I walked into the post office to grab a priority mail shipping box and immediately realized I'd forgotten packaging tape. Dang it!
I'd brought the stack of books I needed to mail, but without the tape, I'd have to go home to package and prepare for shipping.
As I stood in line to mail other items, I overheard the lady in front of me share a bit about an act of kindness she was doing for others.
After she finished paying for her shipping, I stepped in the lobby, and mailed my other packages. As I walked out, there she stood putting stamps on her envelopes.
In that moment, I was grateful I didn't have packaging tape. I gave her a copy of The Giving Challenge and shared how I'd overheard that she was working on her own act of kindness. She was surprised and appreciative of the gift.
Sometimes when our plans don't work out, there is a reason why and maybe, just maybe, we can find an opportunity to recognize and acknowledge a fellow giver.
For over twenty years, I've had a dream to walk out my back door and be able to hit a running trail.
Two years ago, I came one step closer to living out this dream. My husband and I bought a home on ten acres of wooded land. We hiked through trees and thicket and tied bright orange ribbons on trees, so the contractor we hired to cut the trail, would know the path to take.
After months of back and forth, the big day arrived. I couldn't wait for the contractor to zoom through the woods on his machinery, and within days, I'd have the path of my dreams.
But after one day of working, he encountered a muddy section of the land, where he would need to cross to get to the back half of the property. He committed to returning when the ground dried up.
You can guess where this is going. After going back and forth for months, trying to get the contractor to return, he stopped returning calls and texts. I complained about this guy for nearly a year. And then I decided to stop complaining and figure out, without big machinery, to cut the darn trail myself.
My husband taught me to use a weed eater. Yes, embarrassing as it may sound, I had never used a trimmer. I had no idea trail building would be so laborious. I'd worked for an hour and no joke, the progress I made was only mere feet. My goal of two miles would take longer than anticipated.
But the more I worked in the woods, the more I enjoyed the work. I became grateful that my contractor bailed on me, because now, as I ran the trail, I discovered that God had given me everything I needed to do the job myself.
Okay, okay, so what does this entire story have to do with loving your neighbor when it is difficult?
As I worked my way to the back half of the property, I discovered the neighbors that butt up to my woods, had been using our property as their dumping grounds. And I'm not just talking about grass clippings, I'm talking about old Christmas trees, bushes and scrubs they'd pulled out of the dirt, landscaping concrete, and the list goes on and on.
We put up no trespassing signs. We talked with them about illegal dumping and trespassing. And when all else failed we called the police. The property was ours that we intended to use, and they were destroying it.
Do you think any of that stopped them? Nope! As I walked back there to continue work on the trail, I must route around the damage they've caused. I am steaming mad! At one point, I considered dragging all the crap they've put onto my property, back onto their property. But then I realized, I'd then be no better than they were. "Stephanie, is this how you love your neighbor when you are mad? Seeking revenge?"
Nope, so I left the piles of mess.
But friends, it gets better. Not only do they dump their waste on our property, but they also hit golf balls; not one or two, but tens of balls on our property. And you might think, "Stephanie, what's the big deal with golf balls on your property?"
Nothing if I'm leisurely walking through the woods. But as I'm running through on the trails, I risk turning an ankle, or worse, falling and crashing into down trees or branches sticking out of the ground. It's dangerous!
Over time I've amassed quite the pile of golf balls. One day, I thought, "I'm going to throw these golf balls in his yard. Hopefully, they tear up his riding lawnmower."
Sad but true, my friend. These are the thoughts that ran through my mind.
No joke, as I picked up the balls to start throwing them back, I turned around to see a heart (ugly as it may be) in the tree. I smiled, nodded my head, and whispered, "Message received God."
I dropped the golf balls and snapped a picture. I also leave the pile of the balls off on the side of the trail and add to them every time I go out on the path and work. They are a reminder to love my neighbor, even when it is difficult.
I run a FB Group, The Gratitude Challenge. Are you a member? If not, you should join, it's full of positive posts, challenging others to focus on what they are grateful for each day.
Recently, Harold, a long-time coaching client, posted, "I'm grateful that I've tested positive today."
I immediately thought, "Oh no! Harold has the COVID-19."
But instead of responding, I paused. I know Harold. I'd just chatted with him on Friday, his post mentioned nothing of COVID-19, he loves quotes, and I realized, he wasn't talking about a sickness, but his attitude."
Sneaky, sneaky Harold!
I scrolled through the comments, "You mean negative? If you tested positive means you have the covid virus in your system."
And "Hopefully you mean negative!"
Oh, those sweet ladies that responded. I know they were probably concern for his well being and thought he'd made an error with is words. The mistake happens all the time. No harm and no fowl in this case.
But what happened on this post is becoming a pandemic of sorts on social media. And unlike this post, our country is becoming divided due to words people are speaking. And at the end of the day, I'm not sure we are solving any problems.
The interaction got me thinking and I realized, there were a couple of steps I took before responding, and I think maybe moving forward could save each of us a lot of heartache and maybe a friendship.
First, I didn't immediately respond. I almost did, but I paused, and reread the post.
Second, I thought about the person that made the post. I know him well, which made me look at the post in a different light.
Third, I responded with a comment asking for confirmation about the meaning of his post, I didn't assume. "Knowing you...you're talking about your attitude!"
The conversation today reminded me there is a gift we can give our friends and even strangers on social media. It's the gift of pausing before we comment. It's the gift of knowing the person and their heart. I don't know about you, but often what I feel in my heart doesn't reflect properly in the words I speak or write. I often think, "That didn't come out right." If we don't know someone's heart, then it's hard to respond to their post. And finally, don't assume you know what someone is feeling or thinking at the time of their post. Engage in conversation, ask questions, maybe message the poster privately, or do like I've trained myself to do and don't comment at all.
The last gift, on don't comment at all, is a hard pill to swallow. It's taken great willpower for me to keep scrolling and keep my mouth shut. How I react comes down to asking myself a couple of questions, maybe you could use these also.
1) What value is my comment brining to the conversation?
2) Is my comment positive and encouraging?
3) Is what I'm posting bringing us to unity or division?
Usually my response is no, no, and division. The only time I post is if my answer is yes, yes, and unity. This not only goes for comments, but rules I try to follow when making a post.
There are a lot of little gifts we can give our friends, and even strangers on social media. Be the person that helps to bring positivity, encouragement and unity to your little neck of the world. If we all did this, we'd be a happier, less stressed, and anxious society!
When I heard of the tragic death of retired Captain/Chief David Dorn, I knew I had to take action to ensure his murder didn't get lost in all that is going on in our country.
David Dorn retired from the St. Louis Police Department at the rank of Captain, after serving, and incredible 38 years on the department. But he didn't stay retired for long and took the helm as Chief of Police for Moline Acres Police Department.
For over four decades, he selflessly served his community. As I read through various news articles, his friends, coworkers and family members described him as having a personality larger than life, put people on the right path, kind of leader young officers looked up to, and a family man that love his wife, children and grandchildren.
At the age of 77, he still had a heart for protecting his community. On June 2nd, as looters ravaged his friend's pawn shop, he responded to check on the shop, when cowards shot him.
Oh, what has become of the darken hearts of so many, they are willing to take another's life, for meaningless material possessions.
In gratitude of his service to his community, noting that he often spent time volunteering with disadvantage youth, I'm asking you to join me in a Giving Challenge to honor the life of Retired Capt./Chief David Dorn.
Do an act of kindness for someone you know, a stranger, or even a police officer. Share why you are giving. And challenge them to keep spreading the love, one gift at a time.
We don't change the world by hate, rioting and divisiveness, we change the world by one gift of kindness and love, to another human, at a time.
Share your gift with me or on social media and let the family of Retired Captain/Chief Dorn know he is not forgotten. #GivingChallengeforDorn
When I woke up this morning my heart carried a weight that had not been there the previous day. I pondered the inexcusable death of George Floyd. As a former police officer, questions swirl about the officers involved actions, or lack of action. I don't get it. I can't comprehend what the heck they were thinking! I'm appalled.
And I'm a police wife. I love our law enforcement officers. But even when society demands we chose a side, we don't have to.
"Don't copy (conform) the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think." Roman 12:2
I can be horrified by a man's death at the hands of a law enforcement officer, and still love my law enforcement family.
I stepped out my front door and walked up and down my driveway, around my backyard, and out behind and around my husband's garage, back to my front door. It's been a prayer walk I've done almost every day for 18 days. Today I was so distracted. One second I was praying, and the next second I was thinking about a social media post that had me fired up! So many emotions and thoughts ping ponging around my mind. And as clear as the Caribbean blue waters, God said, "Focus on me."
He gave me three words that centered me. Since that moment, every time I get spun up, I stop, and am reminded there is only one place I need to focus my time and energy. Focus on the words of Bible. Not the politicians, not the media, and not even my friends, but what does God say? How would Jesus respond?
Jesus would grieve for the loss the life. Every... single... life, regardless of race, religion, sex, and age, mattered to Jesus.
This next one is a hard pill to swallow, but Jesus would have forgiven the officers. As he himself was being killed, he said, "Father, forgive them, for they don't know what they are doing." Luke 23:34
Jesus loved everyone. He actually doesn't just instruct us to love our neighbor, he said, "You have heard the law that says, "love your neighbor" and hate your enemy, but I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that. But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect." Matthew 5:43-44, 47-48 (And note, before someone get's all crazy on me, I'm not calling anyone involved in this an enemy. I'm proving a point, that we love all. We can't be selective. Even those we call an enemy, we love).
In 100% Giving Gal fashion, I'm going to focus on three things, my time with God, practicing gratitude, and giving. I'm continuing to give to those in need, give to those that are different than me, give to those I love and give to strangers. My giving journey has stretched me outside of my circle of friends, that was predominately white, and expanded to big beautiful circle of people of many colors.
I hope you will join me, as we continue to live giving and grateful lives, focused on God.
Tis the season for morels. Yummy mushrooms that sprout up near fallen trees and smatterings of bark. The conditions must be just right, and it takes an eagle eye to spot them, camouflaged against the forest landscape. Over the past several weeks, my hubby and I have hunted for mushrooms. On several occasions we found enough to fry up for dinner. But instead of continuing to eat what we found, we bagged them up and shared our love of mushrooms. This past week we were able to give two bags away to friends. One was such a fun gift to give.
Our plumber stopped by to fix a leaky pipe and said, "Have you guys ever found any morels out here?"
My husband chuckled, led him into the kitchen, and showed him a plate full that we'd just washed and dried out for dinner. "Want them?" my husband asked.
"You serious?" our friend questioned.
"Absolutely!" my husband exclaimed.
I loved witnessing our friend receive the unexpected gift. Sure, I'll miss the mushrooms for dinner, but the smile on his face, is better than the mushrooms we'd munch on for dinner.
What do you love? What do you have an abundance of? Give it away to someone today!
This past week I was chatting with my friend, Rashawn Copeland, and he asked me how I'm still giving while being stuck at home.
We discussed the obvious gifts such as texting friends, checking in on each other, and mailing cards. After we got off the phone, I dug a little deeper into the gifts I had been giving. This weekend I also added new kindness acts that were on my "to do" list.
1. During these times I'm a bit sad to not live in a neighborhood. I love my home, that is nestled in the woods, but people aren't just walking by to see decorations. I decided to do a gratitude chalk the walk. Because you know who is coming to my home? ShipIt Shoppers, Door Dashers, the mailperson, and delivery drivers from USP, FedX, and Amazon. And oh! My neighbor Joe. He always seems to drop off a random food item. Grab some chalk and make a gratitude chalk the walk on your porch, steps, sidewalk or driveway.
2. Have you heard of the Heart Hunters? I've also seen another group called Hearts of Hope. Either way, I love the meaning. I've yet to cut out hearts and put them in the window, but I did add colorful hearts to my Chalk the Walk. Grab some construction paper, or white paper and markers, and post hearts around your home for all to see. Check out this facebook group. There are hundreds of cool ideas!
3. What talent can be used during these times? Many of the women from my hometown are sewing masks for hospital employees. But maybe you are like me and can't sew. This weekend, my husband, as a gift, used his talents to make me, as he called it, a "bird condo." What talents do you have that you can share with others?
4. Laughter is good medicine. I can't remember if I mentioned this in previous blogs, but it's worth repeating, because it's getting me through this craziness. See a funny meme, share it. I have a group chat with coworkers, family, and friends. And guess what we do every day? We share funny memes. Last night my coworker shared one with me. I died laughing and I payed it forward. I shared the meme with my family and my mom loved it! She said she couldn't stop laughing. Friends, get the laughing started and keep it going!
5. Share books. I have a closet full of books and I'm giving them away. It's fun to make a little note and send the book on its way. Want a chance to win a book? Make sure you are following me on Facebook or have joined the Gratitude Challenge group. That's where I post my giveaways!
I'm sure over the next couple of weeks I'll continue to find fun ways to give. What ways are you giving?
Sunday, we celebrated International Women's Day. I spent the prior day with my mom, sister and niece shopping, eating cake and catching up.
On the two-hour drive home, I took in the day, but was reminded how grateful I am to have amazing women in my life. Women that challenge and support me and my crazy big dreams. But also realizing how lucky my niece is to be surrounded by strong women who support her in all her endeavors.
Many young girls and women aren't so lucky and it's our duty to step in and fill the gap. Here are four ways you can give to girls and young women in your community.
If you are a momma of girls, ask your daughter if there is a gal in her class that could use support. Maybe invite this young girl to dinner, church, or help her out with clothes, school supplies or take her along on a family outing.
Girls on the Run is a fabulous nonprofit that, according to their website, "is a life-changing program for 8-to 13-year-old girls that promotes girl empowerment by teaching life skills through lessons and running." My mom has been involved with this organization for decades. I've witnessed firsthand how powerful the lessons these girls learn and the impact it makes in their life. Volunteer to be a coach, sign-up for the 5k and be a running buddy, attend a fundraiser, share info on social media or donate.
Do you live in a college town? I do and over the years I've found various ways to support collage gals. Invite them for dinner. Take them out for dinner. Make a connection for them. Be a reference. Give them a job. Offer advice when asked. Invite them to come to laundry at your home. If you aren't in a college town, you can send care packages, encouraging texts and send pizza. Trust me, anything you do for a college student, that has to do with food or laundry, they'll be grateful.
There are tens of ways we can give to the women in our lives. Finally, we can even find ways to give to strangers. I love this story from my friend Melanie about a recent way she gave to a momma she recognized could use a little kindness and encouragement.
Yesterday one of my kids and I were at Noodles and Company for lunch. There was a mom with three small kids, maybe 8 and under. She was trying to order while the older two were trying to help watch the youngest (maybe three), who ran around the restaurant. Other customers looked at her with a "control your kids" look in their face, all the while she did her best.
After we finished our lunch, I went back up and bought her a cookie and a rice crispie treat. As I gave her the treats, I shared with her how she was doing a great job, that my kids are teenagers now, and I remember those days and it will get easier.
She teared up and said her husband was deployed and it meant a lot to her to hear the encouragement because she was raising her children alone. We chatted a few more minutes and I told her little's they had to eat their chicken and veggies before they could have the cookie.
When I returned to my table, my son asked me why I bought the treats and chatted with a stranger. I explained I remember taking him and his brothers out and it not going well. Most people were not kind about it, but occasionally, there would be someone who did a small act of kindness that made the craziness ok. I could now pass the kindness onto others.
We ran errands and went to his swim meet. I saw him hold doors open more, say thank you to salesclerks and cheer on other kids at his swim meet."
Friends, there are opportunities all around us to help women and girls we know, and the ones we don't.
I gotta be honest, I no longer believe in Random Acts of Kindness. What? Stephanie, aren't you the Giving Gal? Don't you look for ways to give and be kind every day?
Yes, yes I do.
But what I continue to learn on my giving journey is I wake up each day knowing I'm going to look for ways to give. And then when I see an opportunity, I'm going to act. The act of kindness is intentional.
With that said, I'm still supporting wonderful holidays, like Random Acts of Kindness week, because at the end of the day, any time we can spread kindness and positivity, we should.
Here are 14 ways you can give this week:
Donate clothes to a local nonprofit (call before you donate to see what they need)
Send cards to your local nursing home
Help a neighbor with a chore
Compliment a stranger
Call a family member
Send five encouraging texts to friends
Give a hug to a stranger (ask permission first😊)
Call a teacher friend to see if there are supplies, they need, if so, purchase and donate
Make a positive post on social media
Bake cookies for your coworkers (or buy Girl Scout cookies😊)
Thank a first responder (police officer, firefighter and/or ems)
Send a thank you card to someone that has made a difference in your life
Disconnect from technology/television and have a family game night
I'd love to know your thoughts on random acts of kindness. Do you believe in them? Or have I changed your mind?