RACINE COUNTY — Abby Grahn was just finishing shopping earlier this month when she saw a woman with a cane, struggling to push her shopping cart. Grahn put her car in park and helped the woman with her bags.
“It took two seconds and she so appreciated it,” said Grahn, of Mount Pleasant.
Grahn has been doing random acts of kindness like that all month. Her goal is to do 49 to celebrate her 49th birthday, which is today – Thanksgiving.
In the weeks leading up to November, Grahn wasn’t looking forward to her 49th birthday. It wasn’t the age that bothered her. It was the fact that her birthday always means the start of winter, snow and cold temperatures, and having it fall on Thanksgiving this year meant one more thing to make the holiday even busier.
She was lying in bed one night when it occurred to her that, instead of dreading her birthday, she could start giving back in small ways — the way people have given back to her over the years.
She posted her pledge on Facebook Oct. 31.
“I’m going to make note of 49 wonderful things to do for others. So I hope you enjoy keeping track as I smile for my birthday month,” She wrote. “Live, Laugh & Love.”
The first day she gave a homeless man a ride to Gateway Technical College and bought him a cup of coffee. The next day she encountered someone who ran out of gas and gave him $6 to help him fill his tank.
She noted her giving online and soon some of her approximately 575 Facebook friends started giving too.
One friend mailed her ten $5 McDonald’s gift cards to randomly give out. Another donated a lofted bed for a family in need, said Grahn, who has three grown children and had her first child when she was 17.
“I had a lot of challenges,” said Grahn, who graduated from Case High School in 1983. But she had the love and support of her family and friends, she said.
One incident she remembers in particular is when she was working at the Racine Youthful Offenders Correctional Facility and learned she had to work a late shift. She didn’t have anyone to take care of her three kids.
A captain, who was a single mother herself, heard about it, and she not only picked up Grahn’s kids but also took them to dinner and to an arcade.
“You don’t forget (that),” said Grahn, a student at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside majoring in criminal justice.
As a full-time student, who also makes chalkboard art on the side for holiday craft fairs, Grahn doesn’t have too much money or time to spare, she said. But she has found she can do most things without spending much money or taking too much time.
It’s just doing nice things like smiling, opening a door for someone or helping a lady rake leaves, Grahn said.
“It’s acts of kindness,” she said. “If we take time to do (them), not only are you making them feel good, you are feeling amazing about yourself because you have done something wonderful … I cannot change the world. But gosh darn it, I can try.”
Grahn’s random acts of kindness
As part of Abby Grahn’s 49th birthday celebration, she is doing 49 random acts of kindness. Here is a list of a few acts she’s completed:
• Making play dough for children at HALO.
• Making lemon bars for neighbors.
• Finishing raking an elderly woman’s leaves.
• Texting a kind note to a friend in need.
• Making lasagna for Racine firefighters.
• Lending a cell phone to a stalled motorist to make a call.
• Giving a man spare change to help fill his gas tank.