Every year, Richard asks me what I want for my birthday. He hates getting me impractical things, and he rather get me something I would use or need. Sometimes he surprises me with a gift he heard me mention I wanted earlier in the year, sometimes I tell him exactly what I want, but this year, I genuinely wanted nothing. I said he could take me to the San Diego Zoo sometime during the summer, but I didn’t actually need anything.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m by no means anti-materialistic. I love getting gifts and appreciate bath salts to a new pair of earrings or shoes as much as the next girl. I love any present I’ve ever received from photo albums and socks to the always appreciated, cash. I think the major difference this year is we just recently moved out of our house and it took us significantly longer than we anticipated! Moving out and packing our cars taught me that – despite rarely going shopping – I still have way too much stuff! When packing up our stuff in Houston, I easily had 2 or 3 times more stuff than he did even after filling up bags for Good Will! Although I am having a family dinner to celebrate for my birthday on Saturday, on my actual birthday – a Thursday – I wanted to do 24 Random Acts of Kindness and his gift to me could be to help with them!
This year, rather than expecting some abnormally amazing thing to happen constantly throughout the day on what otherwise would be a normal weekday, I wanted to make sure some positive things happened by making them happen. I stumbled upon a mother’s blog last Christmas on how she spent her birthday showing her kids Random Acts of Kindness (RAKs) and she stressed how much fun she and her kids had! I thought this was an amazing idea so I thought I’d try it.
Yesterday didn’t start off easy. I actually assumed the RAKs wouldn’t get done since I had some last minute interviews arranged. I woke up at 5 am yesterday to revise a power-point for a sample teach. I drove to FedEx to make copies and rushed through LA morning traffic to get to Echo Park for an interview at 10. I spent an hour teaching a class of 30 students, another hour interviewing with questions, and then I had one hour to drive through LA lunch traffic to get to San Dimas for another interview at 1. ( *Side note: I got a call later than night for my 3rd and final interview – down to the final 4 – for the position in San Dimas!*) I was exhausted by the time I got to Richard’s house around 2:30 and after eating, I had to take a short nap. I was pretty sad that I wouldn’t be able to attempt to complete 24 RAKs since I knew we were short on time, and I resided to doing it next year. Richard woke me up from my nap and had e-mailed me a list of possible RAKs we could do in the short amount of time we had. I said we probably couldn’t finish it because most people do things slowly throughout the day, but he insisted we try. In the end, I’m really glad he insisted, and we ended up completing all 24 before midnight! I realize that we all do RAKs without thinking about them from holding a door open for someone, complimenting a stranger, or leaving a generous tip, but it was really fun to have a goal to reach by the end of the day!
#1.) Take in neighbors’ trash cans – So after the 2 interviews that took up my entire morning and early afternoon, I was exhausted. We planned on taking in all the trash cans on Richard’s block, but by the time I changed into comfortable clothes, most of them were taken in. Well, at least we did a few. (We also left them notes so they didn’t assume we did it because we were annoyed by them being out or something.)
#2.) Call a Grandparent Just to Chat – I don’t see my grandparents as much as I used to ever since they moved out of our Cypress house. I know they have friends at their apartment complex, but I’m sure they wish they had more contact with the family on a regular basis. Now that my brother is at UC Riverside throughout the year, and I’ve mostly been in Houston these past 2 years, when they visit during the day, we often aren’t there. It felt nice calling my grandpa and inviting my grandparents to eat dim sum with us this weekend.
#3.) Compliment a Stranger – I know interviews can be nerve racking already so I complimented some fellow interviewers on their attire or shoes and wished them luck.
#4.) Be an Overly Courteous Driver - We let people get through – both drivers and pedestrians – anytime they tried to. In Texas, it was really common for drivers to let other cars through. In California, not so much. If you ever let a car through, it is a single car, and they better be fast, halfway through the lane, and already rudely nudging over. Yesterday, we let all cars through who were waiting to pass and even gave jay walkers the right of way in residential areas.
#5.) Smile as Much as Possible to Strangers – This one sounds creepy, but I practically do it all the time anyway. Yesterday, I was just more aware of it, and tried to up it up a notch. I genuinely believe that seeing someone else smile can positively change your own mood. It’s being friendly without actually having to say anything.
#6.) Pay for Someone’s Coffee – Technically, we didn’t pay for it since we used gift cards, but I think it counts. Richard constantly ended up with Starbucks gift cards while working at Wells Fargo or as gifts for Christmas, and we actually rarely drink Starbucks. So yesterday, I was actually craving a caramel frap, and we figured we could pay for the person behind us as well since we had extra money on the gift card. I wish we would have had more cash so we could have tipped the barista. She was really sweet and was the epitome of customer service. Richard mentioned later that we should have told her we appreciated it or told her boss she was awesome! Sometimes you easily miss opportunities for RAKs, but we kept it in mind for the next opportunity. Hopefully, the car behind us enjoyed their free coffee and it brightened their day just a bit.
#7.) Give a Stranger a Gift Card – This one was actually probably my favorite of the day. As we were driving away from Starbucks, we saw this guy with one of those giant signs that gets twirled in the middle of the street advertising for a shop. Richard suggested that since he was likely in the heat all day, maybe we could give him one of the gift cards. We still had extras that we likely wouldn’t use…ever. We’ve had one of them since before we even moved to Houston. I thought it was a good idea, so Richard parked, called him over, and ran out the car to give him the card. His initial reaction was “Are you for real man? What’s this for again?” Richard explained the 24 RAKs for my 24th birthday, and his response was “This is something I would totally do!” We learned that he – Brandon – just had a baby with his wife, and they did something similar recently. When his wife got pregnant, rather than throwing a shower to receive gifts, they went out and gave gifts to other about-to-be parents. Well, looks like karma came back to him. I’m glad Richard randomly noticed him to give him the card!
#8.) Leave Change at a Vending Machine – This one I saw on a few other blogs. We left enough change taped on a vending machine for one soda in front of our local Walmart. It was in the corner, so I hope someone saw it by the end of the day!
#9.) Give the Change in Your Pocket to Somebody Who Asks – Outside the Walmart, there was a collection for building homes for the needy. The man asked every customer who entered or exited Walmart if they could spare some change for the cause. I don’t remember how much change we had in our pockets – and when I say pockets, I mean Richard’s cause I wore a dress – but we donated what we had to the collection.
#10.) Return Carts in a Parking Lot – As we were walking back to our car, we noticed a good amount of carts in our row of the parking lot. There were actually 2 separate cart drop offs in our row, but people were too lazy to walk them to their drop off and left them where they were. We returned all the carts left in our row to the drop off station and save an employee at least a few minutes collecting them.
#11.) Write a Letter to a Teacher Who Impacted Your Life – This one I also saw as a recommended RAK from a website. I had been meaning to do this one for awhile anyway and kept putting this off. As a teacher these past 2 years, I realized how difficult creating an effective lesson – that ensures students are learning – actually is. I had some amazing high school teachers, but I think one of my most effective teachers is one of my elementary teachers. Ms. Gautreau, who still teachers at my elementary school now, taught me in 4th grade and also taught me throughout the GATE program. She may not have been the most exciting, funny, or easy teacher, but I know that I really learned from her. I sent her a long thank you note and updated her on my current life and how she impacted it.
#12.) Write Letters to Students to Motivate Change – After I wrote a letter to a teacher, it reminded me that I didn’t write letters to any of my students this year. Last year, on the last day of school, I gave all of my students individual letters. Last year, I typed a few letters every day for 2 weeks. They usually included some memory I had of them in the beginning of the year, their growth, and what I hoped for them in the future. Because of the chaos that was the end of this year – being in charge of the Talent Show, helping with the Award Ceremony, helping choreograph a dance routine, job hunting and moving – I was exhausted. I didn’t have time to give individual letters like I wanted. Instead I gave a general speech to the whole class. Yesterday, I decided to write a few long, letter-like, messages to students. I randomly picked a few students that I think might need a little extra encouragement to stay on the right track in high school and wrote them a letter.
#13.) Give a Generous Donation – Teach for America has a “Back Them Up Campaign” for new corps members that I kept planning to donate too before I left Houston. I thought I already had, but I guess the previous donation I gave was to TFA in general and not specifically the campaign targeted at 2010 alums. I gave a generous donation to them, and I hope the incoming corps gets off to a strong start!
#14.) Leave Popcorn at a RedBox – Anyone who has been to the movies with me knows I love watching my movies with unhealthy, salty, buttered popcorn. I go as far as to buy extra nacho cheese on the side to dip the popcorn in. Although we weren’t about to leave cheese at a RedBox, Richard had a bag of popcorn that we taped for the next RedBox customer to find! For those that don’t have RedBox locations nearby. It is a station where people rent $1.20 movies (Yes, $1.20! I didn’t know they raised the prices!).
#15.) Pay for Someone’s Meal Behind You in the Drive-Thru – In the late afternoon, I was getting the munchies. Richard offered to take me to a restaurant for my birthday, but I was honestly craving simple nachos. I surprisingly didn’t want the fancy $10 nachos with fresh avocado or anything since we recently had that in Houston. I wanted Del Taco’s Macho Nachos with their artificial cheese, beef, jalapenos, sour cream, and tomatoes. Don’t judge. So we went to get a quick snack at Del Taco before we parked and decided what to do next. As we were in the drive-thru, we decided to pay for the lady’s meal behind us and have the window guy deliver a post-it for us. He was a bit confused about it all. “So your card…is paying for both cars? BOTH?”
#16.) Send an Unexpected Gift to a Friend – Richard actually thought of this while we were at Del Taco. One of his co-workers from back home used to live in California. While Richard and I missed In-n-Out, 7 Eleven, and the weather, his co-worker, D, actually missed Del Taco. I thought that was strange since Houston has tons of Tex-Mex and taco eateries. Richard explained that for some reason, D loved Del Taco’s sauces and that was the one thing he wished he had with him in Houston. So we asked for extra extra sauce of all their various types and made a package to send to him in Houston. He’ll arrive at the branch sometime next week and open an unexpected package of hot sauce packets!
#17.) Pay for a Newspaper and Take Out All of Them to Leave on Top – I know this one is actually done frequently, and it probably isn’t very nice for the newspaper company either….but the homeless guy who went immediately after me to grab the newspapers seemed to appreciate it.
#18.) Leave Lotto Tickets for a Stranger to Find – We bought 7 dollar lotto tickets for my birthday. I kept 3 tickets (we won $2), and left the other 4 tickets for a stranger to find and possibly win money! We had to fill up at a gas station anyway since we had driven around quite a bit so we taped the tickets to the gas station pump.
#19.) Give a Care Package to a Homeless Person - My family tends to over shop at Costco. We have tons of energy bars, sodas, and chips all the time stocked in our pantry. We even had girl scout cookies my father bought that were going to expire in a few months that our family didn’t like. We put it all in a bag and gave it to a very happy and receptive homeless man on our way to dinner.
#20.) Leave Positive Notes on Cars Wishing People a Good Day – We had tons of post-its left and we were getting tired. An easy RAK was leaving some nice notes for people to find.
#21.) Donate to a Classroom on Donorschoose.org – My classroom would not be where it was without DonorsChoose.org. For those of you that aren’t familiar with it, it is a website where teachers can request things and people will assist in funding them for the classroom for free. Often times, large education companies will also get in on the donations and double the money or pay for half the projects up front. Over the past 2 years, I’ve received over $2000 worth of merchandise from Donorschoose from multiple projects from AKJ Books, Best Buy, and others. I could not have been more thankful. I selected a classroom to give a donation to, and I hope it gets fully funded soon!
#22.) Do Something Nice for Your Significant Other – Richard really wanted to kick back to one beer and watch the game. He also was nice enough to want me to complete all 24 RAKs so he declined watching the game with his friends even though I know he really wanted to go. We ended up going somewhere for me to have a dessert I’ve been craving that also had TVs for him to watch the end of the final quarter and have a great local beer. It made him happy.
#23.)Buy Somebody a Drink Anonymously - Before we got the check, we asked the server to add the drinks from the nearby table to our bill. We gave him a napkin to leave in their check book. It looks like a 1st grader wrote it though…
#24.) Leave a Generous Tip – Since I was a server for 4+ years, along with stacking my plates, I usually leave a generous tip anyway, but since our server knew about our RAKs, we thought we would give him #24. The bill didn’t add up to that much since we only ordered a few drinks and a dessert, but we left him almost a 50% tip. He was really nice. Plus, we had been scouring yelp for a bananas foster and came across a few reviews. Unfortunately, each location we called no longer had it. We called Bourbon St. Bar and – although it was not longer on the menu – they said they could serve it to us. When I called in, we actually ended up speaking to our server and he knew who we were as soon as we ordered. Hopefully he enjoyed the tip. I still remember my biggest percentage tip. It was actually just $5, but it was for an $8 bill of one salad. It was a one-time customer who came in for lunch, ordered a quick chinese chicken salad on his lunch break, had a water with no refillsm and left without any small chit-chat. I was amazed by the 62% tip and still remember it!
As we drove home, the last street we saw before we hit the 91 West was none other than Houston Ave. It was nice having a small reminder of Houston even though I celebrated my birthday back home.
That’s how I spent my 24th birthday, and it was one of the funnest birthday-days I’ve ever had! We are going to try to top each year by thinking of unique RAKs to do. Until next year!
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