A long while back, my son and I were having ice-cream at a Baskin Robbins near our home and we decided to "pay it forward" by anonymously treating a dad and his kids to ice-cream. We left the store before they knew what was going to happen and my son and I smiled to ourselves as we walked home. Well, the other night, as I was reading Darwin's "Voyage of the Beagle", a coupon for a free of pint of Baskin Robbins ice cream fell out of the library book! Talk about what goes around, comes around. I didn't say a word to anyone at home, and went about my daily errands. That day, my son had been particularly helpful (doing things without being asked), so I decided to surprise him with his favorite flavor of ice-cream. Now, ice-cream is not normally found in our freezer so this is a ... Read Full Story >>
Our extended family had spent a beautiful vacation together last summer. I had rented a beach house from a woman and before we left, we all signed the guest book thanking her. Well, it turned out to be the last time the whole family was together. My father in law passed away this May rather suddenly. One of my sisters-in-law asked me some time ago if I could write to the woman whose house we stayed in and ask if she could send us a photocopy of our "guestbook" comments. She said she had never gotten to read what her father wrote. I wrote a letter to the woman and didn't think about it afterwards. You won't believe it - today a package arrived in the mail and not only did this angel make copies of our comments for all the siblings, she framed the original page with just my father ... Read Full Story >>
It is wonderful to be in the moment and thank those around us for helping. Sometimes, it is nice to reflect on those who have been in our lives a long time ago and whose actions or words shaped us and influenced who we are today. One such person for me was my 7th grade biology teacher. His class was "the one" that sparked my interest in cell biology and literally determined the course of my career from the tender age of 12. I will never forget him. Well, fast-forward many years later (about 20 actually), and I was at a crossroads deciding what to do... and I decided upon teaching college biology! I wrote my teacher a long letter, describing my career path, life choices and what I was going to do, and of course the letter was a BIG thank you note to him for getting me started. He actually ... Read Full Story >>
I was walking along a sidewalk in the city. A bit of a distance away I could see a woman walking along with a big signboard around her neck. I was naturally curious about what it said, so I deliberately slowed my pace so I could see.
She looked at me and said, "That's all I'm looking for ... just a smile, sister!"
My seven-year old son had been given a gift of "creating stained glass kit" decorative pieces and enthusiastically went to work making beautiful color combinations that could be hung on a glass window. The kit had 4 different pieces to complete and two of them got ruined in the process. But the other two were real "masterpieces" of kid artwork and he was very thrilled to see them hanging on our window. The pieces remained there for some months and then one day my son's piano teacher came to our house (which was not usual) to give him a lesson and he casually admired the stained glass. As soon as his lesson was done, my son ran out of the room, wrapped up the stained glass piece and presented it proudly to his teacher! A few months after that we had a friend visiting from out of town and she too admired ... Read Full Story >>
Yesterday we had a bunch of friends over to play some music and share a meal together. My husband and I had both made some special dishes and when everyone had left, there was some left over. My husband started packing up a few containers of food to give to an older woman who lives in our neighborhood... and then he asked if I would deliver it because "I know how you like to do that!"
I left the house and walked over to the woman's house to give her the food. When I gave it to her, her eyes lit up and she was just thrilled. When I was leaving, she said that I had made her evening so much brighter-- it was how she said it that really touched my heart.
I walked home, gazing at the full moon, and thanking my husband for letting me be the "giver". He always does the right thing and never wants any credit!---I can learn from that.
Today while driving to the grocery store we saw a woman standing with a sign "Family fallen on tough times" by the side of the road. Usually we give the person some food or fruit that we have with us or a bottle of water. Frantically rooting around for a snack, my son and I could not find anything in our bag and by that time the light had changed. I said out loud, "I only have a $20 bill in my wallet. Too bad, because usually I would give away dollar bills if I had any." I told my son that we would give something to her on the way back if she was still there. Well, she was still there and on the way back I gave her a smile card wrapped in my only cash-- the $20 bill. There were cars behind me so I had to drive off quickly (to avoid ... Read Full Story >>
A student wanted to talk to me about a problem she had been having. She was due to meet me at 8.30am and I had a workshop to attend at 9.
I was so "present" with her that I didn't even notice the clock. It was 10:30 when we'd finished going through everything!
My family was going on a trip and usually our neighbor would give us a ride to the airport. This time our neighbor told me she would be working but her partner - who is a recovering alcoholic and the center of a lot of past drama in her life - would be happy to help us. I mentioned this to my family and they were a bit hesitant. I didn't have to hear the words to know they were wondering - should we ask someone else? We don't really want him driving us, do we? Is he really ok now? But I realized that this was an opportunity to show my friend that we trusted her partner, and an opportunity to make him feel like he was doing something good! So I explained to my family that allowing him to drive us to the airport would be like giving a gift ... Read Full Story >>
My husband and I were driving back home when we saw an elderly lady selling strawberries on the street corner. (It's not too common to see people selling fruits on the street here - as I don't think they are allowed to.) I thought of how hard it must be to make a living like that, and even though I didn't really need strawberries (I had some already at home), I bought a huge "flat" of strawberries from her which had 6 containers of the juicy strawberries!
Now, it's just my husband, my son and me at home and we were never going to be able to eat them. So I knew just what to do. When we got home, I took little baskets of strawberries around to our neighbors, especially to the elderly living alone and the kids with single moms. The berries were juicy and sweet. They loved it! We enjoyed them too, and had eaten them all within a day or two.
I kept hoping I'd see the lady selling them again, and lo and behold....there she was the following week. So, I did it again and gave them away to different neighbors this time! It was such a great feeling :-)
I was riding my son's scooter home from the library while he was accompanying me on his bicycle. I was wearing a heavy backpack loaded full of books. Suddenly the scooter hit a rock and I was thrown from it and landed flat on my face onto the pavement. My concerned son, who is 8 years old, rushed to my side to help me and bravely stood next to me holding both his bike and the scooter as I tried to get up. I then realized that my front tooth was lying on the sidewalk beside me! I scooped it into my pocket and then probed my mouth with my tongue to assess the damage. Not wanting to alarm my son, I tried to get up and reassure him that I was okay. As I tried to stand, my head was spinning and I felt nauseous so I bent down and put ... Read Full Story >>
I had offered to watch a friend's children so she and her husband could go out to watch a movie. She was delighted with the offer - but didn't get around to fixing a day.
So, finally, I picked a date and asked her if she was free. She was really excited and looking forward to her night out.
On the day of the babysitting her husband e-mailed me and told me it was her birthday! I hadn't known that! He told me he would bring over a cake after the movie, when they came to pick up the kids.
The kids had a great time (and so did we!) We made cookies together, played games, and so on. Then, when their parents came back we had a surprise birthday party with cake and ice cream and sparkling juice. We made music together and it was very festive! My friend said it was the most special birthday she had celebrated in a long time.
I was so happy!
A friend of ours experienced an "incident" when her friend's child was visiting. The child apologized and wrote a letter to my friend saying that he would be happy to "rake leaves, clean the house, do chores...anything to make up for the mistake". Well, my friend wrote back saying "How about instead of doing it for us, you find someone in your neighborhood--an elderly person or someone else who needs help, and you give us the gift of helping that person".
By giving the child grace and the opportunity to make a relationship with an elderly neighbor, I am sure he will learn far more than if he had been "punished" for his misdeed.
Give someone you know the opportunity to pay it forward--what a gift
that ripples all over!! :-)
As I read these stories, one thing strikes me over and over again. That is, an act of kindness can begin right now-- whether it starts in your own backyard, or in your home, or on your driveway, or on your neighbor's doorstep. Often times, we tell ourselves we have to join a community service organization or travel to a developing country to serve. While those are both powerful ways to give, we may get lost in faraway dreams that mostly result in traveling only in our minds but not in our lives, and there is a tendency to run away from what is always right here---the opportunity to give right now. Instead of jumping out, we can just jump into the moment! You don't have to start a "movement" or be a millionaire to reach out to the person across the street. When you are making dinner, you can make a little extra plate to give to a neighbor or friend. When ... Read Full Story >>
Around lunchtime today my son and I were walking in our community's busy "downtown" area. We passed by a homeless man sitting on the street and since I had no cash on me, all we could give him was a smile and a good wish. As we walked on my son asked me didn't I have any money to give him--I said I don't have cash, but why don't we ask him if he would like something to eat. On our way back on that street after doing our errand we saw the same man and asked him if he would like us to get him some lunch. His face brightened up and when I asked what he would like, he just said "anything is fine". So then my son pointed to a rather fancy looking "parisian cafe" type of place across the street and we decided to go in there. ... Read Full Story >>
I was walking around a college campus today (not my own) and I picked up two smoothies with the intention of giving them away.
This afternoon my son was out playing with friends down the street and I had a bit of free time so I decided to pay a visit to our 96-year old neighbor. I took her some slices of cake that I had baked and dropped in for a chat. Well, guess what-- when I went over there I found her baking oatmeal-raisin cookies! My neighbor is an amazing woman. She grew up on a ranch in Montana, raised 4 kids, was a practicing nurse until 5 years ago, and gets around her house with just the help of a sitting walker because her knees aren't so good anymore. She is always positive, tells me that she "loves everyone and prays for everyone every day" because that's how she was raised. I just love her! I love visiting her and giving her hugs---her positive spirit just radiates from her. She insisted on ... Read Full Story >>
A few days ago I was about to begin teaching a class when one of my students came up to me and said she had to talk to me---she seemed quite upset and close to tears so I took her out in the hallway to find out what was wrong. She started sobbing uncontrollably and told me that she'd been feeling so stressed out and depressed because her mom was pressuring her to go to medical school and she didn't want to--- she felt like she'd be letting her mom down if she went against her wishes and she felt very helpless. I asked her what she wanted to do and she said she wanted to work in the biotechnology industry. I told her that she would be really good at that (since I have her for a lab class, I know that she's really good) and that she should try ... Read Full Story >>
I want to tell you about a true story that happened this week on Veteran's Day. I wrote earlier about how our school had a "family day of service," in which about 100 middle school students volunteered all around our community. One of the sites was a veteran's hospital. Due to swine flu outbreaks, the Veteran's Association said that kids under 16 would not be allowed to visit, so a few adults in the group met with veterans individually to ask them what gift they would like to receive for Veteran's Day. One veteran said he'd like a disposable camera -- his daughter was traveling that evening from far away to visit him, bringing his 1-year-old granddaughter whom he had never met. He said he never imagined he would get to meet her since he had gone through so many surgeries. The volunteers decided that this gift couldn't wait until Veteran's Day, ... Read Full Story >>
During one of the toughest weeks of my life (my father in law and my cousin had died and a colleague had committed suicide) I had the chance to experience surprising grace. I was in my office, in between teaching classes when a young man came by. He was obviously very distraught and close to tears. He was an older student and always appeared like a tough guy, never showing emotion. He had told me earlier, that he was dealing with some difficult family issues. He was a caregiver for his younger sister who was very ill. This day he came in sat down and just sobbed and sobbed until I thought he would burst. He gasped for air, wailed and sobbed some more while I sat and patted his back. I listened while he told me how he had been up all night in the hospital with his sister and that's why he couldn't take ... Read Full Story >>
Many of you may have read Shel Silverstein's classic story "The Giving Tree" about a tree which gives everything of herself to a boy she loves. (If you haven't read it, please do and share it with a child!) During my childhood, my mother's friend gave the book to me and my brother. Many years later, I discovered a card that accompanied the gift--it said "The tree reminds me of your mother". I was so touched by this that I taped the card to the inside of the book. Over the years (like in the story) I have watched my mother give selflessly, to her kids, family, neighbors and friends. Even when she had a serious illness earlier this year, she continued with her volunteer work, cooking for sick friends, and walking for various causes. She does it all without any fuss and everyone knows they can always count on her--because she ... Read Full Story >>
I feel blessed to have found my "calling" in life, which is teaching and sharing my passion for science. I have profound gratitude towards all of my students for everything they have taught me. I feel honored and privileged to be a part of their lives, even if for a very short time.
I sometimes receive thoughtful cards, notes and gifts from former students, but this latest card made me smile for a very long time....
I just wanted to share the part that really touched me:
"Thank you for sharing your knowledge, passion, work ethic and especially life lessons. Your words were not lost on me!"
That just really really moved me.
Thank you to all of you who write little notes to your teachers - it means more than you know.
We had a great neighbourhood party this weekend. We all gathered on someone’s driveway and everyone brought one dish. It was an international food theme so we had lots of interesting treats. Our neighbour Margaret is 97 years old and it was her birthday soon. I thought it would be fun to celebrate her birthday at the same time so I baked a big cake and lots of brownies. I took it over to the party driveway along with some construction paper and colored markers. I had bought it for the kids, so that they could make her birthday cards. When Margaret came over in her motorised scooter we yelled “SURPRISE!” and sang her “HAPPY BIRTHDAY”. We all gave her big hugs and the kids surrounded her and proudly gave her the cards that they had been making. It was so awesome. Margaret’s son and daughter-in-law were there too and I could tell ... Read Full Story >>
I made a dinner for a single mom and her boys after learning yesterday that she is working extra hours when they are at their dad's house so she can spend more time with them when she has them. Because of that (and health problems) she is very sleep-deprived. She is also worried about one of her sons' health situation. I put a lot of love (the secret ingredient!) into the dishes. Then I called her and said I wanted to bring dinner over for her. She answered by saying, "Really? What's the occasion?" I said, "I just wanted to bring you dinner today." She told me that her son had just asked, "What's for dinner?" and she replied that there was nothing in the fridge so they might just have to settle for cereal! She was totally floored by the timing. She said that it never happens that their fridge is totally empty! Needless ... Read Full Story >>
On my way to mail 20 envelopes of smile cards (what a great way to start the day :-) I saw that many of our neighbors' newspapers were wrapped in blue plastic because of the rain and were left at the end of their driveways near the street. I always bring in our paper for my husband so when I went out that morning I thought it would be nice for them if they didn't have to walk outside in the beastly rain to get the paper. I went around and put each of my neighbors' papers on their front doorsteps!
A small thing, but they will never know that it was me! :-)
I left for work with a big smile on my face!
I only just found out that a neighbor of mine had surgery two days ago.
I wanted to take her a gift to cheer her up, but I couldn't go out to buy anything. So, I went out into my backyard and picked some flowers. I put them in an old glass jar which I covered with pretty butterfly paper. Then I took them over with a homemade card.
I am planning to make some food for her family later.
It's a good feeling, realizing that when you want to give everything you need is already there!
This story happened years ago, but the kind words of a stranger still linger in the back of my mind and I try to "pay it forward" to other moms (and dads!) that I encounter.
I was in a doctor's office with my very active two-year-old waiting for my turn. We were reading story after story together, giggling and flipping the pages, and just having a great time. This went on for quite a while as I had to wait, and wait.
After some time an older woman who had also been waiting came to me and said, "Dear, you are just so patient with him and you are such a good mother." I smiled and said thanks and she left the office. Actually, I'm sure I had tears in my eyes after she left.
I cannot tell you how much her words meant to me on that day and for days afterwards. As a "new" mother it was just such an amazing gift to feel like maybe I was doing something right! Whenever you see a young mom please help out, even if it's just a kind word. It means more than you'll ever know.
It was a nice day today, so I rolled down my window as I was driving around with the window rolled down. As I pulled up at some lights, I met a man who was down on his luck at a street corner.
I pulled out some loose change and held it out to him. When he came over, I looked in his eyes and asked him how he was doing. He asked me where I was from and when I told him he proceeded to tell me a story about his life and career in various places, including the place that I was from.
I smiled and listened and it was a good feeling to just listen to him. Then the light changed and we said goodbye/take care and I drove off smiling.
On the way home, I couldn't stop thinking about this interaction---how I was totally *present* in the moment while it happened and how my intention was just to *be there*.
My son and I were grocery shopping. As usual at the checkout they had the usual fine display of chocolate temptations and other sweet goodies.
Instead of asking for something my son whispered to me, "Let's ask the cashier if this chocolate is any good and then, as we're leaving, we can give it to him!"
I smiled and watched the magic unfold.
The cashier chatted with us about all kinds of things. Then my son, very casually, asked about the chocolate. The guy said, "Oh, yeah. Those are really good!" And then, as we were walking away with our groceries, my son handed the chocolate to the cashier and said, "This is for you!"
The guy was like, "Really? No! That's ok." But my son just smiled and said, "Yeah, really! It's for you!"
And we both walked off, smiling broadly.
Today my mom-in law would have been 82. Even though she passed away three years ago this April, we all still feel her love and presence with us every single day. She was a generous, warm-hearted spirit who made friends with everyone who crossed her path. I am smiling thinking of all of the ways in which we are still connected to her spirit. I left flowers on her daughter's doorstep today--sunflowers to embody her mom's spirit. I made several gallons of her favorite mango lassi as a contribution to a school event today, and then toasted her with a small glass, smiling as I thought of what she would say to me. Thought of everything I did after work today--picking up dry cleaning, making dinner, bringing homemade treats to a neighbor, volunteering, connecting with friends over the phone/email, writing a letter of recommendation for someone, surprising my son with a new ... Read Full Story >>