About five years ago, when my husband discovered that a bunch of odd symptoms were because of a mass in his brain stem, our family was swamped with kindness.
For a full month, we had no idea what was lurking deep in Steve’s brain. The best-case scenario was lymphoma; worst case was a Grade 4 tumor.
Our incredible community of friends, family and neighbors rallied big time, with homemade meals, gifts to distract our young children, baby-sitting, kind words and cash donations to pay for an avalanche of unexpected expenses.
In that month, when we were still hopeful that the mass of angry cells was somewhat manageable, I had grand plans for repaying the kindness showered on our family.
When Steve was cured, I dreamed, we would throw a huge party, inviting everyone who had gone out of their way to make our lives easier. We would celebrate their kindness in a big way.
Well, that nightmarish month ended with the worst-case diagnosis of an aggressive tumor, and for the next year and a half, Steve, Cooper, Katie and I were sustained by compassionate words and deeds.
And then Steve died. And the three of us left relied even more on the kindness of others. In fact, sometimes we still do.
I never did throw that big thank-you party. Partly because we didn’t get the happy ending that we’d prayed for. And partly because at some point in our journey, I realized that the love surrounding us was free for the taking. No one expected anything in return.
After so much taking, Cooper, Katie and I have also learned how great it feels to share kindness and love. That’s why for the second year, we’re celebrating Steve’s birthday by performing and encouraging acts of kindness.
This Sunday we’re throwing a virtual party for what would have been Steve’s 44th birthday. It’s called 44 Acts of Kindness, and you’re all invited.
Our original goal was for 44 kind deeds to be offered to others — one for every year since Steve was born. Already more than 300 people have joined our Facebook group, committing to at least one act of kindness on Sunday.
The possibilities are endless, as we discovered last year, when I recorded more than 200 good deeds in Steve’s memory. Just a few:
-- A friend picked up newspapers from yards and placed them on front porches — 44 in all — on her morning walk.
-- A friend paid for the next table’s meal at breakfast and gave the server an extra large tip.
-- A family was on vacation in Hawaii, heard about a local food drive, then shopped and donated a bag of groceries.
-- Someone left a $10 Starbucks card on the windshield of a car at Target.
-- More than one family delivered hot chocolate to hard-working crossing guards.
-- One friend took extra time to listen to a friend who was having a rough time. She bought that friend a glass of wine, too.
-- Fire stations all over North Texas received food and desserts.
-- Folks taped quarters to vending machines as a gift to strangers.
-- A friend helped an unemployed friend with a résumé and application.
-- A friend of a friend bought and donated a book to her child’s teacher.
-- A traveling friend bought a bottle of water for an elderly man at the airport.
-- A few people donated blood.
-- A family cleaned out closets and donated coats and blankets to a nonprofit that helps the homeless.
Cooper, Katie and I have big plans for Sunday, fitting in little acts of kindness as we go to church, out to lunch, to a Boy Scouts meeting and a piano lesson. We’d love for you to join us, wherever you are.
Tyra Damm is a Briefing columnist. Email her at email@example.com.