Giving 49 gifts to others for a 49th birthday

2013-11-28T04:00:00Z 2013-12-18T13:28:06Z Giving 49 gifts to others for a 49th birthdaySTEPHANIE JONES stephanie.jones@journaltimes.com Journal Times

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.

Copyright 2015 Journal Times. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(4) Comments

  1. cleaner
    Report Abuse
    cleaner - November 28, 2013 11:36 am
    God bless you Abby! I too share my blessing during the holiday season, through the month of December everyday I find a way to pay it forward. Buy a stranger coffee, help cover the cost of someone groceries.... The recipient may get a warm heart from it but I find it help me sleep well and reminds me how blessed I really am.. Merry Christmas everyone..
  2. nickypoofromracine
    Report Abuse
    nickypoofromracine - November 28, 2013 10:58 am
    This is awsome, Abby you are a blessing, so many people, feel that doing somthing nice it intails for somthing in return. I live on ms now an the folks here wave an will help a stranger in a heartbeat. I love this article and helping people is my pleasure as well. You rock Abby.
  3. Joeboy5471
    Report Abuse
    Joeboy5471 - November 28, 2013 10:18 am
    Pay it "Forward" and it will comeback to you a hundred fold......
  4. Love2teach
    Report Abuse
    Love2teach - November 28, 2013 6:22 am
    I went to high school with Abby. We ran into each other a few times through the years. We reconnected on Facebook. I began reading her acts of kindness as she posted them, I though this was so cool and I sent her a message asking if she'd be willing to read to my kindergarten class. She replied that she would love to. A week later she was sitting in my room reading a book about crayon that run away. My kids were so quiet, you could have heard a pin drop as she read. When she was done with the story she gave each student their own brand new box of crayons and a small treat ( a sucker). The students loved the story and are looking forward to trying out some random acts of kindness themselves. The students made a thank you card and colored many pictures for miss Graham
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