PAY IT FORWARD: 49 Acts of Kindness

“Unexpected kindness is the most powerful, least costly, and most underrated agent of human change.”

(—Bob Kerrey)

There is no greater gift that we can give our children than to teach them to be compassionate and kind. In a summer filled with so much laughter and so many blessings, we set out this Wandering Wednesday to share the love and some kindess, to give back to our community, and to hear the stories of how some truly great organizations are making a big impact in the lives of the local families they serve. It was 3-part day of random and not so random "acts of kindness." And it was one of my favorite days so far this summer!

Our first stop: CONNOR'S HEROES, a wonderful local children's cancer support charity whose mission is to make fighting childhood cancer a journey a family never faces alone. They regularly make a big impact with small acts of kindness, whether that be by delivering backpacks filled with bordom busting activities for kids in the MCV cancer ward, helping families with a sick child manage the daily tasks of life (via delivering meals, shopping for groceries, doing yardwork and household chores), providing mentors that support children with cancer and their siblings who may feel lonely and neglected through their Superheroes and Sidekicks program, offering bereavement support, and endowing a pediatric cancer research fund at VCU's School of Medicine and the VCU Massey Cancer Center. Connor's Heroes is honored to have provided individualized support to nearly 700 children with cancer and their families.

Connor's Heroes likes to send handmade "thinking of you" and "birthday" cards to the kids and families they serve, so we spent a fun and meaningful morning at their office learning about their mission and making 30 handmade cards for the kids and families they are supporting.

(Find out how you too can help at: http://www.connorsheroes.org)

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Next up: GUERILLA GOODNESS (otherwise known as "random" acts of kindness). For about a year now, I have been following the inspirational blog of an amazing local woman named Patience Salgado, aka "Kindness Girl."

A self-proclaimed kindness worker and social impact artist living in RVA, Ms. Salgado's mantra is "Kindess changes everything!" Salgado would like Richmond to become a city known for its kindness. She also envisions a national kindness movement starting with her "guerrilla goodness" approach. And everyone from the Richmond Times Dispatch, to Oprah, to the Huffington Post has taken notice! I reached out to Ms. Salgado for ideas on how we could be part of her kindness movement and she directed us to her website http://guerrillagoodness.com/ for a list of "kindness missions."

What IS Guerrilla Goodness you ask?

Per Salgado, "Guerrilla Goodness is intentional, anonymous acts of kindness performed in playful, creative ways for strangers, friends, and family.

It is the power of kindness and joy coming alive for all involved, both the giver and recipient. It’s discovering something about yourself and the world that changes everything, it is about believing and standing in kindness.

Guerrilla goodness is dropping flowers on strangers’ doorsteps, chalking up sidewalks outside of schools with good wishes on the first day of school, leaving quarters in all the gumball or parking meter machines in town, slipping Starbucks gift cards into books at the library for the next reader to find."

As the kids and I reviewed all of Salgado's fun ideas for kindness missions, we fell in love with the idea of surprising strangers (and a few friends) with flowers. And to us, the happiest flower of all is the sunflower. Good thing we knew just where to get them...

At 58 Courthouse Road (right hand side) in Chesterfield (relatively close to the intersection of Midlothian Turnpike and Courthouse Road), is a "Pick Your Own" sunflower garden. On an honor system, the price is 3 for $1.00 and they are even kind enough to provide garden clippers. We picked 18 sunflowers, tagged them with notes I had printed off that contained quotations on sharing/spreading kindness, and set out to surprise folks. We stopped at Morningside Assised Living at Bellgrade and chatted with/surprised 3 nice senior citizen ladies there. We did the same to 6 ladies sitting in wheelchairs at The Laurels of Willow Creek (a nursing home next to ACAC). One sweet lady kissed and then hugged my son for so long, he was not sure she would let go. (Gotta say, it brought tear to my eye.) We delivered the rest to: our favorite receptionist (Ms Ruby at Capitol Pediatrics who lights up a room with her positive energy!), the car windshields of some amazing caregivers, at the door of a recent widow, etc. The kids and I made a pact that we would try to incororate more acts of Guerilla Goodness into our daily routines. Thanks Patience/Kindness Girl for being our muse and inspiration!

I am SO looking forward to setting our coffee date to meet in person!

Wanna learn more about Kindness Girl and get ideas for your own Kindness Missions? See below.

Last stop (so keep reading) : RVA's RONALD MCDONALD HOUSE!

http://kindnessgirl.com/ and http://guerrillagoodness.com/

http://www.timesdispatch.com/entertainment-life/richmond-s-kindness-girl-leads-a-perfectly-nice-life/article_25b157df-553b-534e-b02b-688b5e8bcf5a.html

http://www.oprah.com/spirit/Kindness-Girl-Patience-Salgado-Acts-of-Kindness_1

http://thecheatsmovement.com/2012/01/22/kindness-girl-patience-salgado-the-interview/

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Our final act of kindness for the day was cooking dinner for the families staying at Richmond's Ronald McDonald House. Ronald McDonald House Charities® of Richmond, VA is a non-profit organization that provides a home away from home for seriously ill children and their families who have come

to Richmond for medical help. (http://www.rmhc-richmond.org/index.html)

Several weeks back, I discovered a fantastic site called: www.volunteermatch.org/. VolunteerMatch strengthens communities by making it easier for good people and good causes to connect. It is a location-based app that shows you nearby volunteer opportunities and through this site, I discovered that RVA's Ronald McDonald House (RMH) was looking for meal help. Per RMH, "providing a meal for the families that stay at the Ronald McDonald House takes away the worry and hassle of food preparation so that the families can give all of their energy and attention to their ill child." (As an aside, knowing that we would be going to RMH to cook for them, my son set up a lemonade stand in our neighborhood several weeks back and raised $106 dollars, in great thanks to my wonderful and generous neighbors, for the Ronald McDonald House and he was thrilled to be able to bring this money to RMH.)

The kids, Grandma Dot, and I arrived at Ronald McDonald House at 4pm with a meal plan and groceries in hand and got down to business cooking dinner for the 5 families staying in the house so the meal would be ready at the appointed time of 6pm. (Given new health standards, RMH prefers that meals be cooked on-site in their newly renovated kitchen.) After setting out the meal in a buffet style, we were able to chat with some of the resident guests and take a tour of this truly amazing home. You can feel the LOVE in this place and we were truly honored to be able to share in this experience! The kids are already asking when we can sign up to cook for them again! (For questions regarding volunteer needs/activities at Ronald McDonald House Charities of Richmond, please contact Rachel Marsh at rachel@rmhc-richmond.org.)

Our end of day tally: 49 random and not so random acts of kindness.

Plus our three hearts filled to the brim with love and warmth and hope and gratitude.

To conclude this story on our day of kindness, I turn to the words of Maya Angelou, as I could not have summed it up better myself:

“The best part of life is not just surviving, but thriving with passion and compassion and humor and style and generosity and kindness.”

—Maya Angelou

After all, this embodies what Wandering Wednesday is all about. Let's wander! And let us all firmly commit to more acts of kindness! xo A

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“Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind.”

—Henry James (1843-1916)

#connorsheroes #randomactsofkindess #patienceselgado #kindnessgirl #guerrillagoodness #ronaldmcdonaldhouse #wwwvolunteermatchorg

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