Leticia and Enrique had a dilemma. Each year, they invited people to do eight random acts of kindness on April 8 in memory of their daughter, Arianna, and they spread the word on Facebook. The little girl, a patient at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, died days before what would have been her eighth birthday on April 8, 2014.
In years past, the acts of kindness involved picking up a restaurant tab for a perfect stranger, dropping off school supplies for special teachers, and volunteering for the day at a soup kitchen. Things that depended on human contact.
So they wondered: Should we even do it this year, in light of the new coronavirus? Is it even safe?
“It’s hard because you don’t want people to not follow guidelines, you know?” said Leticia. “We don’t want to be the source of someone not doing what they’re supposed to be doing because they’re doing something nice for us, in their mind.”
They finally decided to move forward while urging people to follow restrictions and stay safe.
“It’s gotta be different, and people have got to be creative,” said Leticia. “To me, it’s going to be more impactful because it’s going to be from their own backyard. Think about the little old lady down the street who might need her yard weeded, you know? You don’t even have to talk to her or approach her. You can just go one afternoon and Weed Eat the front yard.”
Many hospitals are experiencing blood shortages, so Enrique plans to call ahead to donate blood to St. Jude. “I’m Type O, and that’s what they really need,” said Enrique.
Arianna the empath, the old soul, she guides them. Because she was always proactive in her kindness.
“In waiting rooms, if there was a kid who was playing by themselves, Arianna was going to go play with that kid,” said Leticia. “If there was someone who was crying, Arianna would want to know why she was crying and how to fix it. And if a volunteer was handing out crafts, Anna wanted to help out and hand out or to organize them for her.”
In 2014, knowing Arianna might not make it to her eighth birthday, her parents threw her party one week early. Midway through, Arianna didn’t feel well, and her mom took her to bed. Later, she asked her parents about the party piñata. Had they broken it?
No, they told her. They had put it aside for her to break later, when she felt well enough.
“She started crying,” said Enrique. “When we asked her why, she said, ‘Well, my friends didn’t get to break my piñata because of me.’ We always tell that story because it shows how kind she was.”
Her loss cut a hole in the family’s heart, but the kindness efforts in her name help them heal.
“I think what people may not understand is how helpful it is,” said Leticia. “Selfishly, it is for us. Her sister, Alivia, loves it. She loves it. Because we come home on the evening of Arianna’s birthday and just sit there and read about all the amazing things that have gone on around the country, and on the other side of the world.”
People have posted to Arianna’s event page from as far away as Australia and Africa, but some of the most moving acts of kindness have happened close to home. Small acts with great impact.
In 2015, the first year after Arianna died, on the day after what would have been her ninth birthday, Leticia was crashing. One day earlier, everyone on her daughter’s Facebook page had been talking about their acts of kindness, and now things felt so silent.
“I felt so sad,” said Leticia.
Enrique decided to bring a cup of coffee home to Leticia to surprise her. At the coffee shop, a woman insisted on paying for his drink, explaining to Enrique over his objections, “Yesterday, everyone did acts of kindness here for a little girl. I wasn’t here, so I didn’t get to do them, so I’m doing mine today.”
That little girl, of course, was Arianna.
Enrique couldn’t wait to get home to tell Leticia because he knew it would make her day. Thus, one act of kindness spilled into another, because that’s the way that kindness works.
“It solidified the fact that this is what we’re supposed to be doing,” said Leticia. “And it solidified that people are remembering Arianna every day, not just on her birthday.”
That part of you that does good, that helps out, that demonstrates your care for others through acts, big and small?
That’s Arianna. That’s who she was, and that’s how we remember her.
Share your random acts of kindness by using the hashtag: #8actsofkindness.