Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Minutes Out of My Day = A Lifetime In My Heart

As a kid, my fondest holiday memories of my parents were watching them perform small acts of kindness. From spending Christmas Eve at the church with my mom wrapping presents, stuffing bags full of food and delivering them to Christmas Cheer families, to witnessing my dad, year after year, standing at the end of the driveway waiting on the mailman and the trash truck at Christmas and handing each gentleman $5. 5 dollars back in the early 80’s more than covered a lunch, a half tank of gas, or a ticket to the movies. It wasn’t a lot of money, but it was a gesture that as a kid thought “WHY is he doing that?” But each year I watched this man stand there, excitedly, with envelopes in hand. I watched each gentleman light up, shake his hand and drive away with a smile not because they received 5 bucks (well, THAT too), but because someone noticed and appreciated them. And my dad had a skip in his step as he walked away. I asked him one year why he did it. His response: “Because I can”.

5 bucks.

Through the years it has resonated within me a spark that lies dormant; one that is there, but is smothered by deadlines, responsibilities, everyday stresses and life. And every year I have a moment where I am I reminded that these smothering factors are NO EXCUSE for not living life the way it is intended, to spread kindness. Yet still... schedules, kids, work, life..and the spark dims.

The week before Thanksgiving I had that moment again. It was a random Wednesday. I was at work and I was frustrated and feeling dread over the upcoming Christmas holiday. For the life of me I couldn’t figure out why  - I have a new husband, happy, healthy kids, awesome friends and family, great job; my life is good. But something was awry. Something was missing. Seeing everyone get so caught up in getting “this deal” and buying “this present” and planning to be the first to leave the Thanksgiving table to get to the Black Friday sales left me in such disappointment. But you see, the disappointment wasn’t with them, it was with ME. The world as we know it is in a downward spiral, we are consumed by THINGS and not by love, kindness, patience. And my spark ignited.

I left work that day and drove straight to a store to purchase envelopes, notecards, pens, small felt buttons, and stamps. I was on a mission and this mission was guided by God. I can tell you with 100 percent certainty that I did not do this alone. I was driven by a force.

That evening I sat at my kitchen table and started looking up Facebook friends and their addresses (thank you whitepages.com!). My mission was to send kindness their way in the form of a message on a notecard. Two hours later, I’d written out 60 messages, addressed the envelopes, and sat in the silence of my kitchen feeling a bit like my daddy must have felt standing at the end of the driveway.

I mailed 10 cards the very next day. I decided not to reveal myself as the sender therefore I worried that an anonymous note may not exactly be welcomed, even one with kind words. In today’s day and age where every time we turn around there is negativity and hate, I worried that this mission may backfire. But I continued to send them with anonymity. Not knowing the sender, I felt, needed to be part of this gesture.

Day 2, I mailed 10 more. That night MY world changed.

It was a Friday evening and I was home alone doing laundry and watching TV. I hopped on Facebook from my phone and there it was… one of my cards posted in my Facebook newsfeed. I wasn't expecting to see that. I had an immediate knot in my stomach and then I read the caption ‘Whoever you are, you have made my day! Thank you!” And there was another… from a friend who referred to me as their Christmas Cheer fairy. I sat on the edge of my sofa and cried harder than I have cried in a long time; tears of relief, tears of happiness, tears of the realization that the force that was driving me was driving me for a reason. And so I continued.

2 weeks ago today, that spark ignited. 2 weeks I have had a newsfeed full of some of the kindest, most genuine responses from receivers. And yesterday, as I sat 2000 miles from home on a work trip, decided to come forward after seeing a few people who were second guessing the intention behind an anonymous note. I understood. Right, wrong, indifferent it’s how this world has programmed us to respond. So I reluctantly fessed up. 

The mystery note card girl is no longer a mystery. And that’s OK, because it has allowed me to express to all of my friends my COMPLETE appreciation for some of the most loving, raw emotional responses. You see, all along I thought the mission was to share a small bit of kindness with friends. All the while, unbeknownst to them, they returned it right back to me in the most gentle, sincere way. And yesterday, I got to thank them.

I no longer dread Christmas. As a matter of fact, my heart feels the most complete it has felt in years - maybe since I was the 8 year old girl watching my daddy out of the window of my kitchen on Laramie Drive.

Why did I do this, you ask?

Because I can.

And you can too.

Make it a mission, a New Years resolution, a goal, a to-do-list item to send someone a kind note. Minutes out of your day lasts a lifetime in someone's heart. A Kindness Revolution of some sort.

I cannot even come close to expressing the appreciation I had for all the love poured on my Facebook after yesterday's confession. I didn't feel worthy. I will stand by this always: I cannot take full credit for what motivated my words and timing. Call it God, a higher power, an unexplained force, whatever it was, it was there and I am forever changed by it. And, also, my parents who instilled the spark within by, not just telling me, but showing me the true meaning of Christmas.

Grateful. Blessed. Changed.

Kristen