Have you ever had an intense urge to do something? This feeling usually hits me after I let my mind wander down the path of “you are helpless and hopeless, who are YOU to think you can change the world?”. After I go down that lonely path, I have a choice to make: let the world's brokenness crush and destroy me, or, I can decide to pick myself up and choose to limp forward with determination. No matter how insignificant or small, I need to put action to the change I want to see in this world.
This “urge” has been brewing for quite some time, and in September I decided to take action (without having a game plan, formed idea, or any organization whatsoever).
I posted a request: “Tell me a story. Tell me about someone who has impacted your life, and inspired you to show up in this world with kindness”. The messages that I received were incredible. I realized that there is a deep need in this broken, terrible and devastating world, to be reminded that being kind isn't a wasted action. Being kind is more powerful than we give it credit.
Meet Katie N.
Katie’s story was shared with me by her coworker and friend, Bethany W.
Bethany was one of the first people to send me a message after I posted my request for stories of kindness. Her excitement to share Katie’s impact on the world strongly inspired this project.
Katie has many titles: Mom, Wife, Sister, Daughter, Coach, Librarian, Caregiver, Listener.
Steller Kindness isn't only interested in sharing stories, it is also an opportunity to show people that their kindness doesn't go unnoticed. Even if you aren't praised in the moment, even if it seems like no one cares, you are impacting others with every interaction. We want to validate and celebrate people who are showing up with quiet kindness. Focusing on the negative makes mountains of trouble feel immovable: hearing stories like Katie's shows that we can move those mountains, with quiet acts of kindness.
I wanted to figure out a way to celebrate Katie’s kindness. That’s when it hit me, what if I invited her into my salon? What if I sat her down in my chair, gave her a new style, and used that time to have an organic conversation about who she is, why she is kind, and who inspires her to show up with empathy and compassion.
As I was organizing the logistics of getting Katie in my chair, Bethany took this idea to a whole other level. She posted a request of her own, on snapchat. She reached out to students, friends, and family members who knew Katie, and asked them to share a story of how she has impacted their life. Reading the responses displayed something important: It didn't matter how big the act of kindness was, it mattered that it impacted someone enough to remember it and respond. From brussel sprout seasoning, to helping someone through a panic attack. Katie’s kindness has left a beautiful impression.
I was so excited to meet Katie in person, and also nervous because I wasn't sure how it was going to go, or if this would feel meaningful to her.
Bethany helped me organize the day and time that would work for Katie to come in to my salon (she thought she and Bethany were going to get their nails done together). Once the time was set, I sent a letter to Katie letting her know that she had been nominated for the Steller Kindness Project, and that I wanted to meet her, do her hair and share her story.
One of the (many) things that stood out to me when I met Katie: she was SO surprised to be nominated. Her kindness is given authentically and naturally, and there isn't this expectation of recognition. I want to acknowledge these kind acts and bring light to the fact that we are impacting people every single day.
When Katie arrived at my salon, I knew instantly that:
- Can I please be her friend?
- She is a beautiful person.
- I was so excited to learn from and about her.
- This was a strange setting to meet someone, and she was brave to even agree to it.
After brief introductions (and hugs), Katie started to tear up. She told me “I feel so honored to be nominated for this. I am so surprised. I am so grateful”. This is why I want Steller Kindness to be a thing. Katie interacts with a multitude of students, coworkers, friends and family daily, and she doesn't realize her impact.
cutting katie's hair reminded me of why i do what i do. this craft gives me the opportunity to connect with another person on a very personal and authentic level. it allows me to give.
After talking hair logistics, I pulled out a letter from Bethany (I had asked her to write a letter to Katie explaining why she chose to nominate her). After reading this letter, both Katie and I had tears in our eyes (and a kleenex box within reach). Sitting with someone while they are told that how they show up in the world matters, and to see their face light up as they hear how they have impacted another person, this is what Steller Kindness is all about.
I then gave Katie the notes that Bethany had collected, and that brought a whole other level of emotion and gratitude. Sitting with Katie as she read through these short little snippets of impact she has had, "incredible and beautiful" doesn't begin to explain it.
What I learned while cutting Katie's hair:
-Katie has been coaching sports since she was 14 years old. She has a strong passion and drive to help others succeed and learn to be confident in their abilities, on and off the field.
-She has been head softball coach at Henry Sibley Highschool for 13 seasons, and was named Coach of the Year by their conference coaches.
-She was the director of a Day Care Center for 13 years.
-She is a mother of two boys. If you talk to her about this, you cant ignore her love and determination she has for her kids, and how much value she put into supporting them being the best versions of themselves. Something she said that stood out to me was: “I decided to pull back from playing in my own softball league, because it was important to me to be at my sons games and support them”. Katie’s values come first, even if that means she puts a hold on something she enjoys.
-I asked Katie, “Who is the first person you can remember that inspired you to be kind”. Katie responded with “my dad”. She went on to share that her dad taught her, by example, that people are people, regardless of the circumstances that they are in. Her dad's kindness in the smallest of interactions instilled this drive in her to be compassionate in her daily interactions, because a persons worth is not determined by their current life situation.
-I also wanted to know how Bethany and her current job at Henry Sibley High School has impacted Katie’s life. At the end of the day, kindness is a currency as well as an investment. When you are kind, you pay it forward, but you also invest it in yourself and your close relationships.
Here was Katie’s response to that question:
“I have been working with Bethany for 3 years. I was the director of a day care center for 13 years and the corporate world was making me not like my job. It became more about making money then the relationships with our kids and families. So I spoke with my Athletic Director before a practice one day and said I would LOVE to work at the high school. He would keep me informed of job openings, but wasn't really pushing it until the library position became available. Then he said you need to apply for this, you would be a perfect fit with Bethany in the library. Changing jobs after 13 years is definitely not easy, but Bethany made it a very smooth transition. She is one of the most positive people I know. She would constantly thank me for small things (I was not used to that at my other job) so I would always tell her she didn't need to do that. But obviously being the person she is, she has continued to be kind and thoughtful. I couldn't have imagined working with a better person. This high school is an amazing place to work for and I am lucky to have this job.”
Changing the world is a daunting task, and Katie is facing it head on with her quiet kindness. Regardless if this project goes anywhere, meeting Katie has changed my life and inspired me to be kind.
I am excited and honored to share her story with you.
If fear is Contagious, why can’t kindness be?