The Ripple Effects of Kindness

“Pay it Forward”…”Random Acts of Kindness”

Recently, those phrases are familiar buzzwords. Hollywood has touted paying it forward with A-list actors Helen Hunt and Kevin Spacey, and here on the Outer Banks, “Random Acts” stickers are nestled in with surf shop logos on cars. But for some, the phrases are about a lot more than just a movie or a bumper sticker. Local residents and business owners are putting these phrases into action every day.

Kevin Groat reads Llama Llama Red Pajama to his daughter, Keely. Photo Erin Groat.

Take Charlie the mailman, for instance. 

Charlie Parker is a U.S. Postal Service worker whose delivery route includes Kevin and Erin Groat’s Kill Devil Hills home. One afternoon in late January, he learned that the Groats had a new baby, Keely. 

“He told me we should read to her every night,” said Kevin, adding that Charlie then shared a heartwarming story with him. “Charlie always read Llama Llama Red Pajama by Anna Dewdney every night to his daughter, who is now in her 40s.”

One night, years ago, while Charlie’s daughter was in college studying for exams, she called dear old dad and asked him to read the story to her over the phone. 

After Charlie shared his story, he disappeared into his car reciting the words to that story he read to his daughter so many years ago. 

A few days later, the Groats were surprised to see that same book show up in their mailbox with a short note from Charlie that read, “This is the book I was talking about. Best wishes, Charlie the Mailman.”

The Groats put a thank you card in the mailbox that included a photo of them reading to Keely. 

A few more books have shown up in their mailbox since. 

Charlie’s story is one of many that have been surfacing around the Outer Banks. A quick glance through social media posts will show that paying it forward is “in season” every month of the year. 

“To the young man who just brought my husband his credit card, thank you! He left it in the credit card machine at the pump in Duck and you spent your time and energy tracking him down to return it…. Thank you again, and another reason we love our small town!” read one summertime post on the OBX Locals page.

A Kitty Hawk grocery store reported an anonymous donor who eyed the person’s order behind her, assessed it was likely a family with food insecurity, purchased a $50 gift card, and slipped it to the cashier to go toward the customer’s grocery bill. 

First Flight Students Get in on “The Acts”

First Flight High School math teacher Christian Lowe has used the past two Decembers as a time to conduct his own Random Acts of Kindness Challenge with his freshman class.  

It starts with any ninth graders who accept the challenge, follow a calendar printed with daily acts of kindness, and then write about them in a journal. It is up to the students to take those kindnesses to the next level and add their own flair. 

His goal for the challenge is simple: “Through this challenge, if done with the right intentions, you will be amazed by the smiles you create and the gratefulness of others for these small random acts which we all have the capability of doing for each other every day.” 

A few of the First Flight High School students who have accepted Mr. Lowe’s Kindness Challenge, L-R: Olivia Gena (inset), Meghan Radigan, Melanie Gonzalez, Christian Lowe, Chyla Huber, and Blair Smith. Photos Dea Celaj.

Suggestions include, “Sit with someone at lunch who you do not already know and initiate a conversation” and “Greet someone you don’t know and compliment them.”  

“Who doesn’t like to smile or hear compliments,” says Lowe, who said he hopes to eventually expand the challenge to more students.  “In a world full of cynicism and negative publicity, why not teach our youth what the world could be like firsthand if there were more souls willing to be respectful, courteous, and kind to everyone?”

Chyla Huber complimented someone’s sweater and wrote in her journal, “Then the coolest thing happened. We actually had a good 10-minute conversation. It really sucks to be alone and have no one to talk to.” 

The effects of the challenge have traveled well beyond school walls. Relatives distanced by state lines and busy schedules received loving phone calls, random neighbors received baked goods and Christmas cards, and a homeless man was handed food and drink at a local convenience store.  

Residents at Spring Arbor were visited by students dressed as elves handing out candy canes. 

Huber experienced another eye-opener when she completed the assignment to text someone in the morning and extend wishes for a great day.  

She texted her grandparents and then described their response, “They sent back how nice it was to hear from me. We all live quite far away so we don’t see each other too often. I know they really enjoy hearing from me, so I make it a priority now to send them more things than I used to.”  

Meghan Radigan wrote, “I called my aunt who I don’t get to see a lot and I wished her a good day at work. I told her I couldn’t wait to see her. She definitely wasn’t expecting the phone call. She actually thought I was in trouble.”  

Photo Outer Banks Sports Club.

Lowe says reading the journals, “stirred many emotions. They made me cry. They made me laugh.” 

The assignment had a significant impact on Olivia Gena, who says the RAK practices are something she will continue to do.  “I never realized how good it feels to make other people happy. I learned that it just looks better on you when you are just 10 times nicer to everyone.” 

RAK’ed by Local Businesses

Hurricanes have a way of bringing people together on the Outer Banks, and recovering from these storms always comes in the form of extending a helping hand. Businesses are no exception.

“People Without Power Come Here to Shower” proclaimed the sign in front of the Outer Banks Sports Club this past October. The Nags Head gym offered its shower facilities at no charge for those affected by Hurricane Matthew.

Another Matthew-related kindness came in the form of a tip jar. OBX Frozen Yogurt routinely donates the contents of its tip jar each month to help various local organizations in need. After the hurricane, its post read, “So why would we help Surfin’ Spoon… a competitor? We say why not? November’s donation will go to Surfin’ Spoon who was hit hard by Hurricane Matthew.”

Mandy Harlow, social media specialist with Resort Realty, and Lynsi Wilson deliver blankets and food to the Outer Banks SPCA. Photo Resort Realty.

But it doesn’t take a storm for Outer Bankers to spread a little kindness.

In 2014, Resort Realty started 12 Days of Random Acts of Christmas Kindness and has tallied up an impressive (and challenging) geographical area during its 36 days of good deeds. 

The real estate agency has delivered home-baked cookies to fire and rescue personnel in Rodanthe, supplies to Water’s Edge Village School in Corolla, treats to the Nags Head Post Office, and toiletries and gifts to elderly residents at Spring Arbor.

Not to leave out furry friends, Resort Realty staff also donated blankets and food to the Outer Banks SPCA, and most importantly, they stay long enough to walk and play with the dogs. 

Marketing Manager Kristen Constantineau says that between 20 and 25 employees participate each year. “Our CEO is completely on board, so everything is on the clock. And Resort foots the bill for many gifts like flowers [for hospital patients].”

On a dreary first day of December, sister restaurants Blue Moon Beach Grill and Blue Water Grill & Raw Bar placed a message on every table and both Facebook pages asking for folks to pay it forward and report the results for the entire month.

Photo Blue Moon Beach Grill.

With table signs explaining the campaign and social media to promote it, the stories started trickling in. A bottle of wine mysteriously appeared when a diner overheard someone at the next table was celebrating a birthday. Buttercup, an elderly hound, was reunited with his grateful owner after he was found wandering along the bypass. And a $185 tip was given to a waitress who was pregnant with her third child and struggling to make ends meet at Christmastime.  

When the Blue Moon restaurant family found itself in need, it became their most popular social media post. It was December 30 and fishing regulations meant a limited supply of local dolphin. Even suppliers were running out. 

In a gesture that defied all notions of the word ‘competition,’ a competing restaurant came to the rescue.  

Their Facebook post reads, “In a random act of kindness, [Barefoot Bernie’s Tropical Grill & Bar] loaned us enough mahi until our order came in. Thank you…for being kind and helping out a friend. We will gladly return the favor when needed. Cheers!” ♦

Susan Selig Classen

Susan Selig Classen has been living, writing, and editing on the Outer Banks for over ten years. Her other published work includes articles in AOPA Pilot, Convention South, and Brain Child magazines. Susan was formerly the editor for Three Dog Ink Media.

  • Patricia l. Holsinger

    A very humble elderly pastor quoted once , “They may never remember your sermon but will never forget your kindness !”

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