So, what the heck does that mean?
Well, to fully explain this I have to go back about a decade and into the middle of the Mojave Desert, Fort Irwin California. It was back in 2010/2011 and I was stationed with my Army husband in one of those places that military families always say “if I ever get sent there, my service member is going alone” or something to that effect.
I actually remember driving down the long, 34 mile lonely desert road with my husband and coming over the final road “summit”, looking down at this dust bowl of a post that I was about to call home for the next 2 years and my husband said, “I am so sorry! Our kids are going to hate me!”
It was at the moment that I said, “it’ll be fine” but clearly thought, “I’m going to freaking hate you”. It was during my first week on Fort Irwin that I remember seeing all these military spouses, almost every morning, running in packs all over post...literally running. Like, they ran for fun. One day I finally got up the gumption to join them and I learned that yes, they did run for fun and they
also would sign up for half marathons and other races all over the area and go on fun girls’ weekends together to get away. So, I drank the Kool Aid and joined the “fun”.
Through this awesome group of ladies I was introduced to an even awesomer (I know that’s not a word but go with me on this) human being named Kevin Childre. Kevin was a Navy EOD officer who would work on Fort Irwin during the week and commute back to San Diego to be with his wife on the weekends. He heard about this crazy group of running spouses on post and offered to help us train for our races. He would meet us at 5am and conduct speed training sessions on the track, he would cheer us on and encourage us from the side of the road during our long runs and give us advice to properly train and not hurt ourselves.
Through it all, Kevin had his huge smile and positive attitude, even though some of us weren’t the most pleasant people in the wee-hours of the morning. Kevin didn’t do this for money or for recognition, but just because he enjoyed helping people. For every positive, helpful Kevin story we have, there are literally 100s of stories out there from countless other people that Kevin’s kindness impacted.
Unfortunately, while on a 630 mile bike ride from San Francisco to San Diego in an effort to raise money and awareness for the EOD Warrior Foundation, Kevin crashed and suffered a severe brain injury and died in May of 2015.
Now, through the voice of his best friend, his Goldendoodle Tucker, and the efforts of his wife, Margaret Lum, Kevin’s kindness lives on everyday but especially every year on his birthday. Tucker and Margaret ask people on November 3rd to go around living life as Kevin would, being kind. They have a
hashtag of #RandomActsOfKevness hoping that those that knew Kevin and those that didn’t, will spend the day honoring him.
Myself and the amazing friends I made out in Fort Irwin spend this day remembering the sweet running “coach” that took so much time to make our lives a little brighter out the middle of the desert. My hope in sharing this story with the Inspire Up crowd is that you too will join us this November 3rd and spread some intentional kindness in memory of Kevin.
About the Author:
A steadfast supporter of the military community, Yvonne Coombes brings almost
two decades of expertise to the Operation Deploy Your Dress (ODYD), a 501(c)3 that re-deploys new and gently used formal wear to military dependents. As the Chief Executive Officer and Co-founder, Coombes manages the company's overall resources and operations.
In March of 2020, Yvonne was named the Armed Forces Insurance Army Spouse of the Year and was also named the Northern Virginia Heroes at Home overall Honoree in 2019 for her hard work and dedication to the military community as a whole. Yvonne loves to show everyone that her efforts about more than a dress. She is working hard to uphold military traditions, encourage camaraderie, build community, and boost morale. Currently, Coombes calls Fort Carson, Colorado home. She and her husband (Mike), an active duty Army officer, have two sons (Jakob and Jackson).
Hope is Absolutely Why We See Holiday Displays So Early
By Sarah Seweryniak
It happens every year. When we should be enjoying the final days of summer, Christmas decorations seem to be exploding out of aisles in retail stores.
I was on the phone with my friend talking about how it seems each year the displays come out earlier and earlier. When COVID-19 hit, we were starting to take bets on if it would happen sooner. The truth is, when I hear people complain about it, a piece of me giggles inside, probably because I’ve been planning my winter display since July.
While it’s clear corporations are trying to capitalize on the season of giving, I do not think that’s the answer to why we see the Christmas decor so early. I think the market is taking advantage of something greater. It’s our need to fulfill ourselves with the magic of the season. It’s the one time of year where there are feelings of enthusiasm and excitement. As one year gets ready to close, another is about to start. There are feelings of promise and optimism during this enchanting time.
As summer slips away, we start noticing the days are getting shorter. Night falls upon us earlier and earlier. Everything is starting to go dormant. It’ll start to get colder.
It makes sense to want to add warmth to our long winter days and nights. A strand of illuminated lights offers a glow, and the added sparkle creates a beautiful and magical winter wonderland. It is making a season of light and hope when otherwise, it would be a season of darkness.
As we age, we tend to lose that childhood wonder we once had with the year’s most magical time. When we start seeing decorations pop up, our inner child is trying to break out somewhere deep inside us—trying to find the hope and wonder of yesterday. As we age, don’t we wish for the simplicity of our youth?
I know I’ve have often found myself slipping away to memories of simpler times. Inspiration is needed now more than ever as we are in the middle of a global pandemic with COVID-19. Our essential workers have worked tirelessly. Families have had to cope with a new normal. Whether it’s dealing with the illness first-hand or adjusting your lifestyle with children remote learning. We’ve also seen the country in unrest. We’re in a time where kindness is needed.
Each time our communities face tragedy, we often see house light bulbs replaced with a specific color to either honor someone or a cause. Countless times we’ve seen family and friends support loved ones who are elderly, immunocompromised or were stricken with COVID-19 by buying food and supplies. The impact of a simple act of kindness is significantly felt in a community. When the effects of COVID-19 were first felt in the United States, many people started to place Christmas displays in their yard to inspire hope and kindness, because we are all in this together.
If there is one thing that I have learned in my life, we all have a purpose and a reason for being here. Whether it’s volunteering with an organization you believe in, or just putting a smile on someone’s face - your life is an opportunity where you can make a difference.
We are not the same people we were at the start of the year. A world that moved very fast has started slowing down. Proof that even in trying times, there is good. Next time you see a Christmas display before its season, look at it a little differently. Instead of cringing, let it fill you with warmth, optimism and inspiration.
About the Author:
Sarah Seweryniak was born and raised in Buffalo, New York. She received her bachelor’s degree in Communication Media Arts from Hilbert College. Sarah’s writing career has spanned over a decade, writing for local newspapers and online publications. She loves writing pieces that connect, inform, and inspire. In her downtime, she loves spending time with her husband and daughter. Read more of her work at www.sarahseweryniak.com
You can follow Sarah on Facebook and Twitter by clicking the icons below!
When you are kind, YOU feel good.
Let’s talk about times that we show kindness and how it makes us feel. Have you ever pulled a child off the angel tree at your local Walmart or Church? How did it feel when you were out shopping for your ‘angel’? How did you feel when you thought about how much they would enjoy their new treasures?
What about preparing a meal for your neighbor who just came home with their new baby. Did you try a little harder on your meal prep? Did you think back to when you were just bringing home your children? When you stopped by their house to bring your meal, did you enjoy those smiles. How did you feel as you walked or drove away? Content? Happy?
When is the last time you bought that perfect gift for your spouse? When was the last time you did something truly awesome for them? Did you wash their car? Buy them the perfect gift? Maybe you picked them up a drink at a candy bar at the gas station on the way home from work?
How did you feel when you were serving others? I bet it felt good! My mom has a weird way of describing this feeling… so I ask: did you get a big warm fuzzy feeling on the inside?
When you are kind to others, THEY feel good.
How do you feel when someone does something for you? Do you think those on the receiving side of your kindness feel good when you share kindness with them? That child you bought Christmas presents for… How do you think that made them feel? That family you prepared a meal for… do you think you made them smile? Do you think they appreciated not having to worry about shopping, cooking, etc. that evening?
How happy was your husband when you bought him that new watch? How happy was your spouse when you washed their car? What about that time you brought home that cool new game for your child?
Let’s talk about the ripple effect,
Now… what do you think happened with each of those situations? Do you think they kept that feeling of happiness and contentment to themselves or do you think they shared it?
Often, when someone does something nice for us, it causes us to want to give that feeling away. Do we only do something nice to the person who did for us, or do we pay it forward and show kindness to others we encounter? Just like a ripple in a pond, I feel with each one act of kindness, there is a multiplying effect further reaching than we could imagine.
What if we were all kind?!?
Close your eyes with me and imagine… well, wait til you are done reading - then close your eyes and imagine.... if we were all kind, every single one of us putting only kindness out into this world. Kindness ripples could stretch anywhere. Affecting anyone and everyone in their path. So I ask you this - what would it look like if your entire household, your entire street, your entire community, showed kindness to everyone… for one day, for one week, for one year, forever?
It's a beautiful vision.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Brianna Grace Cooley is military child focused on tackling suicide prevention through mentoring children of all ages to discover their purpose through community service, leadership, and showing kindness. As a leader with Every Warrior Network, Brianna serves as Director of the Lil’ Warriors Kindness Krewe where she mentors children and provides parents and teachers with tools and daily challenges to promote kindness and service. As the Barksdale AFB #GivingTuesdayMilitary ambassador and team lead Brianna lead the effort to send over 7,000 holiday cards to airman at BMT for Christmas 2019 and collected over 1,500 food items for our local backpack ministry for elementary aged students facing food insecurity, ultimately achieving 10,000 acts of kindness. Brianna is an honors student, a cheerleader, and a tennis player. She serves in leadership with Student Council, S2S, FCA, and JROTC at school and is an active member of Team RWB. A huge part of Brianna’s life is developing initiatives to address problems she has discovered in her communities. To date she has created 4 initiatives, earned 5 Presidential Volunteer Service Awards (Gold), was recently recognized as a Top 5 Air Force Military Child of the Year finalist, and has appeared on several podcasts, local televisions segments, and panels.
The power of simple words...
It was seven in the morning and I had laced up my running shoes and pulled my hair back in to a tight ponytail. I had my running app open and ready to go as I grabbed my wireless headphone from the charger and headed out the door on a Saturday morning. I won’t say that I was overly excited about this morning run. In fact, I was kind of dreading it.
You see, just 4 weeks earlier my family tackled another summertime move (number 7 and our 3rd in the 4 years) with the U.S. Air Force. Only this one was considerably different. As we are all well aware of, there is this global pandemic happening at the moment. When you add that and all the Covid-19 precautions to the chaos that already is a military move, you almost certainly have a recipe for feeling all the BIG emotions.
Moving is hard as it is. Leaving relationships behind, the actual moving part, the discovery of all the things that were damaged, lost, or broken during the unpacking process and how to make them fit in to the new house, registering kids for school, learning a new city, state, and then the trying to make new friends part… when you put it all together it doesn’t matter how solid of a human being you may be, at some point you feel isolated.
This year was no different, except that because of a 14-day restriction of movement that we had to complete once we arrived combined with the fact that everyone is staying home, it has been magnified and I have felt more isolated and alone than I have ever before. Finding ways to combat that isolation and loneliness, I won’t lie, it has been really tough. Even more so when I think about the fact that both kids have been home with me, full time, for 5 months now. What I do know is that I always feel better when I move my body.
So, this particular Saturday morning I knew I needed to get out and move for my physical health and to clear my head but.... I was not really motivated to do it.
I started down the driveway and around the first turn and I ran in to a couple out for a morning walk. They smiled and said hello as we passed each other at an acceptable social distance. I kept going, still dreading the next 28 minutes that I had planned to be moving. About a quarter of a mile later I passed a mother and daughter out for their morning walk with their four-legged canine friend and they smiled and gave me a cheery “Good Morning” as we passed each other, to which I replied with an excited “Good Morning to you too!” and we went on our separate ways.
Another half-mile down the road I exchanged a simple smile and a quick runner’s wave to another 30-something mama who had for sure escaped the Saturday morning crazy just like I had to grab some alone time with the pavement. It was about this time that I realized my mentality about this run was changing. Another half mile later and I come upon a mom out walking with her two kids, and I blurt out, in between inhales and exhales, “GOOD (inhale) MORNING!” She cautiously looks at me with that “this lady is crazy” face and then it happened. In a fraction of a second, her facial expression went from “crazy lady” to a grin a mile wide that said, “thanks for seeing me.”
You see, what had happened was that the first 5 people I had passed on my run blessed ME with a positive gratitude. And by the time I got to the mama with her two kids, I wasn’t waiting for someone to say something to me, I was energetically blurting out a “GOOD MORNING.” I was no longer dreading being on that 3 mile run and I was passing on positivity to someone else. Since that run, I have had the family out walking, biking, and scootering many times. One of my kids the other day said, “Mom, I really like that when I wave or say hi to someone here they say it back” (insert my heart melting into a puddle of mush riiiiiiight here).
These small things: a simple wave, a caring smile, a cheery “Hello”, a “Good Morning” are what can be the difference maker in someone’s day. They can completely re-frame your sense of self and belonging. These pleasantries, no matter how small they seem, can revolutionize a person’s attitude or experience and make them feel seen.
Even more simply put: words are kindness in action.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Cat Vandament is the 2019 Armed Forces Insurance Scott Air Force Base Spouse of the Year and the 2018 AFI Fairchild Air Force Base Spouse of the Year. She was born and raised in Coppell, Texas where she met her high school best friend and married him after he graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy and her from Kansas State University. Cat is a mom of two, a pilot’s wife, a public speaker, and an infertility warrior. As an adoptive mom and former teacher, Cat has taken her passion for teaching outside the classroom, to educate and advocate for families that have journeyed through infertility and are navigating the adoption process. She is taking it all one step further and is currently pursuing a Master of Social Work degree with the University of Central Florida.
To learn more about Cat, follow her on Facebook or Instagram below -- or shoot her an email to say hello!
2020...Whoa…am I right?
Inspire Up was launched on April 1st, 2020 - after our absolutely life changing experience leading the Giving Tuesday Military campaign. When we reached 2.5 million people with intentional acts of kindness on December 3rd of 2019, we just knew that our mission couldn’t be limited to just one day each year.
We wanted so much more.
In our quest to figure out what was next, one of our epic and amazing Kindness Warriors messaged us and suggested the hashtag, #GivingAlways and that quickly became our new mantra.
We had found our purpose; Inspire Up was born.
Kindness without boundaries or limits was going to change the world, we were sure of it.
Then, COVID-19 came on the scene. Looking back on this year, my best analysis without getting into the thick of things is that everything is a bit bananas. I so long for last year, when we all had a sense of normalcy and knew exactly what the mission at hand was. This year has been rampant with fear, anxiety, strife, divide and hurt. Suddenly, our call to kindness had an urgency to it - lifting one another and getting back to that deep sense of community.
I find myself searching out pockets of love and light on social media in spite of so much anger/discourse on the general feed. I dive into those happy videos of golden retrievers and Panda Bears so I can smile on my most stressful days. But it is the stories of inspiration, kindness and compassion that bring me back to center - giving me hope that yes, everything will be okay.
A few weeks ago I had breakfast at our local beach. As I was walking to my car, I saw a gentleman playing cornhole in the sand and his shirt caught my eye. The shirt read: “Being Kind is Cool”. I left my car and dug down deep, because how could I have choose to let that sign from the universe pass me by? I quickly introduced myself to my fellow Kindness Warrior and asked if I could take a picture with him. He kindly obliged; and that moment changed my whole day.
It inspired me to go on a Quest for Kindness. What moments of kindness was I missing because I wasn’t truly looking for them? How could I purposefully search out kindness to shape my day and that of others?
On the way home I passed a roadside library, part of Little Free Library nonprofit organization, and turned my truck right around. HARD.
I just had to meet the owner! Yes, at this point my kids most definitely thought I was nuts after my antics at the beach and now this! The woman running this local passion project was just lovely and definitely a spot of inspiration for our community. I hope to share her story with our audience in the next several weeks.
It was incredible to me that in pondering the events of that morning, how changing my mindset allowed these opportunities that I wasn’t expecting to move into the forefront of my day, all because I was intentionally seeking out positivity, light and hope.
Those were the favorite moments of the day, hands down.
If you have followed Inspire Up and watched any of our Facebook lives, you will hear me say “kindness is the currency of love”. It's one of my favorite sayings. I truly believe it will be the force that heals and unites us all - especially after so much division. One voice in a crowd is lonely, and quiet, but if we join together our voices will sound like a chorus of love.
I desperately want YOUR Voice and I want to hear YOUR stories! Let’s light this world up…together.
Want to help me curb my Golden Retriever and Panda video habit? Ready to fill our social media with inspiration? If you are a kindness warrior, then you are exactly who we have been looking for. If you are interested in writing for our blog, (which will be filled with stories of hope, kindness and community building) click here and email me... right now. Together, we'll make the world kinder.