Live your life as a memorial to your beloved dead. -Joanne Cacciatore
One week from today, on July 27, is our International Kindness Project Day. Cards are available absolutely free from now until next Wednesday.
I never imagined, when starting this initiative in the summer of 1997, that more than one million kindness projects would be committed around the globe in only 14 years.
This project was born in my heart on Christmas eve of 1994. I knew I couldn't spend the money that was rightfully Cheyenne's on my other children. So I took that money and bought toys for underprivileged children, and I delivered them alone the day before Christmas. I dropped them off, wanting as much anonymity as possible, got back in my car hurriedly, and wept for nearly an hour.
It was bittersweet, though much more bitter than sweet at this point.
Some months later, I was in a shoe store buying back-to-school shoes for my children. I overheard a family with many children debating which one of their children needed shoes more than the others. They all needed them, commented the parents, but they couldn't afford them. I found the store manager, bought a gift card with enough funds on it to pay for all the children's shoes, wrote on a little piece of paper "in memory of Chey", and I quickly left before he gave them the surprise.
It was only 18 months later that the MISS Foundation was born. I didn't name the MISS Foundation - or any of our legislative pieces - or our programs- after Cheyenne. I chose, specifically, not to do that. To do so, for me, felt exclusionary and indulgent.
Similarly, I valued helping others anonymously, knowing in my heart that Chey's death had left me with a greater sense of compassion and agape for others, but not wanting "me" to be recognized for it. Truly, it was not about some act of nobility. It was pure love for my child, a strong desire to make meaning, and newfound- profound- compassion for others. I wanted others to know that this little child lived, this little child died, and this little child continued to matter in this world.
And so my anonymous giving grew. And as it did, the paralyzing grief became more manageable, more reflexive, and I felt something in the core of my being- something inexplicable- that moved me.
At some point, I realized these acts- both the little and the big- were helping me. And, I thought perhaps it could help others who were bereaved. Because simply, you cannot serve others without serving yourself. You cannot give to another without giving to yourself. You cannot bring comfort to another without bringing comfort to yourself.
The Kindness Project was born about a year after the inception of the MISS Foundation. Born of pain. Born of compassion. Born of a love bigger than death.
And today, 17 years later, it is much more sweet than bitter.
I invite you all to join us. For them. For each of us. For the entire world.
RSVP for Int'l Kindness Project Day here