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November 5, 2013

Ferndale woman honors her mother with random kindness

By Joshua Gordon
C & G Staff Writer

Holly Schultz, 35, of Ferndale, holds little bags of candy she handed out in October as a way to celebrate her mother’s life.

FERNDALE — On Oct. 22, visitors to the Ferndale Public Library who were preparing to pull out a few quarters or a credit card to pay for their parking while they browsed the library were in for a treat.

On that day, their parking was already taken care of, thanks to a bag full of quarters and a note taped to a nearby Park+ system. The note simply told visitors to enjoy a trip to the library thanks to an avid reader.

“We started hearing from patrons that there was a bag of quarters with a note saying parking was free for that day,” Library Director Jessica Keyser said. “We went out and checked it out and just thought it was really great. I thought it was a really powerful way to brighten somebody’s day.”

At the time, Keyser and everyone else at the library didn’t know who left the quarters and the note.

That’s the way Holly Schultz wanted it.

Five years ago on Oct. 25, Schultz’s mother, Elizabeth Schultz, better known as Betsy, passed away after battling a brain tumor. And every year since, Schultz has found the week leading up to the anniversary to be especially hard.

“I will always remember the day my mom passed away, and it will always be sad,” Schultz, 35, said. “I noticed in previous years, it was kind of stressful, and I was worried about how I would feel, and I realized I had to do something to change how I felt as the day approached. I wanted something my friends and I could do to make people happy and have a way to look forward to her anniversary as a way to celebrate her, as opposed to continuing to mourn her.”

So, on Oct. 21, Schultz went and purchased a gift card for coffee and randomly approached a woman in Ferndale. It was the first of five days where Schultz would do a random act of kindness incorporating something that defined her mother.

“My mom called mochas or lattes ‘special coffee,’ and so I wanted to find a random person and give a gift card to them,” Schultz said. “The lady was a little frightened at first, but when she saw what I wrote on the card, she laughed and thanked me. I think it brightened her day.”

Helping improve someone’s day was the main goal, Schultz said, and she wanted to prove that even little gestures could help someone.

As the week went on, Schultz continued to incorporate her mother and helping others into her ideas. The quarters at the library on Oct. 22 were to celebrate Betsy’s love of reading, Schultz said, as she remembered spending a lot of time at the library as a family while she was growing up.

On Oct. 23, Schultz took Hershey’s Kisses in baggies with a ribbon and handed them out at local businesses along Nine Mile Road and to people she passed on the sidewalk. And, on Oct. 24, her theme was pets and kids.

“My mom growing up always had a cat, and before she passed away, both of my brothers had kids, and she had two grandchildren and now a third she will never meet,” Schultz said. “She was so happy to have grandkids in her life, and so I went to Little Friends of Ferndale, and there was a litter of kittens brought in that needed a lot of medical care and attention, so I made a donation to help the people fostering them.”

On the final day, Oct. 25, five years after her mother passed away, Schultz wanted to celebrate her mother’s love of dancing. During all the of the chemotherapy and radiation, Betsy had a hard time dancing, but when her treatments were completed, she wanted to get back out on the dance floor.

“When she wanted to dance again, I went with her and I could see how happy that made her, and while she had lost a lot of other things, she did not lose the ability to dance,” Schultz said. “On Friday, I just handed out little note cards with quotes related to dancing and decorated them. I went to Dino’s (Lounge) and left quarters at the jukebox with a note to let people know it was their chance to dance.”

It wasn’t just Schultz who was spreading the kindness throughout the week. On the first day, she posted on Facebook to challenge others to do the same, and she heard from friends, family members and even people from high school who were heeding her challenge.

“I think something like this creates a stronger sense of community, and I think when something like that occurs, it has a very wide-reaching effect,” Keyser said. “The people who were impacted by that random act of kindness are much more likely to treat somebody else with kindness in return, and it keeps going like that.”

The chance to help improve someone’s day was reward enough for Schultz, she said, because she knew her mom would have done the same thing.

“I think, as a society, we have got away from being nice to one another and tend to forget how the simplest things, like being kind, can brighten someone’s day,” Schultz said. “You never know when you come across someone what they are going through in their life and what kind of day they are having, where simply holding a door for someone walking behind you will make that person take note and be grateful and do that next time they are in that situation.”

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Joshua Gordon at jgordon@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1077.