For the last fifteen years the neighborhood crew that I grew up with has gotten together for an annual reunion. Last year I was in charge, and as luck would have it a huge rainstorm hit the Wasatch Front. By the time I got to the park to set up, dark clouds hovered, and I felt that the reunion would be a total failure. Soon all the families started to show up, one by one, holding their umbrellas and waving their hello-hands. We set up quick and ate before the rain started up again (downpour!), and when it did it left us all scrambling to put the food and wet kids into the cars. “Come to our house! It’s warm and dry!” said my mom to the giant crew as we pulled out of the park. A few minutes later we were inside my parent’s familiar home, my mom bustling around setting up chairs for all the soaked bodies to sit on. I looked around the room at the faces of the eight women who were once my childhood friends, and always, forever, owned a place in my heart.
My dad had the great idea of having each of us share a memory of growing up in the neighborhood. My sister Toots surprised us all as she revealed she’d had a secret crush on the neighbor boy (now 38), “Why didn’t he ever ask me on a real date? He was my dream boy!” she voiced while all of us held our stomachs with laughter. Jeannie talked about sneaking out at night (my mom never knew??!). I told the story of wishing for sugar so bad that I would take empty sugar bags left over from the neighbor ladies canning peaches and finding any granules left for the taking. Many talked about the fun we had playing night games: kick-the-can and capture-the-flag. We laughed, and laughed, and cried, and laughed some more. Near the end of the night my best friend Katie, her bandanna covering her bald head, looked at me and said, “Amy, do you remember when we were teenagers and we did secret service for others?” I nodded. “We would put a smiley face sticker on a note and leave it at the door after we were done with doing our service.” My eyes got wet with tears as I looked at my sweetest friend who had shared such a perfect memory.
None of us knew that night that it would be the last time we were all together here on earth, Katie passed away nearly 7-months later. The night was anything but a total failure — the rain pushed us inside and opened us all up. It was a night that has changed the rest of my days. Katie’s memory of our secret kindness and making small differences for others struck a chord in me and I have made a daily pledge to to infuse with real meaning more kindness into the lives of those around me. Random acts of kindness boost the giver AND the receiver with a dose of pure happiness (this is a proven fact!). And for me…I am sure my rockin’ guardian angel is jumping with happiness knowing she is a part of every smiley face sticker and secret service that I am doing in her honor.