Kindness is Contagious

June 21, 2019

Our family recently received an incredibly generous gift. One that came about because of a small, heartfelt act years before.

It happened while attending a fundraising event in New York City. We headed to the 8th floor in cocktail attire and entered the grand ballroom as we took in stunning views – a beautiful wood coffered ceiling, intricate carved wood walls, and a balcony overlooking Central Park. A group of oil industry executives would be arriving later that evening. We greeted our connection with the Histiocytosis Association who welcomed us and guided us towards our donation table set up as part of the silent auction.

We arrived at a table full of stuffed monkeys and pictures of our family.

Looking at the picture of our son Jenson hugging a monkey, my mind flashed back to years earlier. Three year old Jenson had endured 55 rounds of chemo. We waited on pins and needles in the hospital hoping the bone marrow transplant he received from his sister Sydney would bring healing. Jenson had lost a lot. His hair. His ability to walk and sit up. His body was covered in redness and rashes as a sign of the re-birthing happening inside his body. He felt sick and sad.

To help him feel less alone, I told him about another three year old boy in Philadelphia. Marcus suffered from Histio too and was recovering in the hospital from his second bone marrow transplant. Jenson’s response surprised me.

“I need send him a monkey.”

Stuffed monkeys always made Jenson smile. He figured Marcus could use a smile too. We packed up a cuddly, stuffed monkey and mailed it off. We called it Monkey Grins. Over the last seven years, we continue to pack up care packages for Histio families around the world.

At the event, people had the opportunity to donate a stuffed monkey for $50 which we would mail out to Histio families. To encourage people to donate, each monkey also had a number around its neck that entered you to win a grand prize of Broadway tickets and a dinner out (a $500 value).

As oil industry executives entered the silent auction and later the dinner and program, they learned more about a rare disease where your body over-fires white blood cells and the mission of the Histiocytosis Association. I got to share our family’s story, Jenson’s brave battle with the disease, and how Monkey Grins got its start.

The response was overwhelming as strangers (and even the guy running the slides/sound in the back of the room) reacted with hugs, tears, and a desire to help support the Histiocytosis Association fund research and help us send smiles.

At the end of the evening, a man from the audience approached me and thanked me for sharing our story.

“I’m the one who won the grand prize for donating a monkey,” he said pausing for a moment before the next sentence.

“But this isn’t for me … this is for your family.”

I stood shocked as tears flowed down my face overwhelmed with gratitude at the kindness of a total stranger. A small act of kindness touches lives.

But it didn’t stop there as this night became a magical evening where God gave a glimpse into the often secret and sacred ways kindness seeds grow and bloom years after being planted.

You see, the Histiocytosis Association was created years ago because two parents (Jeff and Sally) felt alone when their daughter Bethany was first diagnosed. Sally told me that night the main reason they created it – they didn’t want others to feel so alone. They created an amazing non-profit to help find a cure and support others as they walk into the land of uncertainty. A small act of kindness touches lives.

I got Jenson’s diagnosis at work. And despite the doctor’s warnings about staying off the internet, I found myself compulsively drawn like a bug to the light longing for something to help guide us through this journey. The first site I found was histio.org (Histiocytosis Association) where Jeff and Sally’s vision came to life as a total stranger living coasts apart found their website in a time of great need. A small act of kindness touches lives.

Seven years ago when Jenson passed away, we knew we wanted to keep his vision of sending smiles alive. So we asked everyone coming to his funeral to bring a stuffed monkey to be mailed out to Histio families journeying down this road. We received about three hundred monkeys that day. A small act of kindness touches lives.

With more monkeys than Histio families we knew, I reached out to Jeff at the Histiocytosis Association. He and his team agreed to partner with us to reach more people. And due to the international reach of their organization, we have now mailed thousands of monkeys throughout the world. A small act of kindness touches lives.

The fundraising event in NYC started 30 years ago because a father working for Saudi Petroleum found his family in the eye of the storm as they received a diagnosis that rocked their world too. He decided to do something about it and asked his company to sponsor a fundraising event to raise awareness and funding for research. His company asked for other companies in the oil and gas industry to sponsor the event too, and such was born a huge gift to others that has raised awareness and funding for 30 years and many more to come. A small act of kindness touches lives.

Oil industry executives gave generously that evening to support families they had never met. A small act of kindness touches lives.

At the event, we met a family who had received one of our Monkey Grin care packages in the mail. It brightened their day, and they wanted to brighten another family’s day too. The mom and I exchanged contact info, and she mailed a check for Monkey Grins to help with future postage. A small act of kindness touches lives.

And to top it off, the mom we met also personally knew Marcus (the boy who received the first Monkey Grin). She reached out to Marcus’s mom while we were at the event, who sent a picture of Marcus today – monkey in hand. A small act of kindness touches lives.

God gave a gift that weekend in New York City. A small glimpse into how kindness starts and spreads … one small act at a time. Like a dandelion in the wind, kindness seeds can be carried into places you never dreamed possible and bloom in amazing ways. How can you spread some kindness today?

Categories: Beauty kindness
Tags: histiocytosis event, inspired, kindness is contagious,

4 Responses to “Kindness is Contagious”

  1. SARAH WILLIAMS says:

    LOVE this sweet story!!!! <3

  2. Mo Alameida says:

    Oh Kristin you continue to inspire. Love this story and how you tell it. I felt present in the audience. Thank you for continuing to share your gift with the rest of us

  3. Jennifer says:

    But God!!!! I love how He is using you and your family! SO much more to come my friend, this is only the beginning! 💗

  4. Kristin Aaron says:

    Can’t wait to see what He continues to do!

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