I laughed and shook my head. Um, no. That wasn’t exactly what I had in mind. So I clarified. I wanted to spend my birthday doing nice things for people, I said. Fifty-one separate acts of kindness, all to be completed on my birthday. He looked doubtful. “That’s a whole lot of stuff to get done in one day,” he said.
I shrugged. “I’ve had a whole lot of birthdays,” I answered. “And anyway, my birthday falls on a Saturday this year.”
Yeah, like that would make it an easy-do.
When we got home, I started a list. The first 20 or so entries practically wrote themselves and I was delighted at how seamless my plan was going to be. I stalled out before I reached 30, though, and asked the hubs for ideas. He looked over my partially completed list and for the first time since I’d announced my plan, he looked excited. “This could be fun!” he said, and I hugged him hard.
He had some terrific suggestions, and I wrote them down. By the time we headed up to bed that night, there were 33 entries on our RAOK list. I told the kids about my birthday plan. I told my best friend. Each of them offered up ideas, which I gratefully added to the list. A few weeks later, I was still a good handful of lines short so I wished for a snowy birthday. Snow, I knew, would offer additional opportunities. I could shovel a few driveways and clear the windshields of a few cars. Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.
The week of my birthday was cold and dry. The forecast called for nothing more than flurries. I got a little worried. “We’ll look for opportunities along the way,” the hubs reasoned.
The man is brilliant.
I'd ordered some freebie business cards from Vistaprint, which I planned to pass out along the way to explain what I was up to. When they arrived, my wordy-nerdy self immediately noticed an error on them (my fault, not Vistaprint's) and it made me a little crazy. I considered reordering, but my best friend talked me off the ledge. "Suck it up, Buttercup," she said. "The cards are free, but the shipping isn't. Just use the ones you have and remind yourself that what you save in shipping will buy someone a cup of coffee."
I placed an order at my favorite bakery for a tall stack of boxes of their delectable pastries. The plan was to pick up the bakery stuff early and begin the RAOK day by dropping treats off to some local businesses and the homes of a select few. Yay! We had a plan! We had a list and a plan and the whole thing was looking like it was actually going to come together just as I’d hoped. I was excited. My hubby was excited. We counted down the days.
The day before my birthday, I woke feeling cruddy and by mid-afternoon, I had a fever of 102°. I ached, my throat burned, and the smallest amount of light made me squint in discomfort. Crap. Crap, crap, crap, crap, crap. My sweetie ran a cool hand across my forehead when he got home from work and said, “We can always do this next Saturday.”
I reminded him about the ordered-and-already-paid-for mountain of goodies that would be waiting for us at sunrise. He brought me a dish of ice cream and a while later, tucked me into bed. “Let’s just see how you feel in the morning,” he said as he turned out the light.
In the morning, I was a little feverish and my throat was wicked sore, but the other symptoms had skulked off sometime during the night. We ate a quick breakfast, I downed a couple of Tylenol along with my vitamins, and we headed out the door. Fifteen minutes later, we had a carful of bakery and set out to check things off the list.
Here’s what we got done:
1. Paid for a lady’s donuts at the bakery when we picked up our stuff.
2-14. Dropped goodies to the Police Department, Fire Department, Post Office, senior citizens center, cat shelter, library, bank, 2 local stores, and 4 houses. (Yay! Thirteen RAOKs checkity-check-checked off the list!)
15. Donated cat food, treats, and paper towels to cat shelter.
16. Donated dog food, treats, and paper towels to dog shelter.
17. Brought a box of non-perishable items to the food pantry.
18. Put a bag of used clothing in a donation box.
19. Gave a gas station gift card to a guy filling up his truck.
20. Bought coffee for the person behind us at Starbucks.
21. Bought coffee for the person behind us at Dunkin Donuts (my throat was happy for several cups of nice hot decaf).
22. Loaded groceries into someone’s car at Trader Joe’s.
23. Fed a row of parking meters.
24. Put quarters in the carts at Aldi.
25. Paid for a little boy’s shoes at Payless.
26 & 27. Dropped a trail of coins in two different parking lots.
28. Bought a bunch of board games and brought them to the VA Hospital.
29. Filled the money slots of the washers and dryers at the laundromat.
30-33. Taped packages of microwave popcorn to 4 separate Redbox movie rental kiosks.
34. Brought flowers to the awesome colorist who helped me transition my hair from dyed to natural (yay, gray!).
35. Brought flowers to an unbelievably sweet and friendly lady who works at Corner Bakery.
36 & 37. Bought lunch for two people seated at a table near ours.
38. Left our very nice server a 100% tip (for our order and the two ladies we treated to lunch).
39. Returned shopping carts to their designated area.
40. Donated to the Spirit of Giving Food Drive at the grocery store.
41. Dropped off a few boxes of donations to a charity resale shop.
42. Bought movie tickets for a mom and little girl waiting in line at the theater.
43. Paid for a lady’s haircut at Cost Cutters.
44. Paid for someone’s oil change at a quick lube place.
45-48. Tucked notes of good wishes under the windshield wipers of cars in a parking lot.
49-51. Taped baggies of change to soda vending machines.
Best. Birthday. Ever.
We got it all done and I can say with certainty that this birthday was my favorite of all 51. For many of our stops, the hubs waited in the car while I ran in, which saved us a boatload of time (and made getting this many things done even possible). He dropped me at the door and either waited right there or cruised around the lot until I emerged, ready to move on to our next stop.
Although I took my camera along, we were so caught up in our activities that neither of us took a single shot all day. Our last stop was the vending machines and we were already headed home when I noticed the camera. We went back to take one quick pic so we'd have something to stick in the album, but really, no pictures are needed. This was a day neither of us are likely to forget.
There were some really wonderful moments (and quite a few warm hugs) throughout the day. The people who work at our bank called my cell phone after we’d left and sang Happy Birthday into my voicemail. One of the ladies whose lunch we bought came to our table to thank us and said she was going to do the same for someone else on her birthday, which is coming up in just a few weeks. And the awesome lady who works at Corner Bakery got all teary when I gave her the flowers. Oh, and there was one lady who thought we were plumb crazy. She noticed coins dropping from my pocket as we crossed a parking lot and she rushed to tell me. She barely spoke English, but I understood. I shook my head and told her I was dropping the money on purpose and then it was her turn to shake her head. Language barrier or not, her response was clear. She thought I was nuts. :OD
I’m so glad my sweet husband agreed to grant my birthday wish. I’ve had some fun birthdays, but none brought nearly as much joy as I felt all throughout this one. In 2013, I’m going to continue what I started last Saturday. I’ll be on the lookout for opportunities to make people smile, and I'll thank them when they make me smile.
I’m kicking it off with the following giveaway. Please enter (you can come back and enter every day!) and then spread the word!
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