, we noticed a little boy around the age of 4 doing some window shopping while his mom stood nearby at the customer service desk. My shy five year-old jumped at the opportunity to personally give him one of the dollars. The little boy was so excited and ran over to his mom exclaiming “Look Mom!” My boys were giddy to see how excited he was about their Random Act of Kindness.
Gave a gift card to person in line behind me
I was inspired by a friend who did this and couldn’t resist stealing her idea. I purchased a gift card while I was checking out at the grocery store. Then just when my groceries were bagged and I was ready to leave, I handed it the lady behind me. Well, I tried to hand it to her – she wouldn’t even take it at first. She stared at me like I was either speaking a different language or had completely lost my mind and needed to be committed. (I probably do need to be committed but that’s for completely different reasons.) I insisted she take it and told her to read the attached note – my RAOK card. I quickly slipped away while she stood there speechless, reading the note that she received a gift card for my birthday. I did see her in the parking lot a few minutes later on her way to the car, scanning the lot for the gift card-giving stranger who was trying very hard to remain anonymous…
Left a gift card on a car window
More fun at Target! On another of my daily (sometimes twice daily) Target runs, I finally thought of something fun to do with a $5 gift card that I had gotten free with a purchase. I noticed a family getting out of their van and decided to surprise them with the gift card. I attached a RAOK note to it and taped it to the driver side window of their van. I love the idea that they will never know who left it for them.
Paid the toll for the car behind me
If you have an E-ZPass, be sure to put it safely away before trying this or you’ll end up being charged twice. The toll collector was kind enough to give my RAOK card to the couple behind me when she notified them that their toll had been paid. The couple in the car was so sweet – they drove up along side me with a note that said “Thank you! Happy Birthday!” held up against the passenger window for me to read as they passed by.
Donated items to the humane society
My kids have always had a soft spot for animals so it seemed natural that we would do something to help them. The Cocheco Valley Humane Society maintains a wish list of items they need for the animals. We checked it out and dropped off items including food and office supplies that were the most needed at the time. We also took a cupcakes to the volunteers working that day. And as a bonus RAOK, we didn’t stay long. Look closely at the photo and you’ll see that I was protecting everyone from one of my mischief makers.
Delivered donuts to our babysitter
The sweet ideas of a 3 year-old… I was on my way to the gym with Riley and we had to stop at the grocery store for a few items. So I bought him a doughnut. Super healthy snack, I know… Once we were in the car to leave, he decided that he wanted to save half of his doughnut to share with Makenzie, his babysitter and a favorite childcare provider at the gym. He absolutely adores her. He must love her a lot, because this kid would fight you to the death for dessert. I was highly impressed that Riley wanted to share, but I also wanted to save Makenzie the horror of having to pretend to love the half-eaten drooled-on chocolate doughnut that he was about to offer up. So we made a slight detour for Dunkin Donuts and bought munchkins to take to her instead. I’m not sure I should really count this RAOK as my own, but I’m claiming it any way
Bought coffee for a stranger at a lacrosse game
I love it when an opportunity to do a RAOK presents itself as nicely as this one. My RAOK recipient was a mom watching her son play lacrosse. They had traveled early to play my son’s team and she was very disappointed that she hadn’t passed a coffee shop on her way. She had asked me before the game where she could find the closest caffeinated beverage, but she never had the opportunity to leave during the game. When I realized that she would be staying for a second game after our game was over, I offered to get a coffee and bring it back to her. She politely declined, I insisted, and of course I won the match. You can’t turn down someone who wants to get you a coffee as a birthday gift to themselves. There’s no logic to argue against it.
First time ever too! As a bonus, I remained conscious the entire time. And not to brag or anything, but I am the super hero of blood donors since my blood is compatible with anyone. Okay, maybe “super hero” is overdoing it considering this was my first time. But hey, I’m not a big fan of needles, so this was a big step for me. And since I am considered a universal donor, I do feel compelled to donate regularly now. Regardless of your blood type, there is currently an emergency need for blood donations. You can click here to schedule an appointment with the American Red Cross to make a donation. Hint, hint.
Mailed care packages
Let’s be honest, any trip I take to the post office should automatically be considered a Random Act of Kindness. My mother will attest to this – she usually has to wait months for a package that I swear I will mail within the week. The post office is literally five minutes from my house and the line is never very long, but I seem to have some kind of mental block about going. I will leave a package by the door in my basement for 6 months before I will finally stop stepping over it and think to drop it off. I’m not sure what’s wrong with me. These packages were truly RAOKs though. They were planned specifically to put a smile on a few unsuspecting faces and they were even mailed out in a more timely manner.
Let people go ahead of me in line
I did this one several times. It was usually when the person behind me only had a few things or when I was shopping without the kiddos. It’s possible that I may have let everyone in a store go ahead of me one night so that I wouldn’t make it home in time to cook dinner. It’s possible, but I won’t confirm the validity of that statement. I’ll be pleading the 5th Amendment for my own protection.
Left a large tip at the coffee shop
I happened to be at Aroma Joe’s one day buying a coffee (I just had to use the gift card that someone so kindly gave me for my birthday) and I happened to have cash on me (miracle for sure). Since I didn’t have to pay for my coffee, I used the cash to leave a nice tip. The girl working saw how much of a tip I left and thanked me several times. She seemed more than a bit surprised. It wasn’t a crazy amount, but more than I would have paid for my drink.
Put money in parking meters
I always get burned by the parking meters around here. Some only take cash and some will accept credit cards. After 2 years of living with meters, I’m still not used accustomed to remembering to have a stash of quarters in my car. I put quarters in a bag with a RAOK note and left it on a Pay and Park Meter machine downtown for someone to use when they needed it. I also filled several parking meters at the beach that were expired or close to expiring. Hopefully I saved at least one person from getting a dreaded ticket.
Collected food for children
It’s difficult to single out one charity as a favorite, but End 68 Hours of Hunger is at the top of my list. Thinking about kids being hungry and not having enough to eat breaks my heart into pieces. I can’t fathom telling my kids that they have to go to bed hungry because there isn’t enough food in the house. I hope and pray that I never experience how that feels. End 68 Hours of Hunger is an amazing organization. They help feed kids during the 68 hours between the free lunch they receive Friday afternoon and the free breakfast they receive Monday morning at school. Volunteers pack backpacks full of food to be sent home every weekend to any child in need of assistance. I purchased food to donate, but decided to go a step further and do a food drive in my neighborhood to collect food. And as a special treat for the volunteers who give up their time to help, I stopped by one night as they were packing backpacks and treated them to some cupcakes.
Welcomed military members home from a deployment
We happen to live just a few minutes from Pease International Airport. Pease is the last stop for troops before heading overseas and the first stop when they are returning home from deployment in Iraq, Afghanistan, or any other area of conflict. There is a very dedicated group of people called the Pease Greeters who are there to welcome the troops passing through Pease International Airport. They are there to greet every flight, no matter what time day or night. You’d be surprised by how many flights pass through at 2:00am. They provide a warm welcome home with lots of clapping, hand-shaking, and hugs as well as drinks, snacks, and phones to call home. There was a flight returning home on Memorial Day and the kids and I were there to greet them. It’s pretty overwhelming to be there as they’re stepping foot on American soil for the first time in a year, knowing that they are on their way to hug their families after such a long time. And the flight we welcomed happened to be a very special group of soldiers – the 101st Airborne Division (the Screaming Eagles) returning home from their deployment in Afghanistan. My boys were completely in awe of them. Click here to learn more about the Pease Greeters. It’s a great experience if you have the opportunity to be there.
Donated items to domestic violence shelter
It’s unfortunate that there are women and children in need of these services. A Safe Place was founded to eliminate domestic abuse and provides free shelter and support for those who need it. I can honestly say that I was in a bit of shock when reading the information on their website. Seeing the “quick escape buttons” on their site was a major reality check – there are actually people around me living in fear for their safety. I took a basket of toiletries and cleaning supplies as well as a basket of little toys for the kids to their administrative office. I have no idea where the actual shelter may be, they keep things pretty hush-hush for safety reasons. For future reference, domestic violence shelters may not want to give toys with any connection to guns or violence to the children at the shelter. It’s common sense if you stop to think about it. Of course I didn’t, so a few of those toys joined me for my ride home. Oops.
Donated items for homeless pregnant women
New Generation provides shelter and services for homeless pregnant women and their babies. I delivered diapers, wipes and other supplies for them to use. I also donated a full van-load of household items to the Second Generation Thrift Shop which they operate in order to help fund the shelter. I was able to help a good cause and de-clutter the playroom. Yay! Please don’t tell my boys though. They would completely freak out and I’m not sure how good our mental heath insurance coverage is.
Sent cards to injured soldiers
My kids, their friends, and Noah’s preschool class made cards for Wounded Warriors to be sent to the the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda. The Wounded Warrior Project‘s mission is to honor and empower Wounded Warriors. The cards will be given to injured military members as they arrive at the hospital for treatment. You can even send your own online card by clicking here.
One of my favorite RAOKs this year was also one of the simplest. It involves one of the smiley faced cookies mentioned at the beginning. On one of my visits to a local coffee shop, I gave a cookie to the barista working there who was always so nice to me. Not only is he super sweet and friendly, but he makes the most delicious espresso drinks. Several days later, on my actual birthday, my neighbor went to the coffee shop to buy me a gift card. He recognized her from being with me and took advantage of the fact that she lives across the street from me. He prepared my favorite drink, wrote “Happy Birthday” and “Thanks for the random act of kindness” on the cup and asked her to deliver it to me. It was such a sweet thing for him to do, but it was what he said to me when I thanked him that touched my heart. He told me that he was so inspired by my Random Acts of Kindness that he wanted to do one himself. He was inspired! That one little word encompasses everything I wanted my birthday to be – to do nice things for others in hope that they will want to do the same for others. That coffee he gave me was the best, most delicious espresso drink I have ever tasted.
Want to do Random Acts of Kindness for your birthday? Feel free to “steal” any of my ideas and you can click here to download the larger RAOK notes and here to download the RAOK mini tags. Have fun! And I would love to hear what you do!!
“When we feel love and kindness toward others, it not only makes others feel loved and cared for, but it helps us also to develop inner happiness and peace.” – Dalai Lama