It’s one of those birthdays. One of the birthdays that comes with some stigma. That you’re supposed to dread.
No one puts it better than our own Joey Tribiani…
With 30 quickly approaching, I decided to take a different route.
I wasn’t going to dread it, and I wasn’t going to “go all out” in the last few days of my 20s, either.
Instead, I wanted to do something different.
Every birthday, we focus on ourselves. How should we celebrate? What gifts do we want?
When my husband asked me what I wanted, I got to thinking. There’s no material thing I really need, so I thought about what I could ask for that makes me happy.
The first thing that popped in my mind? Surprising other people.
You see, I love surprising people. I love their reaction. I love the smile it brings on their face.
I love interrupting the mundane in their day to bring them unexpected joy.
It’s selfish really. Because when I surprise people, I get this feeling. It’s pure joy.
Chocolate fountain joy. Last day of school joy.
So I made a goal. For my 30th birthday, I planned to do 30 random acts of kindness for others.
Here’s how it went:
1 & 2. M&M’s for cashiers
At the Target checkout, I added two packs of M&M’s to my purchase. The teenage cashier asked me, “Would you like these left out?”
I told him, “Sure. One is for you, so you can keep it back there.”
He looked stunned. Like I had given him a hundred bucks. They were 99 cents. As I walked away, I heard him tell a coworker, “That lady just got me a pack of m&m’s!”
And the grin spread across my face.
Then Emmett gave the other pack to a cashier that we always see at Target, and who I swear is always in a bad mood. I give her the benefit of the doubt. I don’t know her story. But….she tossed the m&m’s below her register without even a glance. Who knows…maybe she was distracted, or thought we were giving them to her to put back or something. Oh well. Can’t win ’em all, right? 😉
3. Amazon Smile
Not a week goes by I don’t order something from Amazon (ok, maybe it’s a day), so instead of using the normal amazon.com, I switched to smile.amazon.com and made the Matthew Shepard Foundation my chosen charity. Now my shopping habit benefits a great charity every time I hit that little “checkout now” button.
4. Gatorade and Nutrigrain for my trusty UPS man
Really… I am an Amazon Prime addict. The poor UPS man visits my house SO MUCH. Can you blame me, though? With two little ones, why leave the house for something when I can have it brought to my doorstep? So I gave my UPS driver a little pick-me-up with a Nutrigrain bar and some Gatorade.
I set it on the porch, and watched him through the window as he picked it up and took it to his truck. He smiled, and snapped a photo of it with his phone. Maybe he sent it to someone, maybe he just did it to document it. Either way, I know it made his day a little better.
5. Left some snacks for the Mailman, too.
My poor mailman. It seems like every day I have a package for him to come pick up. I didn’t see him grab his goodies, but he does seem to be extra-nice now 😉
6. Milk donation
I’ve been blessed with extra milk after having Lucy, and it breaks my heart to know that so many moms struggle to make enough for their little ones. I found a mom who has a little boy born prematurely and only weighs 12 pounds at 6 months old. She isn’t making enough so I gave her 50 ounces to hopefully help her little one.
7, 8, 9. Random Greeting Cards
I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like receiving good mail. Skip the bills and junk mail, I’m talking about the handwritten notes, the care packages – the good stuff.
Handwritten notes make my day…so much so that I never throw them away. I have them all. You may call me a packrat, but I’m so sentimental about them. When my grandma sends me a card, I hesitate to even throw away the envelope, because she always makes the dot above the “i” in “Katie” into a little heart. I wanted to send some good mail to friends who could use a little pick-me-up, so I sent 3, no-reason-but-because-I-love-you cards.
10. PetSmart charity donation
Both of our pets are adopted, so every time I check out at PetSmart, I donate $2. $1 for each of them. A trip to PetSmart this week was no different.
11. Delivered cookies to the local library…
Have you ever seen a librarian’s face when a 3 year old little boy walks up with a plate full of cookies, and says, “Thank you for what you do”?? It’s pure magic.
Her jaw dropped and followed with a smile that was so pure. Check it out –
She was the sweetest thing ever. She couldn’t believe that we had no agenda. Just cookies. For absolutely no reason.
12. …And Police Station…
“Please use the buzzer to connect to dispatch” the sign outside the door to the Police Station read…
“Aurora Police. How can I help you?”
“Well…we’re just here to deliver some cookies. That’s it.”
“Oh! Um…ok! I’ll send someone out!”
Out came a very nice Police Officer who chatted with Emmett all about what he wanted to be when he grew up, how to be safe, and his favorite color. And Emmett’s eyes beamed as he met a “real police officer”.
13…And Fire Station
This. Was. So. Cool.
We knock. The firefighters answer. We tell them, “Hey, we brought you cookies. You know, just as a little thank you.”
And then they welcome us into the station, take us on a tour. Let my three year old little boy into two fire trucks, on to the Swat vehicle. He got to ring the bell on a truck. He got to see where they sleep, eat, and work out. He got a badge. I swear, we were there for like a half hour.
14. Thank you gift
My business is made on referrals. I get to do what I love every single day because clients of mine recommend me to others. And I love showing my gratitude, so I mailed an “A” necklace to someone dear who has sent some great client-turned-friends my way. It’s personal to her because her daughter and granddaughter have “A” names.
15. Paid for the person behind me in the Starbucks drive-through
The classic pay-it-forward, but I had never done it. I loved driving away knowing she couldn’t thank me. It was truly random.
16. Surprise Starbucks
One of my good friends was having a rough month. She tripped on a Lego, and tore a ligament in her foot. Then, she tripped on the boot she was wearing to heal her foot and broke her hand! She needed a pick-me-up, so I brought her favorite Starbucks. (Starbucks fixes everything, right??)
17. Goodwill run
Goodwill has so many great programs, and I have so much extra junk. It’s like a match made in Heaven.
18. Yard work
I’m spoiled. I haven’t picked up Charli’s “yard treats” since Nate and I moved in together. I have only mowed the lawn once in my life. (I have a total irrational fear that I’ll mow over a rock and it will fling into my face. Weird, I know.) When I asked Nate to show me how to start the mower, he looked a little confused, but pleasantly surprised. Maybe I’ll even do it again sometime 😉
19. Kids Candy Stand
I love seeing the little entrepreneurs pop up in summer time. We all did it at some point in our childhood, right? All it took to make these guys smile was a few quarters. Bonus – I even got some Airheads – pretty sure I haven’t had those in years!
20. Pictures for Gramma
My mom lives 800 miles from us, and even though we FaceTime almost every day, she still misses Emmett and Lucy like crazy! I asked Emmett if he could do something nice for Gramma, and he shouted, “Sure! Let’s draw her a picture!” Done and done. She got it in the mail a few days later
21. Pushed carts at Home Depot
Really, people, the cart corral isn’t that far away.
22. Let the cars in
We’re all in a hurry. But not in so much of a hurry that you can’t let another car in.
23. Seeds on windshields
One of the best parts about summer has to be all the flowers. I thought about planting some flowers, but I have the least green-thumb ever. It’s like a brown thumb. I can’t keep a plant alive for anything. Instead, I put a pack of seeds on the windshield of three cars. Hopefully one of those three people has a green thumb. 😉
24. Gifted a book
Lately, the kids in our neighborhood have been hanging out at our house a lot. I think it’s mostly because we’re the only house on the street with pets, but Emmett loves having his friends over. When one of the neighbor girls mentioned she liked gymnastics, I went to the basement and got a book about Shannon Miller I read when I was her age. My mom had all my gymnastics stuff in a box that had made its way into our crawlspace, and I just didn’t need it anymore. She told me the next day that she had already started reading it.
That friend I mentioned? The one who tripped on the Lego? Well she had to have surgery on her hand. Awesome luck, right? Since I had gotten her Starbucks a few days earlier, I spiced it up and got her a milkshake. I also brought one for her mom who came into town to help take care of the little ones. The caregivers need treats, too!
26. Mailed coupons
Baby formula is EXPENSIVE. I don’t need any, but I got about $30 worth of coupons in the mail so I mailed them to a mom who is formula-feeding her baby.
27. Pushed carts in at Target
Yes, it’s a repeat, but there are always SO MANY carts that are just out in the parking lot.
28. NAMI donation
Nate’s family has done the NAMI walk for two years in a row, supporting mental health awareness. I wasn’t able to make it to the walk this year, so I donated online instead.
29. GoFundMe donation
While browsing on Facebook, I saw that one of my past brides had a 4 year old niece diagnosed with cancer and had a GoFundMe page to help support her. Emmett’s almost 4, and the most traumatic thing that’s happened to him is getting some stitches on his forehead. And that was traumatic enough. I can’t imagine going through anything like this family is, so I did what I could and donated to support them. If you’d like, you can donate here.
30. Canine cancer research donation
If you know me, you probably know Charli. She’s been my pup for more than 9 years, since I got her from Foothills Animal Shelter my sophomore year of college. She’s been at my side for everything. Two weeks ago, her belly got super swollen, and she wasn’t feeling well. After a trip to the Emergency Vet, she was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. We saw a tumor on the x-ray that was the size of the softball. The vet has given her “days to weeks”.
That was two weeks ago. Her swelling is gone. Her energy is back. She’s trying to sneak food off of the counters again. Is she better? I have no idea. Realistically, probably not. Optimistically, I hope so. For now, I’m just loving every day I have with her, and trying not to think about what’s next…because when I do, I cry…a lot.
The feeling of helplessness is part of what makes it so hard. I wish I had the answer, or the cure. But since I don’t, Nate and I donated to those who are working on it at the National Canine Cancer Foundation.
My dear friend, and incredible photographer, Briony, came to our house to get some photos of us all together as a family. This is one of my favorite pictures….ever.
30 things. For 30 years.
Did I change anyone’s life? No. But did I make some people smile? Make some people’s day just a little bit brighter? I hope so, because for me, that’s what it was about.