Set-up DayI did a lot of work here and there throughout the 4 weeks leading up to my birthday week. The day before the deeds began, I scheduled a work day where friends stopped in to help sort, package, and organize by day. I tried not to get overwhelmed with getting it all done. If only I had done this when I turned 30 it would have been a lot easier- ha, lots of things are easier at 30! Anyway, with so many offers of help and support, I focused on saying yes to contributions and looking for special skills my friends each had and asking them to contribute something they were expert at. There were women who loved to cook, photographers, jewelry makers, organizers, cheerleaders and creative thinkers. They each brought their special talent to the deeds and allowed me to do more than I could have ever done on my own. I love the writing and the "gifty" part of giving because that is what I do, but I needed all my other experts to put it together. If you are so inspired to celebrate your birthday with deeds, ask for help. I think you will be pleasantly surprised by the team you build. By the way, the purpose of this blog, my hope and goal in documenting what we did is to inspire others so the good deeds continue. Like a pebble thrown in a pond, the waves and ripples spread. I was inspired by a blog and hope I can send the same message to others wanting to celebrate in an incredible meaningful way. Now on to Deed Week! On each of the three deed days I had a wonderful group of women who volunteered to come along. Many took off work and went to great lengths to rearrange their family schedules to be part of the experience. My car was loaded with gifts and donations, but also tons of warmth, enthusiasm and heart. I loved the car rides too!
Deed 1: Mother EarthMy family kicked off the week by picking up trash in and around our neighborhood pool and tennis area. We weren't sure what we would find, but there were more bottles, cans and paper than we could have guessed, not to mention tennis balls and more tennis balls. We left the tennis balls on the courts for others to use, and sent the bottles and cans to the recycle bin. The kids weren't sure what their Mom had gotten them into, but by the end they wanted to continue collecting trash, as there was more to do. This is a job we will do again. Seeing what we accomplished in a short time, they all felt they had done a good deed.
Deed 2: You're so TweetI wanted a way to celebrate the week and to thank all those who had generously helped me. So we baked and baked...cookies and cupcakes! We delivered these sweet treats to over 30 wonderful friends and neighbors. I would have loved to have done more for each of them. One of the greatest joys of the deeds was the 4 weeks of planning it took to put it together. Days were filled with calls, emails and texts – kind words, donations, and ideas. There were daily joys in my inbox, and they deeply touched me. My treats were a little thank you for some acts they may have considered small, but were BIG to me.
Deed 3: Shopping Cart QuartersWe put a note and a quarter on shopping carts at a local Aldi grocery store. The note asked the shopper to use the quarter and then pass it on. We watched as our quarters made shoppers smile! Not a big deal, but a happy little convenience on a rainy day. We did learn the best deeds are the ones where you speak to people face-to-face.
Deed 4: Hairs to YouWe wanted to thank the women who have cut our family's many locks of hair over the years. We tipped them generously and went on our merry, well-groomed way.
Deed 5: Toy DollarsMy kids favorite deed of the day. The assignment was for each kid to find a child in Toys R Us they wanted to give $10.00 to. First, my 9-year old son picked a little boy he overheard talk about getting a skateboard- a subject close to his heart. The father was very gracious, and initially questioned if we were sure we wanted to pick them. I assured him they were the ones. He was a big man with a big smile, solid handshake and numerous thanks and happy birthday wishes. My daughter picked a little girl begging her dad to buy her a doll. He appeared confused when we explained our offer, but took the money and we said our goodbyes. About 10 minutes later he found us in the store and apologized for not wishing me a happy birthday and thanking us properly. He said he was in shock and it took awhile for our deed to sink in. My oldest son found a little boy in the Lego aisle. He was there with his Aunt who was rewarding him for a great job in school, so we sweetened his reward. Our last deed was given to a young mother and son. The mother immediately hugged me and my son, and the little boy hugged me too. She said the money was a blessing and it did make a difference for them that day.
Deed 6: Gumball DreamsWe filled all the rides and vending machines at Toys R Us with quarters and left the store. There were lots of free gumballs that day!
Photo courtesy of Curran Harrison Photography.
Deed 7: Appreciation LettersEveryone in the family wrote a card or letter to someone special of our choosing. I chose a woman who helped me when my kids were younger and was such a big part of our lives. I know I said thank you over the years, but I never really spoke what was truly in my heart and mind. I wrote it down and sent it to her. She called me that week. She said it was the nicest note she had ever received in her entire life. Why had I not told her before?? The lesson I learned from this was when you feel love and appreciation in your heart, ACT on it.
Deed 8: A Cup of JoeThis was the first deed with friends and neighbors, as I saved three for my family to do before heading to St. Louis later in the week. All of these would not have been possible without my friends donation of things, time and money. I know I said it before, but from the first email to the last day spent packaging and staging, I was never alone. The first morning started at 6:45am, a rainy Monday morning. We went to the local Starbucks and paid for a man's coffee in the drive thru, while we were inside ordering a "to go" container for our next deed at the elementary school.
Deed 9: Carpool KudosWe brought hot cups of coffee and signs of appreciation to the teachers working early morning carpool at the elementary school. They were so appreciative! One teacher has worked this duty for 12 years and said no one had ever thanked them, and certainly not delivered fresh hot coffee. They said it was like winning the lottery, especially on a rainy Monday morning. We shared the extras with the office staff, and they too were thrilled. I am now known at school as the "Birthday Mom".
Photos courtesy of northsidewoman.com
Deed 10: Teacher LettersWhile we were at the school, we presented the assistant principal with letters written to many of the teachers the mom's have come to love and respect. The letters let them know the impact they have had on their students and their families. Another one of those daily things we may carry in our minds, but putting it down on paper and giving it to someone puts a thought into action and creates an unforgettable impression on those you share it with. I guess that is why I have always loved the art of writing letters and sending cards. It is one thing I hope technology never replaces.
Deed 11: School Supply BoxOne last deed at the school. We gave the teachers a big box of school supplies. They are always running low on many everyday items as we get into the school year, so we had glue sticks, scissors, dry erase markers, construction paper and more. We also gave them a box of beanie babies, and other little items they could include in their classroom treasure boxes. They were so happy, it was a really great start to the week.
Deed 12: VolunteeringOff to North Fulton Community Charities to volunteer in the thrift shop for a few hours. We helped straighten, organize and move things around in the store, getting ready for a little remodel. This charity is one of the most amazing organizations, helping 100's of area families in time of need- from food, to clothing, household items and financial assistance. We all want to go back and help again, not to mention shopping for fun items like books, records and accessories. We inspired one of the managers there to celebrate her upcoming 50th birthday with deeds as well!
Photos courtesy of northsidewoman.com
Deed 13: Firehouse BooksWe delivered books to a local fire station who developed a monthly reading program with one of the local elementary schools. They were very appreciative and will be able to bring the books to their next meeting with the kids.
Deed 14: Birthday TipWith such an early start to the day, we stopped to have a birthday lunch and had a great time talking about our morning and planning the days to come. Our server was wonderful and helped us celebrate with a song and a complimentary dessert. Our deed was to tip him very well!
Deed 15: Books and more BooksWith 10 big boxes of used books, we went to our local library and donated them for resell at their monthly book sales, with funds going to library programs. It took two cartloads!
Deed 16: Rainy Day DeedsWith the rain coming down, we found bus riders and walkers in the rain. We handed them a rain poncho if they needed it, a water bottle and fun Valentine lollipop, just to make them smile. We went to a local thrift store and spread the joy there too. We met one woman who was so taken by our deeds, she shared her story with us. She was turning 40 and thought deeding was something she could do to give back- another ripple and another lesson. Being "Good" inspires others to do good as well...movement and effect are possible by even small gestures. In one of the below photos, we gave waters and lollipops to two men working in a yard and when we later returned, they had put dollar bills in the top of the water bottles to give back to us what we had given them. We think they realized what we gave was a gift, but they returned the gift and so we passed those dollars on to others.
Deed 17: Wheels on the BusGetting our kids safely to and from school is always close to our hearts, so we wanted to recognize our neighborhood bus drivers. We packaged up cookies, chocolates, gift cards and flowers and presented them to the drivers at drop off.
Deed 18: Rain or Shine!My actual birthday is today! We started the day with sunshine and optimism, despite a forecast of rain and cloudy skies- we couldn't believe the morning. We put out a bucket of snacks and good wishes for the trash men and hoped they wouldn't mistake our good deed for trash. A handmade poster from my son told them we appreciated what they did- rain or shine!
Deed 19: Safe House DonationsWe collected boxes of clothing, toys, and household items for a local safe house for battered and abused women. We also included some special bracelets designed and donated by a neighbor with a jewelry company- Inspired Designs. We wanted to include something as gifts to the women who were looking for the strength, courage and inspiration to change their lives for the better. We hoped the bracelets would be a positive reminder for them. The charity came that day to pick up our donations and we left a little bag of treats for the driver as well.
Deed 20: A Little TLCWe all went to visit a wonderful friend who is often helping others, who recently lost her father and was recovering from surgery. We brought her delicious homemade bread, soup and brownies made by another friend who herself had recently lost both her mother and sister. I thought she would find healing in doing something for another woman who was also hurting. I think the experience brought joy to both of them. Both are loving and talented cooks and often comfort others with their thoughtful ways and wonderful food. We also gave her an ornament to remember her dad- he was such a presence. We spent an uplifting 45 minutes laughing, sharing and supporting with hugs and tears all around.
Deed 21: Lottery Anyone?Giving out lottery tickets is a lesson in itself. Skepticism greeted us as most people thought we were selling something, handing out pamphlets or perpetrating a scam. But it did not take long for hard stares to soften to, "thank you, what a great idea." One woman, after asking numerous questions, finally asked me what I got out of it. When I simply answered- "to feel good". She immediately smiled and accepted the ticket. We realized the typical reaction was a product of our society today, and to be cautious is a modern day necessity.
Deed 22: The "Closet"What a great place! We donated women's clothing and accessories to Drake's Closet which resells gently-used women's clothing at remarkable prices in a boutique setting. The funds support homeless families with the goal of helping them become independent. After making our donations, we couldn't help but visit the boutique and contribute by making a few purchases of our own. We will definitely be heading back to support the Drake House!
Deed 23: Food for the FirehouseWe had a great visit with the firefighters at Milton Fire House 42. We brought them a homemade dinner, complete with sides and desserts donated by several women in the neighborhood. The firefighters were so welcoming and invited us for a tour and a photo-op with the engine. They shared what life is like living at the fire house, their schedules, meals, living quarters, call process and more. It was interesting and eye-opening to learn what they do for the community and have far some of them travel for their job. We found out ways we could continue to support them in the future.
Deed 24: Expectant Mom DeliveryWe chose an expectant mom who could benefit from a little help with preparing for a new baby due soon. We put together a gift basket including some gift items, outfits and a gift card to help with the many expenses. She was very surprised and said she was truly blessed. We were thrilled to have made her day brighter.
Deed 25: Cancer CareThis was a deed which hit close to home. We learned about a very recent cancer diagnosis of a mom many of us know. We wanted to support her as she began a tough battle against an advanced stage of breast cancer. Many of us had family members or dear friends affected by cancer- some survivors and some we lost. We added gifts to the basket we felt would empower her with knowledge, and also help her care for herself physically and emotionally. We also made a donation to the Cancer Society on her behalf. She was very touched by the basket and we will continue to pray for her. We couldn't help giving an impromptu Valentine's basket to a helpful security guard who made it possible for us to deliver the basket.
Deed 26: Dollar Store Dollars
This was a fun thing to do. We visited a local Dollar Store and gave out dollars in cute little envelopes my daughter had made. We handed some to shoppers and tucked some into products for others to find. We met some very thankful shoppers and shared a few stories.One woman thought doing good deeds was the perfect way to celebrate her upcoming 60th birthday. She survived a recent health scare and it changed her perspective on life. She was joyful, grateful and ready to give back.
Deed 27: A Blessed EmployeeThis was one of my favorite deeds and something simple that all of us have the power to do everyday...change another person's course. I had taken notice of a particular employee at a local Dollar Store over the past several months. She always greeted all the customers, held pleasant conversation, and when asked how she was, she always answered, "I'm, Blessed." Clearly some days she wasn't feeling great, but her attitude and answer never wavered. I decided to take my thoughts about her and turn them into action. I gave her a handmade glass cross we sell and wrote a sentiment just for her. It said "I'm Blessed" and thanked her for always being so pleasant and touching others with her attitude. I also wrote a letter to Dollar Tree Corp on her behalf. I thought they needed to know she was an unsung hero for their business. When I presented her with the gift and told her what I had done- I changed her course. It turns out, she really needed it that day. I don't know what was happening in her life, but she thanked me with one of the most sincere hugs I've ever gotten. It was a great way to end the deeds on my birthday day.
We did stop at a nearby urgent care center on the way home to donate some new stuffed animals we had not given away- we were on a roll, so I guess I will count this as one to grow on!