Thursday, February 13, 2014

A Valentine From the Heart

Nothing is as special as going to the mailbox, opening the box, reaching inside expecting to find the usual bundle of bills and ads, only to be surprised with a package! 
This week I was so happy to find such a package in my mailbox and I've had it on display in my living room all this week.  

Lady Sue, of Rue Mouffetard blog, made this special gift for attendees of the recent Downton Abbey luncheon hosted by the lovely Lady Joyce (formerly known as Flour Power Joyce).  Not only did Sue spend hours making this beautiful Valentine pin cushion, she took time to mail one to me. 
Love the sweetheart pins Sue added to the gift.
Handmade gifts mean so much.  My husband and I don't really celebrate Valentine's Day so this gift is especially nice.


Saturday, February 8, 2014

Atlanta, Kindness and Ron Clark Academy

The laughter around the country may be dying down about how Atlanta copes with snow, but I’m guessing that locally the conversations about “snow-mageddon” will continue for years to come. (Did you see The Daily Show?)  The day the ice and snow hit the city, most of us were at work or school and suddenly during the lunch hour the metro Atlanta area was scrambling for home.  Unfortunately for thousands getting home took time, a lot of time.

I was lucky.  Instead of driving that day I took the train but even that was a challenge the day of the winter storm.  There was a fire on the platform at one of the main stations so train lines were single-tracking which created a severe back up.  My normal 20 minute ride turned into an overcrowded, one and a half hour ride, which was not bad compared to the many horror stories I’ve heard.
So during the storm something incredible happened.  Stories of incredible acts of kindness began surfacing in the news, on Facebook and in local neighborhood email discussion groups.  Given that people were stranded – on roads, in cars, at work, in schools, etc., people everywhere in the city began to extend a helping hand to those who needed it.   At our house we took in a young mother with a two-year-old.  These two headed out of the city trying to make a 27 mile ride south.  After SEVEN MILES AND SEVEN HOURS in the car, my friend had to stop and bed down for the night.  With no diapers or provisions for a little one in our house, we sent out an email to our neighborhood.  Within minutes several neighbors called with suggestions and offers and one neighbor brought us diapers, wipes, toys and more.  One of my colleagues was featured on national news.  She and her family loaded up their son’s wagon, filling it with water, food and blankets and hauled everything to a freeway near their house offering relief and refuge to stranded motorists.  We quickly learned of a website that was set up to help people stranded with individuals willing to help located in the same area.  It was amazing.  When I first signed up there were a few thousand people online.  Within hours 29,000 people had joined in the group and by the end of the first 24 hours of need, 54,000 people had joined the Facebook group and were helping connect needs with help.  
On Friday as I got back on the train to head back to work my mind kept wandering back to all the wonderful stories of kindness and helpfulness that I’d heard over the past few days.  But suddenly it was as if everyone had shed the cloak of kindness and put back on their old uniform of apathy.  What if we could extend the spirit of kindness all the time, every day?

One of the events that was scheduled to take place at my workplace the week of the storm was the Ron Clark Academy’s, Amazing Shake.  The event was rescheduled for this week and I almost skipped it because of meeting conflicts but WOW, was I glad that I participated.   It is almost impossible to describe how impressive, confident, engaged, enthusiastic, interesting, effervescent and eager these young people are.  I’ve worked with kids my entire life and never have I seen 30 kids with such attitudes and spirit.   The Amazing Shake is an all-day networking competition for Ron Clark Academy kids in grades 5-8.   Watching these kids easily walk into a room filled with business leaders, making introductions, shaking hands and getting to know the participants was a jaw-dropping experience.  Our role was to serve as judges but I felt like I spent more time observing and learning.  It was a powerful sight to see.  
So what does this have to do with kindness?   The Amazing Shake is a competition and throughout the day business leaders judge the kids, selecting the best and eventually naming one champion and one runner up.  As the day continued we continued to get updates on the kids, keeping up with those in the lead.  The night the event ended we got an email that was an affirmation that kindness and goodness continues.  The next generation is already passing it on.  Here is the email we received from one of our attorneys who leads volunteer work for youth:

Here is the reason that I fell in love with the kids at RCA and I'm such an advocate for the school.  Ron Clark, faculty and staff are not only creating geniuses and making incredible people out of those kids.

After Mariah won the Amazing Shake, her competitor Jacob was heartbroken.  She went through her gift basket and found an iPad Mini.  She turned around and gave the iPad Mini to Jacob for being such a valiant competitor.  What an incredible gesture.  See the attached picture.

I'm confident in our future with kids like those are RCA in the next generation.

What would the world be like if we all went out of our way to share a kindness or do something to help someone in need every day?   Today, I'm joining The Tablescaper for Seasonal Sundays.