The Grocery Store Visit and the Weekly RAK-Up

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on autopilot (google images)

I vaguely remember the first time I heard about the grocery shopping and delivery service, Peapod. I was working full-time, really didn’t like having to shop after work or on busy weekends, and thought it would be an excellent way to help save time and money. The Peapod truck, like the UPS and FedEx trucks, was already a fixture on our street.

 

Several years later, when I had two children and was working part-time, one of my friends who was in a similar position, mentioned that she was using this service. There was a big promotion and lots of money and time to be saved. She LOVED it! It seemed like the perfect solution to my biggest conundrum at the time, which was…how can I avoid bundling up these two babies, listening to them cry and whine, and figure out how to choose (somewhat) healthy foods and save money? All I had to do with this service was “point and click” and our weekly grocery list would be delivered right to our front door. It seemed like a win-win for our family.

Later that week, when I was at my mom’s house and mentioned that I was considering this service, she responded, “Well, I can definitely see the benefits, but it’s just another way for people to stop leaving their homes and connecting.”

While I often dismissed many of my mother’s comments, this one stuck with me. That, and I never seemed organized enough to get a full grocery list together for an order, so I just continued on with my one, two or three weekly trips to the grocery store.

About five years ago, in a new town with three kids and a terrible winter that never seemed to end, I was pushing the grocery cart around the store with two screaming kids who kept begging for everything on the shelves. Money was extremely tight at the time and we had to stick to our list – there was NO negotiating and the crying and whining would not stop. I remember feeling so embarrassed about how my kids (and I!) were behaving and wanted to get out of the store as quickly as possible. Of course, all of the lines were taking forever. As I tried to negotiate my way into the shortest line, I passed a woman who was holding a scanner in one hand and pushing her shopping cart with neatly organized bags with the other. She picked up a jar of sauce, scanned it and placed it in one of her bags. I stopped her to see what she was doing. She explained that she was using the store’s scanner, which meant she could scan her items, bag her groceries as she went along, and then she avoided the lines by going to the self-checkout. She said it cut her shopping trips by at least 10-15 minutes.

I started using the scanner on our very next visit.

Not only was the shopping quicker, but I could view the prices of everything immediately and my “helpers” loved scanning the items. When the store introduced the online deli feature a year or two later, it streamlined the process even more. I was becoming a more effective, money-saving consumer. I was in and out in 25 minutes or less – it was great!

Then, one morning during one of those shopping trips, the scanner broke while I was checking out. One of the cashiers came over, voided my transaction and said I would have to take all of my groceries, which were already bagged to the “regular” line. I’m embarrassed to even admit how I annoyed I was while waiting in the long line to have the items re-scanned and re-bagged. When it was my turn, the cashier greeted me with a huge smile, apologized for the “scanner inconvenience” and asked me how my day was going. The bagger asked if I wanted her to throw away all the garbage (i.e., old receipts, legos and goldfish) that had accumulated in my recycleable bags over the years. It was nice to be helped and I realized with surprise that it was the first time that I had spoken with someone other than my family all morning. It was the quickest conversation, but I thanked her for asking how I was doing and told her that I had forgotten how nice it was to chat in the check-out line. These scanners were great for convenience, but I was slowly losing connections with others.

My mom was right.

Now, while I admit that I have not given up the scanner or the deli kiosk, I do try to interact with at least one person (either someone who works there or another customer) during each visit. This week, I made an effort to smile at others and greet them. And yes, I know I look a little crazy. However, I was pleasantly surprised that EVERY SINGLE PERSON returned my smile.

And, when I said, “Good Morning. How are you?” to a well-dressed, adorable elderly lady in one of the aisles, she looked up surprised, stopped pushing her cart, and responded with a beautiful smile, “I’m fine, thank you. How are you?”.

We should never forget how much we need each other.

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#60. Wrote a letter of encouragement to a friend.

#59. Participated in several volunteer opportunities at children’s school.

#58. Bought some special treats for our pup, Jane and our hamster, Mr. Gus Whiskers.

#57. Smiled and greeted several people at Stop and Shop (RAK of the Week).

#56. Returned a random shopping cart back into the store.

This week, I tried to participate in FREE acts of kindness…it’s not that easy! Do you have any FREE RAK ideas, you’d like to share?! I’d love to hear them as I have 360 more acts to go…thank you! :o)

Uber Kindness and The Weekly RAK-Up

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“Thank you for listening, Boss. You are a good mother…I can tell. Your kids are lucky. Thank you so much for listening.”
Today, during an early morning uber ride, I met a driver with an interesting story. Born in India, he was one of eight children, left school after the 7th grade and started working to help support his family. When he moved to the United States many years ago, he continued to work, taking odd jobs along the way.
Thirty-eight years ago, he and his wife bought a home in Rogers Park (my old ‘hood!) and started a family. They had two children – a boy and a girl. Throughout their lives, he taught them many life lessons; like how to earn and save money, that they needed to respect their parents (he gave them a tour of a juvenile detention facility to make his point), and the importance of education. His children both excelled, graduated from college and are successful in their professional endeavors. He has two grandchildren, who bring him more joy than he could even begin to describe, however, his smile told the entire story.
In three months, he turns 68-years-old and will retire from his full-time job. He will travel to India, and when he returns, he’ll go back to his part-time uber gig. He enjoys meeting people and hearing their stories.
I know this will sound like an easy or obvious act of kindness, but it’s one that I often forget about…listening. Truly listening to a person tell his story, without interruption, thinking about the next thing to say and without judgement. Because I did this, I learned many valuable life lessons, received the highest compliment and connected with someone who loves his family as much as I love mine.
We can really learn so much about each other when we really listen.
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#57. Listened (without interruption) to a man’s life story.
#56. Helped a woman whose carry-on was stuck in the overhead bin.
#55. Left a “kindness”note in a bathroom stall at LaGuardia.
#53. Gave a little extra tip for great service at a restaurant.
#52. Brought dinner to a friend who just had a baby.
#51. Gave chocolate to a conductor who was having a bad day.
#50. Woke up a sleeping passenger when his cell phone fell onto the floor of the train. He was SO appreciative!
#49. Put garbage can lid back on trash can (instead of walking by it).

The Chicken Meatball and the Weekly RAK-Up

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hello. my name is jane.

Almost a year ago, I started this blog about loss, acts of kindness, grief and the furry friends that have seen us through the most difficult times over the years. While the focus of my blog is shifting slightly – one thing has remained the same – we are still being supported by a sweet, furry friend. This time…it’s Jane.

Jane. Janers. The Queen of Puppy Selfies and Road Trips. Our unofficial “comfort” dog.

There’s nothing plain about this Jane.

Jane joined our family two and a half years ago and she quickly adapted to being a part of the Riggs’ crew; she was younger sister to our sweet, Bailey, and felt right at home with Emma, Kate and Brian, too.

While Jane is a pretty calm presence in our house most of the time, she gets a bit riled up when new people come to the front door (who can blame her?) or if she’s found a ball. If you happen to catch her eye when she’s holding a ball in her mouth, then you’ve pretty much signed on with Jane for the long haul. She must play fetch, which means YOU must play fetch. And she’s relentless. She will spend hours catching and dropping the same ball over and over and OVER again. When our friends visit, they are often rubbing their shoulders when they’re leaving, as if they’ve torn their rotator cuffs…her fetching skills are just that intense. But, other than that one “demand”, Jane is the most low-key, low-maintenance member of our family.

We love our Jane.

Jane is loyal and protective and takes care of us as only a family dog can do. She was even there for each of our kids when they had the stomach virus just a couple of weeks ago, never dry-heaving (unlike their mother) and cuddling up lovingly and patiently right next to them, just like Nurse Nana from Peter Pan. She’s the first to curl up next to me and just be when I’m sad, which has been more than usual over the last several months. She also has this funny way of cheering us up by reaching her paw out and tapping us when she wants you to pet her. I mean, c’mon…you can’t help but smile when she taps you on your shoulder, hand or even face with her fuzzy paw.

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fuzzy paw (do you see the heart?)

 

So, this week…my featured RAK is focused on kindness to animals (#47). While we would have had her groomed at some point anyway, this #365Act project reminded me to take a moment to be mindful of our pup’s loyalty and unconditional kindness (and to give her an extra “chicken meatball” dog treat too). :o)

 

 

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#48. Gave a little extra tip to the dog groomer because she did such a great job and was so nice to Jane.

#47. Took Jane for a little spa treatment (a.k.a. the groomer).

#46. Offered my table at Starbucks to a couple who was looking for a spot to sit.

#45. Brought celebratory champagne to a friend who just finished chemo. 

#44. Mailed a Valentine to a friend.

#43. Wrote a “thank you” note to one of the teachers for the AWESOME 1st edition of the school newspaper.

#42. Picked up boxes that a person dropped in front of me at store.

#41. Delivered flowers to a friend who just experienced a loss.

#40. Paper-clipped a scratch-off ticket to the seat of the grocery cart I was using and then left in the parking lot.

#39. Secretly snuck a lotto ticket with a “good luck” note into the pocket of a coat of one of the guys stocking shelves during my early Sunday morning grocery run (the coat was hanging in the next aisle and I was able to just drop the note inside the pocket…I didn’t pick pockets, I promise!). 

#38. Made a donation to St. Baldrick’s Foundation for childhood cancer.

It was a busy and fun week and people have started to send me some more creative and different ways to Be Kind to others. I am so grateful for these ideas…please keep ’em coming! I have 317 more acts of kindness to go…

The Weekly RAK-Up

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The RAK of the Week:

#34. Wrote a Letter for Hope…

A few months ago my friend, Julie D., introduced me to the letter writing campaign, TWNMLL: The World Needs More Love Letters, when she chose this organization for her NoochieRAKs or Noochie Random Acts of Kindness.

If you know Julie D. (or “Sis” as I call her because my mom fell in love with and basically adopted her the first time she met her), it is no surprise to you that she would find this incredible global social movement that connects people with one another. Not only does it connect people, but it fosters feelings of love, support and inspiration during a time when a person may be feeling unloved, unsupported and uninspired.

We have all been there.

So, Julie D. signed up to become one of the letter writers and then she posted about this thoughtful act of kindness. With her act, she not only mailed off letters of encouragement to people in need, she unknowingly encouraged me to sign up for this letter writing campaign as well.

Last week, I received an email with the subject: “Screw the blues…we’ve got letter requests!” in my inbox. I was excited to receive this letter writing assignment because I had missed the deadline on the last one. In the email were brief profiles of five individuals who are currently going through a difficult time. Each one of these people has a story. They also have a loved one who knew about TWNMLL and secretly signed up to have hundreds of love letters bundled up and sent to their loved ones’ doors.

The backgrounds of these individuals vary a great deal…there is an Iraq veteran who is having a difficult time adjusting to life back home, a mother who served as a caretaker for her daughter who had leukemia and now for her husband who has cancer, an 18-year-old woman who had recently lost both of her parents, and a woman who had to make an adoption plan for her baby and is struggling with being separated from her child. Her name is Hope…

Upon reading these profiles, I gathered up all of my letter writing supplies and sat down at my desk. I wasn’t quite sure where to start because all of the stories were so compelling. I decided to start with Hope, not only because I love her name and its meaning, but also because I am close to a few people who have been adopted, including my husband. I have always felt such deep admiration and gratitude toward the women who have had to make that most ultimate selfless sacrifice for their children. So…that’s where I started.

I was surprised that while I had never met any of these individuals, the words came easily. I really wanted to connect very personally with each one of these people. While their stories and backgrounds were all so different, there were many similarities. When I was writing these letters, I kept thinking about their stories, their pain, how alone in the world each one must feel…

Would these letters help ease their pain, even for just a little bit? What could I say to help them? Would they be able to receive and read all of these letters yet or was their suffering just too unbearable right now? I had so many questions that would be left unanswered.

After I finished writing the letters, I put them in envelopes, sealed, addressed and stamped them and then put them in the mailbox. While it was such a small task, I felt a great sense of accomplishment that I haven’t felt in a very long time. I really cannot describe it, other than this way…if you could say many of the things you’ve wanted to say to a person you’ve lost, only you get to say it to a living, suffering person who could possibly still have Hope…isn’t that an incredible gift? I’m probably not making much sense here, but that’s how it felt. There was also something to saying these words to complete strangers. Sometimes it’s easier to share our innermost thoughts and secrets with those we’ll never meet.

Sis, thank you for choosing grace on behalf of my nephew, Patrick/”Noochie”. By including me, you helped me channel my pain into something that is hopefully helping others. I’m pretty sure my mom “adopted” you for a reason. :o)

If anyone else would like to learn more about this letter writing campaign, you can visit moreloveletters.com to read all about the founder’s story and sign up to receive letter writing assignments.

And now…here’s the Weekly Round-Up (or RAK Up!) of the other Acts of Kindness from the week:

#37. Struck up a brief conversation with a stranger about the weather (neither of us was wearing coats in February!) and wished him a good day.

#36. Left a lotto scratch-off ticket in a journal at Home Goods.

#35. Found pennies and other coins for kids’ Penny Challenge at school.

#34. Letter writing for those who can use encouragement (see RAK of the Week).

#33. Wrote and mailed thank you notes.

#32. Baked and delivered chocolate chip cookies for our neighbor and her caregiver.

#31. Left scratch-off tickets at the gas pump.

I am always looking for new and creative ways to complete random and not-so-random acts of kindness. If you have any ideas or know of someone who could use a little kindness in his/her life, please let me know…I have 328 more acts of kindness to go!!

 

The Power of a Post and 30 Acts

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The day started at 3:00am with a tap on my shoulder and a weepy “Mom, my tummy hurts.” The dreaded wake-up call came from our eldest child, who we thought might escape the terrible stomach bug that has plagued our family the whole week. Unfortunately, she didn’t escape it, and the rest of the morning was a somewhat chaotic blur of tears, towels, blankets, dry heaves (me), ginger ale, laundry and “the bucket”.

It was a difficult way to start the day.

And then a little bit later this morning, I received this Facebook message:

“Yesterday, I went to POSH nail salon in Southport, CT. It is my place for pedicures! I asked if they could possibly make a donation to Donate Life CT – Gala as a silent auction item. They generously gave me 4 gift certificates and an added bonus for a total of 5 gift certificates. They said a kind person had given this extra and it was from Noochieraks!!! I am a huge pay it forward kind of gal and actually belong to a Random Acts of Mail Kindness, letter writing group. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. Know that your gesture is making a difference and the world is a better place because of your kindness!”

Terrie, the thoughtful woman who posted this message didn’t know that I went to the nail salon a couple of weeks ago and intentionally chose a person to receive the gift card after I left. She also didn’t know that that same woman must have paid it forward or donated the gift card back to the salon. In addition, Terrie had no idea that I went into the nail salon on that day, my mom’s birthday, because I wanted honor my mom (and Noochie and the 365 acts of kindness challenge). Lastly, she didn’t know that I woke up this morning with a sick child and felt tired, sad and defeated.

So, without any knowledge of the above, Terrie simply posted a comment. And…with her kind words, she completely turned my day around and my daughters who were not feeling well at all, also smiled when I read the message to them.

I know this may sound like a stretch, but in many ways, it felt like a gift from my mom, like she was telling me, “Stay strong, you’ll get through this, I’m always here.”

You just never know the ripple effects of one simple act of kindness. 

 

…And speaking of acts of kindness, I’ve completed THIRTY so far. Here’s what I’ve been up to since “The First Fifteen”:

#30. Sent a cookie bouquet to friends who just lost their beloved pup of 15 1/2 years.

#29. Brought dinner to a special family.

#28. Waved at a stranger who was waiting on the corner for a bus. Thought he’d think either:
a. This woman is hitting on me, or
b. This woman is crazy, or
c. This crazy woman is hitting on me.
Regardless, he smiled and waved back. :o)(correct answer: B)

#27. Left a couple snow brushes/ice scrapers next to snow-covered cars during the blizzard.

#26. Made a small donation to the National Vietnam Veterans Foundation. When I said I would donate, the gentleman sounded so relieved/surprised/appreciative and said, “Are you sure?!”…wish I could have donated more.

#25. Donated gently used coats and snow pants that I was holding onto for sentimental reason to Goodwill.

#24. Made a small donation to an important cause for my cousin’s daughter.

#23. Became an Eucharistic Minister at our Parish.

#22. Ding Dong Donut: Dropped off a box on donuts at my neighbors and ran. :o) (Full disclosure: it was buy one get one free offer from Entenmann’s)

#21. Put post-it notes with inspirational messages on random cars outside the Melting Pot in Darien. Brian helped too!

#20. Mailed a card to a friend I haven’t seen in a while.

#19. Sent a funny picture to a friend.

#18. Bought a manicure for someone (on my mom’s birthday).

#17. Sent an encouraging note to someone.

#16. Didn’t honk (or swear!) when someone cut me off in traffic. Sometimes silence is the best act of kindness. :o)