Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Local Sports

June 30, 2010

MARK MAYNARD: Kindness journey for one family

ASHLAND — Lea Ann Gollihue and her two children, Cody and Ellie, embarked on an interesting journey on June 17.

It’s going to take them a year to finish.

But they won’t be putting a lot of miles on the car. They don’t have to even go out of the area to do it.

The journey is one of kindness and making a difference — not just a couple of days a week but everyday — and they’re going from June 17, 2010 to June 16, 2011.

Only 14 days in, it’s already been quite a trip.

“It has been absolutely unbelievable,” said Gollihue, who does her own acts of kindness on a daily basis through her work at For Jamie’s Sake, which deals with foster care children.

Gollihue said it was her 14-year-old son Cody who spawned the idea to make what was once a weekly family tradition into a year-long challenge.

“It was two weeks ago and we were having a ‘Make a Difference Monday,’’’ Leeann remembered. “Cody said ‘Why do we only make a difference one day a week?’”

His mother didn’t have a good answer so, after three days of conversation, it was decided that Lea Ann, Cody and Ellie would figure out ways to make a difference for 365 days.

They’ve also started a blog — www.leaanncodyelliebekind.blogspot.com — so readers can follow along and see just where the journey has taken them day by day.

It’s a sweet idea and one we all could learn from doing.

I mean, let’s face it, does it take that much to be kind?

Too many days, we let opportunities slip past us in life when we could be that light in someone’s dark valley.

Sometimes it only takes a smile.

What Lea Ann hopes is that it teaches her children a habit for life.

“I hope that it gets to the point at the end of this year where it just becomes second nature,” she said.

Lea Ann and her husband, Elliott, are giving people to this community through action and deed. They have already been the example for their children to follow.

“They were always at For Jamie’s Sake and I used to worry about that,” Gollihue said of her children. “But they’re learning a life of giving and that’s what it’s all about, doing this 365 days a year and hoping to get to figure out where their niche is in life.”

What has amazed Lea Ann is how Cody and Ellie, who is 12, have put their own ideas to the kindness theme. They have plotted out plans for different days, like visiting nursing homes, animal shelters or randomly paying for someone’s meal like they did at a local fast-food drive-thru recently.

“What I told one of my girlfriends is I’ve never felt this close to them,” Leeann said. “I’m beginning to see them in a completely different light.”

When they paid for the man’s meal, they were able to look out the back window of their car at his surprised expression as the clerk told him everything was already paid.

“They were so excited, wondering what he was going to do,” she said of her children. “That was neat to watch them.”

The cost for the meal was $7.23, which Gollihue took as a sign from above that they were doing the right thing. It was the seventh day of their journey, which happened to be June 23.

“What a confirmation!” she said.

On another day, they took $10 in quarters to a laundromat and offered to pay for customers’ washing and drying. Some were skeptical, some refused but one woman was so excited she started praying outloud.

“I asked her how much she needed and it was exactly what we had left,” Gollihue said. “She ran over to hug all three of us and told us God would bless us for what we were doing. To listen to Cody and Ellie tell that story is amazing.”

It doesn’t always have to be a planned event. Some days, Lea Ann said, they would just devote the day to smiling at everyone they come in contact with.

Just for the record, Gollihue didn’t call me requesting a story — this isn’t a publicity stunt. I called her after hearing about the venture through an e-mail and phone call.

For others who would have taken on a similar project, I wouldn’t be so quick to report on it. But Lea Ann’s track record for doing good things is better than most. I have no question they will complete the journey — and do a lot of good along the way.

Also, she said the family was used to looking at things in yearly cycles. Elliott has twice been deployed to Afghanistan with the Army National Guard.

“We know how to mark off the days, so to speak,” she said.

Lea Ann looks forward to the end of the journey just to look back at what has been accomplished. The blog is already something that’s been a must-read for her children every day. Lea Ann calls it “a God thing” and she knows her children will be better for having done it.

You get a good feeling when you do something nice for someone.

Maybe we all should give it a try.

MARK MAYNARD can be reached at mmaynard@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2648.

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