Monday, October 28, 2019

You’re invited to celebrate my late husband’s life by being #dammkind to each other

From Saturday's Briefing:

My family and I are hosting a birthday party, and you’re all invited.
You don’t have to RSVP or even drive out to our house because you can celebrate wherever you are.
On Nov. 4, we will remember my late husband with 51 Acts of Kindness, marking what would have been Steve’s 51st birthday. You can join in by performing an act of kindness for a family member, friend, colleague or even a stranger. (Those are some of the most mischievous and fun acts of kindness.)
The tradition began in my attempt to make November more cheerful for my children. On the first birthday without Steve here on earth, about 100 friends and family members met at the neighborhood park to release balloons and notes in memory of Steve. It’s just what 8-year-old Cooper and 4-year-old Katie needed.
I didn’t plan the next birthday well. When Steve would have been 42, there was no gathering or celebration. Just the three of us, a chocolate cake and tears. I vowed then to make 43 better.
In 2011, Cooper, Katie and I hatched a plan to perform 43 acts of kindness, one for each year since Steve’s birth. But we were afraid we couldn’t accomplish that many on our own, so we used social media to ask for help. That year there were more than 400 acts of kindness performed in memory of Steve, and we’ve been celebrating that way ever since.
I offer cards online that folks print in case they want to leave behind an explanation of their act of kindness:
This gift is given in memory of Steve Damm, who would have been 51 on Nov. 4, 2019. His life was cut short by brain cancer, but his legacy continues. Steve loved art and baseball, his family and friends, goofiness and laughter. He loved kindness, and he loved life. I’m happy to share some of that life with you!
And then, because no party is complete without a hashtag — and because it’s a shame to waste a good last name — I add #dammkind for good measure.
For the first time, our little family is divided between Texas and Alabama, as Cooper will be knee-deep in calculus and computer programming on the big day. While Katie and I share kindness in Frisco, Cooper will introduce our tradition to Auburn University.
Most years we bake and deliver the goodies to friends and neighbors. We give small gift cards to teachers. We make donations to our favorite nonprofits. We leave an unexpectedly generous tip at dinner. We deliver flowers to senior centers, asking that they be given to a resident who needs a little sunshine.
Kindness doesn’t have to cost a penny, though. We’ve held doors open, picked up debris along the greenbelt and walked newspapers from the sidewalk to the front porch up and down our street. Some people choose to spend time with someone who’s lonely or ill. Others clean out closets and donate clothes and supplies to people in need.
There are thousands of people in Dallas who could use an extra dose of kindness this year, as they continue to recover from losses suffered in the Oct. 20 tornados. The North Texas Food Bankthe Salvation Army, the city of Dallas’ emergency assistance fund and the Dallas Foundation are all accepting donations to help with immediate needs or rebuilding. Many area churches and denominations are coordinating efforts, as well.
Strong communities rely on neighbors to share burdens as readily as they celebrate success. Steve’s birthday is my favorite day of the year, thanks to the hundreds of people who embrace the possibilities of kindness and who create joy for others. I would be honored if you choose to join us, too, wherever you may be.
Tyra Damm is a Briefing columnist. She can be reached at tyradamm@gmail.com.

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