Monday, January 15, 2018

When Kindness Brings Tears

I don't know if you read Stacey's Poofing the Pillows or At Home with Jemma (you should -- they're wonderful blogs!) but these two bloggers have been sharing posts as part of their PERK project. The goal: spread Positive*Encouraging*Real*Kindness. They asked their readers to share some examples we have seen of real kindness and how it has made a difference.

More than once I've been the recipient of the kindness of others -- perhaps an unexpected gift left on my doorstep or a dinner provided when I've been unwell, a dear friend willing to feed Lizzie when my regular cat-sitter is unavailable or a listening ear when one has been so desperately needed.

For these things I am grateful. But I am also grateful for something that has not affected me personally but has made a big difference in the lives of those touched by the "Elfing" of Robin and Betsy Miner-Swartz. Their story tells how two $25 gift cards changed the lives of many people at the holidays as a tradition grew larger and larger.

Robin and Betsy -- aka The Elves
Robin and Betsy are two women in my community who, way back in 2009, decided that at the holiday season, they would spread a little cheer. Betsy's mom had died not long before and the holidays were a little less than cheery. The pair went to the Wal-Mart and bought two $25 gift cards and gave them to two strangers, clearly in need, "making them so happy it kind of stunned us," Robin wrote.

The "Elfing" tradition was born that night. When they told people about it, they offered money with the request "you have to tell us about it."

In the intervening years, over $18,000 donated by generous friends and complete strangers, along with Robin and Betsy's own contributions, have been shared during the holiday season with countless individuals, often bringing tears of joy. This year alone 76 people sent money ranging from $10 to $500, topping a collective $5,500.

And I'm not sure who had the biggest smiles -- the recipients of the "Elves" or Robin and Betsy themselves.

A few examples -- Perhaps they'll inspire you to think what you might do in your community. And as you read them, remember, it all started with a $25 gift card. You'll hear me say that again -- but it's important to remember.

Betsy noticed an older man with an oxygen tank was taking his time considering the packages of ham in the grocery store cooler. Robin walked up to the case and said, "Anything look good?" He replied, "Everything looks good except the price." She held out $100 and asked if that would help with his Christmas dinner. He smiled shyly and said, "Boy, would it. Are you sure?" Robin explained that it was something the couple did each year to honor her in-laws. As they chatted, the man revealed that he was battling Stage III kidney cancer and was being treated at U-M and that making the three-hour drive each way was tough "with all the tubes I have coming out of me now." The Elves offered him another $50 for gas and wished him a merry Christmas. "You have no idea what this means to me," he whispered. "Thank you."


Seeing two women huddled at a bus stop, they hopped out of their car, handed a $50 bill to each of the women. "We're doing some random acts of Christmas kindness. Could we give you this?" The older woman said, "For what?" "Just for you. Could you use it?" She threw her head back, laughing with joy. "Honey, we were JUST talking about our Consumers Energy bill and how were we going to pay it? It's $175 and I didn't know how we'd take care of it at Christmas." The women were mother and daughter and their "Elves" handed them another $150 amidst joyful hugs.

A young woman was slowing walking the market aisles at Save-a-Lot, picking up food, considering it and carefully putting it down. The Elves approached her and offered her $100 to help with her shopping. After a hug she said "I'm going to be spending Christmas alone, and I was trying to figure out what to make myself for dinner." She explained that her grandmother -- who had always hosted Christmas -- had just been hospitalized with liver trouble and had been taken down to another city. She'd be traveling down to see her grandma soon, though, she said. She was handed her another $50 so she could get her grandma a gift. She hugged me again, smiling through tears.

Returning home after one Elfing expedition, Robin and Betsy pulled into the A&W drive thru to grab a drink. Despite long lines on this Saturday shortly before Christmas, the cashier was cheerful. Betsy paid for the order and then offered her $50, likely the equivalent of a day's pay. Her eyes got glassy and her smile was huge. "We asked her if we could take her picture and she said, "Of course!" 


At a neighborhood school the Elves made a contribution to an account to cover expenses for items like sweatpants and leggings for students who have accidents or don't have coats and gloves of their own.

A refugee who had fled the Taliban was accepted to his dream college in California. Robin and Betsy gave him a Visa gift card for $100 to help pay for gas on his journey. "He was shy but smiling from ear," they wrote.

Betsy wormed her way in line behind a woman who was going to put back a gift for her son and as the cashier was ringing up her Bridge card, Betsy asked if they could pay for the items. She did -- and then offered the woman $150 in cash to help with the holidays. The woman began to cry and told Betsy she would be seeing her daughter next week for Christmas and wasn't sure if she would be able to give her a gift. Now she can.


At a local animal hospital that included a "giving tree" in its lobby, donations made possible a feline leukemia test for an orange kitten, prescription dog food for a Shih Tzu that lives in a local senior facility and dental work (including extractions) for a Jack Russell Terrier.


One family found the Elves to be angels in disguise. The mother had received a new kidney but not before diabetes robbed her of her sight. With a daughter who has sickle-cell anemia and a son with autism, the husband was struggling to support the family and provide care for his wife and children.  The Elves provided a laptop, mouse, printer and ream of paper for the little girl who was having trouble keeping up with her homework without it. The little boy received a Nintendo system and games he'd hoped Santa would bring and the parents were sent a gift card for $200, suggesting the couple spend it on themselves.

At a Wal-Mart, the Elves got in line behind what they described as "a sweet older man buying a lot of store-brand food and what looked like stocking suffers for granddaughters. As he was loading bags into his cart, Betsy told the cashier to add her paper towels to his order and that she'd take care of it. He didn't hear and kept loading. When he turned back to pay, she told him it was covered, nodding at Betsy. His eyes grew wide and filled with tears. He turned to me and said, "Is this real? Are you really real?" I assured him I was. "I've heard about this before, but I never thought it was real."


A mother and her teen daughter were making very difficult decisions about a couple of small toys, price checking everything to be sure they had enough money. Robin handed the mother $65 in gift cards. There were tears and hugs as she revealed she had just been laid off, her son was making her car payment for her and dinner was the only thing her family would have for Christmas this year. The Elves pulled out another $150 in cash, which "put things off the charts for her and her beautiful daughter."

Robin says In one visit, they gave away about $800 at a Kmart filled as people were facing tough decisions about what leave in or remove from the cart. They paid off two layaways, including one for a man who would have to leave without his family's Christmas gifts. The young cashier, wearing tattered clothes, was so grateful he cried and hugged the Elves, who gave him $100, "which made him sob and have to leave the room." They also helped a grandmother, a couple who were buying only shoes and boots for their kids, struggling young moms and another woman who was buying boots for her mother who is a school bus driver with little ability to buy for herself.



These aren't all of the Elfing stories in a given year (these represent some of several year's stories), but you get the idea.

All of this sounds pretty big and pretty grand -- and it is. The work Robin and Betsy do at the holidays brings joy, cheer, tears, and a sense of hope to the recipients. It brings those gifts to Robin and Betsy as well.

But remember -- it all started with two $25 gift cards and knowing that the effort of one or two people could make a difference.

It's something we all can do -- whether it is as an individual or by pooling energies with someone else. Robin and Betsy are the first to acknowledge that this collective effort (and they never asked for donations; they just came because people supported the idea) has been able to expand because people cared. Pooling resources makes the resources stronger.

But it doesn't change the love. That was always there, always powerful.


(Special thanks to Robin and Betsy for letting me share the stories and photos they posted on Facebook, some edited for length, others pretty much as written. I remain in awe of their commitment to love, giving and caring.)

Sharing with:  At Home with Jemma   /   Poofing the Pillows    / Let's Keep In Touch  /  Share Your Cup 

57 comments:

Valerie-Jael said...

Bless those women for helping those in need, that's wonderful. Thanks for sharing the uplifting stories. Have a great week! Hugs, Valerie

Joyful said...

I love their heart. So wonderful to read about this random acts of kindness. xx

Bleubeard and Elizabeth said...

What an incredible story and bless those two women for what they are doing for the community and for a world of hope.

Sami said...

I have tears running down my face Jeanie. What wonderful people and amazing initiative. I have on occasion paid small bills of elderly people who were in front of me at the supermarket as I thought their shopping selection looked very thrifty. I will endeavor to do more!

Daniela said...

What wonderful women these are!
It's truly encouraging to know that still there are so good-hearted people, thank you, darling Jeanie, for sharing such a lovely post, blessed be!

Wishing you a most beautiful new week ahead,
always thinking of you with much love

XOXO Dany

Preppy Empty Nester said...

What a heart-warming post, Jeanie. Thanks for starting my week with a smile. Enjoy your week.

Victoria Zigler said...

Beautiful... It warms my heart to know people like them are out there doing things like this.

Marie Rayner said...

Beautifully heart warming stories. A little kindness goes a long way. I am not sure who is blessed more, the giver or the recipient! Thanks so much for sharing these stories with us! Xo

Rita C. said...

Wow, Jeanie. Thank you for sharing. In a world full of so much meanness and so many takers, it's truly heartwarming to read of genuine kindness and goodness.

The French Hutch said...

Oh Jeanie, what a wonderful post of kindness and good deeds! It really warms the heart to hear these stories. Blessing to all and thank you for sharing...........

La Table De Nana said...

I love hearing about good deeds such as these♥Wonderful stories..wonderful women:)

eileeninmd said...

Hello, these are all wonderful stories. God Bless these women and thank you for sharing this post. Lately with all that is happening, it is nice to read about people being kind. Happy Monday, enjoy your new week!

~Lavender Dreamer~ said...

What wonderful acts of kindness and something we could all do in our own way. I like to pay for someone's purchases when I notice what they are and think it will make a difference. Love this idea! Thanks for joining in this morning! Sweet hugs, Diane

Castles Crowns and Cottages said...

I truly believe it starts with the power of ONE, then spreads to two, three, a hundred, then you've got a world of kindness. Oh how I wish the rest of the world would jump on board!

Eilis@MyHeartLivesHere said...

What an uplifting and inspiring post. It really is that easy to make the world a better place. Have a wonderful week!

Mac n' Janet said...

What a wonderful story, it definitely brought tears to my eyes, and what a wonderful idea.

Linda @ A La Carte said...

More like Angels then Elves! What a loving story. Inspiring!

Marilyn Miller said...

Stories like this always touch my heart. Thank you for sharing them, Jeanie! It is these things of kindness that make this world a better place. Even to paying it forward in line to get coffee (or tea) at Starbucks. Someone did that for me and my husband and it touched us. Since then we have done the same. It is the little things like the $25 gift certificate.

Stacey said...

Oh my goodness. This is one of the most awesome things I've ever heard! You have my mind spinning now, Jeanie. :) There are so many tiny little ways we can do this kind of stuff. Thank you so much for sharing this.♥

Maggie said...

Such amazing women, thank you for sharing their story.

Pom Pom said...

How wonderful! Thank you for sharing all the lovely happy stories. What a pair!

Pam Richardson said...

Jeanie, what a wonderful post of people loving and being kind when we hear so much bad news! Every story warms my heart and by the end of your post I am a happy mess...tears of joy! Bless,these amazing women and they have made a difference!

Julia - Vintage with Laces said...

That's a very beautiful and inspiring story, Jeanie! These women have brightened the days of so many people with their acts of kindness. Thank you so much for sharing!
xo Julia

Tammy Lagaly said...

Oh, my goodness! This made me cry! What a beautiful story. These are truly amazing women!!

Polly said...

What wonderful women. It’s good to hear of so much kindness.

Jemma@athomewithjemma said...

Jeanie,
I have read this inspiring tale over and over! I have seen the response on Facebook and here in the comment section as well. The power which you have shared here is already making a difference in our hearts and souls. I am actually sitting here with goosebumps. Thank you for being part of the bigger picture of life.
Thank you too for introducing us to this fine women too!
Jemma

Kitty said...

Thank you so very much for sharing these inspiring stories. We hear so much about violence and hatred. We each need to do our part in sharing God's love in what-ever way He provides. You, too, are one of His angels.

Love to you and Rick and all.

My name is Erika. said...

This is a heartwarming story. Spreading kindness can be contagious. There are wonderful people out there. I found that helping others makes me feel good, and I think this story shows that it can make anyone feel good. Thanks for sharing. Hugs-Erika

Barb said...

Kindness creates a circle that eventually gives back to the giver. To give from the heart is very special. Thank you for this inspiring post, Jeanie.

Sandra Cox said...

Oh, Jeanie, best story ever. This did my hurt so much good.
Hugs

Pam said...

Oh my, I am crying. God Bless these two "angels" on earth.

Lynne said...

This is just simply wonderful . .
Beautiful, Touching . . .
Thank you Jeanie for sharing the Elf stories with us . . .
Inspiring . . .

BeachGypsy said...

This is amazing! I loved reading the stories so much!! True kindness. True caring.

Tracy said...

God Bless Robin & Betsy! Goodness the tears flow! Positive*Encouraging*Real*Kindness... WOW... this is HUGELY inspiring! I just love things like this, inspiration like this. I've read of others doing BIG things like this to help others. It is amazing how one seemingly small thing can make such a big difference. I aspire to this kind of goodness and generosity. Theirs is BIG LOVE in action! :) Thank you sooo much for sharing, Jeanie ((HUGS))

At Rivercrest Cottage said...

This is just the kind of inspiration the world needs. I've been doing $40 gifts to people since 1980 when I was on the receiving end of $40 just when I needed it the most. I've never thought of doing it at Christmas, but now will rethink. We do give cards with cash to all the employees in our favorite restaurants. I so enjoyed reading about the elves.

Regine Karpel said...

Thank you.

Lisa from Lisa's Yarns said...

Oh my gosh, this is so uplifting. It can be easy to kind of get down about the state of the world, especially if you watch the news. But this post reminds me that there are SO many good people in our midst. I love how this started so small and has grown and grown. Christmas is the perfect time of year to focus on a project like this as so many families are facing tough decisions about how to spend their money. These 2 women are truly angels!

Joanne Huffman said...

How lovely!

Sakuranko said...

Oh very cute darling
Thanks for share about this
xx

Cindy Richter said...

Well that brought tears to my eyes today! It's so nice to hear about people who love on one another. Thank you for sharing this post. ;)

Danielle L Zecher said...

Wow! Robin and Betsy sound like two very incredible, very special people. I love that the whole thing basically started from them trying to make the most out of dealing with the loss of a loved one. What a beautiful tribute.

Tammie Lee said...

Such an inspired strand of stories/happenings!
Thank you.

Pam Jackson said...

My kindness usually has me paying for someones breakfast in the drive thru or not getting my quarter back when taking my buggy back at Aldi's and just leaving it there for someone to reuse or giving them my buggy as they are going in. BUT...my brother is the hero. I found out that him and his 7 yr old grandson went out to stores with $40 in envelopes. When Ray saw someone that looked like they could use it, he would let Cole give them the env and tell them Merry Christmas. I just found out that the has done this at Christmas time before. He is my hero. Thanks for sharing.

Sandra Cox said...

Stay warm and dry.

Jene said...

Enjoyed reading the post. Nice to read each and every story about their kindness. God bless these ladies for their kind heart:)

Debbie-Dabble Blog and A Debbie-Dabble Christmas said...

Thanks so much for visiting me today because when I came here to thank you for your visit, I found this amazing post! It brought me joy and made me cry! Thanks so much for sharing this amazing story!! I LOVED it!!
Hugs
Deb

Snap said...

Beautiful! Thank goodness for elf-people!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! It really doesn't take much to be kind and help.

Judy at GoldCountryCottage said...

Jeanie, I read about this on Kris's blog. What a wonderful idea. These ladies are so caring and to think it all started from one little act of kindness. I wish there was more of this understanding in the world. Happy Wednesday..Judy

The Sketchy Reader said...

I've enjoyed these posts so much....I've enjoyed each one I've read, and I think it's great what Emma and Stacey are doing with them! I wish I'd participated, but I was so busy with Bootcamp.

Wow, these elves are going to have stars in their crown one day, aren't they! I am so humbled to have read their story, and I think they're doing such a wonderful thing each Christmas. Wow. Thanks for sharing all the photos with us, too.

I'm blessed just reading about these wonderful women!

xo,
Ricki Jill

BeachGypsy said...

Glad you stopped in and yes!!--I cracked up laughing over that witch's legs sticking up too!! ha ha ha those people sure have a sense of humor! LOL

Tammy Chrzan said...

I have always been a firm believer in Random acts of kindness and showing love and blessings to others. Being kind costs nothing, and I admire the people that freely give it.

Katie Mansfield said...

Well, now I'm crying. Thanks for sharing this at Keep In Touch. Tear jerker for sure. Blessings.

carol@The Red Painted Cottage said...

Jeanie, This is such an awe inspiring story. I've heard of similar ones but never this one. If I weren't on a fixed income and had a means to do this, I would love to go around and help the people who truly needed help and to bring kindness and joy into their lives.

Barbara Windle said...

I am so glad you posted this story. The generosity of others is simply amazing and never ceases to amaze me. It makes me want to jump up and go out and give some gift cards or money to someone less fortunate.

bj said...

what a beautiful post....people doing just what God wants us all to do.

Jann Olson said...

What wonderful stories! If more people would be like this. I wanted to do a post and join in with Stacey and Jemma, but was so busy Mon. and Tues. that I didn't get around to it. :) Thanks for sharing with SYC.
hugs,
Jann

Sketchbook Wandering said...

One of my favorite song lyrics: "In the end, only kindness matters..." Jewel

I guess I see it not only in money gifts, but in a wave or hello, chatting with strangers, little favors...The more I see people doing it, the more I do it... Thank you...

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