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Show a Little Tenderness; For Her 40th Birthday Kirsten Case Asked Friends to Perform Acts of Kindness

December 14, 2012 Leave a comment

Here’s a feel good story for you.  Kirsten Case, or as some of you may know her, Kirsten Romero Case, is a serial do-gooder in Omaha with a lifetime of community outreach work behind her.  She recently decided she would celebrate her 40th birthday by asking people in her life to perform acts of kindness.  They did and the story of why she put out this sweet intention and the ensuing good works that followed is detailed in this piece I wrote for Metro Magazine.  She heads the Literacy Center in Omaha and before that she worked for the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce and for various nonprofit human services organizations.  It’s quite clear that whaterver she does from this point forward will involve doing for others.

 

 

 

 

Show a Little Tenderness; For Her 40th Birthday Kirsten Case Asked Friends to Perform Acts of Kindness

©by Leo Adam Biga

Originally published in Metro Magazine

 

As her 40th birthday approached last fall Kirsten Case decided to celebrate the milestone in a most unusual way. The Literacy Center executive director used her personal blog to encourage friends and strangers alike to perform 40 Acts of Kindness in 40 days and to share these “simple, thoughtful” acts online.

Just like Kirsten

Case, a longtime Omaha transplant from Denver, has devoted her life to nonprofit human services work that delivers tender mercies to people in need. Wendy Hamilton and Angie Schendt are among those who granted Case’s birthday wish. They say the project fit her to a tee.

“It felt so natural that this idea came from her, and I was excited to participate,” says Hamilton, whose act of kindness involved reaching out to a young woman she didn’t know but who looked like she could use some friendly advice.

“Kirsten does have a big heart and it wasn’t surprising to me at all that she came up with this idea,” says Schendt, who honored Case’s request by organizing workmates to present a $500 check to a retiree who’d lost everything in a fire.

Shannon Smith, another friend who joined this mini-movement, says, “I’ve come to admire Kirsten both personally and professionally. She is one of the kindest people you will ever meet, always putting the needs of others before herself. When I first read her blog, I thought ‘of course.’  Of course Kirsten would come up with something compelling to motivate others to give back. Of course she would be selfless on her big day. Of course she would think big. The birthday request is everything that Kirsten is about.”

One way Smith fulfilled Case’s request was by befriending a female co-worker who rubbed her the wrong way.

“I could tell she needed a pick-me-up so I took her to lunch. We had a great chat, and I’m glad we did because I now have a greater understanding of where she’s coming from.”

Other acts people checked in ranged from reporting graffiti to giving someone a ride to donating unused clothes to a career closet to giving up a seat on a plane (twice) to making dinner for a sick friend to helping a dog owner find her lost pet in a park. Comforting words. Helpful advice. Lending a hand. Opening one’s heart.

Then there was the Saturday when Case and her daughter were in the family car in a ATM drive-thru when a man approached, speaking in broken Spanish. The bilingual Case made out he needed to deposit money and she assisted him. She says she drove off before realizing he could benefit from the Literacy Center, “and so I drove back and talked to him about it. It would have been easy to ignore him and been scared of him and to assume certain things but he was just a hard working guy that needed help.

A helping hand

Case says doing unto others is “the easiest and most inexpensive way we can improve the condition of somebody else’s life and our own. I mean, being kind or helpful to others isn’t just about them, it impacts our own life in a positive way, so it’s sort of a win-win.”

“The reality is any of us could be in a situation that could cause us to have to lean on a support network,” she says. “We’re all a heartbeat away from being in somebody else’s shoes. Besides, we’re always leaning on each other and so that’s why it really shouldn’t be a foreign concept to reach out and do something.”

She simply decided to be a conduit to help it happen.

“I just put stuff out there and hoped that maybe somebody noticed it. I really wanted to do something fun and special for my birthday. I have friends who’ve had big blow out parties and that didn’t feel comfortable. I spend a lot of my life trying to get other people to get involved in the community and do nice things for people and so it made perfect sense that way.”

She didn’t know who might respond and what they might do but as her birthday drew near she stumbled upon a Facebook event a friend created and to her delight she discovered plenty of folks heeded her request.

“It was the best birthday I’ve ever had. I was so excited to hear about things people were doing. It just brought me a lot of joy, it made me really happy to know they’d done things. I didn’t really know if people would do anything at all. I mean, how do you really ask people to do stuff? And I’m surrounded by people that are very giving and very involved, so how do you ask those people to do more?”

But more they did.

She says even though she and her friends already give-back to the community “a lot of us are working on a level where we’re not connected one-on-one, so it’s easy to get disconnected from the human side of the work that we’re doing.”

Paying it forward

She’s surprised her project’s elicited so much interest, saying, “A lot of people have talked to me about it,” and though the project  ended Oct. 17, she adds, “Even now people still email me wanting to go to lunch because they want to talk about this. That part’s been fun – that people are still talking about it and telling me about things and wanting to do it themselves.”

Case says she doesn’t know how many acts of kindness overall resulted from her appeal because she hasn’t counted but she likes to think its ripple effect is ongoing. “My hope is that there’s a lot more that happened or that might happen that I don’t know about, although I do like hearing about it because it makes me happy.”

Encouraging kindness may just become her new birthday tradition.

“I do think I’ll have to do this every year now. Honestly, it really was my favorite        birthday, hands-down. I feel like the people that did it did it because they do care about me and in fulfilling this request they cared about doing something. It was just so meaningful to me that somebody would honor a request like that.”

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