From the staff

Column: A birthday gift built around kindness to others

sspring@newsobserver.comJanuary 31, 2013 

To celebrate my 58th birthday, I jogged 5.8 miles. I felt quite the cool chick having thought of such a novel idea.

But when my friend Amy Shaw celebrated her 51st birthday with 51 acts of kindness, well, let’s just say she ran circles around me.

On Dec. 15, Amy packed her car with several bags of used clothing that were originally intended for Goodwill, along with hats and gloves purchased at a dollar store. She headed out to pick up her friend Karen and then to their destination – Moore Square in downtown Raleigh.

Amy said she had no idea what to expect in passing out the items to homeless people in the park.

Her first surprise was, as she describes it, “the approach.” As soon as the park folks caught a glimpse of two women heading their way with bags, they converged en masse.

Amy confessed that she was a bit scared at first. But as soon as she realized no harm was intended, Amy started handing out sweaters, scarves, and gloves.

Oops! She did not remember that a lacy red bra was in one of the bags. A small, middle-age woman snatched it with lightning speed, as if it were cash. She held it tight and exclaimed, “I have never owned a bra my whole life!”

‘I just want food’

But food was the item of high demand – and no supply. One man looked at Amy and sadly said, “I just want food, man.”

She jumped in her car and left, then returned quickly with McDonald’s gift cards and 30 cheeseburgers.

They went as fast as that red bra.

Amy estimates that she touched about 40 lives at Moore Square.

Because she has aging parents, Amy said her heart steered her to the next stop – a home where elderly people live. She had put together bags of lotions and good-smelling things for the women, and she had decks of cards for the men.

Smiles, nods, tears

As Amy walked slowly through the halls, she looked into each open-doored room, she said. When a smiling face greeted her, she entered and handed out a goodie bag.

What she got in return were smiles, thank yous, nods, a few tears.

She knows that in several rooms she was the only visitor some had that day, or week, or even longer.

Amy thought next of close, just-like-family friends. She shopped for each one’s favorite foods and drinks – sushi, gluten-free chips, special wines, desserts.

Her day ended with a heartfelt celebration.

Amy met her goal on her personal Acts of Kindness Day. She wanted to spend the money she got for that 51st birthday to feed the hungry, to visit the lonely and to honor friends.

She guesses there were more than 51 acts of kindness. She lost count.

I was curious and a bit envious after hearing about her day. I, too, wanted to experience this giving.

So last weekend, she and I picked up 30 cheeseburgers and headed to Moore Square. Sure enough, her account was right. Those burgers were gone in no time.

There were no “no” responses to “Do you want a cheeseburger?”

I’m not sure how many times we heard “Thank you.”

Maybe it was 51.

Susan Spring is newsroom administration manager.

sspring@newsobserver.com or 919-829-4860

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