The Zoo

I always ask friends and family to perform a Random Act of Kindness (RAK) on March 7th and this year was the 8th Anniversary of Lauren’s passing.  They never fail to accept the mission… to make my heart happy and brighten the day of the person/s who receives their act of love and kindness.  I heard from several friends and the ways they “showed the love” was as unique and various as they are.  Andrea gave homemade peach jam to her co-workers.  Denise put a beautiful plant in her local park.  Elizabeth blew debris off her neighbors driveways and sidewalks.  Ben donated to an organization that helps young mothers and babies.  Can you imagine the smile on the faces of those who benefited from these fabulous acts of kindness and love?  I can.  I know there were more RAK’s that went unspoken, I had some too, and those are just as awesome and special as the ones I heard about.  Thank you all for spreading love and kindness.

 

 

By the time it came to me, on March 7th, it was too late to implement my RAK.  I didn’t make it out to the Ellen Trout Zoo in time before they closed…so I went the next day.  As it turns out it was the perfect day to go.  It was a beautiful, sunny, spring day.  I noticed lots of families, at the zoo, enjoying their outing.  I went to the ticket window and told the young woman there I wanted to pre-pay for some admissions, some RAK’s for people entering the zoo, in memory of my daughter.  She thought that was a wonderful idea and wanted me to write down my name and info so she could tell the Zoo Directors about this.  I told her that I knew them, Charlotte & Gordon Henley, as I had volunteered at the zoo before and my kids participated in camps there.  As I was writing down my info, a family of 3 generations walked up…3 young children, 2 parents and 2 grandparents.  I nodded to the woman that I wanted to pay their admission.  She gave them a total and said it was already paid for by me, in memory of my daughter.  I really didn’t want them to know but it was ok that she told.  They thanked me, said what a great way to honor her memory and gave their condolences.  We chatted a few more minutes and I learned they were from out-of-state.  I took a family picture, inside the zoo, so everyone could be in the shot. (you know from past posts, that it is my “thing” to do for others)  The kids were making “silly faces” and I made a deal with them.  “Let me take two, nice smiling faces… then we could do the silly one”.  It worked and of course the kiddo’s liked the “silly face” picture better because the whole family had a goofy face going on.  I went back to the window and chatted with the woman about Lauren.  There was money left over for more families to enjoy their day at our fantastic little zoo and that made my heart happy.

 

For many years the Ellen Trout Zoo has done educational summer camps for elementary kids, Zoo Safari, to learn about animals and conservation.  I helped with those camps when I was an Active in Jr League and it was one of my favorite “jobs”.  When you are in Jr High you can apply, for a limited number of spots, to be a Jr. Zoo Keeper for a 2 week period during the summer.  The kids get to work with the animals, feed them and go with the staff “behind the scenes” in the habitats.  Both Lauren and Taylor enjoyed participating in both of these programs that the Henley’s started.  They have been Directors at the zoo for over 30 yrs and our zoo has won many awards from their and the staff’s hard work.

Lauren hated bugs/insects that flew… like june bugs, “skeeter eaters”, moths, bumble bees…pretty much any flying bug.  She would run, scream and do anything, including push someone in the bug’s path, to get away from the bug…lol.  In Jr Zookeeper you got to pick two areas you wanted to work in and one of her choices was always the Snake House.  That girl played with snakes, non-poisonous and under supervision,  but was so afraid of flying bugs….go figure….lol.

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Not a snake but a live tarantula in her hand.

 

 

Blessings Bags (RAK’s)

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A friend, Nina, shared this on her Facebook page and I had to share this wonderful Random Act of Kindness idea.  Blessing Bags to keep in the car when you pass homeless people…or someone who is in need.  Items that are helpful, needed and easy to pass out.  Something special you can do with the kids to teach them about caring for others.  Or get a Sunday School class, group of friends or community organization together and assemble and pass out the bags.  What a great way to remember the reason for the season…all year long.

BLESSING BAGS
INGREDIENTS:
Gallon size Ziplock bags
chap stick
packages of tissues
toothbrush and toothpaste
comb
soap
hotel size shampoos and lotions
trail mix
granola bars
crackers

nuts, applesauce and fruit cups

juice boxes

any single size serving items that don’t require a can opener

napkins and plastic spoons, forensic giving food items that need them
pack of gum
band aids
mouthwash
coins or a few dollars  (could be used to make a phone call, or purchase a food item)
hand wipes or a small bottle of hand sanitizer
you could also put in a warm pair of socks 

stretchy gloves and hand warmers

a pocket rain poncho

tampons (for women)
The ideas could be endless!  They can even use the bag after the contents are gone.
Assemble your choice of items in the bags and throw in a note of encouragement, a blessing, scripture verse, etc.  Seal the bags and stow in your car…next time you see a need…you are ready.

 

This will be my next RAK in memory of Lauren…I hope you join me.

Charm Magazine Article

Charm Mag Oct-Nov 2013 (bigger pic)The Lauren Alston Foundation is featured in this month’s October/November issue of Charm magazine, in the Get Involved section.  We are very pleased to be a part of this wonderful magazine and to be given the opportunity for more people to learn about  LAF and our out reach and goals of the Foundation.

Thank you Melissa Heard for your article.  You can pick up a copy of the Charm around town or you can read the whole magazine online.

Below is a link to the magazine and we are on Pages 28 & 29:

http://lufkindailynews.tx.newsmemory.com/special.php?pSetup=lufkindailynews_charmmagazine&date=20130926

Paying it forward…In action

  • We received several notes and messages from friends and family who performed Random Acts of Kindness (RAK) in memory of Lauren…they made us laugh… smile… and they warmed our heart.  Every single act, be it big or small, can have a huge impact on someone’s day or even life…and maybe even yours too.        

    Shelby Portwood and Lauren

    Shelby and Lauren

    A sweet note I received from a good friend of Lauren’s…Shelby Portwood.

    * I have to tell you about how special and wonderful your daughter is.  Yesterday, I was trying to think of an awesome random act of kindness, and all day I just couldn’t decide what to do.  I had a massage scheduled and just decided that I would leave the masseuse a nice tip.  A few hours later I was sitting at the bar, in the restaurant that I work at, when out of the blue the masseuse and his wife came in and had dinner.  My friend/co-worker waited on them; she’s a single mom of two who works two jobs.  She came over later to tell me about this nice couple who left her an awesome tip, just when she needed it.  Paying it forward, in action.  I know a lot of sadness comes from not having her physically here, but I believe, wholeheartedly, that her spirit and her kindness can still touch even those who didn’t get the chance to meet her.*

    Some of the posts I received on RAK’s done in Lauren’s memory are:

    Roy A.  ~ I sent cards to cheer some suffering folks!!! Love u Suz!! and Bryan

    Ben O.  ~ I’m taking my class on a charity walk today to benefit victims of the earthquake in China…and the sun is shining!

    *Ben is a 1st cousin to Lauren, who is a teacher living in Hong Kong, and he also participated in Outward Bound Adventure Race…a test of brains and brawn, where the participants ran, swam, kayaked and answered quick-fired questions…on the 15-19 km race around Hong Kong Island.  Monies raised are used to help underprivileged groups take part in outdoor and adventure programs.  Ben said…”I ran faster…for Lauren”.                          

    Ben Owens in Outward Bound Adventure Race 2013

     Ben is on the far right… “006B”

    John J.  ~ Giving Heaven booklet to several recent grieving family members.

    Andrea W.  ~ Left pennies last night at the horse, sent a surprise to Georgia for Chase, and working on another one right now.
    *Andrea is a 2nd cousin to Lauren, who lives in Colorado, and for several years now she and her sweet daughter, Lianna, randomly leave pennies at the supermarket “horse ride” so other children can ride for free…imagine those kiddos squeals at finding pennies for a free ride on the horse…makes me smile…what a fun RAK….wish we had penny horses in Texas.

    Andrea, Kevin & Lianna
    Please send me a message when you perform a RAK in Lauren’s memory…we would love to hear the “who, where and why” of your act.  Thank you for continuing Lauren’s legacy of reaching out to others.

Random Acts of Kindness

Yesterday was the 3 year anniversary of her physical death…and I chose to celebrate her life…I chose to not let the sadness of the day suck me under…to the dark waters…I chose not to spend my day mourning and crying…I do that enough already.  I wanted it to be a day of smiles…laughter… and Random Acts of Kindness….aka: RAK’s…I wanted to make others smile…and laugh…so I could…and hopefully Lauren would too.

I started my day by thinking of Lauren and what she loved…what made her happy…made her smile.  Lauren enjoyed older folks…she was good with them…listening to their stories…playing games with them.  Some people have a gift for that…the patience…the understanding…the knowledge of when to listen and when to make them laugh.  So my first RAK was to buy some single, long stem roses…I wanted to share the beauty of the roses…the beauty of my rose.  I took a dozen yellow…a dozen pink and white…to a local nursing home.  As I went through the front door…right there…waiting…was a little, gray-haired woman in a wheelchair.  She said “Oh what beautiful roses you have”…and I said “Yes ma’am they sure are”…I pulled 1 yellow rose from the bunch and handed it to her saying…”This is for you…have a beautiful day…from Lauren”…her face lite up…she smelled it… and she thanked me profusely.  That was enough for me…that face…that smile.  I took the rest to the nurses station and asked them to please pass them out to anyone who needed their spirits lifted today…she said they would be happy to.  I didn’t explain why…I didn’t tell…I didn’t want it to be about my sadness…  my loss…but about Lauren’s smile and beauty…I also didn’t want the recipient to feel sadness for my loss…only the happiness and joy of getting a beautiful flower.  I didn’t have to see the end results…of the 23 others who received a rose…it lifted my heart…made me smile…to see that one and know it was multiplied.

Lauren loved animals…and we have always had a pet…usually a dog…usually two at a time…lol.  While she was at college…living on her own…she missed have a pet…someone to snuggle and play with.  One house she lived in with 2 other girls…one of them had a cat.  Now Lauren was allergic to cats…but she wasn’t gonna let that stop her from moving in…she said she would just keep her bedroom door shut and the cat out.  Well…that didn’t last long…she couldnt take it and the cat couldn’t either…he snuck in or forced his way in…to her room and her heart.  It was a kinky- haired cat that was supposed to be non-allergenic…and soon he was sleeping in her room…on her bed…on her clothes on the floor.  She loved it…she had a furry pet friend again.  Lauren had just moved out of that house the week before she died…she moved in with her grandparents to save some money before graduating…and Cosmo…yes, that was is name…Cosmo missed her terribly…keep looking for her…going in her room…meowing.   So my second RAK was to take a huge bag of dog food and cat food to the local animal shelter.

My third RAK…I took an apple pie to the front office of the RV park we stay in while we spend our 6 months a year in Fredericksburg.  They had been so kind to us…sending a beautiful plant..when they heard the news of her death…even though we had only just started staying there…and they didn’t know her.  I’m sure they didn’t know what the day was…but I wanted to make them smile…with a piece of apple pie…so I left it in the break room for all to enjoy.

My last RAK is still in progress…it’s a roll of pennies.  I plan to leave them in places…when I “feel the need”…maybe on the pavement…on a counter…on the floor.  You see I hope it will be the “penny from Heaven” that someone needs that day…whether it ends up being the “one” they needed when checking out at the store…or the “one” that is a sign from their loved one who has gone on before them…that they are loved.  I remember one day talking with my friend…who is also my nail tech and was giving me a manicure…about Lauren and her life…because she knew her too.  I was telling her about the “God winks” I had been getting and told her they were kinda like “pennies from Heaven”.  I can’t remember for sure if she had heard of that phrase before…but I told her the meaning behind the words.  We continued to laugh…and cry… talking about Lauren…and when I left and got to my car…there were 2 pennies on the running board of my car.  There was no “reason” for them to be there…and no one, who had been in hearing distance of us…had left the salon.  I started crying again…and had to go back in and show Kristal what I had found…”pennies from Heaven”…one for her…one for me.

RAK’s don’t have to cost you any money….just a little time….it’s the thought of others that counts.  It could be a smile for someone…a head nodded  in acknowledgment…holding a door open…letting someone go ahead of you in a checkout line…a phone call to check on a friend…a handwritten thank you note to a teacher…it can only cost us just a little time…to make someone smile…laugh…or feel better.  A little kindness goes a long way…it’s healing…it’s heartwarming…it’s happiness… for them…and it sure was for me…I was able to laugh…to smile…to have a happier heart.