Thirty Days of Kindness

 

Thirty days of kindness (1)

The countdown to the holidays has begun! The options for marking each passing day are seemingly endless.  As children we eagerly awaited our turn to crack open a tiny paper door on our cardboard Advent calendar to reveal that day’s seasonal picture.  Pinterest is chock full of creative ways to craft a countdown system.  And of course there is the ever popular opportunity to consume mediocre chocolate from a grocery store calendar.

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Although each of these options certainly have their merits and I have wholeheartedly enjoyed many of them in the past, I have a different plan for this year. I’m hoping to actively infuse these days with some mindful acts of kindness.  Hopefully my everyday life contains frequent moments of kindness-whether deliberate or by chance. However, I’m planning to step it up a bit for the next few weeks.  Having done something like this a few years ago I know that perhaps I will be the one receiving the greatest gift.

If this sounds like something you’d like to try, here are thirty ideas that might inspire you.  Whether you decide to embrace a daily act of kindness or opt to select just a few, I wish you joy during this season and beyond.

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  1. Buy two poinsettias or other holiday plants.  Keep one and ask the checkout clerk to give the other one to the next person that comes along.
  2. Brush snow off of another car in the parking lot.
  3. Consider offering a small plate of goodies and/or a hot drink to the person that delivers your oil, mail, or packages.
  4. Leave a scratch lottery ticket and a penny in a card on the windshield of a car at the hospital, post office, or other place where you may find especially harried people.
  5. Give someone a compliment.
  6. Send a card to someone you haven’t been in touch with for a while.
  7. Buy a reusable bag and ask the sales clerk to give it to the next person who doesn’t have one.
  8. Download the Charity Miles app and use it to have a donation made to the charity of your choice (from the more than 35 options listed) every time you run or walk inside or outside or bike outside. It’s easier than it sounds.  Just open the app, select a charity, and click the activity that you are doing. One of the sponsoring corporations will donate 25 cents per mile for running and walking and 10 cents per mile for biking.
  9. Be kind to yourself and spend some time doing something that makes you happy.
  10. Return a loose shopping cart to the appropriate spot.
  11. Do a household chore that is normally done by someone else.
  12. Thank someone for their good service.
  13. Contact your local animal shelter to see what you could do to help-donate towels, food, cleaning supplies, or possibly volunteer.
  14. Donate coats to a community program that gives them to those in need.
  15. Take time to enjoy a local holiday concert or play.
  16. Mail a card to a home complimenting them on their holiday decorations.
  17. Make a commitment to reduce single use consumption. Try switching to re-usable grocery bags, bring your own cup when you get a take-out beverage, give plastic wrap alternatives a try, avoid plastic water bottles by using bottles such as S’well bottles, swap cloth napkins for paper ones.
  18. Check with your local school to see if they have a Backpack Program that provides food to food-insecure children on weekends and holidays when they don’t have access to free or reduced school meals. Donate money or items that they suggest.
  19. Don’t take the closest parking spot and enjoy your gift to another driver as well as the gift to yourself of a bit of extra fresh air and exercise.
  20. Consider feeding the birds this winter.
  21. Pick up trash from the side of the road. Recycle what you can.  Redeem returnables and donate that money to the charity of your choice.
  22. Support local artisans when purchasing gifts for others or for yourself.
  23. Make plans to create or donate to a Little Free Library or donate books to another cause.
  24. Refrain from unnecessary negative comments.
  25. Take some time to savor nature-the sky at dawn, the frost patterns on a window, the pattern of leaves on a plant, the smell of the air.
  26. Make a donation to a charity that is meaningful to someone on your gift list. Wildfire relief, animal welfare, environmental causes, world hunger, and organizations that support youth are just a few possible ideas.
  27. Don an ugly sweater or tie some jingle bells to your sneakers and run or walk in a holiday road race that raises funds for a good cause.
  28. Donate your time or special skill to a community event, a neighbor, or someone in need.
  29. Let someone go ahead of you in line.
  30. Share the chocolate from your Advent calendar with a friend.

It beautifies everything it covers.

Up and Down…Travels in Idaho, Running in Utah, and the Arrival of an Angel

When we thought of Idaho, we thought of potatoes.  That was our uninitiated impression of the state. After our great race in Idaho Falls we made a beeline for the Idaho Potato Museum…of course!

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We had no idea that there could be so much to learn about potatoes! This expansive potato masher display was just a fraction of what we found inside.

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As riveting as the museum was we were anxious to get on the road. My childhood friend, Amy, now lives in Hailey, Idaho and had graciously offered to host us at her home.  She had warned us that the drive from Idaho Falls to Hailey offered few options for food or other services so we had planned ahead.  But we were stunned to encounter miles of dramatic lava fields along the way. We had no idea that lava fields are a major part of southern Idaho.

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We encountered Hell’s Half Acre Trail not too far out of Idaho Falls. A walk along the trail was informative but sweltering.

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As we continued our drive we passed miles of what looked like low rolling hills of crumbling asphalt studded with sage brush.  The lava fields were immense.

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Eventually we headed north and the landscape changed to ranch lands and finally mountains.  We arrived at Amy’s in Hailey, a picturesque mountain town south of Sun Valley, in early evening.  Amy had arranged for dinner at The Grill at Knob Hill Inn. Our dinner could not have been more perfect.  Sitting in the garden on that balmy evening we caught up on each other’s lives as we savored a truly fabulous meal.  And if that hadn’t been enough, Amy had also gotten us tickets for the outdoor Sun Valley ice showNathan Chen, the Olympic skater, was the headliner.  Our seats were so close we could hear the skaters’ blades on the ice as they whizzed by just feet from us.

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The show was mesmerizing.  It was a spectacular way to cap off our day which had begun with running our Idaho race, included driving through miles of unexpected lava fields, and ended with a sumptuous dinner and a perfect evening of catching up with our long-time friend.

The next day was spent exploring the area surrounding Amy’s home and Sun Valley.

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We took the gondola to the top of the mountain and enjoyed lunch and fabulous views.  We asked our waiter to snap a photo of us and he rapidly dipped and darted around us and in less than a minute he had taken an array of shots from various angles.  It was obvious that he was well practiced in accommodating guests.

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That evening we were able to walk along the river from Amy’s home into town for dinner.

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Amy pointed out the “heart tree” where people leave heart-shaped river rocks.

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After several wonderful days of reminiscing and touring we hit the road to head to Utah. The drive south to Salt Lake City brought us through acres of ranches and fields of  soybeans and corn.

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Once we arrived in the city we picked up our race packets, had a quick lunch and drove by Temple Square and the Salt Lake Temple. Ready to get to our hotel, I clicked the address link in our hotel confirmation email and we set off. More than an hour later we had repeatedly arrived at an address that was clearly not our hotel. We tried all sorts of routes and maps and finally, feeling utterly exasperated, we pulled over into a parking lot.  We were completely immersed in perusing our maps when suddenly I looked up and a woman had appeared at my window. She said she was about to close up the building at the head of the parking lot and wanted to be sure we hadn’t needed to go in.  We confessed we were lost and were just trying to figure out how to get to our hotel.  After we shared the address she assured us we were not far and gave us directions.  We gushed our relief and gratitude and drove off hoping to be at our hotel momentarily. After a few turns we pulled into a gas station to get gas and confirm the rest of the directions. As Mike pumped gas and I checked my phone I glanced up to find our guardian angel standing at my window! Once again, I hadn’t seen her approaching and she had just materialized.  She apologetically assured us she wasn’t stalking us but had second thoughts about the directions she had given us.  I showed her my phone with the hotel address and she informed us that after all of our travels we were not even in Salt Lake City anymore.  Well, that was obviously the first problem!  She gave us new directions and with immense relief we soon pulled into our hotel.  Ironically, a bit later as we were heading out to dinner we passed a gentleman who asked if Mike could assist him with a seat that he was struggling with in his rental car.  Mike worked with him to figure it out and as we continued to the restaurant we were pleased that we had been able to “pay it forward” a bit, too.

We had been surprised to find a Tuesday race in Utah when we had been scanning the Running in the USA website. A midweek race is really helpful when we are trying to run in more than one state on a trip.  We had read that the Deseret News Marathon (which also includes a half marathon, 10k, and 5K) was held on Pioneer Day, which is celebrated on July 24th to commemorate when Brigham Young and his Mormon pioneer followers arrived in the Salt Lake Valley.  It is a BIG holiday! There is a huge parade and lots of celebrating.  On the night before the Twenty-fourth (as we learned they refer to the day) we walked past a liquor store where there were so many customers streaming in, they needed a traffic officer to manage the crowds.

Tuesday morning we left the hotel before dawn. The race website listed a descriptive starting spot but not an address.  Unfortunately, not being locals, finding this location proved elusive.

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Eventually we did track it down but unfortunately it wasn’t until the race was close to starting.  It was clear that our chances of making it through the port-a-potty line before the gun went off were non-existent. Since our 10K course also ran along the marathon course, there were bathrooms along the route.  Problem solved.

The course started with an invigorating downhill stretch.  The pastel early morning sky against the dark mountains was beautiful. I felt great! And then I didn’t. An unexpectedly long wait to make a pit stop at mile 2 seemed to derail me. When I started up again I had no energy. I began taking walking breaks. Mike valiantly stuck with me despite my snail’s pace.  Even the throngs of spectators who lined the course waiting for the parade to start couldn’t rally me. I truly had never felt this awful in a race. Eventually the finish line appeared and Mike and I joined hands for the last several feet for our traditional finish.   This time although it may have looked charming, that physical connection helped get me over the finish line.  I am seldom pleased with race photos but the shots from this race are epically awful-but accurately depict how I felt at that moment. (The omission of a photo here is deliberate!)

After crossing the finish line I felt so ill it took me a bit to regain a semblance of normalcy.  My typical post-race enthusiasm was tempered by disappointment over my lousy race.

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But eventually I perked up enough to ask Mike to take our requisite awkward documentation selfie. And we bolstered our thoughts by reminding ourselves that we had just completed our run in Utah and our 37th state race, even if it hadn’t turned out as well as we had hoped.

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As we rode the shuttle bus back to the start we chatted about the race and we laughed at my possibly delirious thoughts as I took the bunch of grapes handed to me by gloved young men in black pants and white shirts just past the finish line. First, I thought what a good idea it was to avoid having sweaty runners reach into a pile to pick up their own grapes.  And secondly I marveled that this race was being catered and we were being served by smartly dressed wait staff.  And then when I had looked closer and read their name tags, I realized that we were in Utah and these helpful young men were members of the Mormon church.  Oh, brother!

With our races behind us we were ready to switch into vacation mode.  We packed up the car and traveled south to begin exploring several of Utah’s iconic National Parks.

Quest Race #: 37

State: Utah

Date Run: July 24, 2018

Bottom Line: Spending a few days reconnecting with our generously welcoming friend, Amy, was a true highlight of our trip.  Although my Utah race experience was not what I had hoped for we were happy to have completed another state race and we still have fond memories of our angel.