In my blog hopping this morning, I landed at Carmi's blog, as I am wont to do many mornings a week (and often evenings, too, as I check to see if he's posted more than once in a day) and his "About Me" blurb caught my eye. I've looked at it a dozen times, yet this morning something clicked in my brain, a memory that I tend to dig out of the recesses of my mind several times a year.

I believe strongly in random acts of kindness, and know we can all do a better job making our planet a happier place to live.

(Go on. Go over there and peek, read his post for today. I'll be here when you get back.)

So, hey! My brain still works.

This time of year people all over are engaged in random acts of kindness; one person empties his pocket change into a red kettle; one person buys a bag of groceries and places it in the Food Donation bin by the door; someone else buys a cart load of toys and hands it over to the Marines standing next to the Toys For Tots bin outside the WalMart entrance.

It occurs to us to do simple things for others this time of year; sometimes the act occurs without a lot of thought. We see the red kettle, we automatically reach for the change. That it's often a remote act doesn't lessen the impact--those simple gestures add up and make a difference in someone else's life.

Like last year--heck, almost exactly last year, on Dec 11--when I was standing in front of a vending machine, fishing for nonexistent quarters in my pocket, this guy that just bought himself a soda, gave me 2 quarters so I could get one, too. That made a difference to me. It might not be up there with curing cancer or bringing about world peace, but it was a kind gesture that stuck with me.

But when I was at Carmi's blog this morning, reading his blurb, I remembered something that made a huge impact in our lives. A very simple gesture, a random act of kindness that has likely been long forgotten by the person who touched our lives, but provided us with a jaw dropping moment that kept on giving.

The Spouse Thingy and I--very newly married, living on 10 cent boxes of generic mac and cheese and boxes of blueberry muffins sent in care packages put together by my mother in law (ha! Be jealous. She's my MIL and not yours, so nyah nyah nyah, :::sticking out my tongue:::)--were standing in line at a Safeway in Provo, Utah. We normally didn't shop there, because the generic mac and cheese was 12 cents instead of 10, but they had this thing where you got a stamp for every $5 you spent, and if you saved enough of the stickers, you could get a dinner plate for free.

These were nice plates, too. Yes, we owned plates, but only a couple of them, and when you have to choose between food and dinner plates, you buy food. But we really wanted those plates.

So there were were, counting out what was essentially small change to buy a few boxes of mac and cheese, and some vegetables, a woman walked up and asked us if we were collecting those stamps. And when we said yes, she reached into her purse and handed us several sheets of them.

Enough stamps to get an entire set of plates, 8 of them.

She handed us the stamps, saying she wasn't going to use them, and walked away. She essentially gave us an entire set of dinner ware, and walked away with only a suprised thank you.

This woman never knew what that simple random act of kindness meant for us.

Sure, we would have done just fine eating off the same couple of (very cheap) plates for the next few years. We eventually would have collected enough stamps to get one or two plates, and we would have been happy with that. But instead, two almost-starving college students were able to go home with this gift...more than stamps, more than plates.

In the thumbnail version of this picture it's just a couple of sheets of stamps that got us some free plates. But in the full sized image, the progressive JPG scanned at 1200 dpi... That I've never forgotten it says alot. Those extra pennies we were spending to get those stamps added up; when you're living on $2.25 an hour and only working part time because school is the Main Job, pennies matter.

Pennies add up to extra boxes of macaroni and cheese that come in plain white boxes with black lettering. Pennies mean you can actually put the right amount of milk in the mix. Over time, pennies mean you can buy a pound of hamburger, even if it is 25% fat.

When the Boy moved into his own apartment, just before we moved to Ohio, we still had those plates to give to him. Having those meant he didn't have to scrape together anything to buy his own. When he and his roomates parted ways, he passed them on to someone else.

And thusly did that one simple act live on.

One tiny thing...you never know where, or if, it will end.

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