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Tate playing in the grass

This is the 2ndin a series of Kindness Activists that have stepped forward and shone during my sister Annette’s illness.  There are many, many people who have being remarkably kind and helpful during this difficult time, but one in particular stands out and is very deserving of being dubbed a KINDNESS ACTIVIST.

World, meet KRISTI!!

Kristi is my sister’s friend.  They have gone through good times together, and bad times – Kristi is a breast cancer survivor and Annette helped her through her illness. 

Annette and Kristi all decked out
When Annette suddenly had to go to the Emergency room on July 26th, one of the immediate issues that needed to be dealt with was:  TATE.  Annette had just gotten a new puppy, Tate Dakota, in June (born April 16th *).  He is a Cavalier King Charles and pretty much the cutest little dog you have ever seen!  But he couldn’t go to the hospital with her, the little fella wasn’t even potty trained!  And the whole family was going to be at the hospital at all hours, so Tate needed someone to stay with.

Tate Dakota - all sorts of cute!!
Kristi didn’t even hesitate to offer to puppy-sit.  Why, she and Annette had driven to South Dakota together to pick him up just a month earlier, so I guess technically they had each known that tiny dog the same amount of time.  And Kristi had just finished puppy-sitting Tate so that Annette could come to Florida for what we call “Sister Week”, so Tate was used to Kristi’s home and even had adopted “sisters” there!

Tate and her adopted sister Haley
So, when Annette checked into the hospital on July 26th, Tate checked into Kristi’s home, and he has been there ever since.  She has even been training him!  He couldn’t manage steps when he went there, now he can.  He wasn’t potty trained very much when he went there, he now even knows how to lift his tiny leg.  Go Tater Tot go!!

Also, Kristi doesn’t just take care of Tate, she makes sure to keep his mamma well informed and entertained with news of the puppy!  She sends photos, videos, and little messages from Tate so that Annette can feel the love.

And get this:  she brought up to the hospital for visits!  Even SNUCK HIM INTO THE REHAB unit one time!!  He was the hit of the party, of course.  Everyone loves the little guy.

Tate snuggling his mamma outside the hospital in Omaha

Puppies are good medicine!  See that long tongue? 
It gave Annette LOTS of kisses!
Kristi has bought Tate bones, treats, even a special collar so that the spoiled little puppy could be in our recent family photo shoot and match everyone else!

Annette and her cutie Tate (and a shoe, which Tate likes to chew on...)
Photo by the amazing Brenda Lee Dolinski 
Annette is now out of the hospital and doing well.  She is still in physical therapy, and now has started radiation and chemo.  So, she is not quite strong enough to take care of Tate (who is an active little fella…) yet.  Kristi is graciously still watching the little guy.

Kristi – you are a KINDNESS ACTIVIST indeed.  Thank you for giving Tate a great home so that Annette can focus on healing.  We appreciate you!
The beautiful and KIND Kristi

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Matt Pauli is a cool guy.  He is sweet, smart, funny.  Oh, and he is a CLOWN.  Like, a literal real life clown. 

You miiiight not want to call Matt if you have brick work to be done...
Matt clowns at Johns Hopkins Children’s Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland.  He works for Healthy Humor, an organization that sends clowns into children’s hospitals around the country (full disclosure:  my sweetheart also works for Healthy Humor – it is a great organization). 

Anyway, recently Matt went to work at the hospital and went out of his way to park in a kind manner.  I don’t think he thought of it in that way, he just thought he didn’t need to get in or out his passenger door, so why not make things easier for other people in the parking garage.  Here’s how he put it, “There are two parking spaces in the garage at Johns Hopkins tightly tucked in between two concrete pillars. When I parked for my clown shift, I put my car as close to the pillar on the passenger side as I could, as I didn't need access to that door.”

There is the first kind action in this story – Matt parked considerately, leaving space for whoever decided to pull in next to him.  When I asked him if he often parked that way, he explained, “…it is as much about trying to minimize the chances that someone will scrape against my car while trying to squeeze into a tight spot as it is about anything else.  I have seen SUVs parked in the spaces between the columns straddling the lines to ensure that no one can attempt to park next to them.  Because of the columns, the spaces are just a little more narrow than standard.  I get very frustrated when I see a single car in two parking spaces.  I was taught that one of the responsibilities of driving is that you have to follow all the rules.  Fitting one car into one space seems like an easy one to follow and failing to do so makes a driver look not only rude but incompetent, in my mind.” 

Yes Matt, that makes total sense.  The rules of the road also apply to the garage, but still, many drivers do not follow them.  But you did, and you went out of your way to squeeze close to the column to let another driver have a wider space.  It might not have felt like you were doing anything special at the time, but honestly you were.  You were being KIND, and really, isn’t that an easy thing we could all do if we took a moment to think when we pull into a parking spot?

But that isn’t the only kind thing that happened…  Matt said, “When I came back at the end of my shift, I saw that someone had left a note on the door of my car. I thought, ‘Oh crap, that’s never good’.  I was afraid that someone had scraped my car trying to get into the space next to me.  I was ready to get very frustrated and angry.  But I was mistaken in that assumption.”


Kind note - simple gestures like this mean a lot
After reading only half the note, Matt really wanted to show it someone.  He rushed to find his co-worker, but she was already pulling out of her space.  So, as he drove home he thought about taking a photo of the note and sharing the story.  Within an hour of posting it on Facebook nearly 100 people had “liked” it or commented.  This simple gesture really resonated with people.

Isn’t that terrific?  Someone took the time to notice, write the note, and put it on his car.  And this was not just a person going grocery shopping – this was a person who was going to the hospital for a family member to get a serious treatment.  Isn’t is so kind that they wrote a note of thanks?  I think Matt expressed it perfectly by saying, “There are too many things that can bring us tension. I'm a little in awe that this person chose to express the release of some tension to a stranger.  And that action can serve as an example to me to release some of my own tension."

I am guessing the next time Matt parks at the hospital he will have a smile on his face remembering the blue note...
How many times have you been tempted to (or actually did…) leave a note on a car with a COMPLAINT?  “Thanks for taking up 2 parking spots, jerk!” or “Hmmm, failed driver’s ed, did you??”.  But have you ever taken a minute or two to write a POSITIVE NOTE for someone??  The note the stranger left for Matt now hangs on his refrigerator. 

This story shows two easy ways to be kind – things most of us could do every day if we thought about it:  be a considerate parker, and leave positive notes for people.  Keep a pad of post-its in your glove compartment or backpack to be ready – I dare you! 

Spread a little kindness.  We all know the world could use more of it.

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Steve Phan is an interpreter in the Washington DC area.  You would think that since I also fit that description, he and I would run into each other from time to time.  Alas, we do not, but I enjoy his antics via Facebook very much.  You see, not only is he an interpreter, he is also, as he so aptly tags himself, the #1PageantPhan.  He loves, no, he adores pageants.  He judgesthem.  He is friends with lots of beauty queens.  He watches and re-watches the national pageants (he buys the DVDs!).  Do you know the people you see in the background of some shots during the Miss America Pageant, the folks seated (or standing and jumping) in the audience waving flags for their favorite beauty queens?  That’s STEVE.  Be sure to tune in to Miss America September 9th, you might catch him in Atlantic City waving a big Maryland flag and grinning from ear to ear.

Here's Steve!  Look for him in the audience of the Miss America Pageant.
Not only is he a Pageant Phan, he is also a super kindperson.  For example, he sends his friends greeting cards all the time.  Oh, and Steve doesn’t send the .99 cent Trader Joe’s cards either!  This guy shops for his stationary goods at Papyrus!  (If you haven’t been in a Papyrus, let me just say, they are not for those of us on a budget.)

But the kindness Steve is being recognized for here is not for being nice to pageant contestants.  Nor is it for keeping the US Postal Service in business with mailing cards.  No, it is for sunscreen.  Meet Steve, the Sunscreen Kindness Activist.

Steve is a timeshare owner and recently visited Palm Desert, California for five days. He is a frequent flyer so knows the TSA rules, but tried to buck the system by packing three 5 oz bottles of sunscreen in his carry-on bag. He told me, “I know the restriction is for 3-oz containers, but I was hoping they would let me take 5-oz containers with me. After all, what’s a couple of ounces?”.  Yeah, right Steve.  Of course, the TSA confiscated all of his sunscreen at the airport, forcing him to pop into the Target in Palm Springs to pick up a pack of two 8 oz sunscreens that were on sale.

Steve (I am guessing slathered in sunscreen) at Joshua Tree National Park
The building next to his timeshare was undergoing renovations and Steve watched the construction crew work day in and day out in the above 90-degree temperatures all week.  He used some sunscreen but realized near the end of his stay that he had a whole unopened bottle left.  Having learned his lesson with the TSA, he knew he couldn’t bring the bottle back home with him.  So that’s when he decided to give it to one of construction workers!

He told me, “I saw a construction worker get in his truck. I grabbed the unused bottle of sunscreen and approached his vehicle. He rolled down his window, and I explained that as a timeshare owner, I appreciated the work he and his colleagues did. I said I was leaving the next day, had an extra bottle of sunscreen, and wanted to give it to him.

The worker was shocked and said, ‘For me?’

I said, ‘Yes!’

He then asked, ‘For free?’.  I think he couldn't believe I was not selling it to him.

I responded, ‘Yes, thank you for all the work you do,’ as I gestured towards the building being renovated.

He grinned from ear to ear, accepted my gift, and said he would use it the next day.”

Isn’t that great?  I can just picture the construction worker, staring at Steve holding out the bottle of sunscreen with a big smile on his face.  What a surprise that must have been!  Steve said that he was really glad the sunscreen wouldn’t go to waste, and that the recipient would use it immediately. 

“I have been the recipient of so many kind acts by others that I wanted to pay it forward. I believe there is so much unhappiness in the world that if I can help someone smile with a small act of kindness, then perhaps I can do my part to make the world a better place.”  I totally agree with you there, friend.  Seemingly small acts, like sharing sunscreen, can mean so much to the recipient!

Here's Steve on vacation TAKING A WEBINAR for work. 
Steeeeve - vacation is for resting!
Remember how I mentioned Steve sending cards to his friends?  It turns out that he, like most other Kindness Activists I have interviewed, learned that from his parent.  “My mother, who has since passed away, taught me to do kind things for others. One of my fondest memories of her is watching her pick out the perfect card for a friend. She would take her time pouring through various cards at the store to find the one with just the right sentiment. She often mailed cards to friends just because she was thinking of them. I follow her example, and my work locker is chock full of cards and stationery which I use to write my friends just because.  A few weeks ago, I was missing my mother as Mother's Day was approaching. I decided to mail Mother's Day cards to the many influential women in my life in honor of my mother. It brought me great joy when they e-mailed, texted, and posted on social media about receiving my card.”

I bet your kind gesture made those friends’ Mother’s Days even more special this year.  And what a sweet way to honor your own mom. 

And it turns out that not only does he DO kind things, he JOURNALS about it.  “For my birthday last November, I had asked my husband to give me a copy of a kindness journal I had seen in a museum gift shop. I have been using the journal's prompts to regularly reflect on showing kindness to others and the kind acts others do for me.”  I love that journal!  And I totally agree that taking time to reflect on kindness serves to bring even more kindness into your life.  That’s one of the reasons I started this Kindness Activist project!

Steve's journal - isn't it great??
As he often does online, Steve closed his communication to me with something pageant related.  “One of my favorite quotes is from Miss Canada 1995, Lana Buchberger, who said, ‘Never stop experiencing life. From experience, you learn to grow. By growing, you learn to give. And by giving, you let others experience life.’ “

Thanks for being a shining example of kindness Steve.  You made that construction worker’s day a lot brighter with your gift, and being willing to share your story here reminds us all that sometimes we don’t even need to go very far out of our way to be kind to someone – if we just keep our eyes and hearts open opportunities for kindness are all around.

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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.  :) 
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