November 01, 2011

The Big Six-O... wait, what?!

This birthday will be my year to get the “Kaelin sweatshirt” that is being passed around to each of the Kaelin cousins that hits the 60 mark. Kaelin is my mom’s maiden name, and we have (I think) 32 first cousins on that side of the family. Being a child of the oldest daughter, I’m kind of high on the list (I think only a handful have had it before me) but my reign will be a short one. My cousin Joanie is right behind me, so when her turn comes, the sweatshirt will travel to St. Louis. A quick reminder of hitting this dreaded milestone birthday, and then I can pass it on to the next victim.
I have been attending a lot of “Mile Marker” birthdays recently and have come up with an idea for my own celebration. I would like my family and friends to commit random acts of kindness (RAOK) for 60 days in honor of my 60 years. So, starting on November 4th, please think of me and commit an occasional friendly act. (I know you are cringing, but you can do it) Need help coming up with an idea? This one is my favorite: When driving through a fast food chain, pay the bill for the person behind you in line. I do that as often as I can, and usually can maintain my anonymity because I am gone by the time that person realizes what has happened. Once, I got behind someone inside a fast food place and asked the lady who was in front of me if she minded if I paid for her lunch. She looked totally surprised and a little confused. I said… “I don’t know you, I just have a little extra money and would like to buy your lunch.” She told me that was the nicest thing that had ever happened to her. I wasn’t looking for that acknowledgement actually. The feeling you get from doing something nice is overwhelmingly rewarding enough. 
Sometimes when I eat at a fast food restaurant that offers kid’s meals, I get one and offer the toy to a child in the restaurant. A small gesture for sure, but one that puts a smile on a child’s face for a minute or two. I think our nation has turned kind of cold hearted, and I think we need to get back to the Golden Rule when it comes to interaction with each other. Here are some more ideas:
• Leave money in a vending machine for the next person
• Leave a book/magazine you’ve finished in a reception area for someone else to read
• Send a thank-you card to one of our troops overseas
• Drop off a game or toy at a women's shelter
• Donate a teddy bear to the police department
• Place a few coins in the park’s playground area for children to “find”
• Put a few bucks in an envelope and mail it anonymously to someone you know going through a hard time
• Let a driver in front of you if they are in the wrong lane (let go of that hidden road-rage)
• Ask a friend to lunch, and pick up the tab
• Help a stranger load their groceries into their car at the grocery store
• Return a couple of stray carts to the correct location
• Put coins in an expired parking meter for someone who might get a ticket otherwise
• Give a stranger a scratch-off ticket
• Buy from a child’s lemonade stand - always
• Straighten up a card display that has been disheveled by other customers
Some of these cost something, but there are plenty of ways to be kind without spending a dime. Make eye contact and smile at someone…  Thank a police officer/fireman/soldier/nurse for what they do… Offer to help someone reach for an item too high for them at the grocery store… Leave a positive comment on someone’s webpage if you like it … Make donations of used housewares or clothes or furniture to Hospice/Goodwill or any other non-profit thrift store… Offer to babysit for a friend… Before placing an order at a counter, ask the person (with a smile on your face) “How are you today?”- It gets the transaction off to a very friendly start, plus more than likely that person has been dealing with cranky people all day… Compliment a stranger’s shoes/purse/outfit/hairdo. (“Love your shoes!”)… Because I have worked in retail settings before, I tend to “greet” fellow shoppers simply out of habit. I can say that some people do not reply, but most people do. You never know when your act of kindness will make their day… Say Thank You often and genuinely.
So here you go, my sweet family and friends. No gifts for me, no party, no fuss. Just knowing that maybe I have inspired a random act here and there is all I want. Plus, let me hear from you, tell me what you did, or not. Being anonymous is the best part really, so keep it to yourself if you want to. I surround myself with good-hearted people, and expect that all of you already do kind things. Pay it forward. And happy early 60th birthday to me.