The Joy Bombs

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History has proved New Englanders to be revolutionaries, passionate and determined people, overcomers of all types of difficulties, including wild weather. If there’s one prerequisite to being labeled a “New Englander,” it is the skill of talking about and complaining about the weather. You really can’t blame us. If you have spent any amount of time in New England, you know our weather is unpredictable and always changing. It could be sunny and fifty degrees one day, only to wake up to an outrageous, snowy nor’easter the next. Mark Twain accurately summed up our weather, “If you don’t like the weather in New England now, just wait a few minutes.”

Well, we’ve been waiting more than a few minutes and the weather seems to be stuck on the winter channel. Even though the calendar says it is spring, snow is in the forecast AGAIN. It appears the snow in unaware of proper seasonal boundaries.

My daughter tells me the recent snowstorms are a test of our patience and joy. That’s a great way to look at it. We will persevere and when spring weather FINALLY comes it will be even sweeter. BUT until then, it seems (from Facebook feeds and the word on the street) not everyone feels the same. Most people are pretty bummed about this winter weather and I get it. So, the kids and I thought we should do something about the low morale and cheer people up.  We came up with an idea to go out into our community to help people find some joy and give a few people something else to talk about instead of the weather.

We grabbed some balloons at the dollar store, purchased some cookies and hot chocolate at Walmart, and made bundles of joy (or as my youngest daughter called them, “joy bombs.”) We tied a poem to the package, prayed, and followed wherever the Holy Spirit led us. Our goal was to make people smile and brighten their day.  The following is our “adventure log.”

 

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JOY ADVENTURE LOG:

1.) Left one “joy bomb” by a car in a parking lot.

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2-3.) Brought two “Joy Bombs” to a local breakfast cafe. Asked the waitresses if they would pass them on to two customers. They seemed happy to do so.

4.) Stopped an older couple pumping gas at the gas station.  I am not quite sure if they heard or understood what we were doing (or if they thought that I was slightly off my rocker.) Regardless, they took the cookies, hot chocolate, and the balloon. As I was driving away, I saw a huge smile on the woman’s face as she pointed to the bag and explained something to her husband

5.) Pulled into the parking lot of my hair salon. Saw one woman getting into the car next to us. (Let her get in the car first so the snow did not wreck her freshly styled hair.) Asked her how she felt about the weather. She looked a little suspicious and a bit confused. We explained what we were doing. She said something like, “No, that’s not me. I am fine with the snow.” Well, that’s great! Save “joy bomb” for someone else.

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5.) Left one for Lala, my fabulous hair stylist. I figured Lala would be hearing all about the weather and people’s problems while styling clients’ hair. Asked the receptionist to tell Lala to pass the “joy bomb” on to someone who really needed it.  Will follow-up.

6.) Stopped a dad and his toddler who were walking through a parking lot.Told them the balloon and cookies were just for them. My daughters thought I knew them because of the way I spoke to them. It touched my heart that my daughters observed and commented on this. This project isn’t just about blessing community members but also about meeting the people we share our town with and modeling interactions for my children.

5.) Coffee house. (Seriously, how have I not been to this place before?) Very friendly service and the two young men working the counter happily took the “job bomb” and will be passing it on to someone.  Side note: How cute is this little journal area? I have lots of thoughts and dreams I could add to one of those journals. I will be back soon.

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7.) Brought one to a church family. My girls asked if they could bring it up to the door by themselves. And they did! 🙂

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8., 9., 10. ) Left three at neighbors’ doorsteps. The only other time we come to these doors are to receive something- candy at Halloween. It’s feels good to give and not just receive.

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11. 12. 13.) Town Hall- I gave each kid a “joy bomb” and we walked into town hall. There were three beautiful, friendly, women to receive joy from each child. They were so touched, they gave us balloons leftover from someone’s retirement party. One balloon for each kid and then four more to pass on to others. We happily took them and promised to pass them on. One of the ladies asked if I was the one that did the kindness rocks. I love that connections are being made.

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14. 15. 16) Retirement Home- My girls decided they wanted to give their balloons away to the residents. At first my three-year old was adamant about keeping his balloon and that was completely fine with me. My oldest bent down next to him and quietly explained who and why they were giving their balloons away and before I knew it my son wanted to give his away too! Kindness was multiplying before my eyes and my daughter reminded me of the power and influence of using soft, gentle words. What a blessing this stop was! We walked in and residents’ faces lit up. We stayed for a few minutes and talked with some of them. Then they surprised us with a cookie and told us we were welcome anytime.

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17.) Brought a “joy bomb” to the pastor at the Episcopal Church. I drive and walk by this church often and I always think it would be nice to stop by and say “hi.”  Well, today seemed a good day to do it. 🙂 (Why did I wait so long?)

18.) We brought one to a church friend.

19.) My kids had it on their hearts to bring one to a fellow homeschooling family who lives down the street. We left the “joy bomb” on their step along with the rest of the balloons from town hall. My kids were thrilled that they had some say in this project and their voice mattered.

20.) The final balloon, we brought to a neighbor who we do not know well but know they could use some joy. We left the “joy bomb” at their door.

All twenty “joy bombs” prayed for and delivered. Throughout the morning, I kept thinking about what this adventure was teaching my children. We had inadvertently worked on project management skills, math skills, map skills, conversational skills, and teamwork. We had witnessed the power of prayer and kindness within our interactions with each other and with other people. As a bonus, we met new friends and found new places in our town to visit.

When we pulled into the driveway, one of my daughters said, “Mom, I feel like I have been hugged ten thousand times.”  That’s a pretty great and accurate description of how I felt too. The weather seemed so insignificant when we placed our sights higher and on other things. I don’t think winter weather is quite over yet and that’s okay. It’s a pain to deal with but we are New Englanders. We’ll get through it and how we wait “the few minutes” matters. Let’s try to be cheerful, spread some joy, and help where we can. If you are able, grab an extra shovel and help clean off cars and walkways, take cookies to a neighbor, smile to those you meet. You never know how the smallest interactions will influence someone’s whole day.  Stay warm and stay positive. Spring will be here “soon.” ❤

 

 

 


The Germiest and Messiest Places

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There we were in one of the germiest, grimiest places to be-a public restroom. The three of us, heads huddled together, looked down into the bowl of the toilet. I could see it. In my attempts to protect my children from the germy seat with layers of toilet paper, my favorite earring had slipped from my ear and splashed into the “pool of germs.”  Fortunately, it had not gone down into the abyss but instead lay sparkling, mocking me from the depths of the “clear” water.

Ummm…. now what? Should I stick my hand in the water and get it? NO!! No, I could not bring myself to do it. Maybe I could fish it out with something but then I realized my purse was outside with a friend. Deciding I really needed to have my purse, if not for some gadget at least for some comfort, I sent my oldest daughter to get it for me.

As I waited, I opened the door of the stall. I felt a little loss, needed some sympathy, and possibly some help from my fellow bathroom compadres. And on a more practical level, I wanted to make sure no one  flushed the toilet. Then all hope would be gone.

I tried to make eye contact with the women who came through the door. I stated my plight loudly enough for most to hear. Some women ignored me but many women curiously andwith empathetically peeked into the bowl, shaking their heads as they left, and agreeing it was a bad situation.

And then there was Linda. Oh, Linda!

Linda was different. She heard my appeal for help. She listened to my situation and decided to do something about it.  Without giving it much thought, Linda rolled up her sleeve and heroically reached deep into the toilet waters retrieving my earring. She carried it over to the sink and scrubbed her hands and scrubbed my earring. Then she carefully dried my earring and handed it to me with care and the instructions to CAREFULLY and THOROUGHLY sanitize my earring before I wore it again. (That will NOT be a problem, Linda! I promise!) I thanked her over and over again but she just smiled and said it was really no big deal. Maybe it wasn’t a big deal to Linda BUT it was big deal to me!

You know, I cannot help but think of what it would be like if we were all a little more like Linda. I am not saying we need to stick our bare hands into germy public toilet bowls. (Although, carrying plastic dish gloves in our purses may come in handy one day.)  What I am saying is this, what if we went along our schedules and agendas with the readiness to be interrupted? What if we tuned our hearing and focused our sight on the cries for help from people around us? What would it look like to join people in their messiness?

There are a lot of people who are stuck in messy and unhealthy situations. We often worry we don’t have what it takes to help and so we ignore or walk on by. While we cannot pull people out of their situations or fix things for them, we can come around them and let them know they are not alone.  We can care for them by providing a listening ear, a smiling face, a hand on the shoulder. We can join them in their messiness by not judging them and “wash” them over with prayer, friendship and love. And then we can “wrap” them in a big hug.

Most of all, we can help people find resources, hope and the One who defeated death. After death has been defeated, is there anything Jesus can’t do? Remember, Jesus met people in the messiest places, surrounded by the germiest people and He was their hope and new life. When we come before Him with our messes or better yet, when we come before Him together with our messes, we can expect that Jesus has the power to save, to rescue, and make ways for people when there seems to be no other ways possible.

For those of us who are followers of Jesus, we are called to walk in His ways and with His Spirit upon us we are called to preach the good news to the poor, proclaim release to the captives, recovery of the slight to the blind, and set those who are oppressed free. (Luke 4:18-19) Most of all we are called to have faith and LOVE! (1 John 3:23-24) I think love starts with listening and looking for those in need.

So Linda, wherever you are, THANK YOU AGAIN! Thank you so much for your kindness.

And thank you Jesus, for allowing me these unusual, uncomfortable, and hilarious situations I often find myself in. What I learn from these “opportunities,” I hope will always be for your glory and your Kingdom work. ❤

PS Please note that this picture is a reenactment in a thoroughly cleaned and sanitized toilet. I wish I had snapped a picture during the unfortuante event but it was the last thing on my mind. LOL


Throw Kindness Around Like Confetti

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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!

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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. 

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.
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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. 🙂

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