Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Day 30 - Aaron's Wish

     It is so difficult in our world not to be cynical.  I find myself getting irritable after 10 minutes of watching the news or reading the headlines.  Sometimes I have to just stop and think, "really?"  How did society get so twisted?  When did it become impossible to flip through the channels of a television without seeing something offensive or inappropriate?  Maybe it's because I'm older, but I don't think that's really it.  As a society we are becoming desensitized and the line between what is right and what is wrong has been blurred.  Worse yet, many people choose to push the limits under the umbrella of the First Amendment however  their rights step on the toes of those who try to strive for decency in this world.  And like a train wreck, we are drawn to this sensationalism.  We don't really want to see it, yet we can't look away.

     I am not singling out any one issue and I never intended for this blog to be judgmental or political.  This is not the time and place, but all of these bazaar and unusual actions in our world have made me want to seek out the "good and happy" stories in the press.  Why can't people just be nice to each other.

     Today, thankfully, I was moved by a story on the Today show about Aaron's Wish.  Being a lover of Random and unusual acts of kindness, I was drawn to this family and their story.  In a nutshell, a family lost their brother and son at a young age and he left a remarkable request in his Will.  He asked them at some point to leave a large ($500) tip to a random waiter or waitress in a restaurant.  NOT a fancy restaurant but a pizza or burger joint where the wait staff is likely in need of such a generous gesture.  The family had no money for this task so they reached out to others to help with their mission.  Incredibly, they have raised over $57,000--enough to tip 114 people so far.  They are filming their surprise tips and blogging about it as a tribute to Aaron's legacy and to encourage others to make random gestures of their own.  They are heroes in my eyes.

      The link to their website is http://aaroncollins.org/. You should read this family's blog - I could never do it justice.  Start at the beginning.  Watch the videos.  Cry a little. And then hit the paypal button and donate.  I did.  And as this family says on the blog, if you can't donate, then at some point, leave a generous tip of your own.  Surprise someone.  Open yourself up and let God guide you to the exact right person who needs you at the exact right time.

     Oh, and all that craziness on the news - tune it out, turn it off.  I'm happier when I do.

**DISCLAIMER - I have no affiliation to this family and cannot vouch for the use of any donated funds.  I chose to donate because in my heart I believe it to be true.  You have to make that decision for yourself.

"Let us more and more insist on raising funds of love, of kindness, of understanding, of peace. Money will come if we seek first the Kingdom of God - the rest will be given." ~ Mother Theresa

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Day 29 - I See You

You are all in for a real treat today.  I have been contemplating the purpose of this blog and know that I am slowly reaching people--but being the impatient person that I am, I find it is not happening fast enough! The blog is not about me.  I receive emails and facebook posts all the time complimenting me on the blog, but my intent was never to draw attention to myself. It's about touching people's life with unexpected kind actions in the hopes that they will be moved enough to be kind to someone else.  Since beginning this blog, I have received so many beautiful emails and touching stories that readers have shared about their own ARKs and it occurred to me that I should include these stories {in their own words} in the hopes that this blog will grow exponentially.  You know, "they'll tell two friends, and they'll tell two friends, and so on, and so on . . . "  (Anyone know where that quote came from?)  So I asked a few people to do a guest blog and share their ARKs.  I am overwhelmed at the responses and how everyone readily agreed!

Today's post comes from my friend Sandi Keene.  I met Sandi through a mutual friend and she was one of those special people that walks into your life and you have an instant connection. She emanated peace and though I didn't know much about her, I knew that I wanted to be around her - to get to know her better. I felt like I was supposed to know her. She is a gentle soul, yet would aggressively protect those she loves. I shamelessly invited myself to a gathering she was having and was fortunate enough to be included in a private retreat she hosts each year. I spent four days with an intimate group of some of the most inspirational and women I have ever met.  It was done.  Sandi and I were meant to be friends and we will stay that way forever.  And did I mention she was an extraordinary artist? I asked Sandi to guest blog because to me, she is the epitome of unsolicited kindness.  She is always there with a little note in the mail, a 'good morning' text, an unexpected gift, and she works tirelessly to make sure everyone around her is content and their needs are fulfilled.  All of this without ever expecting anything in return.  Ever met anyone like that-where you just want to be in their presence?

So I will stop babbling and let you read her ARK:
"I was honored when Lorraine asked me to guest post on her ARK 365 Blog. I remember when she told me about it and I sat and read the whole blog amazed at the touching things she had done to spread kindness throughout her part of the world.  You can't help but be inspired and motivated to do something yourself.

I had been thinking about what I would do to spread a bit of cheer in someone's life.  I considered how easy it is to spread love to your friends and even strangers. That's when it hit me that the lesson was to gift someone I found challenging with an act of kindness that says - I see you. In my case, it is a teenaged girl I have known since infancy.

I knew that I would have to look past the pervasive attitude and less than appealing behavior to see her heart.  I had to see her with compassion and empathy. I had to focus on how painfully awkward those high school years can be when you are struggling so hard to find balance between fitting in and individuality.  I re-lived the feelings of being ordinary while aching to be extraordinary that seem to be widespread throughout those gawky freshman years where you are one part young woman and two parts self-conscious child.

So I pull out my paper and drew a simple sketch.

And then added watercolor.

This became a card that says "hello", I am thinking of you today.

I hope it makes her feel special, even for a moment.  And as always, the irony is, that this changes me."

A little bit about Sandi:

I am an Artist and documenter of life. I am on a mission to become an expert in simplicity. "Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful." William Morris.   This is my guidepost on the journey. Relationships are my passion. I am happiest when there is food and conversation mixed with laughter and love.

I asked Sandi to submit her favorite quote to end the post . . .

"Compassion brings us to a stop and for a moment, we rise above ourselves." ~  Mason Cooley

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Day 28 - Now Serving . . .

I had a beautiful bracelet.  It was very special to me.  It was made with lovely silver and aqua beads, chunky and fun, and there was a pewter plaque on the cuff that said "BLESSED."  My friend Maria created it which made it even more special to me because she is an incredibly artsy girl and her jewelry is amazing.  (Check out her Etsy Shoppe, Chickadee Designs,  here).  She is also a peaceful, loving and gentle soul - I feel calm and very happy when I am around her.

Anyway, I am digressing here but I wanted to tell you about Maria first and emphasize how special this bracelet was to me.  I wore it almost every day and I would look at it and be reminded of how blessed I am.  Blessed with friendships that run so deep and true.  I'm blessed with a wonderful husband who has worked hard to provide well for us and I'm blessed with two amazing adult children who are good and decent and the joy of my life. I have a home, plenty to eat, close family, and good health.  Did I say I am blessed?  We all are, really.  We all are blessed--even the dark and troubled times are blessings.  We need only be patient and God will reveal his plan and the blessings will be clear and obvious. But sometimes we forget.  We feel sorry for ourselves and whine and complain when we are down and we take for granted the beauty in our lives.  So my bracelet was a reminder that no matter what, I need only pause for a moment and think of all the grace and blessings surrounding me.

Did you notice I used the past tense when referring to my special bracelet?  Yep, I did have a special bracelet . . . until today.  I was in a fabric store this afternoon and it was crowded and I had several bolts that needed to be cut.  It's one of those places where you have to take a ticket from the little red machine which dispenses a number representing your place in line.  I pulled number 63.  The digital sign above my head said, "Now serving No. 51."  Really? I had 12 people ahead of me!  Really? I knew I had a loooooong wait so I did what I do best and leaned on my cart and 'observed' people.  The ladies cutting fabric were grumpy because they were busy and the people in line were grumpy because the wait was ridiculously long.  I watched this circus going on around me and could feel the dark mood settling in.  I was struck by the irony of the "Now Serving" sign as I contemplated what it means to 'Serve.' I started feeling crabby and judgmental toward the employees - it is their job to serve! But in the midst of this negative vibe, one employee stood out from the rest.  She was like a breath of fresh air as she politely greeted each person.  I watched her as she smiled a genuine smile and asked about each person's day and inquired what they were sewing with their fabric.  She almost reminded me of Snow White as she seemed to  'whistle while she worked!'  The other employees remained grumpy and barely spoke, but I noticed the mood of the customers began to change as this lovely woman made each person feel special.  I just knew I was going to get a grumpy lady but fortunately when "No. 63" was called, I got the sweet employee!  The first thing she said to me was, "What a beautiful bracelet," and she reached out and touched the word 'blessed.'  We chatted while she cut my fabric and I found myself mesmerized by her happiness.  When she finished, I thanked her and started to walk away, but something stopped me and I turned back to her, slipped my bracelet off my wrist and took her hand and dropped the bracelet into her open palm.  She looked dumbfounded and started to protest but I waved her off and said, "you have blessed me today with your kindness - the bracelet belongs with you now."  I will never forget the look on her face as I quickly turned to walk away.  For a split second, I regretted giving away my lovely bracelet, but the joy I felt at seeing her face instantly took that regret away. I will never forget how her kindness blessed my day.  My heart was full and I knew the bracelet was now with its rightful owner.

“Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God's kindness: kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile.” ~ Mother Teresa

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Day 27 - Kind to Myself

It's been way too long since I sat down here to work on this project... what can I say?

Life got in the way?
I've been busy?
Other priorities?
I forget what my goal was?
My goal was too ambitious?
I never finish anything I start?

Well, yes, all of the above. Especially that last one.  That is a hard statement to even read.  I did what I usually do and enthusiastically start a project and then never see it to completion.  I'm not a procastinator, in fact I am pretty much the opposite.  I jump into everything feet first and put those wheels in motion.

And then I get stuck.
Something happens and I find myself paralyzed to move forward.
Those old fears and self-doubt start to creep in.
Am I making a difference?
Is my writing any good?
Does anyone read this?
Does anyone really care?

I do the same thing with my art work and community service and relationships.  I doubt my self worth and abilities. I listen to voices that fill my head with lies instead of the one voice of truth I should always follow.  Sometimes the whispers become so loud that I can't block them out and then I let myself believe them . . .
 You are not worthy.
You are not good enough.
You are invisible.
You are not smart.
You are not important.

STOP IT!!!!  STOP THE NOISE!!!!  I DON'T BELIEVE YOU!!! STOP SCREAMING IN MY EAR!!!!  There is only one voice I need to hear and to listen to . . . it is the soft and soothing voice that is always gently telling me . . .

I see you.
I know you.
You are special.
You were created to love and be loved.
You have a purpose.
You are ENOUGH.
I created you and you are worth dying for.
And one day, you will see yourself the way I see you.
When you come into my Kingdom
where I have prepared a place for you,
You will know the difference you made in other people's lives.
You will know why you walked the earth.
You will know why you lived, why you laughed, why you felt pain
and why you cried.
You will know that your life had purpose and meaning.
One day, you will KNOW I love you.

So I'm not going to give up on this project.  I may not be able to blog every day, but I will finish this project.  I will complete 365 acts of random kindness.  It may take me years, but I choose to listen to the quiet voice of truth instead of the screaming lies that are thrown at me everyday.  And for today, well my random act was for myself.  Today I was kind to myself.

"Give yourself fully to God. He will use you to accomplish great things on the condition that you believe much more in His love than in your own weakness." - Mother Teresa