The Kindness Project | A Year in Review by Liz Riggs

Welcome to our first guest blog post here on Story Cast by Liz Riggs. Liz inspired us when she shared her story on podcast episode #28. We knew that we had to have Liz as our first contributing writer for this new series on Story Cast. We are so excited for you to read the story of her last act of kindness in her life changing 365 Acts of Kindness in 2016. You can read more of Liz's experiences over on her blog, Choosing Grace. You can also see more stories of random acts of kindness over on the Facebook page that Liz has dedicated to her nephew who inspired the 365 Acts of Kindness in 2016 challenge. 

The Kindness Project | A Year in Review by Liz Riggs

It’s been two months since I completed a year-long challenge where I pledged to participate in and document 365 Acts of Kindness in 2016.

It’s been two months and I am still processing the hundreds of interactions, the ripple effects of some of those acts of kindness and ALL of the many emotions I experienced as a result of this project.

It’s difficult to summarize everything that happened this year, especially for me, because it takes me so much longer than others to process thoughts, words and emotions.

And so, I will start with the end. My last act of kindness.

#365. Delivered a letter of gratitude and an Irish blessing to the owners of The Castle.

Just a couple of days before December 31st, I made the decision that the last act of kindness should be intentional and thoughtful, more than anonymously leaving a gift card for someone, somewhere. I also wanted to focus on gratitude with this act. I wracked my brain for a few hours and then it came to me…The Castle. One of our favorite places in town, we had gone to dinner there just a few nights before with my dad and step-mom, who were visiting for Christmas. The night we walked in, it was packed with people and the empty tables already had “reserved” signs on them. One of the owners, Kevin, greeted us as he always does, with a warm, genuine welcome and his Irish smiling eyes. He quickly surveyed our group and the remaining tables, and then shifted everything around to accommodate us. We all felt like VIP’s. My dad and step-mom instantly fell in love The Castle too.

During dinner, I turned to my dad and asked, “Doesn’t this place remind you of The Glenway Inn?” The Glenway was a neighborhood establishment just a stone’s throw away from our house where we spent a ton of time when I was a kid. He agreed. I went on to explain that every time I walk into The Castle, it feels like home and that my mom would have absolutely loved the place as she was so proud of her Irish heritage. My dad responded, “Well, why don’t you let them know that? Tell them where you’re from and how this place makes you feel.”

And so, as my last act of kindness, I decided to write a “loem” (letter + poem) and ordered a cute little plaque with an Irish blessing. The plaque arrived just two days later at 3:45pm on New Year’s Eve. I quickly wrapped it up and printed out the loem. When I asked my kids if they wanted to join me for this “momentous” occasion, I only had one taker. Our first-born, Emma, wanted to present this last act of kindness with me. I was happy to have her company.

When we arrived, the other owner, Patrick, greeted us and started looking for a table to seat us. He looked a bit confused when I explained that we were just stopping by to drop off a little something. I was so nervous that I started to stutter and my voice began to crack as I explained the project and how much their place, their graciousness, had meant to me. He put his hand to his heart, said “thank you” and then gave me and Emma a hug. I handed over the little gift bag and bolted for the door before the waterworks (mine) started. Emma followed closely behind.

Moments later, we were back in the car. I took some deep breaths to prevent any further tears from spilling onto my cheeks. Emma sat quietly next to me in the passenger seat. As I pulled out of the parking lot, I was startled by the view in front of us, just beyond The Castle. I stopped the car. The sky was the most spectacular blend of pink (Emma’s favorite) and orange colors. I kept my foot on the brake pedal a couple of minutes longer, knowing I was pushing the time limit with our evening plans and yet not wanting this moment to end. We slowly pulled out onto the road, the sun quickly setting after we did. The moment was over.

The drive back was mostly quiet, except for the radio playing in the background and every once in a while, I would laugh and say, “I cannot believe I actually followed through on a New Year’s resolution!” Emma laughed too. We both knew it was a group effort.

We pulled onto our little street, and as we did, something unexpected happened. The song, “I Hope You Dance” by Lee Anne Womack started playing on the radio. I had not heard that song in years. I looked over at Emma in disbelief. I glanced back at the radio, slowed the car down and took a picture of the radio/clock display as evidence.

“Emma, do you hear this? Is this song really on right now?!” I was giggling and tearing up at the same time. She had no idea what I was talking about, so I quickly explained the significance of “I Hope You Dance” …

Fifteen years ago, my mom was absolutely obsessed with the song; she played it over and over again when she lost her own mother. She even chose to have the song played at my grandma’s funeral (a somewhat unconventional choice at a traditional Irish Catholic mass). There wasn’t a dry eye in the church after that song finished playing.

Later, when I asked my mom about it, she told me that the song came on the radio one day when she was on her way to the hospital when her mother was dying. She explained her interpretation of the song…that her mother would want her to continue to go on after she died…to live life to its fullest…and to keep dancing.

“And…you know how I love to dance, Lizabeth.” She chuckled and I (involuntarily) rolled my eyes…our own familiar dance.

Shortly after Grandma’s funeral, my mom bought the cd for all three of her remaining children. I still have that cd tucked away safely in a box.

As I finished telling Emma about the song, we pulled onto our driveway; I encouraged her to go ahead inside the house. The last few verses were playing, so I turned up the volume and allowed the tears to fall.

The end of the project…

The beginning of a deeper understanding…

A connection to something bigger than myself…

I am home.

This is 365 Acts of Kindness.