I ran into Shorty the other day. I mentioned him here once, and told you about how he gives every child he meets a stuffed animal. Well, Shorty wasn’t himself. He looked tired. He was riding in an electric cart, with nary a stuffed animal in sight. Very unlike him. We chatted briefly.
“Hey there, Shorty! How are you doing? I haven’t seen you is awhile.”
“Well, I’ve been a bit tired lately. Haven’t been able to make all of my usual stops.” (Like to the hospital to deliver stuffed animals to sick children in pediatrics.)
“Really? That’s really too bad. I sure hope that you are all right.”
“Oh, I’ll be OK. I just wish I had something for your little guy there. I didn’t see you, and I left my goodies in the car.”
“Hey, that’s OK. Your smile is plenty enough for us.”
“Well that just made my day, Sunshine. But, I like to give a little something to the little guys. I’ll getcha next time.”
We said our goodbyes, and left. I won’t lie to you. It was hard to see Shorty with out his usual pep. I was thinking about him for the rest of the day. I wonder how many lives he has touched with his smile and stuffed animals? I wonder how many of those he has touched went on to touch another’s life?
Seeing Shorty always reminds me about how giving back is so important. A simple act of kindness can have an amazing ripple effect. What seems like something minor courtesy to you can have a lasting impact on someone else. The recipient of your kindness may then pay it forward to another. And so on.
After my encounter with Shorty, I decided to visit a park that was rebuilt out of the kindness of others, in the spirit of giving back to the community. Carter Oosterhouse grew up in our area. Since I have been living under a rock birthing children for the past ten years, I didn’t know who Carter was, except for the fact that his brother was smart enough to marry my BFF Erin. (Love her!) They are the sweetest couple ever. But that’s a story for another time.
Carter often comes back, and more importantly, gives back to the community is which he was raised. How cool is that? One recent example was through his non-profit organization Carter’s Kids. Carter’s Kids partners with many communities nationwide to build community parks in mostly low income neighborhoods in order to build self-esteem, and promote nutrition and activity as a way to combat childhood obesity. The kids and the community take an active part of the planning and construction of the parks. So Carter’s Kids partnered with the local community to rebuild a lake front park where Carter used to play as a kid.
This park was very well thought out.
A nautical themed play-scape gives children plenty to climb on and jump start the imagination.
Well thought accessibility ensures that everyone has access to the beach and water.
Bike racks, family bathrooms (!!), and dozens of picnic tables encourage mingling and foster the gathering of community. This park will be giving back to the community for years to come.
I realize that we can’t all build parks in our community, but we can take a moment to show courtesy to a stranger.
Make eye contact.
Give a warm smile.
Hold the door for someone.
Hold the elevator.
Let someone merge into traffic.
Put change in an expired parking meter.
Buy someone a cup of coffee.
Invite someone to check out in front of you at the store.
Listen to someone–hear their story.
Bring someone a meal.
The possibilities are endless. Imagine how great it would be if everyone made it a point to pass on a little random kindness each day.