We invite you to remember your loved ones who have died by committing an act of kindness in their honor. Love, kindness, generosity, sharing, these are the gifts we can give to them.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Make me an instrument of peace...

I am posting this anonymously for a very special person:

She wrote to me:

"I didn't want to publicly post something it feels like praying in public to me. But for Theo......

I visited a disabled person and bought groceries to take to the home.  I cleared the snow from the sidewalk and front porch and while I was there.

I changed the sheets and made the bed, fixed a small meal and walked the dog.

I also called my sister and forgave her for telling a lie about me after she had apologized to me and said, 'I don't know why I said that about you.'

My prayer is to be more forgiving than forgiven and more tolerant of others who are emotionally challenged by life."

I love these kindnesses and knowing who did them and why, makes them even more special to me.  I sent her a message telling her that her kindnesses and her comments about them reminded me of St. Francis of Assisi's famous prayer, that, no matter what a person's religion is, can certainly be applicable in any time and place. If we all prayed this prayer earnestly every day--even if we are praying it to ourselves--the world would be a better place.

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.

Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.


Saturday, December 25, 2010

Being Present...thank you Meg.

I don't want you to think I forgot, because I never forget Theo. He is a part of my daily meditations and prayers: on my way to work or in the few moments when the house is quiet.

This year I was able to help do something special in his and my mom's memory. Our friend Anne Carpenter is dying of lung cancer. She is a special person in the life of our family.  She facilitated the adoption of our oldest boys. She was part teacher, supporter, helper, and a lifeline in a very stressful time in our lives. As an adoptive parent herself, she put her life into her work for over 30 years. We have kept in touch with her throughout her retirement and she has been able to watch all the boys grow.

This past Thursday evening, we went to her house to sing Christmas carols (off-key, of course). The whole family went and she was able to see us all. We only stayed for 10 minutes, but she was laughing at the boys' silly lyrics and singing along with us. What a wonderful memory for our family and hers in what is an otherwise sad situation and having to say goodbye to each other. It was such a small thing but I think it made a lasting example for my boys.  It is so important to seek out opportunities to show how much someone means to you and to be present, especially during difficult times.

much love this christmas season,


Friday, December 24, 2010

More Kindnesses this Christmas Eve....

After my last day of classes walking to my car I found an IPod touch laying on the ground, and picked it up and turned it into VCU.

Also, my grandma asked me to put her Santa on top of her Christmas tree, so I went over after work to put it up and realized she hadn't put up any lights or ornaments yet. I decorated her whole tree for her while she was out playing bridge.

Merry Christmas,

--- Pete

One hot September afternoon I was walking to Rite Aid with my roommate. As we walked down Broad Street, we passed a homeless man who was holding a sign that said it was his birthday. We went into Rite Aid and I felt sad that he was all alone on his birthday, so I bought him a hostess cupcake and a candle. I asked the man behind the counter for some matches and after we checked out, we found the man again, lit up the candle, and we sung him "Happy Birthday". We asked him to make a wish and he said, "I wish that I live to see my 41st birthday." That broke my heart and I wished him well and we headed off.

Every chance that I get, I make sure to bring extra food to the people who are homeless or don't have a meal to eat. I make sure to talk to them as opposed to just ignoring them. Most of them have interesting stories that can change your point of view on a lot of things. They are really wonderful, friendly people and I am blessed to be able to meet them and listen to them.

--- Tori

Giving to her community...

I always think of Theo at Christmas. We donate to a nearby park that is being developed...an old family farm that they are protecting from development to use as a recreational park. The next donation that we will make will be in Theo's name. What a great way to celebrate Theo down in here Georgia.

~Michelle Beaubien Witte

Friends of Mabry Park is a community non-profit, volunteer organization in Georgia where the community is working to promote the development of their beautiful park.

Added by Michelle:

"I got this response today from the guy who is coordinating donations for the park. I wrote him asking about making donations towards specific things in the park in people's names. I would love to do something like this with Theo's name and maybe a dragonfly image. I will let you know sweet love. It will be a place that my children and many others will find a lot of joy...and it backs up to our neighborhood in East Cobb.

He said, 'The Master Plan process will start in January. This will last 3-4 months and when completed, we will have all the elements of the park laid out. At that point, we can start laying out the elements such as benches, trees, playgrounds, etc. and the ability to donate and name an item. We really like this idea and look forward to presenting it everyone in the coming months.' "

How beautiful Michelle~! Thank you so much, what a beautiful gift. So much love to you and your family this Christmas Eve morning.

Love you,

Thursday, December 23, 2010

...to stop and listen

One of the friends I've made since I've started school was having a really rough time with his family during the last two weeks of the semester. Everyone around him was so stressed out and busy with school and finals with no time to stop and listen, and he just
felt really alone at college and like he had no one to talk to. I just sat down with him for a long time and listened to what he had to say. It felt good to be there for someone when they thought they had no one to talk to because that's what I'd want someone to do for me. Happy Holidays!
---Christina Diep

In honor of Theo and Julie's Dad~

Karla -
I wasn't sure what I was going to do this year, but I kept waiting for something to present itself. I went to a yoga class that I teach on Tuesday and one of my students had a card for me. It had kind words and a $10 bill in it. I told the student I couldn't accept that money, but she insisted. On the drive home, it hit me, I will take the $10 and put some money with it, and send it to the Central Va Foodbank. While writing the check, I thought of Theo and my Dad; two of the most extraordinary people that I have ever met. I put a return address label with a dragonfly on it.
Happy Holidays to you, Jamie and Lula. I love keeping up with you on Facebook.

Love to you and a Blessed New Year!


The Newest Kindness--From my beautiful friends Pam and JB

Jamie, Karla, Lula-
JB & I live in a somewhat transitional neighborhood- the typical scenario of urban revitalization. Most of our neighbors are wonderful, but there is the one house across the street.... rental, single mom, 5 kids (as far as we can tell). The kids are often a nightmare- throwing rocks, loud music, fighting, teasing their dog- and we have yelled at them so many times over the past couple of years. They are left unsupervised to play in basically the street, and their boredom leads to trouble.
The last time that I yelled at them (they were trying to throw batteries over our house), I had a guilty feeling. I started thinking about how we have witnessed their mother scream and curse at them, and imagining what a lonely, empty life they likely lead. JB commented that the anger and frustration is visible in the eyes of the oldest boy.

We have decided to fill a box with books, toys, journals, etc. and leave it on their front porch on Christmas day. We will probably tag it "From Santa" and definitely give it a dragonfly stamp. Maybe it will be a little beacon of light in what looks to be a miserable home situation.
WE LOVE YOU and will be thinking of you through the holidays.

Hug you shouldahs,

Pam n JB

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

New posts from my girls~

From Jen D'Surney--aka Jen Emory:

"Cece actually did the good deed - I was just the chauffer. She came to me the other day and out of the blue said that she wanted to make cards for the sick kids in hospitals. Just when I think she is an absolute terror she goes and pulls something like this. So we all sat at the kitchen table and made cards for kids in Children's and delivered them. In honor of Theo.

Hugs and kisses and a very Merry Christmas to your family!"
And from Angela Noel Brittingham:
"Merry Christmas! I am so excited that I actually got to see your family in person the other day!! You all look great, and it warmed my heart! 

For Theo this year, I have decided to sign on as a reader with my church and their Spanish community help program. We have a program that helps a mostly Spanish speaking community by providing them with church services, clothes, food, and ESL support. They started a project called Booknet where people volunteer to read to the kids. It had been on my heart to help out with this, but I kept wondering about the time, and how I would be able to do it. When I got your email, I decided to move forward and do it!! 

I will be making calls and setting things up soon. I will be thinking of Theo every time I visit and do my best to help the kids read!

I am always amazed how opportunities to give present themselves around the time of your email. What a wonderful way to represent Theo and share some love. I truly look forward to this every year."

I cannot say how much I love you both Angela and D'Surney. And the best part is that I know that I don't have to say how much I love you for you both to know. 3 snaps and big 'ol Pi Delt triangle.

XOXOX to you and yours.

Caritas Dinner ~

Last Wednesday, our family volunteered with other families who attend Lula's pre-school, St. Thomas Day School, to prepare, serve and share in a meal with local Richmond families who are currently homeless.  St.Thomas Episcopal Church hosts a temporary shelter each year at this time for Caritas, Richmond's largest and most inclusive shelter.  Caritas offers help to many members of the population who are ineligible for services at many other shelters, including adults facing addiction, large families, families with fathers, families with adolescent sons.

Day School families provided breads, salads, lasagnes, fruits, desserts and drinks.  A few of Jamie's students---Elisa, Pooja, and Melissa, as well as Elisa's friend---volunteered to help as well.  Lula had a great time having dinner with some of her friends from school, and meeting some new kids as well. All of us spent time with members of the families recieving help from the emergency shelter.  Lula kept saying, "We're having dinner with the families!"

It is so important to teach our children the importance of giving and sharing with others who need our help,this time of year especially, but all year round. We are very grateful to Caritas and to St. Thomas for giving us this opportunity to give and perform service and kindness in Theo's honor.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Acts of Kindness for Friends

I helped my boyfriend's family get their house decorated and put up lights outside because his dad is a working an electrical job that requires him to travel 2 hours back and forth every day and was too tired to help put them up

---Taylor Nininger.

My suite mate is an art major and has been super overwhelmed. She was having a breakdown because there was no way she was going to finish her art project. In high school I took AP Art two years in a row, in other words I have a passion for art. Her project was due on Tuesday morning. I went to Bowe Street Parking Deck with her and helped her with her project until 6 in the morning. Everyone loved her work and she was so happy and thankful for the support and help. I attached a photo of the work. Pretty awesome huh?

---Ashley Goldman

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Kindness and understanding

Please go to my friend Joanne's blog. Her post on Holiday Miracles is beautiful, and a perfect addition to Theo's Stocking.

Thank you Joanne. (((((Hugs)))))

In all of our childrens' memories.  Peace on Earth.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

It's the Little Things...

I didn't set out to do a kindness when I started talking to a lady in the grocery store last week, but I think what transpired is a beautiful example of how spontaneous kindness can touch everyone involved.  I was at a workshop last Friday and had a lunchbreak.  I needed to pick up some cough drops and some non-perishable grocery things for home, so I went over to Martin's Grocery Store, got what I needed and fixed a salad.  As I was on my way to the check out, a stereo-typical grandmotherly lady--white hair, pink button-down sweater, big purse-- caught my eye and I smiled at her and said, "Hello!" I might have just kept going to the check out, but I felt compelled to turn around and walk back to her.  I said, "How are you today?"
And she told me this story:

"Oh Honey! You know, I am just dying to tell somebody what happened to me just now!"

That sounded interesting. "What happened?"

"Well, when I walked in the door over there," she said, gesturing to the front doors, "a little black girl just came up to me out of nowhere it seemed like, and she just threw her arms around me and hugged me!" She looked around as if she were still searching for her.

 "That is so sweet!" I said, to which she replied, “Yes, and do you know, I was over there just a minute ago at the salad bar and she came up to me again and hugged me, and she looked up at me and said, ‘I looove you.’ And I don't know where she went," looking around, "but isn't that just the sweetest thing?!" Her eyes were wide and smiling.

I nodded wide-eyed too, smiling and saying, "Wow--you must have needed somebody to hug you and tell you they loved you today."

Her face clouded over a bit and she said, "You know honey, I think I did.  My  husband Lester has been gone seven years now and I just miss him something terrible."

Oh, now I knew.  I nodded saying, "I know you do. And I know that this time of year can be really hard."

"Yes. It sure is.  Sometimes people just don't know how it can be."

 She started telling me all about Lester, how he was a fireman, how he grew up in Fulton Hill, just right over there, you know...do you know where Fulton Hill is? I did know where Fulton Hill is. 

I said, "Did ya'll grow up together?"

Then she said, "Oh, no, Honey.  I'm from a small little town in Southwest Virginia you never heard of."
And of course, my eyes got even bigger and I immediately said, "Where are you from?"
And she said back to me, "Oh, I'm from a tiny little town called Coeburn..."

Then I think my eyes probably bout popped out of my head. "No way!" I said--and here she looked at me like she thought maybe I might be crazy and I said, "I'm from Coeburn!"

Now she looked surprised. "No.....Really?"
"Yes!" I said. "How weird is that?!"

And she continued to talk.  She told me she was from Caney Ridge, did I know where Caney Ridge was..yes, I know where Caney Ridge is...and where did my people live, yes she knew Bond Town, but she didn't know my grandmother Virginia Nixon...or any of the Helberts.
 "And I can't believe I don't cause I bet we're probably cousins or somethin'.  I was originally a Dotson..."

She said that she had always wanted to be a nurse but her daddy told her she could never do that because she was a woman and what women did was raise children and cook and keep the house.

"But you know honey, my grandmother told me that all I needed to do was to wait till I was 18 and then he couldn't stop me from doing anything I wanted to do. So on my 18th birthday I moved to Kentucky and went to nursing school there.  Then I  came to Richmond to work and I met my Lester here."

She stopped and smiled for a minute, remebering him.

She patted my arm. "I sure am glad we got to talk today."

"Me too," I said. 

"You know," she said, "I wonder if Lester mighta sent that little girl to come and hug me?" 

I smiled and said, "I believe he may have."

"You believe in stuff like that?"

"Yes, I do."

And we hugged and I checked out my groceries and my salad.  It was a magical experience. I looked back and saw her talking with a fire fighter fixing a salad at the salad bar.

 Maybe she touched more than one person with her story that day.

For Thelonius

I am teaching JC Wright a young sax player at a local area high school for free, for no other reason but to help him.
---Jon Brewer

When I was studying in the library, I was bored and wanted a reason to procrastinate. So I wrote the words "you're beautiful" on pieces of computer paper and stuffed them in random books. I think that's honestly the most important message we need to spread to kids my age because we're constantly under pressure to achieve this 'perfect' image whereas beauty lies within.
---Vince Vichith

When I was walking back to the parking deck after class last week, I noticed that the parking meter next to one of the cars had run out and the parking authoritarian was closing in quickly checking other meters on the street. I felt like it was my duty to put in an hour's worth of change to prevent who ever the car belonged to from becoming victim of that dreadful VCU lime green parking ticket.
---Anna Belenkaya

Today I wrote someone I do not know very well. This particular individual has been sent to back prison on account of a "ridiculous" parole violation. It's a very sad story because this has just happened very recently, during this current Holiday season. I simply wanted to let this person know that I cared and that I'm willing to come visit him in his time of need. All that he needs to do is send me a reply so that the appropriate arrangements can be made. I've offered to perform a little music for him. Christmas, rock, classical, jazz....It doesn't really matter what I play for him; it's being there for someone in need.. that's what's important.
---Bryan '7' Rowland

When my mom signed up for a dining plan, she decided to get me one that would be impossible to finish. Originally I had 200 meal swipes, $300 in dining dollars, and 20 guest swipes. This plan is impossible to complete considering my dorm room has a kitchen in it and I’d personally rather eat real food, cooked by me, rather than dining hall food. Upon the arrival of the end of the semester, all the leftover swipes and dining dollars get thrown away and you get no money back. So, since I had a little over 100$ last week and I knew I wouldn’t be able to use them all; I took the freshmen from my team out to dinner at Chile’s. We all had a very nice time and it was nice to just enjoy each other’s company for the last weekend we’d spend together before break.
---Meredith McNelis

On November 1, 2010, my grandfather Henry Wesley Hicks, my stepdad’s father, passed away. During the Fall of 2009, his doctor estimated about six months left for him to live, which would have put him around May 2010 or so. Therefore, we were very grateful for the additional six months granted to him, as we went down to my grandparents’ house every weekend since we knew he could go any day. He lived a long life of 76 years, and was married for 45 years to my grandmother, who has taken his death the hardest. I knew at this point, I had to step up a notch and truly be there for my family. So, I put my poetry skills to work, as I wrote a poem to my grandpa and decided to present the poem to everyone at the funeral service (the poem I Love You is in my portfolio on Blackboard). The poetry truly brought great smiles and laughter, as we could remember the simple yet remarkable traits about this wonderful man. My stepbrother Kevin, a Sergeant in the US Marines, brought about ten of his battle buddies from North Carolina to be there in uniform at the funeral service, and I was in my US Army uniform. One of his friends came up to me after the service and told me, “I have never even met your grandfather, and after you read that poem, I felt like I knew him and I could easily imagine the wonderful man he was.” From that, I knew I nailed that poem and brought a smile to my grandfather’s face.
     Since then, we have continued to go down to my grandma’s house every weekend in Alberta, about an hour south of Richmond. She is very lonely now, so we do everything we can to make this transition easier for her. For her birthday, my stepdad, Calvin, and I surprised her with a 42” flat screen television in her living room when she returned from church. She loves it! Since then, she has been redecorating her living room and making little changes around the house, staying busy. This past Sunday, my family and I went to her house and had a small Christmas celebration, since Kevin, his wife and son were coming from California to stay with her for a few days. So we had a lovely dinner, gift exchange, photo opportunities and wonderful fun memories.
     Above anything in the world, family is the most important thing to me in my life. Love, dedication and care are the pieces of the backbone that keeps family strong. I am much honored to have this opportunity to place something into Theo’s Stocking. You have definitely inspired me, so if you could send me a couple paragraphs briefing me about your family and Theo, I can write a poem for you in dedication to your son. Also, if you would like, check out my book online on BarnesAndNoble.com (ISBN#: 978-1-4500-9257-9). Thanks again and God Bless.
---Steven A. Funes

Saturday, December 11, 2010

When the holidays feel like something to get through...

I really hate that Christmas is so hard to get through. I see our beautiful 2 and a 1/2 year old daughter experiencing the magic and wonder of the season, I am witness to that, part of her joy, bringing her the experience, hoping for her happiness, truly wanting to experience the beauty of the holidays through her eyes, happy for her and with her.  I hold all those feelings parents should hold equally with the intense feeling of sadness, the aching grief that permeates every cell of my body. The constant hole in my heart always feels emptier at the holiday season than it does at any other time of the year.  I wish both of my children were here. The Christmas Wish that will never, ever come true. The knowledge of that fact, the fact of my son's death, his constant absence, the unfairness of it, the pain of it all never goes away. Somehow it is intensified at the holidays. And it always feels like I am the only one who feels this way--even though I know I am not.

Our acts of kindness done in Theo's memory are a small thing that we can do to ease the pain of his absence.  Tonight I got the Christmas stuff down from the attic and put up the tree, hung Theo's stocking, pulled out all the lights, the ornaments I know the girl won't break.  While I was up there, I unzipped the big storage bags which hold the twenty or so stuffed animals we kept from the massive amount of donated stuffed bears, ducks, gorillas, doggies, hippos, that friends and family brought to Theo's funeral and to his memorial service. We donated most of them to ASK, which works with families at VCU's pediatric oncology department so the children would have something soft to hold during treatments and recoveries from treatments. We kept some.  I brought one down for Lula---a present from her brother and another, a big stuffed, soft lamb---to donate to the Toy Drive St. Thomas Day School is currently running.  We plan to send Lula's coats from last year, a few of her gently used toys, a  new toy or two, and  this lamb from Theo. It's almost as if it is his own personal part in our kindnesses of the season. Jamie and I will continue to post our acts of kindness here through the season. If you would like to join us, please feel free to send us your stories to post.  Any act of kindness done in the memory of one you love who has died honors that person, brings more of his or her love to your heart, connects you with them, and touches the life of another.

If you are grieving someone you this love this holiday season, feel free to take a look at this article I wrote last year for the Crater Community Hospice newsletter.