When Strangers Take A Chance

I have a story to tell you.  It may seem long, but I hope you will find it was worth your time to read.  The story begins several months ago, when I was “introduced” via social media to a man named Ricky Smith.  Ricky began an organization called R.A.K.E.  This acronym stands for random acts of kindness everywhere.  Ricky’s goal is to show people that kindness knows no age, gender, skin color, religion, or economical boundary.  No matter how much money you have, giving will be big enough if it comes from your heart.

A few months ago, Ricky announced that he would be embarking on a tour around the country performing random acts of kindness, well, everywhere to be exact.  The goal was to visit 30 cities in 30 days and he would have a camera along for the ride to capture the art of giving.  After months of seeing his inspiring posts, I reached out to Ricky and said that he should make Cincinnati a stop on his tour and to get ahold of me when he came to town.  To make an already long story short, he did just that.

On Wednesday, February 11th, I met Ricky at a Toys ‘R Us in Cincinnati on his last day of the R.A.K.E. tour.  I had recently been put in contact with a local family of a 5 year old boy named Ryley.  He was diagnosed with a type of kidney cancer known as Wilm’s Tumor.  After calling Ryley’s mom Melissa basically out of the blue, she decided to take a chance on a distant acquaintance and allow us to bring some smiles to her little boy.  After all, his life had just been turned upside down by surgery, a kidney removal, chemo, radiation, and constant blood work – why not try anything to make him happy?  You can’t possibly meet a little boy and make his day without some toys, however, and that’s where the real story begins.

Our adventure at the toy store started when I heard a man yell, “Marco!”  A few polos later, Ricky and I finally met in the superhero aisle.  He had a friend with him, Dwight Hawkins, who came along for the tour to record footage of the trip.  So, there we stood, picking out superhero toys, gag gifts, an enormous John Cena action figure, a harmonica, and three matching watches:  one for Ryley, one for Ricky, and one for my friend Revere who would also be joining us for a little cheering up of his own.

I have known Revere for many years.  However, our paths haven’t crossed for quite some time.  A few weeks prior to this dinner event, Revere reached out to me and wanted to start living.  He has been battling cancer for ten years and I could hear depression in his voice.  The Revere I knew was full of spunk, good spirits, and strength.  It was time for him to get a second wind.  When this dinner with Ricky came about, I invited Revere to join us.  He was more than excited to come aboard the mission to make Ryley smile.  Little did Revere know, we were coming for him, too!

The plan that Wednesday was to meet at 4pm for dinner.  At 3:48pm, Ricky, Dwight and I checked out of the toy store.  $200 later, Ricky was finally satisfied that we had enough to make two people he has never met happy.  We arrived at an O’Charley’s restaurant armed with bags of goodies and following a man determined to spread kindness.

Toys 'R Us Takeover
Toys ‘R Us Takeover

From there, the evening was a blur filled with gifts, laughter, whoopie cushions, scar showing, harmonica playing, story telling, and most of all, smiles from complete strangers.  Revere brought

Band of Brothers
Band of Brothers

Ryley some of his own superhero powers including a “Warrior Mode” bracelet to match the one he himself wears during treatment.  Sharing his wisdom with his new found buddy, Revere explained that Ryley can turn into a superhero during treatment and fight off the bad guy, cancer.  Soon after, Ricky, Ryley and Revere rocked their new watches like a band of brothers.  I can only imagine what those in the restaurant around us were thinking about our “Breakfast Club” dynamic.

The restaurant manager, Mike, did his own R.A.K.E. by knocking our dinner bill down to as close to nothing as he could get it while still maintaining employment.  Kindness is contagious, that’s all there is to it.

IMG_3600Three hours and free pie later, we decided to put a wrap on the over-sized John Cena doll and go our separate ways.  We took countless pictures and said goodbye three times.  It was hard to leave this group of people not only because we were having such a great time, but because we knew something special had happened.  It felt like we hit the Wizard Of Oz jackpot:  we were leaving more knowledge of what matters, more heart than before, and enough courage for our two cancer-fighting friends to last a lifetime. Revere wanted me to help him live by helping others. He thanked me many times that night for helping him make that happen. Revere, don’t thank me, I’m nowhere near Glenda the Good Witch. “You’ve always had the power my dear, you just had to learn it for yourself.”

As for me, the only gift I could really give to Ryley was a copy of “There’s Something Different About My Hair.”  I gave it to him and asked if he would learn how to play “Happy Birthday” on his harmonica since Ricky, Ryley and I have May birthdays.  He smiled and nodded yes.  The gift I received in return after a night of putting the right people together was getting to sit back and watch Ricky make us laugh, Dwight catch some great footage, Revere find his own gift of inspiring others, and see Ryley play that harmonica, laugh at a classic whoopie cushion, and head home from a night far away from a hospital with his amazingly strong mommy.

The Breakfast Club
The Breakfast Club

This story may finally be over for you, but now it’s up to all of us to pick up where it leaves off.  It isn’t the years in your life but the life in your years that matter.  From my experience, doing things for people to make them happy is a lifetime well spent.   You don’t have to know people to be the change they need in the world.  Think about how many wonderful things could happen if more strangers took a chance on each other with the goal of spreading kindness.



Wearing his "warrior mode" band from Revere and practicing "Happy Birthday" on his harmonica.
5 year old Ryley wearing his “warrior mode” band from Revere and practicing “Happy Birthday” on his harmonica.