Sunday, March 31, 2013

Guest Blogger: Insight on Navigating Health Care

I (Amy) am pleased to introduce our guest blogger, Judy Sulick.  Judy is a pharmacist and has been working in health care for nearly 30 years. With almost two decades of executive corporate positions, extensive travel and career focus, she has shifted her attention to a local health benefits management position. She resides in Dublin, Ohio where she balances a fulfilling position with her talent for art, gallery displays, commission painting and passion for all things creative. I have personally known Judy for nearly 20 years and I just adore her. She is like the sister to me that I never had. Judy jumped at the chance to be a guest blogger which doesn’t surprise me given her giving, creative personality. It is my pleasure and with great honor to introduce our audience to Judy and her take on navigating health care. 

As a health care professional, I notice that friends, family and colleagues discuss personal health matters with me and even solicit guidance in navigating health care resources. It can be an illness, an injury, a procedure or preventive health care appointment. I also notice that aging family members are more likely to look to us for support, often for health related matters. As family members are aging, try to be proactive in anticipating their needs and understanding what choices are possible with health insurance plans.
The complexities of commercial health plans and Medicare plans can be overwhelming. In the future, health care exchanges could become options through the Affordable Care Act. At some point, we may be called to make decisions or assist in deciding which plan offers the level of access, cost and quality of services for our or a loved ones’ needs.
Here are some things to consider and a few resources that might help:
o   Medicare is a federal health insurance program for U.S. citizens (or permanent legal residents for 5 continuous years) who:
       Are 65 years of age or older;
       Are under 65 and disabled and receiving benefits;
       Have end-stage renal disease; or
       Are eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance and  have ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease)
o   When a person turns 65, it’s important to assure that they’ve enrolled in Medicare. Medicare Part A addresses inpatient insurance. Medicare Part B addresses medical outpatient insurance. In a nutshell, Medicare pays primary and another commercial plan can pay secondary for medical claims.

       Medical: In addition to Medicare, medical plans are offered through various commercial insurers. Some people have access to medical insurance through their retirement plan. Others are able to enroll in individual or group plans. In choosing among various plan options:
o   Consider the current status of health and whether you anticipate frequent visits to the doctor. There are options where if you anticipate good health and infrequent need to see the physician, you may be willing to risk a higher out of pocket limit in exchange for lower monthly premiums throughout the year.
o   Some medical insurers have a specific network of physicians that are considered ‘in network’. If your physician or local hospital is not in this network, there will likely be a different member cost share for the service. Consider travel and ‘snowbirds’ with extended temporary residence. Are there providers within network in those areas?
o   Home Health Care: With the trend toward hospitals decreasing the length of inpatient stay, long term care or home health care is often needed to continue recuperation or rehabilitation. Look at the scope and duration of services available within the benefit. What qualifies the member for Home Health Care after a hospitalization or for hospice?
o   How much can you spend? There can be a deductible where the member is required to pay up to that amount before the plan requires only the established copayment/coinsurance. Also, evaluate the maximum out of pocket payments required until the plan covers more of the expenses. Think about the member’s overall monthly budget, including pharmacy costs.

       Pharmacy: These benefits are often bundled with the medical plan enrollment. If the member is enrolled in Medicare and a plan that offers prescription benefits, it is likely a Medicare Part D plan.
o   Medicare Part D was established by Title I of the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act. The goal is to provide prescription benefits to Medicare beneficiaries whereby anyone with Parts A or B is eligible. Typically, plan sponsors or insurers leverage government subsidies in Part D plans to offset the cost of premiums for members.
o   Typically pharmacy benefits offer both a mail service and a retail pharmacy benefit. Some retail pharmacy benefits have a specific network of pharmacies and different member cost share for out of network pharmacies. Mail service pharmacy is reasonable for prescriptions where the medication dose is stabilized and chronic in nature (i.e. Blood pressure medications). Retail pharmacy is reasonable for prescriptions that might not yet have consistent dosing or short-term in nature (i.e. Antibiotics). Overall, plan sponsors use mail service pharmacies to leverage better pricing, thereby offsetting the cost of premiums to members.
o   As with medical plans, consider the deductible, copayment/coinsurance and maximum out of pocket expenses required by the member until the plan covers more of the cost.

       Dental and Vision: These benefits are typically offered with premiums separate from the Medical/Pharmacy bundle.
o   Consider the need for glasses, contacts. Also consider the potential for needs such as glaucoma screenings or ophthalmologic care secondary to diabetes. Evaluate the insurance plan contribution toward services and frequency with which the services are allowed.
o   Evaluate the coverage around dental procedures, dentures, reconstructive or preventive care.

       Long Term Care Insurance:  When available, premiums are often more affordable the younger the enrollee. Look at the potential dollar benefit paid to the member per month as well as the necessary qualifications to enact the benefit.

Many resources are available to help you understand how to navigate health care options. Some are through commercial insurers, while many are through government program websites. Here are a few:

Essentially, medical and pharmacy benefits drive access to and choices about our health care. Our benefits drive our comfort and confidence in having the resources at hand to address the issues.
Be proactive. Be informed.
Guest Blogger,
Judy Sulick, R.Ph., M.S.
Assistant Director, Pharmacy Benefits and Health Care Enrollment
State Teachers Retirement System of Ohio

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Guest Blogger: Performance Management, Appreciation, and Motivation in the Era of the Skinny Chicken

Today I introduce to you, Amy Ambrose.  Amy and I have worked together for the past 10 years and she has become a close friend of mine.  Amy runs the operations for our region with 80+ employees under her sphere of influence.  Amy brings a level of creativity to our team that is unmatched, she is always thinking outside of the box.  She inspires change which is a constant in today's workplace and is amazing at implementation. This woman can get stuff done!  And she does all this with a great sense of humor that keeps you grounded in that "its just work, don't take yourself too seriously" type manner.  Amy's ability to communicate is something we can all learn from, thus why she is going to share some thoughts on Performance Management and Appreciation. 

The Urban Dictionary defines Skinny Chicken as: to offer little or nothing; to shaft; to be cheap

The phrase, “the skinny chicken” is used around my house to express dissatisfaction or a general feeling of getting “the scraps”.  While this might not be a common expression in the office, I think many leaders feel that performance management and accompanying compensation process leaves them nothing to offer most of their employees, even at times, their best employees, nothing but the skinny chicken.  After completing the annual performance cycle in my division of 80+ employees, I’ve given some thought to the performance review process and how to avoid feeling that we are only serving the skinny chicken to employees.  I find that the answer is demonstration of genuine appreciation, not as the “runner-up” prize, but the true Blue Ribbon winner.  
Employee motivation and high organizational performance and profits go hand in hand.  The Gallup organization found that when all of an organization’s employees are highly motivated and performing at their peak, customers are 70% more loyal, turnover drops by 70%, and profits jump 40%.  Appreciation is the foundation for motivation.  However, Tom Rath and Donald O. Clifton of Gallup document that 65% of American workers received no recognition in the workplace last year.  
The Leadership Experience by Richard L. Daft offers a Simple Model of Motivation that begins with a Need (money, recognition, achievement) which leads to Behavior, which leads to Rewards.  Rewards can be intrinsic, or “self-satisfaction” or extrinsic, which are rewards given by another person, typically a supervisor, such as a pay increase or promotion.  Intrinsic rewards appeal to the “higher” needs of employees – a sense of accomplishment, feelings of competence, growth, fulfillment, and self-determination.  Extrinsic rewards appeal to the “lower’ needs of individuals such as material comfort and basic safety and security.  
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs can be applied here in that basic Physiological and Safety needs are likely met in most organizations – Base Salary, Safe Workplace, Benefits – which gives leaders the ability to focus on the Belongingness, Esteem, and Self-Actualization Needs.  However, too many times we neglect to take this view and focus on emphasizing salary increases (basic need) over the true motivators of being a part of an excellent and challenging work group, recognition, increased responsibilities, autonomy, and creativity.  
Frederick Herzberg builds upon Maslow’s theory regarding factors that affect worker satisfaction.  Factors that negatively impacted or showed a neutral impact to employee satisfaction were Working Conditions, Pay and Security, Company Policies, Supervisors, and Interpersonal Relationship.  Factors that led to Highly Satisfied employees were Achievement, Recognition, Responsibility, Work Itself, and Personal Growth.  
Current thought leaders have devoted significant research to appreciation and motivation.  A few that come at the topic from different angles but all arriving at the same conclusion are Dan Pink, Tony Schwartz, and David Horsager.  In Pink’s book Drive he states “science has shown that we have achieved a higher plane where motivation is achieved as much intrinsically as extrinsically.  For example, researchers have found that we do our best work when motivated from within, when we have control over our work, and when we feel a deep sense of purpose.  Under such conditions, we can achieve a real mastery over what it is that we do.”  Tony Schwartz and The Energy Project talk about the need to have fully engaged and motivated employees through renewal of four energy needs – one of which is Significance or Purpose.  Finally, David Horsager’s book, The Trust Edge, introduces the concept of magnetic people being connectors.  Leaders are connectors.  Horsager states that “One secret and irresistible quality of magnetic people is that they’re grateful.  They are genuinely grateful and it shows in their interactions with others.”
My challenge to you as you prepare for your next performance or compensation discussion is to put aside crafting a message which makes a Skinny Chicken look like a plump, Thanksgiving turkey, and instead think about how to show appreciation and gratitude to the employee which will translate into motivation.  Don’t waste time fulfilling “lower” needs and view “higher” need rewards as the consolation prize to a smaller or non-existent monetary award.  Many times we miss everyday and “annual” opportunities to show appreciation and provide motivation that appeal to an employee’s fundamental desire to be appreciated.  
A quote from Maya Angelou sums it up well.  I’ve added context in parentheses to illustrate my meaning.
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said (performance feedback or rating),
people will forget what you did (salary increase or bonus),
but people will never forget how you made them feel (appreciation and recognition).” 

Guest Blogger, 
Amy Ambrose

Monday, February 25, 2013


Amazing how my definition or perception of beauty has changed from when I was in my twenties. Now that I'm in my thirties, I see beauty in a totally different light. I’m sure it will continue to change as I evolve, mature and become more seasoned, but this is where I am right now, so I welcome the outlook. Honestly, when I think about what I thought was beauty back then, it makes me cringe because it's actually rather grotesque. Not grotesque in a way that speaks negatively about the people as objects but grotesque in regards to social and media stream's intent to dictate and mislead us into thinking that their beauty is or should be our definition or epitome of beauty. They removed the innocence that is usually embedded in true beauty and all too often, just as I did, our young girls accept it and then look upon themselves with shameful eyes. What a blind robbery of their youth!...and, yet, they don't even know they are being robbed of years in celebrating who they are during their emerging stages of life.

Now that I am in my thirties, I seem to always have a passionate love/hate affair with food and everyday stressors of being a working mom and beauty, for me, has been redefined. Beauty is the curves along my backside and hips; it is the one eye that I managed to line with eyeliner in the morning, but with the busyness of a morning routine with my 5 year old, I forgot to line the other. Beauty is the stubborn cellulite that won’t go away no matter how many miles I walk or jog per week or how many ounces of water I drink per day! It tells me I'm healthy, I’m normal and best of all, I'm HAPPY. Beauty is the look I have when I open my eyes in the morning with an out of place ponytail in the back of my head and no makeup except my inherently black under eye circles. That's beauty. That's beauty because that is real. It’s relatable. It became relieving...once I accepted it.

Beauty is my tiny waist and big hips that never seem proportioned in the industries' pair of jeans that align to social and media standards of beauty. I'm sorry, but I would like one pair of jeans that I can purchase and not have to deal with 3-4 inches gap in the rear because designers have not figured out that all women whether black, white, Latina, etc. are ALL shapely these days. Beauty is confidence. Beauty is intelligence and knowing how to articulate your wants and needs in the workplace or at home. Beauty is telling my daughter everyday that she's beautiful because of her heart and kindness towards others. Now, I understand the good ole saying that I used to hear as a child growing up in the South and consistently recite to my own daughter and that is: "Pretty is as Pretty Does". Beauty is what you do more than who you are or what you look like. A pretty face + an ugly attitude and heart = ugly/disadvantage. Something I've learned over the years is that beauty has its place in the workplace, especially if you are a woman. It can either attract people towards you or deter them and force them to run in the opposite direction when they see you coming down the hallway. Now, measure that for leadership effectiveness, why don’t you?

Recently, I visited a traveling art exhibit called "Posing Beauty" at the Figge Art Museum with my five year old daughter. I was grateful we went, but even more grateful that she could learn, observe and experience the creation of a dividing line separating beauty from hype, fact from fiction, glory from...well, the imposter. The photography showed me how internal beauty and confidence is actually captured in photo, whether we know it or not and whether we want to believe it or not. Even in still photography, people can see empowerment in your eyes or they can identify when you are allowing life to take control of you. What is the legacy you want to leave behind when your children or grandchildren look at your photos? I challenge you to stop and think about that for a moment. Walk away from this blog (just for a minute), pull out a recent photo and examine it. What does it say? If this was the last photo seen, what legacy would you be leaving behind? A legacy of strength, compassion and empowerment or one of weakness, bitterness and servitude?

I will leave you with this: I remember when I was a teenager, standing in line at the grocery store with my mom in Louisiana and I came across an interview with Selma Hayek. Her words were profound and forced me to reflect upon beauty then (as it does now). She said, “People often say that 'beauty is in the eye of the beholder,' and I say that the most liberating thing about beauty is realizing that you are the beholder. This empowers us to find beauty in places where others have not dared to look, including inside ourselves.” ~ Selma Hayek

Oh yeah, one final thought. I've been so inspired by this that I want to capture my beauty, as it is today, and have scheduled time with a professional artist to create an oil painting of me, celebrating MY SPLENDOR! Hopefully, it will be a healthy reminder for my beautiful daughter to never skip a day in celebrating her inner beauty, appreciating and embracing her body and owning her legacy….

Beautifully Yours,

Friday, February 15, 2013

Day #5 of 40 Random Acts of Kindness before I turned 40: To Make a Difference and Live a Life of Significance

Thanks for joining me for Day #5 of 40 Random Acts of Kindness:

I was encouraged along the way by the stories of paid-off Christmas layaways for strangers and a Starbucks where for three hours, each and every person paid for the person behind them in the drive through line.  (Talk about contagious kindness!) This was such an incredible retail challenge for the cashiers that Starbucks now has developed a procedure to handle these random acts of kindness.  What a wonderful problem to have and have to countermeasure! I also absolutely love the Liberty Mutual commercials.  These are the ones where people choose to help strangers.  I have attached a link to one of my favorites. This is the essence of random acts of kindness.  They do not have to be elaborate or expensive.  They only have to be meaningful.  Facebook even has a page for Random Acts of Kindness. 
Once you began these acts of kindness intentionally, these stories are everywhere.  I remember when I was pregnant with my daughter; I had never seen so many pregnant women in all my life.  I think that this has a similar effect.  If you only see the negative or the bad news, negative is what permeates.   When you begin to focus on the positives, encouragement is everywhere.   It will make you look at the world and the people in it in an entirely different way. 
Some great stories that inspired me
I love that companies now recognize that this emotional connection is so important.  Connecting with people and the “why” is just as critical as the “what” or “how” they do what they do.  This connection is important for their customers and for their employees.  We must look deeper and do more as leaders to connect with people.  This is the “Why” that Simon Sinek speaks to in his TEDtalks and his book Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek.  When we connect with people on a different level, we can truly inspire and make a difference.  This is significant and this is significance.
Well, I met my goal of forty random acts of kindness before I turned forty.  I was intentional and had a lot of help from my friends and family with ideas.  Some even encouraged me by doing random acts along with me.  I found that kindness is contagious and so very easy.  I loved the excitement and interest in this challenge.  It was a feeling I had never previously known.  I did feel significant.  I loved the looks on people’s faces.  I also loved knowing that some of the recipients of my acts I would never even meet or know.  The best part or biggest reward of this entire experience has not been how much I gave or did but by the feeling I got by doing this.  I received so much more than I gave.  The conversations it started gave me real joy.  And the “pay it forward” opportunities were exponential.  I had so many of the recipients tell me that they were going to do something for someone else.  I was intentional and I wanted to have significance.  When I turned forty, I intentionally embraced it and it was far more significant that I could have dreamed!  When my birthday finally came, I was surrounded by family and friends and felt loved and blessed.  I met my goal.  My priorities were clear and I was aware and intentional.  I conquered it by aligning my values and goals with my actions.  Also, I did not stop at forty.  I cannot bring myself to delete the app with my notes for (RAK).  I am now currently up to 54 and counting.  I also certainly do not feel as though I have reached the summit of the “hill”.  I am still climbing.  But I will admit that I prefer the view from up this high.  It is so much clearer. 
So what now? The quote I included at the top is, “Never doubt that a small group of committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has” by Margaret Mead.  This quote is relevant as it is true.   If you commit with intention and follow through, anything is possible.  I challenge you to do the same.   Random Acts of Kindness week is officially February 11-17, 2013. You can do them anytime not just this week.  But once you start, I warn you that it is difficult to stop.  I encourage you to participate.  Be kind and look for opportunities to help people, even strangers.  The reward is worth the effort, I promise.  Faith in humanity is restored.  
 “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not.”  Dr. Seuss

~Christy Brasher, guest blogger

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Day#4 of 40 Random Acts of Kindness before I turned 40: To Make a Difference and Live a Life of Significance

Welcome to Day #4 of 40 Random Acts of Kindness with Christy Brasher:  
 One opportunity came when I went out to lunch one day and stopped and got gasoline (multi tasking as a single mom).  This one happens to be a combination convenience store with a local sub sandwich shop in it.  I stood in line and made my selection.  When I got to the register, the truck driver in front of me was having a conversation with the cashier about his gift card.  She was explaining to him that it was not valid at this location due to ownership policy.  I interrupted and said to just add his to mine and I paid for both.  He looked at me mouth agape stunned (I found that this was a common reaction when strangers do something nice or unexpected).  It took him a minute to realize that I had just bought his lunch.  People expect rudeness or ridicule.  They do not expect kindness.  When we were walking to fill up our drinks, he offered me the gift card as repayment.  I politely refused his offer and told him to use it another time or give it to someone else that he thought needed it.   He said that he would.   This was a great feeling because it was so unexpected and spontaneous.  This is how many of the forty happened, completely by random. 
One more area of kindness acts I classified as inspirational.  I had made some wonderful friends in Chicago.  One of my new friends told me that I inspired him to write and play music again.  I questioned whether this qualified as an act and whether it counted toward my goal.  He said that it did in his book.  I didn’t argue with people when they told me whatever I did should count toward my goal.  But, I did look this up on the Random Acts of Kindness web page ( to see if this “counted” and I found that it does.  This site has some great ideas if you need inspiration.   I also inspired someone to go back and finish their college degree.  I inspired a friend to take a leap and change career paths.  I helped a colleague with a very challenging situation at work and found a win-win solution.   I cheered up my best friend after a horrible Monday by listening and having margaritas.  I championed a mentor program for my work.  These acts were giving of my time, encouragement, or expertise and apparently, after a little research, they do count.  
Some of my acts of kindness were monetary or tangible.  I sponsored a female pit bull to receive veterinary care after being rescued from a dog-fighting ring.  I sponsored a coworker’s little girl for a triathlon in which she took first place in her age division.  She felt very special to be sponsored like “real” adult athletes.  I donated clothes and household items to a domestic violence shelter.  I gave a donation to the Habitat for Humanity Women Build for a single mom building a house in Nashville, Tennessee.  I put a few small dollar amount gift cards on windshield wipers in the parking lot of a grocery store on cars that had infant or car seats in them.  I put dollar coins in every vending machine in my break area at work.  I donated to the Salvation Army.  An amazing thing happened when my friends knew about my goal.   I had two of my birthday gifts to be donations in my name.  One to the Habitat for Humanity Women Build and another to an organization that helps provide training to women in third world nations to learn a trade so that they can escape prostitution and poverty.  These were the best gifts that I received for my birthday, by far. 
                Believing in people, helping them achieve their goals, and inspiring people was an amazing way to realize my goal of forty.  These acts of kindness have the most lasting effects.  They are the essence of the Maya Angelou quote, “I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” 

Join me tomorrow for the final day of 40 Random Acts of Kindness.
~Christy Brasher, Guest Blogger

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Day #3 of 40 Random Acts of Kindness before I turned 40: To Make a Difference and Live a Life of Significance

Welcome Back for Day #3 of 40 Random Acts of Kindness:  
My favorite of the forty random acts of kindness happened in the Nashville International Airport.  I was flying to Chicago for my Women’s Unlimited workshop session and had arrived at the airport to find that my flight was delayed.  I decided to go to my favorite airport waiting place, Tootsies.  For those not familiar with Tootsies, it is a bar in Nashville, Tennessee on 422 Broadway.  The airport has a replica of the Tootsie’s Orchid Bar theme and even has a live country music singer there most of the time.  The singer was playing guitar, and it happened to be one of my favorite songs.  There was an elderly couple sitting next to me in the bar and they were very sweet. They were easily in their nineties.  He was drinking a beer, she was picking at a sandwich, and they were both very into the music.  He was tapping his feet and she was moving in her chair to the beat.  They were adorable.  He was wearing a black trucker WWII veteran’s hat with several pins of distinction on it.  This was perfect.  I decided to go to our server and pay for their lunch.  It was close to Veteran’s Day and this was a great opportunity.  I explained to the server that I wanted to pay their tab and her tip.  I told her that when he asked for the bill to explain that his bill had been paid and to thank him for his service.  She gave me the same look to which I was beginning to be accustomed but was very excited to be part of my plot.  It was all set!  I was so excited.  I tried to read my Kindle and appear engaged in my Smartphone.  When he finally asked for his bill, the waitress smiled and took great joy in repeating my request to them.  She told him, thank you for your service.  Puzzled, they begin to look around the restaurant trying to determine who had done this.  I intently and nonchalantly read through my phone messages.  I could overhear them speaking and they began to say to each other about “how nice it was of someone to do this”.  I thought to myself, “It worked”!  Inside I was gleefully thinking about how slick I was when suddenly the wife leaned over to me and said, “You did this, didn’t you?”  Oh no, I was caught!  I lowered my head and said that yes I had but that I didn’t want them to know it was me.  I explained to them that I was turning forty and wanted to do forty nice things or random acts of kindness before I turn forty.  I then began to cry.  I can’t exactly explain why I was crying in the Nashville airport in a Tootsies restaurant bar to an elderly couple, that I didn’t know, but I was.  He looked at me with his weather face, smiled, and thanked me.  Then he said matter-of-factly, “Well, don’t you want to know our story?”  I said that I would love to know their story! He began by taking off his hat and explaining the pins on it, showing me his division.  Certain divisions meant that he was a “flyboy” or pilot in World War II.  He had been stationed in Europe during the war.  This man sitting in front of me had flown 37 bombing missions in Germany against the Nazis and successfully returned home to his bride.  He explained that they had gotten married right before he left for war and that they were about to celebrate 68 years of marriage.  They had been married in November of 1944.  He reached over and began to hold her hand.  Now, I was crying for a different reason.  They talked about how they now lived in Seattle and were traveling to Germany and to the area that he had been stationed all those years ago.  We then talked about how nice the city of Nashville was and how much they loved the music.  I was amazed at their love story and his service for our nation.  They loved my act of kindness and said that it helped them feel better because they were weary from a long day of traveling.  The wife said that she was touched and that she would find a way to do the same for someone else.  She also assured me that even though I was not anonymous, it still counted toward my forty acts of kindness goal.  I left again smiling and beaming.  I never got their name and they never asked for mine but my life was touched by this random encounter.   I received so much more than I gave. 

This goal of mine began to also bleed over into my work.  And I found something else.  When I began to tell my friends and accountability partners about what I was doing they began to do random acts with me.  It was spreading.  Kindness is contagious!  Tomorrow I will tell you about how my intentional goal of significance through kindness began to impact my life, my work, and my results in a positive way. 
Check back tomorrow for Day #4 of 40 Random Acts of Kindness.
~Christy Brasher, Guest Blogger

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Day #2 of 40 Random Acts of Kindness before I turned 40: To Make a Difference and Live a Life of Significance

Thanks for coming back for Day #2 of 40 Random Acts of Kindness...
I had my goal of significance defined and decided that forty random acts of kindness would be how I would realize my goal.  So then, the questions were where to begin and how to accomplish this task for myself?  My first random act of kindness came when I began to find accountability partners for my goal.  Accountability partners are people who you encourage you to keep your commitment.  You can share your goal with a person whom you trust and then you are accountable to them to be a person of your word.    
My friend and I are learning to golf together.  We encourage each other and cheer for the occasional good, solid swings.  She and I finished at the driving range one day and went to have a beer and catch up.  We had a young waitress who had a big smile, the best attitude, and pictures of her young baby girl on her order tablet.  She overheard my friend and me talking about how grateful we were (about what I cannot recall).  She interrupted us and talked about her being grateful as well, and even pulled out a small, smooth rock from her apron and said that it was her “grateful rock”.  We looked at her puzzled and she explained that this was her tangible reminder to be grateful.  She was very sincere and explained that she and her husband were working and taking care of their young baby and that at times their lives seemed overwhelming.  It was in those moments that she stops and holds the rock and remembers to be grateful for the positive things in her life.  She was very kind and out of her apron she produced two more rocks and gave them to us.  They were small, smooth, and nothing especially unique about them except for what they represent.  I had just finished sharing my random act of kindness commitment with my friend.  This was it!  I said to her, “This is my first one."   I thought back to my own experience waiting tables when I was twenty years old and hoping to make diaper money and baby food money during my shift for my young baby girl at home.  I had the same baby pictures of my daughter in my order book and just as many hopes and dreams.  I then realized that I was right where this young lady had been almost exactly twenty years ago.  We had a $6.00 tab together for our two beers after golfing.  I decided to leave her a twenty dollar tip and write her a note of encouragement.  I told her to stay positive, keep her wonderful attitude, to follow her dreams, and to love and appreciate her baby girl when she was still little.  I told her that I had been in her situation myself and am in a much different place now and I wished her the best.  I also told her that she was my first of forty random acts of kindness.  I left the restaurant with my friend ---both of us were glowing.   We were almost floating to the car.  The feeling that gave me was so incredible.
Over the next few weeks and months, I found a few small ways to meet my goal.  I helped an elderly lady put her groceries in her car and bought coffee for a stranger at a gas station.  I shared my apples with my peers at work and thanked several public service workers for what they do and contribute (TSA agents, police officers, and fire fighters).  I donated blood to the American Red Cross on 9/11 in remembrance.  I fed two teenage boys, friends of my son, and talked to them about their goals for their future.  I paid tolls for cars behind me.  I also paid for drive through food for a car behind me in line.  I volunteered to serve breakfast at an under privileged school and donated to that school for books and supplies.  Each of these acts were recorded in an app on my phone, so that I would ensure to remember them all and tracking to my goal of forty.  Each one brought me an increased level of satisfaction and significance. 
I still have the rock in my car in a compartment in my console.  I hold it sometimes on my way home when I have a rough day.  I think about where I was twenty years ago and how I can be grateful sitting in traffic.  I remember my first random act and the young lady.  I have so much for which to be grateful.  Random acts can be small or large and can be tangible or intangible.  They can be planned or spontaneous.   They can have lasting effects.  Tomorrow, I will tell you the story about my favorite of my forty random act of kindness.  It was one that deeply touched me and gave me a sense of significance. 

Please check back for Day #3 of 40 Random Acts of Kindness tomorrow.

~Christy Brasher, guest blogger