Wednesday, August 1, 2012

a birthday of giving

So I need to back track a bit here.

Life became a whirlwind in July.

But I must, must share about this birthday of giving.
I was inspired by the birthday project, a movement to change the world,
one birthday at a time.  It began by a woman who decided to do an act of kindness
for every year she was celebrating.
And others followed suit.
Not only is it changing birthdays, 
but it is changing perspectives for every day.

I saw the idea on pinterest of course.  Pinned it months before my big 4-0.  
And thought it would be the perfect birthday to take on such a challenge.

It was really interesting the reactions I got from friends and family.
Some encouraging, some thinking I was slightly crazy,
some wondering why I would take on so much and possibly cause
my birthday to be draining rather than relaxing.

But I couldn't let it go, I couldn't let go of this idea of 
creating a scavenger hunt of kindness.  
And I knew it was the Holy Spirit nudging me and I just had to listen.

I sat down with my family and we began our list.
That was the first sign that this was actually harder than I thought.
We hit 28, 29, 30 and then we had to start really digging.  
I was embarrassed that we had to take a break and resume later.  
In this process alone, the reactions were ever so telling.  
My ten year old kept saying, "You know you really don't have to do this."  
My five year old worried, "Do I have to do this on my birthday?"  
And my seven year old, well she was the one helping me come up with ideas 
that stretched my comfort zone.  
"Let's go into the emergency room and ask if anyone needs prayer 
and then pray for them."

I wholeheartedly believe in prayer.  
And I know its amazing power.  
But my first gut reaction was that I felt kind of shy just randomly walking in and doing this.
I knew without a doubt, I needed to be stretched 
and the fact that the shyest of my three children suggested this as though it was
something that absolutely must be added to the list.
 Well there was no way it wasn't going down.
We planned and shopped and packed things up ahead of time for a week long
birthday giving and stretching extravaganza.  I decided I'd heed friend's advice
not to overdo it and try to accomplish it all in one day.
I also asked friends and family to join in and in honor of my birthday
to do something kind for someone else.
Between all of us I knew we'd reach the forty in case I didn't alone.
In fact there was so much talk, and prayer, and planning that
when Monday the first finally came around, my kids were excited, every one of them.  
Excited to be a part of this special birthday scavenger hunt of kindness.

First stop, our neighbors...
Doggie treats for our four legged friends (suggested by my sweet 7 year old again)
 and grown up treats for their owners.
 Packing up lunches for the homeless we pass every day in Santa Monica.  
There are so very many of them in this area.  Some that are honestly pretty scary.
Some that yell and gesture violently at you through your car window.
That try to bully you while you're trapped at the light.
Every off ramp, every corner, they dot the curb.

Often there are the scams.
Each day with a brand new hat and clothes.
Some with empty gas containers waving down traffic, on the same corner,
the same time of day, the same week of the month.  
Every month of the year.
The exact same frantic plea.  But it's not legit.
And sadly, if I'm honest, it all has made me somewhat jaded.
But many, they're truly down and out.
And these pictures make me sad.
I don't want to be insensitive, or exploit, 
But I don't want to forget their faces.
Their thankfulness.
The God Bless you's that I received this day.
For looking them in the eye and not driving by.

For offering some food and encouragement.
Taking time with and without my kids, 
praying that the Lord would lead me to the men and women that really needed it.
A park filled with gleeful children, frequented by celebrities and their toddlers.
But just steps away there are those scattered beneath the shade, 
with weather worn skin covered in grime.
 Nearly lifeless bodies, too tired to move with stories riddled with struggle and sorrow.

The contrast is ironic.

And it's hard to switch gears after that.

What has brought me to Santa Monica the last several months has been 
a special place called Lindamood Bell.
 With teachers who are some of the most patient.  
Working with kids that don't learn in a typical way.
Using a special technique to help unlock their potential.  
I've witnessed miracles here.
And the joy of seeing a child's confidence return and grow.
Well, these men and women needed a special thank you
with a note and yummy treats for them all.
The parking directors, out there keeping the streets moving smoothly 
amidst lots and lots of construction and road closures.  
It has to be a tireless and thankless job.
Their faces upon receiving water and a note of gratitude,
they were priceless.  I don't have a picture, but it's sealed in my memory.
Their thanks was so heartfelt for my gift so very unexpected.
Parking meters, oh L.A. parking meters.  Perfect opportunity for random acts of kindness.
For this one, I was too late.
But it gave me an idea, to add some cash inside to help with the bill.
I love the thought of that person opening it to discover money inside.
A care package to a virtual stranger.
A hard working single mom who barely knows me.
Prints as unexpected gifts.
Audrey & I bagged all our own groceries at Trader Joe's.
And on the way out, paid for parking for the next person who needed it.
A bag of coffee to be sent with a note of thanks to support the troops.
I was inspired to design a woodland silhouette print to commemorate those 
sentimental stats of a baby's birth.
 I made a couple for new moms.  One of which barely knows me.
The best part was sneakily leaving them on the doorstep as a surprise.  
A visit to the local fire station with a care package of healthy snacks
and a thank you note for all of their hard work.
Then the park, where we filled more meters,
left more notes on cars to have a wonderful day,
and gave drinks to these thirsty basketball players.
We delivered bubbles and chalk to the kids at the park.
It was interesting to me, how so many were skeptical 
and parents refused the gift.
Perhaps it's a sign of the times.  
Perhaps it's just Los Angeles.
We don't expect random kindness anymore.
We simply fear someone wants something in return.
Or think we need to protect our own from the strange lady handing out gifts.
Next stop was labor and delivery.
I thought it would be nice to give a special gift to the moms who delivered on or near my birthday.
A little print with a lovely quote and one of my favorite teas called "Rest." 
Just what every mother needs right!
For these super sweet nurses, we brought flowers.
They were stunned and so grateful.
We brought care packages for kids in the waiting room.
Only there were none.
So I went into the E.R.
The nurses suggested that I go alone, 
and not bring in my kids so they wouldn't be exposed to illnesses.
Again, no kids present, but it turned out they often need just that exact thing
to comfort and keep children entertained.
They were ever so thankful.

And in the waiting room, one man, whom I asked why he was there.
I found out his girlfriend's daughter was just brought in with a tumor in her abdomen.
Her mom is a cancer survivor.  They were all shaken up.  
And needed prayer.
And we prayed.
For Jessica, for her mom.
For healing, for peace.
And I still wonder how they are.
In the gift shop we left more surprise change for someone needing a drink.
Before leaving, there were more windshields adorned with notes to have a blessed day.

There are other acts of kindness that weren't documented, 
That don't need to be shared online.

But I tell you it was a wonderful, memorable week.
And a perfect way to bring in this new decade.
One where I pray the Lord continues to grow me and change me.

By the end of the day, on July 5th, everyone was hungry and ready for dinner.
Our destination, Coral Tree Cafe, one of my favorite restaurants.
With one of their beautiful barista art lattes.
A special treat for me.
I'm still getting notes and pictures trickling in from the friends and family that joined in.
I feel so honored and blessed to know that the gift they gave me
was in giving to someone else.

This family, their dinner was paid for by my dad.
Another friend and her husband did the same for a group of girls at a sushi restaurant.
She said the girls were so filled with thanks.

This mom and her kids wrote notes thanking the farmers that work in the heat,
picking the organic veggies for the community.
My sister, who is a flight attendant in New York, has a job ripe with opportunities for random acts of kindness.  Here is a picture of the drinks she gave to the parking attendants at the airport.  But she said all week long she felt her eyes opening to doing things like this everywhere she went.  

And isn't that the point of it all?  
Not to be changed for a day, or an occasion, 
but to be changed for good.
My mom brought care packages to sick kids at the hospital in Vista, CA.
And in the process decided to start training to be a volunteer.
Another life changed, that will continue making a difference more than that day.
This friend of mine sent a picture of her son and friend.  
She sacrificed a nice date night with her husband in order to
drive her kids and their friends to and from their events so that another set of 
parents could do their volunteer work
without having to leave early.
My Aunt in England volunteered collecting money for 
the Macmillan cancer charity that provides nurses for people 
and support for families when a loved one is ill.    

Another friend gave extra sandwiches and cake to skaters at the skate park.
And another gave out gift cards with this encouragement.
One went to a neighbor who was happily surprised.
Another friend's children collected all their change and donated it to the Humane Society.

I know I have forgotten some 
(so if that's you, please don't feel shy about emailing me and reminding me).  
I fear this post has gotten rather long.

But I wanted to take the time to document it, 
because I know how much the original post I read inspired me.  
I hope that maybe this might encourage someone else.

I know with everyone's help we exceeded forty.
But honestly, it stopped being about reaching that number.

And was more about the snowball effect of finding another, 
and yet another way to be a blessing.

And to hold onto that beyond the birthday celebration.

To live looking to give rather than receive.

To randomly brighten another's day. 

What a joy.

I think it's best summed up with this word of Truth.

"The one who blesses others is abundantly blessed;
those who help others are helped."
Proverbs 11:25



Mama to AWE said...

I love it! Thanks for gathering it all together in one place. I can't wait to share your post with Abby & William! Liz turns 2 in August, so we will pick 2 RAOK ideas for her. Can't wait!

Kim said...

You have inspired me!!!! This is so wonderful! My birthday is September 1st... I will pray to see what I can do...

Denise said...

Jackie...I'm sitting in my friend Kim's living room sipping on coffee with my laptop on...She told me about your website and birthday project you did for your birthday...I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE, it...My birthday is in October and I'm going to prepare for it now...I pray I can pull it off so that I maybe able to share it with you and others around me, to glorify our LORD JESUS!
my blog is:
and I can't wait to post it

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