Sara Kirschenbaum
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Acts of Kindness

Posted Thursday, Feb 21st, 2013 at 9:34pm

I had been planning this for a couple weeks. To place 28 gifts around Portland, Oregon on Valentine's Day in honor of the 28 people who died in the Connecticut school shooting. But then when I broke up with my girlfriend two days before Valentine's Day (after 12 years of being alone on Valentine's Day) the effort to spread kindness and love seemed even more poignant. I got the idea from Facebook: 26actsofkindness. I wanted to add two more acts of kindness for the shooter and his mother who were both killed that day as well.

I put out the word on my facebook page that I wanted to do this and got several responses. As it turned out, three people joined me for the endeavor during three parts of the day. I was planning to spend a couple hundred dollars on the project but that turned out not to be necessary - the donations came in from all around my community.

My rules: I committed not to photograph and hopefully not to even see the people who opened the gifts. I didn't want to be attached to the outcome and to just offer it up to the universe. Three times I did see the lucky finders and twice I was unhappy about it. The gifts were placed in a variety of neighborhoods. Gift certificates were put near the stores where they could be redeemed so that transportation would not be an issue for whomever found them.

All envelopes had a card, a note, and the following list (filled out): list

I started out in St. John's with Polly Christopher.

One: In memory of Charlotte Bacon, Age 6 - A $5 gift certificate to Starbucks: 1

Two: In memory of Daniel Barden, Age 7 - A $10 gift certificate to Starbucks: 2

Three: In memory of Rachel Davino, Age 29 - A $5 gift certificate to Starbucks: 3

Four: In memory of Olivia Engel, Age 6 - A $5 gift certificate to Fred Myer: 4

Five: In memory of Josephine Gay, Age 7 - A $5 gift certificate to Fred Myer:


Six: In memory of Ana M. Marquez-Greene, Age 6 - A $15 gift certificate to Fred Myer:


Seven: In memory of Dylan Hockley, Age 6 - A $15 gift certificate to Fred Myer:


Eight: In memory of Dawn Hocksprung, Age 47 - A $15 gift certificate to Fred Myer:



Nine: In memory of Madeleine F. Hsu, Age 6 - A $5 gift certificate to Fred Myer:


This evnelope was left at a bus stop. And the woman who found it came down the street while we were still placing cards and said thank you - she said, "And today is my birthday!"

Ten: In memory of Catherine V. Hubbard, Age 6 - A $5 gift certificate to Fred Myer:


Eleven: In memory of Chase Kowalski, Age 7 - A $5 gift certificate to Fred Myer:


Twelve: In memory of Jesse Lewis, Age 6 - A $25 gift certificate to BiMart - tucked in a flat of Sugar Snap Peas outside of Bimart. The gift certificate had been given to me by an elderly neighbor who I had helped when she got locked out of her house. I didn't feel comfortable using it for myself so this was one way to give it back to the neighborhood:


Thirteen: In memory of James Mattioli, Age 6 - a $5 gift certificate to Cellar Door Coffee:



Fourteen: In memory of Grace McDonnell, Age 7 - a $5 gift certificate to Cellar Door Coffee. I made the decision to put this one on a Porsche! Everyone needs love right?



Fifteen: In memory of Anne Marie Murphy, Age 52 - - a $5 gift certificate to Cellar Door Coffee:


Sixteen: In memory of Emilie Parker, Age 6 - a $40 gift certificate to BiMart - tucked into the windshield of a firetruck (also a gift from a neighbor).


At this point in the day Polly left for other errands and Christina Malango joined me to give away some more gifts and to participate in the One Billion Rising Valentine's Day Actions. One Billion rising is a world wide protest against violence against women that will affect 1 billion women!

Seventeen: In memory of Jack Pinto, Age 6 - $25 gift certificate to Regal Cinemas.


I saw a man pick up this envelope and before he opened it he went chasing after a rose that someone had left on the street for someone to pick up. Lucky guy!

Eighteen: In memory of Noah Pozner, Age 6 - $100 gift certificate to Fred Myer. This was a prize I won at a Basic Rights Oregon fundraiser. First we put this big prize here:


But when I realized it was right by the entrance to a bar I decided to move it to here:


As I was driving away I saw something amazing. A little girl of about 10-years-old, in a pink coat, came up to the envelope. She knelt down, opened the envelope and looked at the gift certificate inside. She put it back it, tucked it back where it had been in the planter and skipped off with one of the balloons!


I never saw who got the $100 gift certificate.

Nineteen: Caroline Previdi, Age 6 - a pair of earrings and a piece of paper that said, "forgive."


At this point Christina and I went into a Starbuck near where there was to be a dance flash mob for One Billion Rising. We bought four $5 gift certificates to Starbucks and assembled various goodies.


Here is Christina, one of my partners in Acts of Kindness:


Twenty: In memory of Jessica Rekos, Age 6 - $5 gift certificate to Starbucks, and two metal token for "love" and "joy." We put it where the flash mob was to take place:


You can see it here right in the middle of everything!


Including the dancing!


Twenty-one: In memory of Avielle Richman, age 6 - a ring of mine that it was time to let go of (there is a story there!) and a $5 gift certificate to Starbucks:


A very rowdy teenage boy grabbed this package. It disappointed me a bit but sort of intrigued me!

Twenty-two: In memory of Lauren Russeau, age 30 - A $5 gift certificate to Starbucks. We stuck it in the hand of a famous Portland sculpture:


Twenty-three: In memory of Mary Sherlach, age 56 - A $5 gift certificate to Starbucks:


On the way out of Pioneer Square where the One Billion Rising flash mob was going on, we tucked a few gifts in the planters by the park. Here is a piece of my pottery:


And another:


And a bracelet in a box:


Christina took off at this point and later in the evening I met up with Jill Walters. We placed three more.

Twenty-four: In memory of Victoria Soto, age 27 - a $10 gift certificate to Powell's books:


Twenty-five: In memory of Benjamin Wheeler, age 6 - a $10 gift certificate to Powell's books:


Twenty-six: In memory of Allison N. Wyatt, age 6 - a $25 gift certificate to Bread and Ink Cafe:


At this point I ran out of steam for the last two so dear Jill said she would do them in the neighborhood of her work in Outer Southeast. She left two envelopes:

Twenty-seven: in memory of Nancy Lanz, age 52 - a $10 gift certificate to Powell's Books left in Lentz Park.

Twenty-eight: in memory of Adam Lanza, age 20 - a $10 gift certificate to Powell's Books left near a Outer SE library.

Epilogue: the day after Valentine's Day I went to see the Vagina Monologues and won a $50 gift certificate to a fancy local restaurant - thanks universe for the nod!


  1. Dayna Salva Wrote on Friday, Feb 22nd, 2013 at 6:22am

    Such a beautiful act of love! You are amazing Sara! I know if I would've stumbled on one of those letters, it would've been a beautiful experience. Thanks for sharing this with us.

  2. Kicki Masthem. Wrote on Wednesday, Mar 06th, 2013 at 8:18pm

    How fun and thoughtful. People are so interesting. If we could just let down our guard and be present in the moment. Let people know how we feel with words that can sink in. I heart you Sara!

  3. Sondra Kelly-Green Wrote on Wednesday, Mar 06th, 2013 at 11:24pm

    Bless you and your friends, Sarah. One of these envelops sounds like a short story. So affirming to hear how the universe can give back this swiftly. I think ya'll took its breath way!

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