As I mentioned a few days ago, I've wanted to do this for more than a year and got thwarted last year by monster kidney stones.
Well this year the kidney stones stayed away and after a long day (and part of last evening), we are finished.
Today I turned 49 years old. To commemorate each of those years I've been blessed with, I wanted to do an act of kindness. The greatest thing about today was... well, just about everything.
We decided to get a jump on things last night. 49 is a lot of things to do and I felt good getting a head start. Travis received a gift certificate to Red Lobster for Father's Day and he wanted to use it Monday night, so we took the youngest two kids out to dinner. This is where it began.
1) We surprised a couple with an appetizer. We later discovered that our waitress and the waiter for the people we surprised were engaged. He had great taste in rings and they obviously had great taste in people because they were an adorable couple and the ring he'd picked out was stunning--a simple, square, pale green diamond. He came over and thanked us for surprising his guests and called his fiance a peach. I thought that was pretty cute.
2) We gave a $5 Cold Stone Card to a young mother and her little boy.
3) We taped exact change on a washer at the laundromat.
4) We taped exact change on a dryer at the laundromat. (I know these are similar, but I have a lot to get done so I allowed myself some duplication.)
5) Left exact change at a carwash.
6) Bought a newspaper for someone.
7) The entrance to beautiful Alpine Loop is just about 1/2 mile from our house. We started the day today by driving up to the toll booth and paying for a car to be able to enter the canyon.
8) We had a carwash certificate for a full-service carwash so we pulled into the parking lot and then when a car pulled in, we hurried in front of them and gave the certificate before leaving. I'm sure at first they were annoyed and thought we'd butted in line. When they didn't have to pay, though, they smiled and waved.
10) We gave a movie gift certificate to a woman who was going into the theater with her three children.
16) We went to the cemetery and cleaned four graves, cutting away the overgrown grass and leaves.
18)We pulled fallen branches off several other graves.
19) We gave a $5 Cold Stone gift certificate to another mother with her two children.
20) We gave some money to a couple who needed to buy bus tickets.
21) We gave a couple of dollars to a man on the corner asking for help.
We went to my parents' house where we had lunch and saw some family. While there we,
22) Cleaned up after lunch.
23) Loaded the dishwasher.
24) The kids played guitar and sang some of the songs they've been working on for their grandparents.
25) We gave bus tokens my dad had donated to the cause to a man at the bus stop.
26) We dropped off donations at Deseret Industries.
27)We found a boy selling lemonade on the corner and bought from him, leaving him with a nice, big tip.
28) We bought movie tickets for a couple (we didn't go to a movie--there wasn't time)
29)We purchased cold water bottles and delivered 4 of them to a hot, hardworking road crew.
30) We gave a cold water to a homeless man.
31) Called a friend I haven't talked to in a long time.
32) Went to a little petting zoo and fed the animals (this was a kind deed from me to Travis, Savannah and Joe, who were good sports all day and LOVE little petting zoos. They loved this.
33) Taped $2.00 worth of quarters on the little feeder machine so others will be able to feed the animals.
34) We gathered and brought in carts at Costco.
35) Found a woman with a heavily loaded cart and helped her unload it into her car.
36) Found two women (one pregnant) with a little boy and two huge carts. They'd just purchased the food for Youth Conference and with Travis's excellent packing skills we were able to help them fit it all in their car.
A little sidenote here: One of the women looked familiar, so I asked her if she was a Fields. She said yes and we discovered that I had recognized her from Facebook and she is the wife of a guy I knew on my mission.
37) Invited a friend to lunch (to be carried out another day)
38) Purchased a tie and dropped it off to a young man in our ward who is about to leave on his mission.
39) Loaded groceries into the car of an elderly woman at the grocery store.
40) Taped the exact change onto a vending machine at the mall.
41) Taped the exact change to the vacuum at the car wash.
42) Let a mother with three small children go in front of us in the checkout line.
43) Wrote a thank you note
44) Wrote a letter to my missionary
45) Bought hamburgers for a homeless couple outside Wendy's
46) Paid for the woman's dinner behind us when we got burritos on our way home.
And that was it.
Wait, weren't we supposed to do 49? Yes, we were. And we tried. And if you count each of the people we took food to and each of the people we gave water to as individuals instead of just as one event, we'd be way over the top. I feel good calling it a success.
I want to share a few things with you about this day.
First, it was amazing. EVERYONE was so grateful and kind. When I told people it was my birthday and we wanted to share the fun, they were enthusiastic in their birthday wishes. I felt an outpouring of love for the people we were serving. My kids thought handing out food to the homeless was the best part of the day and left there feeling very grateful for our blessings.
Second, I'm a very blessed lady. I have a family who energetically spent the entire day looking for opportunities to serve and carrying them out. There wasn't a single complaint. They were happy and cheerful the entire time. My good husband took the day off work only to work hard fulfilling my birthday wish. I'm so grateful.
Third, I was surprised at the number of homeless or needy people in Salt Lake. They were everywhere. The 35 sandwiches we delivered were depleted so fast. There were so many lonely people, it was heartbreaking. Others had banded together and were looking out for each other. A few asked for a sandwich for their friend who was "right over there." We gave them the extra sandwich each time, thinking maybe they were just really hungry, but not begrudging it. And then we'd look back and they'd be handing it to their friend who really had been just over there. We saw people who were clearly in bad health. They were hungry. They had almost nothing. One woman had been beaten so badly the whole side of her face was a swollen angry bruise and you couldn't see her eye. It was awful. But then we handed each of them a sandwich and they smiled and offered appreciation and asked that God bless us for our kindness. It was very humbling.
Fourth, serving makes us feel good. This isn't news to any of you, but I have to tell you, we came home exhausted, hot, and with tired feet. But we came home feeling happy about the day.
Fifth is the conclusion we came to as we drove home. Today was a big day. We did a lot. For 12 hours we did nothing but look for things to do for others and carry them out. But nothing we did today couldn't be done in small doses on other days. It wouldn't be a hard thing to go buy a couple of breakfast sandwiches and take them to someone who's hungry. By itself, it's an easy thing to pull someone's garbage can off the street. A few cold water bottles to people working out in the heat isn't a great sacrifice or a hardship. Twenty minutes at the cemetery can easily clean off the headstone of someone's loved one. A phone call to a friend is easy. A thank you note to someone who's done something kind for you only takes a few minutes. I can do better at all these things on a regular basis.
And finally... Thank you, thank you, thank you, to all those who joined me in this day of thinking of others. I'm honored. Truly I am. I have friends and family who cared for sick relatives and friends who cared for relatives who were taking care of sick relatives. Some fed missionaries, took treats to neighbors, made pies to take to firemen. Some paid for people's meals in line, bought groceries for someone in need and helped others pack boxes for a move. Some babysat for neighbors, took friends' children to the park and took in dinner. Some did it themselves and some enlisted the help of their children. There may be others who report what they did in the comments.
For all these kind things, thank you. I'm so touched and grateful for all the wonderful things that were done today. I'm also thankful for all the kind emails, messages on facebook and twitter, cards and phone calls to wish me a happy birthday.
This really has been the best birthday I can remember. Thanks for being a part of it.