The week before Easter, I had a proposal for the good people of The Hands Free Revolution. I asked that we ban together and collectively recognize those who are underappreciated and often forgotten.
And our targets were the faithful trash collectors and mail carriers that diligently serve us in rain, shine, sleet, and snow every single day.
I asked that your family choose one day of the week leading up to Easter to leave a small token of appreciation on your trash container or in your mailbox. I made this request in a post entitled, “There Will Be Tears.”
It was my hope that our gestures would touch someone’s heart to the deepest level, the level at which emotion is so moving it is revealed through one’s tears.
And happy tears are the best kind of tears.
My daughters and I had recently left treats for our trash collectors and mail carrier on Valentine’s Day, (you can read about the amazing results of that action in “The Clean Lines of a Loving Heart”). Yet, the girls were excited to do it again, this time uniting with our entire neighborhood and possibly with my blog readers from all over the world!
They were excited about the possibilities, and so was I.
In my neighborhood, Thursday, April 21st was the day.
Unfortunately, it happened to be one of those mornings. (You know the kind of morning where you are surprised that one of your children is not dropped off at school with a disoriented expression, still in her pajamas, sporting major bed-head, munching on a Pop-Tart.)
Well, at least we managed to get the two Easter baskets to the end of the driveway and another one safely tucked inside the mailbox.
But aside from depositing the treats in their proper location, every other intention I had that morning managed to slip right through my fingers.
I planned to catch the garbage collectors en route and witness their surprised reactions first hand.
It didn’t happen.
I planned to drive around the neighborhood and take pictures of the colorful gifts that sprinkled life onto the dismal, gray trash containers.
It didn’t happen.
I planned to stop at each treat, read the children’s beautiful notes (while wiping away tears), and admire every creative illustration.
It didn’t happen.
I planned to hug the life out of Mrs. Jackie, my mail carrier, when she delivered my mail.
It didn’t happen.
I had all the best intentions. But yet,
I didn’t get to see their joyful faces.
I did not get to see the precious hand-made cards.
I did not take any photos showing the incredible number of participants in this community gesture.
I did not get to see the results of our actions.
I did not get to see how it all turned out.
And I didn’t get to see if there were any tears.
To say I was disappointed would be an understatement.
I felt like I truly let you all down. Everyone wants to hear how the gift is received. Everyone wants to hear the happy ending.
But then my Hands Free inner voice came to my rescue. (For as many times as that voice can annoy me with ridiculous requests, it does manage to keep Control-Freak Excessive Planner Extraordinaire Rachel in check.)
And this is the poignant reminder I received from my Hands Free inner voice:
A multitude of children just spent the last several days shopping, baking, icing, creating, stuffing, writing, drawing, and even praying for complete strangers.
These children did not do this because they were going to “get” something; they did not expect to have a reciprocated Easter basket on their doorstep when they got home from school; the thought of a “thank you note” from the trash man didn’t even cross their mind. Those are not the reasons why they did it.
The reason they made treats and set them in an unusual place was for one simple reason.
They did it to make someone happy.
Pure and simple. No strings attached. No “thanks” necessary. Just wanted to make someone smile.
(If that is not a lesson for the Hands Free Mama in training, I don’t know what is.)
Now this…THIS….is exactly how I want to live my life: Expressing love and kindness to those around me without expecting anything in return, without expecting a reciprocated favor, without waiting for a thank you… simply expressing acts of kindness to others because it is the right thing to do. Because that is how I would like to be treated. Because exhibiting love toward someone else without a hidden agenda is a generous and content way to live.
And if these children could set their gifts upon the trash can with the mere satisfaction that they PROBABLY made someone’s day, then surely I could be satisfied with that, too.
Now at this point, I could wrap this baby up and tie it with a bow.
But there is more to the story. And it is too good not to share.
As I have seen time and time again on this journey, the best things come from the unplanned. The most meaningful things are unexpected. The best things come when I simply let things BE, when I let them unfold the way they were meant to unfold.
A few days after I let go of the need to know how everything turned out, I received this message from a dear neighbor:
I just happened to see Miss Jackie on the day of her surprise and wanted to tell you about it…
Miss Jackie pulled up in our driveway to give me a package. My three-year-old son and I came out with her Easter basket. She began to cry. Through her tears, she said, “I have never experienced so much love and gratitude from a neighborhood like this before.”
Then she opened the door to her truck. There stood a heaping pile of cards and gifts.
She pointed to the abundance and said, “This is better than Christmas! Y’all have blessed me! Y’all have blessed me so much. You just don’t even know.”
And then she began to cry again.
The next day, I opened the mailbox to find this:
Our sweet mail carrier had written a thank you note to the multitude of families who had given her a treat that day, even taking time to lovingly attach a purple curled ribbon on the outside of every card.
Even though I fully realized that the beautiful outcome of this gesture of kindness was not the part that mattered, I will admit it is nice to know…
It is nice to know that most people want to be a part of making someone’s day.
It is nice to know that children still choose card making and cookie baking over video games and iPads.
It is nice to know how easy it is to touch someone’s life.
It is nice to know parents welcome the opportunity to teach their children the importance of kindness.
It is nice to know the power of many hands coming together toward one goal.
It is nice to know people still write thank you notes.
It is nice to know that little things do mean a lot.
It is nice to know there are still happy endings…even if you don’t always get to see them.
Oh yes, and it is nice to know people still shed tears.
It sure is nice to know that yes indeed, just as I hoped, there were tears.
And they were the happy kind.
If you think this is a worthy message, please click the “share” button below. In your hands, this message holds the power to touch the lives of hundreds of people who are often forgotten and unappreciated. It doesn't take much to spread a little love … whether you see the happy ending or not.
Visit “The Hands Free Revolution” on Facebook for more inspiration and tips on how to let go of distraction and grasp what really matters in life!
Indiana Lori says
Love it!! What a special story!!! This is just wonderful…must link it.
Hokey Pokey Project says
Yes, yes!! It was very hard the first time we did a project that was so anonymous I knew we’d never know the results. I had to remind myself that the point of the Hokey Pokey Project was not to bring smiles to our faces at other people’s reactions. It was simply to find joy in doing things for others and sometimes we just have to trust that the recipients wore the smile we intended for them. (But it’s OH, SO MUCH BETTER when you get something like that note, isn’t it? Oh, my…what a lovely neighborhood you have.)
Rachel Macy Stafford says
Thank you, Deb! You are the queen of random acts of kindness! I am so honored that you see value in my “mini” kindness projects. You have inspired me from the first time I read your blog!