I really wanted to write something about Debbie today, for her birthday, but all the stuff I want to say everyone already knows. Like how compassionate she is, how kind she is, how loving and supportive she is. But what kept coming to mind as I thought about this was how funny and fun she is. Sure some of you get this, I know, but I worry you may think these are isolated infrequent incidents and I’m here to tell you I’ve known her my whole life and she is freak’n fun!
My first memories of her are when we were kids, of course. She used to pretend to let us hypnotize her but swinging a necklace in front of her face slowly and say “you’re getting sleeeeppppy” (which, by the way, she had to tell us to say, we didn’t know). Her eyes would roll back in her head and her arms would slowly rise from her lap until they were sticking straight out and I think she would then say, very deeply and slowly, “you’re wish is my command”. Oh my gosh, we would be so excited. Katy and I would argue about what to tell her to do. Piggy backs were a main stay. After a good amount of time she would break character, wrestle and tickle us and the three of us would giggle like, well, like little school girls.
Then, of course, there’s the famous chopping off her finger. Oh yeah, while at the kitchen counter with her back to us, she told us she was going to chop her finger off. From behind we saw her raise a meat cleaver high in the air (for effect) and slam it down on a cutting board. She would groan and told us to wait until she brought the finger over to us. We waited with wide eyes and pounding hearts. She had small box with cotton in it and a hole cut in one end (which we didn't know). She stuck her finger through the hole and add some flour (I think to make it look pasty white) and ketchup and brought the box to us. OK, now as I type this I can’t remember really if it was fun or terrifying.
While the specifics and routines have changed over the years, She has continued this fun and playfulness with her kids and her kids’ kids. She creates a space of safety. Not the “don’t run with scissors” kind of safety, the “you can be, say and do (almost) anything and I’ll still love you” kind of safety.
As I think about all the memories, I mostly remember wanting to be just like her when I was growing up. Now, I see her, still playful and still fun but also seriously striving to be better and do more.
Kindness on Purpose Day was her vision. An excerpt from Debbie’s story of how she came up with the idea - "Not long ago, I read about Robyn, a woman that chose to spend her 38th birthday doing 38 acts of kindness for other people. The stories of her encounters, and what ended up being her 'best birthday ever', moved and inspired me. My birthday was quickly approaching, and I'm at that place in my life where another birthday is, just, well, another birthday. So instead of whining about how old I'm getting, or reliving my "glory days" (not an acurate description by any stretch of the imagination) of my 20's or 30's, I decided I wanted to be like Robyn. There was one small problem -- I'm not 38. Logistically, I don't think there are enough hours in the day to physically do the 17 extra acts of kindness those additional years of my life would require. So, as to not be deterred, I decided to enlist the help of my family and friends. I figured who wouldn't want to help? Especially if they could count that as their birthday gift to me? Save a little money, do something good for someone else, and appease an aging woman's desires -- all at once. Now that's what I call a Win-Win-Win. And I was right. They were on board. As I started to see this as something that was now do-able, I didn't want to stop with my immediate family and close friends. I wanted to share it with everyone. My two sisters, Sylvia and Katy, were with me in no time. With their help, November 19th went from being my birthday to being Kindness on Purpose Day!
Debbie's compassion is, I think, her greatest quality. She has the unique ability to combine that compassion with support to create not only comfort but inspiration. As I think about the saying by Ghandi to “Be the change you want to see in the world” I think of her. She strives every single day to “be the change”. And you know what? She is the change! From where I stand she has changed the world, at the very least she has changed mine!
I love you, Debbie. Happy Birthday!