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40 until 40

Uh oh, it’s the BIG 4-0! People enjoyed teasing me about turning 40 on November 3rd of this year and most were surprised to find I wasn’t rattled by it, especially those that knew I didn’t handle 30 so well.  This time I opted to take a different approach for acknowledging this most recent decade.  I decided I would find a way to turn the occasion into a positive experience that I could embrace.

It started on September 26th, exactly 40 days before my 40th birthday.  I called it 40 until 40.  Every day leading up to my 40th birthday, I would post a song on Facebook that was important to me for some reason.  A few of the songs I posted just made me happy, but most of the songs were important to me because they reminded me of someone who had an impact on my life.  In addition to each song, I posted a description explaining who the song reminded me of and why it was on my list.  Some of the people I posted about are family members, of course.  Some represent high school, college and current friendships that have endured over the years.   Some songs represent people that I’ve lost touch with over the years.  That may seem sad, but I believe people come and go from your life for a reason.  They’re what you need in your life at that moment in time.  Its okay to move on, but always be thankful for what that person gave you when you needed it most.  Some of my posts made me laugh out loud, some made me cry as I wrote them, but all made me reflect on how fortunate I’ve been to every one of those people support and love me in my forty years on earth.

I had a lot of positive feedback from Facebook friends on my daily song posts.  People were actually posting that they looked forward to the daily song and were going to be disappointed when it ended.  I had a following!  Now what? Well, let’s kick it up a notch…

I had recognized and thanked my family and friends for their impact on my life. Thenext step would be to find a way to give back to people I’ve never met or who weren’t expecting it and so 40 Random Acts of Kindness Before 40 was born.  I gave myself the last six days prior to my birthday to perform 40 random acts of kindness.  This may seem like a lot of time, but when you work full time (and then some) this is actually quite challenging.  Monday and Tuesday started off well – I performed 12 random acts – taped quarters to the vending machine at work, bought coffee for the woman behind me in line at Dunkin Donuts, made homemade lasagnas and gave them to a church group that distributes frozen meals to senior citizens, among other things.  Thursday I was able to perform a few more acts, but by Friday, I still had 28 random acts of kindness left.   I was little nervous about my ability to accomplish my goal.  But if you know me, you know I’m stubborn – to a fault.  I made a list of ideas and unbeknownst to him, I pulled my retired father into my plan.  We spent that Friday together performing random acts of kindness all over Bucks County.  At first he was a bit hesitant, but by our second stop he was making recommendations on what we should do next.  We left a $20 tip on a $14 breakfast check at a local diner.  We donated a bag of clothes to Full Circle Thrift, the thrift store run by A Woman’s Place.  We gave a bouquet of flowers to a volunteer at Full Circle Thrift and donated cleaning supplies for women getting started on their own again after being brave enough to leave their abuser.  We brought tins of homemade cookies to the local police and fire departments.  We put dollar bills in the children’s books at Doylestown library.  We gave out scratch off lottery tickets to numerous strangers – two of those strangers hugged me.  We donated dog and cat food to the local SPCA.  We gave out $10 Wegman’s gift cards to Wegman’s shoppers.  We ended our day at the Pineville Tavern with a beer and a bowl of soup.  Our last act of kindness was to buy a beer for a retired armed forces service member.

So what did I learn from all of this?  By helping others, even with the smallest acts of kindness, sometimes just a smile, we are reminded to be grateful and thankful for the people and things in our own life.   Everyone has problems.  Everyone has challenges.  But it’s easy to focus on the positive simply by helping others.  Simple acts of kindness CAN and DO make a difference.

The holidays are coming.  Here is my challenge to you, regardless of what you celebrate – Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanzaa – starting December 1st, perform one single act of kindness each day leading up to your chosen holiday.  Get your family involved, get your kids involved.  I promise, it will be worth your while and YOU will make a difference in someone else’s life.


Creativity: A Woman’s Place encourages the creation of meaningful new ideas, interpretations, and rules.*
*excerpt from the Values Statement of A Woman’s Place

Kristin Ortlieb
President, AWP Board of Directors

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