I was born in the outskirts of New Orleans, and spent the majority of my childhood living there. My family had property beside a small, golden river, amidst a towering forest of pine, and I would spend the endless days of summer wading in the water catching minnows and perch, and the nights catching fireflies.
Autumn would roll in and then the leaves would fall. With a rake longer than I was tall, I’d groan and rake under my father’s orders, until a pile of needles and oak were so high there was no resisting jumping in them. My siblings would dangerously roll down hills in our red Radio Flyer wagon, and in the evenings, once a month, my family would build a huge bonfire to burn away the debris we’d collected.
In December, my family would find the tallest Christmas tree we could and have it shipped to our house, where we spent days stringing lights and antique glass ornaments. It was always an adventure trying to find someone brave enough to climb the ladder to place the star on top. After that, we would roast marshmallows and make smores in our brick fireplace.
This post isn’t really about Christmas (I’ll make a proper one on the day), but I wanted to give the backdrop of what I consider some of the most idyllic moments of my childhood, because in 2005, that property, as I knew it, ceased to exist.
I had already been in California for many years by the time 2005 came around, and brought Hurricane Katrina with it. I was working at Starbucks at the time as a shift supervisor. I was twenty years old, and didn’t know anybody affected by the hurricane; I’d lost touch with my friends long before, but the news was still devastating. Friends of my mother confirmed that the entire property where I had spent my youth was gone. The trees had been uprooted and destroyed; the river was choked with silt; the ground cover, the driveway, had all been buried beneath mud. Even though I didn’t live there anymore, there was something sad about knowing it was gone forever; that it wouldn’t be there to offer new families the same memories I had so cherished. And it wasn’t just my property–all of Louisiana, all over the south, that was happening. The loss of life, of course, was simply heart-breaking.
I felt I needed to do something. My store had a good record of charity fundraising, and my (awesome) coworkers were entirely on-board to create a donation pool for relief aid in New Orleans. We had an old, giant Frappuccino cup from that year’s summer promotions and put it in front of the registers. We informed every customer that for the month of September, the entire store was donating their tips, and that moved our customers enough to throw twenties and all of their change into the giant cup. Within four days, we’d already raised $250.
Then, we got a notice from corporate. My manager came to me, looking really upset and frustrated, and told me that corporate had emailed him and told him to stop the fundraiser, because no fundraising could occur in single stores without prior approval.
My initial reaction was that it was terribly disappointing, but that we’d at least raised a fair amount. Then my boss put a hand on my shoulder and said, “But I don’t care. We’re going to keep doing it.” This is just the kind of boss he was. He ignored corporate’s instructions and we kept doing the fundraiser. Other stores who had been doing similar drives must have responded the same way, because within two weeks, there was a little relief fund button programmed into all of our registers. Our store ended up sending the Red Cross (the organization Starbucks ended up working with) over half a grand, most of which had come from that giant Frappuccino cup and a lot of people who willingly gave up their tips and fought corporate in order to raise it.
Of course, no one back in Louisiana will ever know what our store, and likely many others, did, and I don’t need them to. I just hope that by now, all of those who were affected by the hurricane are living happy, recovered lives from the event.
This post was inspired by today’s prompt over at the Daily Post who wanted to hear about random acts of kindness that remained a secret to the recipient. While my boss’s random act of kindness was more than known to me, the people we donated to remain in the dark.
What are some of your random acts of kindness?
- Daily Prompt: Random Act of Kindness (dailypost.wordpress.com)