Pocket Scrapbooking with Project Life

Cultivate a good life and record it.



good life with toni sullivan

Part of cultivating a good life is to choose action over good intentions.

The effects of our positive actions are felt by the individual acting and countless others. You’ll never know how far the ripples of your kindness will extend. Simply stated, THE SMALLEST ACT IS BETTER THAN THE GREATEST INTENTION.

There are many reasons why I believe this so strongly, but two experiences in particular have impacted me recently and have guided my thoughts for this message.

In my immediate family, 2015 was filled with much success and happiness, but it was also stricken with incredible challenges and grief. One sister is fighting valiantly her second battle with Stage IV breast cancer. Another sister survived a horrific auto accident that left her body totally disabled and is fighting a long road back to health. My 90-year-old mother, who has previously buried four of her children and my dad, all at young ages, has watched helplessly as her adult children endure major health struggles, while she also endures the effects of aging. All three are extreme examples of positive attitudes, hard work, and faith. And they have had to learn the hard lesson of allowing others to serve them and being gracious recipients. They are all givers by nature, so this has been a difficult thing to learn. Their expressions of gratitude and humility have also inspired members of their support teams, as well as occasional guests. I witnessed innumerable, seemingly insignificant, acts performed by others uplift and sustain them in their trials.

I also have worked in the healthcare industry in home health and hospice for fifteen years. One of the key services that is provided for patients is assistance with their Activities of Daily Living (ADLs). These are the basic skills we all use every day and include tasks like dressing ourselves, feeding ourselves, personal hygiene, getting in and out of bed safely, etc. When these small actions are available to us, it is common to take them for granted. However, when they become difficult and interfere with our independence, they can be very debilitating and discouraging. Although not often consciously considered, ADLs enrich and simplify our lives.

Each of us has within us the talents to be a caregiver in one form or another. It doesn’t have to be in a large, full-time role. It can be as simple as holding the door or elevator for someone, scraping snow from the car parked next to us, or paying for the soda for the person behind us in the line at the gas station. Opportunities to serve others arise every day, beginning with our families, friends, neighbors, co-workers, and extending to strangers in need. It seems that Thanksgiving and Christmas lend themselves to reaching out to others and service is widespread and abundant. However, it is common for this to be a seasonal thing and not part of our everyday lives. I believe serving others in small and large ways should become one of our own ADLs. To those of us who can be part of a support team in any of our communities (home, family, church, etc.), it is important to reach out and make random acts of kindness happen.

It is common to rationalize that “I’ll go visit a friend when I get the cookies or bread made,” or “I’ll call her next week when things settle down,” or “I’ll mention the great service of my cashier to a supervisor another day as I don’t have time today.” (However, we are quick to voice our discontent when we feel our service is subpar or that we have been mistreated.) I suggest we go visit without the bread this time, we make the call even if it has to be very short, and that we immediately express our pleasure to the cashier and then stop at the customer service desk to voice our satisfaction with the service. The time it takes to jot a quick note of gratitude, share a personal greeting, or extend kindness in countless, yet simple, ways is time well invested. The positive ripples extend far beyond measure both for the receiver and the giver. These acts often lead the receiver to seek a way to “pay it forward.”

As we enter 2016 and continue to strive to cultivate good lives, many goals will be made; some will be kept and others will only be something “we intended to do.” I am recommitting my efforts and offer you the challenge to join me as we CHOOSE SMALL ACTIONS OVER GOOD INTENTIONS. Let’s make random acts of kindness part of our own set of Activities of Daily Living. The joy we feel and the joy we spread will forever bless our lives as well as those we share with. Happy New Year to all of you as you add a new and very important ADL to your lives!

note from becky

I had a recent experience that I hesitated sharing because I don’t want to come across as boastful, and yet I feel that little nudge that is making me feel like this small example is one that might encourage someone else in some way.

A few months ago I was checking out at Target and the cashier and I were having some friendly conversation. I learned that she was a full-time teacher and a mother. And there she was … working a second job at Target … in the evening. She wasn’t complaining or even making a big deal of it. It’s just something I caught onto as we chatted. We completed the transaction and I pushed my cart toward the exit. And then it came — an overwhelming feeling that I needed to offer a gift. I pulled out the cash from my wallet, wrote a note on a scratch piece of paper, and gave this to another Target employee to hand to the cashier as I was leaving.

The reason I’m sharing this is because it was a feeling — a prompting — that led me to do that random act of kindness. This happens to most of us. You know what I’m talking about. So just as Toni has shared with us some inspiration on being caregivers in one way or another, my challenge to each of us is to listen more closely to those promptings so that we may be more in tune with how we can serve others. And then do it. Like she said, we may never really know the ripple effects from showing kindness to another.

Toni is not someone we have known very long, but after some email dialogue with Wendy on our team (customer service), we did have the pleasure of meeting her in-person at a recent event and we are touched by the way she gives so much of herself. It’s an honor to have Toni be a part of our Good Life series, as a customer and friend to the company.

Connect with Toni :: Instagram



16 Responses

  1. KathyinMN says:

    One of my own goals is to leave positive comments on blogs I read and like. You do all of this work to share a piece of you, the least I can do is say thanks and tell you I enjoyed reading it. And I enjoyed reading this one! Sometimes we forget that those little things make our own days, until someone does it to us and we are reminded how awesome it is.

  2. Rebecca Doster says:

    What a great read to enjoy with my morning coffee! This post speaks straight to my heart. 2015 was an incredibly difficult year for me and I, too, have had to “learn the hard lesson of being a gracious recipient.” Admittedly, though, during the pain of the past year, even the smallest acts by others spoke volumes to my heart. I have been left with the hope of better days ahead and the determination to ‘do for others.’ I love your Target story, Becky and it gives real motivation to remember to THINK as we go through our day to day and be aware of the needs of others; to answer those little feelings that we are being called to do something at that moment. Thank you so much for this post. This is truly what cultivating a good life is all about.

  3. Julie Cannon says:

    What a beautifully written post. Thanks so much for the message and reminder. My heart feels warm right now.

  4. Jessica says:

    A really great post. Thank you for sharing and reminding everyone the little things do matter.

  5. Cathy says:

    Toni, your post was beautiful and touch my heart.

    Your part of the post was not boastful at all, but genuine and real.

  6. Christine Pereira says:

    Toni your thoughts and message brought tears of joy and spoke as well to me this day. I also work in the healthcare industry…for 30 years as an Occupational Therapist whose main role is to address those Activities of Daily Living (ADL’s). Having worked in a hospital setting the past 8 years, I have experienced first hand the devastation, sadness, and heartache that both my patients and their families and friends deal with in times of illness. I make every effort to be a positive light in their sometimes very dark days. Having the opportunity to serve with intention in my job is one of the reasons I have kept at it for all these years.

    Thank you for sharing your personal experiences and may we all try a little harder to be more aware of those around us and to take opportunities to act in the moment!

  7. Aggie Aviso says:

    So so so so good.
    Love this post. Thanks for sharing this Toni.

  8. Kim Chapman says:

    Thank you both for the great blog post. It reminds me that any little thing can mean so much to someone else when it comes from your heart. Sometimes we think that if we can’t do something big or grand then we can’t do anything. Anything we can do for someone is better than nothing.

  9. Renee T. says:

    This post really touched my heart, primarily because I am one who often believes if you can not do something perfectly, there is no point in doing it at all. So, in my mind, no note or call at all would be better than one written or placed quickly, just to say “thinking of you.” Crazy, huh? I vow to focus more on the sentiment shared in this post throughout 2016. Thank you.

  10. Katie says:

    I can tell you from experience that this woman absolutely practices what she preaches. This is a great article and important reminder for me too. Thanks so much keep the good information coming!

  11. Wendy says:

    Love you Toni! Thank you for your example and sharing with us in this beautiful post.

  12. Artful Leigh says:

    Oh my goodness! I love this post, and Becky’s note!! This exact thing just happened to me last night! We were out to dinner for a big family birthday party, and our waitress was so sweet and working diligently, stacking lots of plates on top of her broken arm in a cast.( she didn’t even mention her arm and just kept working ) The heart prompting that Becky talked about came on strong, so I ask her how she was doing. I had broken my arm recently so I led with that. She said she had been praying because she had a surgeons appointment the next day to find out if she has to go back for surgery and pins. She said she needed to work cause she had two kids at home. Then , the heart prompting came on really strong when the bill came. I listened, and wrote her a note that I would be praying for her appointment the next day, and left her a monetary gift on top of the tip my hubby wrote down. You are so right, that it’s in the” DOing” that we get that heart glow, and I vow to listen and follow through more. Thank you so much for this “good life” post!!!💗💗💗 heart hugs!! #PLCT2016

  13. Whitney says:

    What a great post! I once read somewhere a quote about not sharing a compliment that you are thinking is like winking at someone in the dark. They will never know how you feel. (As I googled it, it appears to have stemmed from a quote about doing business without advertising.)

    And isn’t it true how a few simple, heartfelt words can make someone’s day?! Thank you for sharing!

  14. Katie says:

    I know Toni personally and she is amazing! We have worked together on many giving back projects. I’m a better person for knowing her and love her for always supporting me I’ve been blessed by her kindness!!

  15. Livi says:

    Thank you for this great reminder!

  16. Alison says:

    GREAT post! Thank you for sharing!