At the conclusion of my walking tours, I tell people that after September 11, 2001, I received hundreds of cards and that’s not an exaggeration. Cards that were addressed to the family of Firefighter Van Hine, Greenwood Lake, NY without even a zip code, let alone a street address. People found that information in their newspapers. Those cards included crayon drawings from five year olds, bookmarks made by teens, beaded bracelets strung by grandmas, promises of prayers, and messages of condolences. Each of those cards made a difference in my life. I offer words of encouragement to my tour guests that as they hear of devastating events in their nation or neighborhood caused by terrorist or tsunamis to do something because intentional acts of kindness make a difference. I am the recipient of that kind of kindness.

Recently I received the following email:

Dear Ann,
My name is Kimberly H. I was five years old on 9/11 and begged my mom to let me mail a teddy bear to someone who had been affected by the attacks, and it ended up reaching you. You sent me a thank you card and stuffed animal the following Christmas. 
I am traveling to NYC for my first time ever July 12-16 (leaving the morning of the 16th). I was wondering if it would be possible to arrange a walking tour of the memorial with you as my tour guide? I have held on to the card and stuffed dog you sent me over the years and reflect on your act of kindness often. It would be wonderful to meet you in person!
I look forward to hearing from you.
Kimberly H

I was pleasantly surprised and responded with dates that I could lead a tour. Kimberly, her mom and two sisters joined a tour. I asked Kimberly’s permission to share her story as part of my acts of kindness story at the end of that tour and today in this post.

In the days following September 11, 2001, Kimberly begged her mom to send someone a teddy bear. Her mom honored her daughter’s wish and contacted the Lamb’s Church of the Nazarene in NYC to see if they could help her get a bear to someone. Years earlier Kimberly’s mom had been part of a missions trip with Lamb’s Church. Pastor John Bowen forwarded that bear to me.

In December 2001, I sent Kimberly a thank you note for the bear and sent her a stuffed dog. My note to her stated:

Dearest Kimberly,

Thank you for the beautiful picture you made. Pastor John Bowen sent me (& my daughters) your note and the very huggable bear that you had sent to the Lamb’s Church of the Nazarene. My husband was one of the firefighters that perished at the World Trade Center. We know he is with Jesus and God is so faithfully meeting our needs. Having a special teddy to hug has been a big help. Thank you in Jesus’ love, Ann Van Hine”

Dog and note I sent Kimberly in 12/01

In an email from Kimberly after we met she wrote:

Ann,

Thank you so much for getting us on your tour. It was wonderful to finally meet you and learn more about your story and Bruce’s life. 

Thank you again for reaching out that Christmas of 2001, during a time that I’m sure was incredibly difficult for you. You taught a little girl that small acts of kindness do matter- even in the face of unspeakable tragedy. 
I hope you enjoy the pictures!
Kim

I share this story because kindness makes a difference. Kimberly’s kindness to me caused me to express gratitude to her. She thinks I taught her something but it is Kimberly who taught me.