On Tuesday, I celebrated my thirty-eighth birthday with the police and fire department, complete strangers, and Bob Goff.
I love birthdays and everything that comes with them. Crepe paper, confetti, cake, gifts, and surprises. I once flew 3,000 miles to an Olive Garden in Rhode Island to surprise my dad on his birthday. The look on his
surprised astonished face will never be forgotten and I loved playing my part in the surprise. But on the morning of my birthday, I wasn’t very excited about the day. It wasn’t the fact of being a year older that upset me. It was the mountainous list of things to complete looming over my head. If only I could get through the list, then I could relax, rest and celebrate. The idea of giving preference to checking off my to-do list instead of celebrating my birthday straight up annoyed me.
My lousy mood and to-do list tackling was divinely interrupted by my parents calling to sing me Happy Birthday. After their sweet song, they asked me how I was going to spend the day.
“Well,” I said. “I have a lot to do. There is this and that and so I just have to plan on celebrating after this week is over. I just have so much to do.”
As I heard the words coming from my mouth, I felt like I was betraying my true self. Who was speaking? I know my parents must have been thinking that too but my mom politely said something to the point that I was serving other people and working on my birthday and that was a good thing. I felt disappointed. I paused, prayed and thought. Was a completed to-do list really worth missing the day that I usually love and look forward to? If I did not have a list of things to do, how would I be spending my birthday? What would I want?
I knew that I did not want any more material things. I already had everything I needed and more. I thought about the things that make me happy. Jesus, my family, my church family, MOPS, people, my community. I thought about the things that that I am good at. The plan started to take shape. I love those videos where people surprise a random stranger with a gift card, word of encouragement or kind action. That is what I wanted to do. I wanted to spread kindness through the community with surprises for people I know and random strangers who God knows.
Five years ago, I might have thought this was a crazy idea. But hey, call me crazy! Crazy about Jesus and crazy about loving people! The idea ignited so much excitement that I literally pushed my to-do list aside, ripped a new piece of paper from the notepad and started scribbling a new list. A new list with thirty-eight kind actions, one action for every year I have been on this earth. With new list in hand and a changed attitude, I was ready to celebrate….celebrate with confetti made out of kindness.
Before we go any further, please note that my intention of sharing this post is not to gain attention to myself or to brag about good deeds. Or to make you feel guilty. Many birthdays I have spent on me and just me. We all need those days. My prayer and hope of sharing this post is to make you smile and inspire you to spread love and kindness in a way that you can give. Kindness comes in many shapes and sizes and does not look the same; but kindness will always be a blessing to those who receive it.
38 Acts of Kindness
1.) Called Bob Goff. One of my acts of kindness was to write a favorite author and thank him/her for their work. I had just finished reading Love Does (AGAIN!!) and remembered that Bob put his phone number in the back of the book. Why not call him instead of writing ? I mean who would really put their phone number in the back of a best-selling book. I dialed, the phone rang but a recorded message came on stating I missed Bob and I could reach him by email. I wasn’t prepared to write his email address down and had to call again to make sure I had remembered what I heard correctly. The phone rang again, and again, and then Bob Goff actually answered!! That’s right! He’s the real deal!! I told him it was my birthday and how I was going to spend it and then I asked him if he could give me some advice on kindness. He directed me to Matthew 25: 31-46, specifically verse 35.
“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.”
He told me a great place to start spreading kindness is to look for people who are hungry, thirsty, strangers, sick people, and prisoners. When we share kindness with them, we are experiencing Jesus. I thanked him for the advice, thanked him for his book and what he is doing for God. He wished me a Happy Birthday and told me he was just about to get on a plane. And that was that. He was off to go inspire another group of people and point them to Jesus and I felt charged and ready to do the same. Hope its was a good flight, Bob!
2.) Wrote a thank you letter to our mailman and leave it in the mailbox with the flag up. The kids were looking out the window when the mailman came to deliver the mail and we spied on him as he reached into the mailbox to grab the letter for HIM! We couldn’t see his face. But we saw him take it, pause a moment and then turn it over before he drove away. I hope it blessed his day!
3.) Sent a card to my mom on my birthday.
4.) Told people that I loved them.
5.) Called off homeschool and built a “Kindness Crew.” I enlisted the help of my kids with this day of kindness. They helped me write cards and cut out compliments to leave on cars in parking lots. This day turned out better than a school day would have been. As we were out and searching for people who needed encouragement, I noticed that they were becoming more aware of their surrounding and looking at the world with a hightened sense of compassion. They became just as excited as I was when we were able to bless someone.
6.) Complimented the sample lady at the grocery store and bought what she was selling. It is hard to be a sales person!
7) Delivered flowers to an amazing mom, mentor to many, and a Godly woman!
8.) Paid for the car behind me in the Dunkin’ Donuts line.
9.) Paid for the car, behind the car, behind me in the Dunkin’ Donuts line.
10.) Brought a dozen donuts and thank you note to the fire department. Our fire department is amazing! The firemen brought us through to the garage and let the kids climb in the fire truck and use the water hose. Sometimes acts of kindness are returned with an act of kindness.
11.) Delivered flowers to another amazing mom who we surprised at work! This mom is a mentor to me and has prayed over me and with me for many years. She has also gently helped me say no to things and supported me through many things. She is just amazing and I love her! It was time for me to bless her.
12.) Delivered a dozen donuts and thank you note to the police station.
13.) Prayed for the people in jail while we sat in the police station parking lot. I talked to the kids about choices, mercy and forgiveness. It was a deep little moment in the back of our mini van.
14.) Gave flowers to a random stranger. I was driving by the Salvation Army Store when I saw a woman exit the door, I felt like she needed flowers. So I whipped into the parking lot but by the time I had parked, she was already in her car. That did not matter to me. I walked up to her car, knocked on her window. The window rolled down slowly, I held out the flowers and told her I wanted her to have them. She looked really confused and most likely was questioning if I had lost my mind (it was awesome!) I reassured her that I was not crazy just out spreading kindness and she needed some today. She brightened up and was really happy by the time we said our goodbyes. I wonder where she was off to and what she was dealing with that day.
15.) Held doors for people.
16.) Put post-it notes on the diaper changing table at Target so when a mom goes to change her baby’s diaper she will see how awesome she is!
17.)Bought five Starbucks gift cards. Searched Target for a moms to give the cards to. The kids were really good at this. We listened for crying and tantrums and steered the cart in that direction. First card given to a mom with a baby.
18.) Gave another Starbucks card to a mom with toddler. She was very appreciative.
19.) We left a few dollars in the bins of the dollar spot section of Target.
20.) There was a lost lady walking around the parking lot looking for her car. I gave a card of encouragement just before she found her car.
21.) Put note on a windshield of the car parked in front of us.
22.) Went to the grocery store to search for more moms with cranky kids. Gave Starbucks Card #3 to a mom of two boys.
23.) Gave Starbucks Card #4 to a mom with toddler and baby.
24.) Gave the sun some encouragement. It was a hot day and standing by the road and waving in a giant sun costume is hard work! So I pulled over, walked over to her and told her she was doing a great job. I wish I had a bottle of water to give. Next time, I will be more prepared.
25.)We purposely smiled at people.
26.) We helped picked up things that fell onto the floor of the grocery store.
27.) The kids and I bought food to be added to food baskets given to families in need.
28.) Left lottery tickets on the gas pump and stayed around to watch who would take them. We sat and watched for a good thirty minutes, cars came and went, and everyone left the tickets where they were. We must have a lot of honest people in the community who do not take things that do not belong to them.
29-33.) Left notes of encouragement on five more cars.
34.) We took time to stop and talk with church members who we ran into while we were out.
35.) I offered to help a women on the crutches. She refused but at least I offered.
36.) Met a friend for dinner.
37-38.) We ran out of time to do the last two acts of kindness but we plan to put the rest of the cards on parked cars and in random library books at the library.
It was an absolutely wonderful, exhausting day! My heart was filled beyond capacity and I felt at peace. An amazing contrast to the way my day started. Turns out that there were things on my to-do list that could wait. They were still there when I woke up on Wednesday morning but I was better prepared to conquer the list with a new, refreshed heart. You never are too busy to celebrate.
One last thing, a birthday blessing for me!!! During the day, I was searching for something in a forgotten pocket of my purse. My hand hit a small, scroll like object. I pulled it out and unrolled a birthday surprise. I had completely forgotten about this piece of paper. I had pulled it out of a fish bowl filled with random compliments at MOMcon (MOPS International’s Leadership Conference.) I thought it was a good word at the time. BUT to rediscover the smallest paper, in a pocket I forgotten existed, on a day when my purpose and intention was spreading kindness, was more than a coincidence to me. It was reminder and confirmation of the love and kindness and the reason why all these acts were done in the first place. Not for me, but for Him. The most kindest, loving One who all hope and mercy comes from. I am just a humble servant trying to follow directions. 🙂
What an awesome idea…..so glad you had a wonderful birthday.
Wow! What an amazing day! I loved reading about all of your acts of kindness and imagining the recipients faces, and then them going home to tell someone about what had happened to them that day. You are very brave, and such an example to your children!
Shanna, this is so wonderfully beautiful it made me tear up!! You radiate Jesus’ love and I am blessed to know you. 🙂
You inspire us to spread kindness! Thanks Shanna for letting your light shine! What a wonderful way to celebrate beautiful you! And teachable moments for your precious kids! You rock!