Last Friday, June 7th, was the tenth anniversary of my first date with Tony. As I mentioned in an earlier post, it was my decision to spend a day so potentially painful doing something positive. People who live with depression view the word through a distorted lens. For Tony, it was always a challenge to believe in the good in people; so there is something deeply healing for me to go out on these significant dates in our relationship and try to make the world a kinder place. I hope I do that every day, but on these days I try to make a special effort.
When we did this in January, on Tony’s birthday, we had things planned out and made in advance. This past week of anniversaries (first email, first phone call, first date) hit me hard, and so we took a more open approach to the whole thing. I went to bed Thursday night with only a couple of ideas, and set off on Friday having decided to let the day be whatever it would be, and to just trust my instincts.
My morning started off with my mother. We went to breakfast. One of the ideas I’d had the night before was to go out to breakfast and pay someone’s bill anonymously. We were seated on the side of the restaurant that had a counter and stools, and so our choices were somewhat limited. I was looking at the people there and hoping I would get a feeling about someone, a pull that would tell me “that’s the person whose bill needs to be paid.”
Shortly after we ordered, a tall man with gray hair in a ponytail came in alone and sat at the counter. As he sat, he banged his head against the light. That was my cue – surely someone who’d just conked his head needed a little pick-me-up. We recruited the waitresses’ help, and when he asked for his bill we could hear the waitress tell him that it had been paid for anonymously. My back was to him, but my mom told me he looked all around in search of a clue about his benefactor, and then smiled hugely and said to the waitress, “Well, if they come in again, tell them I said thank you!” I gave the waitress huge tips on both bills, and my mom gave a tip to the other waitress who’d helped us organize things.
After that we stopped at Starbucks and my mom left a 100% tip in the jar for the baristas. Then we headed off to Ben Franklin to get supplies for the other idea I had. I wanted to make kindness cards and leave them on cars.
I made five of them sitting in the car, and we left them on cars in the lot. Again, I let my instinct guide me. I put one on an old and dusty red Subaru; my mom put one on another red car that spoke to her. Next I picked an SUV that was covered with bird poop, a pretty spring-green car, and finally, a blue car the exact color of Tony’s.
On our way out of the parking lot, we stopped and I gave $20.00 to the homeless man selling newspapers.
My mom dropped me off at my sister Stephanie’s house, and while I waited for Stephanie and her kids I made more kindness cards. When they got there, Fiona put out seed for the birds, and picked me a bouquet of wildflowers. She also made a couple of kindness cards to add to the pile.
Stephanie and I took the kids out for ice cream and I paid for 10 junior scoops of ice cream for the next 10 kids who came in. This is an idea I got from my mom, who did it in January. I also put another kindness card on a car in the lot
Stephanie had some clothes that she wanted to donate, so we stopped and dropped them into a donation box for the Northwest Center, an organization that helps children and adults with disabilities.
Next we went to Albertson’s. On the way in Fiona put one of her kindness cards in a plant in the garden center – the plant that looked like it needed the most love.
Inside Albertson’s, Stephanie bought a pretty bouquet and on the way out of the store we gave it to a young woman who was waiting in line at Starbucks. She looked a little sad, and she reminded me of me, a bit, when I was heavier and ashamed of myself so much of the time. This, I have to say, was the best moment of the entire day. First she was disbelieving, and then her smile lit up the world.
On the way out we put one more card on a car with a yappy dog inside, and then went to the Safeway parking lot to finish distributing the cards. We had probably 9 or 10 cards left, and we picked mostly older models. My favorite was a pickup truck with a giant Redneck sticker on the back of it. There was something particularly satisfying about putting a note about how the world is a more beautiful place on a car belonging to someone who’s proud to be a redneck.
When I came home, I made a donation in Tony’s memory to the Alliance of Hope , which is an organization that helps people who have lost someone they love to suicide. It’s a place that has been a huge comfort to me. I sent the acknowledgement to my beautiful sister-in-law, Mary Ann, so that she would know that Tony will never be forgotten.
My sister Laura had to work, but she left a Starbucks card for a co-worker who’s been less than friendly, and made a special effort to be kind to everybody – to smile at every child she let in while she was on door duty and to make everyone she met feel valued.
Tony’s high school friend Amy treated a family to dinner anonymously. My friend Caroline sent me a lovely email detailing the 10 Little Acts that she did in Tony’s memory. My friend Peter from Germany didn’t give me details on what he did, but told me that since January he’s been making this practice part of his life. To me, that’s such a gift.
To everyone who participated, in whatever way: Thank you. Your love and support mean everything. I am already planning for the next day of kindness. August 7th would have been our 9th wedding anniversary, and I have so many ideas already.
Kindness helps. And it’s contagious.