“I feel happy when I’m being kind to others, because I’m helping them with their needs. If someone was inspired by me I would tell them that kindness should have no limits, and to help others when they need help.” -Emma
Full Disclosure: I am NOT someone who thinks about, practices, or intentionally seeks out avenues for “self care”. I also am not someone who does a lot of “pampering." I hate that word. Someone recently told me “you must take really good care of your skin!” My response was “I use handsoap to wash my face."
With that being said, there are two things that I look forward to every month: getting my brows waxed (by the amazing Alissa at Brow Chic) and having my girl, Sheila (SheK Lash & Glow Studio), create this magical experience where because of her lash skills, it looks like I wear makeup and have my life somewhat in order. In all honesty, I mostly love the excuse to spend time with these two wonderful friends.
About 2 months ago, I was having my lashes done, and chatting with Sheila. She usually doesn't let me talk because I get too expressive which makes her job hell. Sheila is also a female business owner, and it is such a comforting reality check talking with her, because she "gets it". We started chatting about the Steller Kindness Project, which then brought up someone inspiring that she was excited tell me about.
Sheila shared with me that her friend, Missy, has a teenage daughter who has taken her birthday parties to a whole new level of kindness. This incredible girl has been using her birthday, since age 8, to give back to others. Sheila then went on share that Missy told her that this year, the birthday party was going to have a Harry Potter theme.
At this point, not only was I excited and curious to learn more about someone so generous, but I am a not-so-low-key HP fan. I then learned that the birthday party was in the next couple of weeks. This was also a special birthday because this kind-hearted birthday girl was celebrating her sweet 16!
Sheila had to take a break from my lashes because, when I get excited, I have a hard time not flailing (pretty sure I will be back to the “no talking” rule next time).
Sheila’s excitement to tell me about a girl, who she hasn't even met, was an important reminder of why this project is important to me. It doesn't matter if someone’s kind actions directly effect you, their impact can still be incredibly powerful and inspiring.
"My heart became so happy to know that there are such kind-hearted young adults in this world"
“I don’t personally know Emma, but I know her mom (Missy), who is just as amazing as Emma. One day, Missy and I were chatting and she started talking about her daughter. I felt a pull to keep asking more questions, and when she told me more about Emma, my heart became so happy to know that there are such kind-hearted young adults in this world. Emma started donating her presents at a young age, when most children want more and more presents. It is pure joy for me to see that there are and CAN be young adults like Emma, especially if you focus on the simple happiness that life brings, not toys or money. I couldn't stop thinking about Emma and her kind heart. Knowing the theme for her 16th Birthday Party (Harry Potter), I just HAD to let my fellow kind-hearted friend, Katie, in on Emma’s Story!” -Sheila
Before I had Emma come in to the salon, I had the opportunity to chat with her mom, Missy. It is important to me that this project is respectful, and that the recipients feel respected. I asked Missy to tell me a little bit more about Emma and about her love of giving. Missy shared with me that Emma’s birthday tradition wasn't organically inspired. It was more of a “strong” encouragement on her part, due to the amount of toys that Emma already had. She went on to tell me that her daughter was far from “thrilled” at first, but this tradition has become something that is so special and important to Emma. She even starts planning her next birthday the day after her current birthday!
What do these birthday parties look like?
Emma’s birthday is an open-invitation. Friends, families, aquaintances, and anyone else who wants to tag along is welcome! She chooses a theme, and then turns that theme into an outdoor movie that is projected in their backyard. Emma then chooses an organization/cause that reflects her theme, and that is important to her.
I asked Emma to tell me about some of her previous parties, and what organizations she chose to bring awareness to. For example, one year she asked people to give to Sharing and Caring Hands, and another year she chose the organization, Prism.
One of her birthdays she chose the movie Lady and the Tramp, and asked her guests to bring pet toys to donate to the Animal Humane Society. Emma also took a more specific approach, and had people donate to the Hawaiian monk seals at the Minnesota Zoo!
For Emma’s Sweet 16 Golden Birthday, she has decided to highlight JK Rowlings non-profit called We Are Lumos. She had asked her guests to donate money to this important cause instead of giving her gifts.
Lumos is an organization that is on a mission to keep children out of orphanages, and into the arms of loving families. By 2050, they want to see ALL children grow up in loving, nurturing, and protective families.
The fact that Sheila shared her story with me just two weeks before her Harry Potter themed birthday party felt like Emma was meant to be celebrated by Steller Kindness. Not to mention her decision to raise money and awareness for an organization that is committed to protecting the well-being of children. This girl deserved to be recognized for how incredible she is!
On the Saturday of her big party, I set it up with Missy to bring Emma in for a blow out and the chance for me to get to know her a bit. Emma came through our salon doors in full Hufflpuff attire, that honestly had me feeling a little jealous.
She literally has some of the thickest, most beautiful hair, and I was so excited to give it a trim and style it up for her!
Photo: Emma Steller
It was so fun to have Missy hang out with us and to watch how the two of them interacted together. You could tell that these two have a friendship deeper than the expected parent/child relationship.
“Her sweet gesture to give to others. Making her special day (birthday) to help others in need. We’ve done a outdoor charity movie event since she was 8. Now going to be Sweet 16 (her golden birthday). Emma looks forward to this every year! Even starts planning next year, the moment her last party ends. Sometimes drives me NUTS.
Her kindness makes my heart melt.. knowing that we have raised such a thoughtful soul. I tear up every time”
-Missy (Emma's mama)
Emma is not only an exceptional human, but she is also an artist. She has an incredible eye for colors, design, and technique. Her mom showed me a photo of this beautiful portrait of her grandpa that was almost as tall as she was. Emma told me that she had been spending weeks on making things for her party, such as a sorting hat, dementors, and other Harry Potter decorations.
Not only does Emma create art in a physical form, she creates art with her words.
She told me about the stories she was writing, which are a crossover of mythology, humor, animals and adventure. She shared that she has been doing research to ensure that her character depictions were respectful and accurate to people whose race, religion, and sexual orientation might be displayed through her stories. It was so encouraging to hear someone take such intentional care in being aware of how her writing might affect others.
I asked Emma what her friends thought of her Birthday parties, and her transparent response struck something in me.
“I don’t have many friends, but the people who do come to my birthday party think that it’s a great idea that I give to others instead of receiving presents.” -Emma
Emma probably doesn't realize the incredible impact she is having on others. She is so authentic to who she is and the choices she makes, that she isn't waiting for approval or recognition. She just does her thing, and creates kindness while doing it.
At the end of our time together, I told Emma that I had a gift for her. I prefaced it by saying “this ISN'T a birthday gift, it’s a Kindness gift." I didn't want her to feel the need to give it away.
Do you have something that you've thought “I don't need this, but I don't feel ready to get rid of it?"
I have felt that way about a specific belonging for the past few years. Every time I’ve moved, I pack it up, unpack it, and just let it exist on a shelf.
Four years ago, on a trip to Universal Studios in Florida, I spent an embarrassing amount of money on Dumbledore’s Elderwand. I havent' been able to bring myself to get rid of it, but I also have never found a spot to keep it.
When I learned about Emma, It immediately hit me that she was suppose to have that wand.
I don't think I have ever been so nervous to give someone a gift! Not because of what it was, but because I felt SO excited and convinced that this wand belonged to her. I hoped that it would show even the slightest bit of gratitude that I have for her and how she is living her life.
The genuine joy that Emma experienced turned every head in the salon. I actually recieved messages from clients afterwards saying that it made their day.
Emma deserves to feel joy, and deserves to be recognized for her goodness. She spreads kindness and goodness without the need of approval or acknowledgement. That is showing up. That is being kind.
Show Up, Be Kind.
“Differences of habit and language are nothing at all if our aims are identical and our hearts are open.” –The Goblet of Fire