How to experience tiny moments of nerdy joy

My flight to Tucson earlier this week included three legs and two layovers that totaled twelve hours from drop-off to pick-up.

But I was prepared. I brought reading materials. And an intention to look for opportunity to do a random act of kindness. Or two.


Photo by Mohamed Nohassi on Unsplash

And so I smiled at strangers, and stood back to let others go in line before me.

And I chatted with seat mates (but not overly much), and gave my packet of tissue to someone with allergies, and prayed silent prayers of blessing for my fellow travelers.

At two different terminals, I stood across the way and listened to guitar players as throngs of people rushed past their music, not noticing them. And then I cut through the crowds and dropped $$ into their open guitar cases.


Photo: Marlys

At the Los Angeles terminal, I chatted with a couple of teenaged girls. When I learned they were part of a high school choir traveling to Boston to compete at a festival, I withdrew $$ from a nearby ATM.

Introducing myself to the choir director, I explained why I wanted to make a donation — because of my own unforgettable, gleeful national and international travel experiences with teenagers.

The young choir director stared at me with open mouth.

I sat at a different gate so no one would feel awkward, but the director found me: “Is it OK if we sing a song for you.”



Photo: Marlys

I found myself holding my breath, the music was that gorgeous, this a cappella harmony, these beautiful teenagers, their eyes following their director’s charge to go loud, to go soft, to end full out.

Other passengers-in-waiting stood up to videotape, and clapped along with me in delight.

Someone named Nanea Hoffman said this:

No matter what chaos and difficulty the world throws at you, remember: there are still fresh cups of coffee and good books and funny friends and tiny moments of nerdy joy to celebrate.

I think she meant “fresh cups of Chai tea” … but still.

How nerdily joyous was it to notice — really notice — and show kindness in whatever small way I could throughout the long travel day.

Because who knows which fellow travelers were carrying heartbreak, or stress, or fear — hidden so well behind their masked faces as they passed by.

If there was one thing my husband, Gary, and I learned during the cancer years, it was to focus outward—away from our own hard places—to see others in challenging circumstances. And then to do whatever small thing we could to help.

A few years back, our oldest granddaughter, twelve years old at the time, came to visit Gary and me for ten days. We ventured over to the coast, stopped at a couple places in Portland, and then spent the remainder of the time in our destination resort town of Bend.

While driving one of Bend’s streets, Lilly commented from the backseat, “You sure have a lot of human beings in Oregon.”

Her grandpa sputtered. “And New Jersey doesn’t have a lot of human beings?!” he asked incredulously.

Turns out, Lilly was referring to the Human Bean — little coffee kiosks she had noticed in various Oregon locations. Smile.

Sitting up and paying attention to my fellow human beans in airports and on planes, and looking for opportunity to do random kindness … this, this brought moments of nerdy joy.

And this twelve-hour gift of a travel day—this flying north to get south, my boots on the ground in four different states—was the best kind of day.

P.S. If you know someone who could use some nerdy joy, please share, tweet or pin!


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  1. Debbie Ritzenthaler

    Marlys! As always I am buoyed by your creative and others centered life of joy! This moves me to be more conscious/intensional of all that is around me during my traversing travels as well as the mundane days at home! Thank you for the reminders of how we can be Christ’s love everywhere we go!

    • Debbie, that’s my goal, as well: “to be more conscious/intentional of all that is around me.” Well said. Here’s wishing you intentional, “random acts of kindness” travel in the weeks and months ahead!

  2. Paulette Zimmerman

    Thanks for an inspiring reminder that how we live each day is a choice, and when that choice is intentional kindness, the blessings come back to us in big and unexpected ways!!

    • You’re exactly right, Paulette. It’s ironic – and I’m sure you’ve experienced this – how my intent in showing kindness is never to receive blessing back, but oh how it’s always poured back in an overflowing way. Thank you for your comment.

  3. No credit to myself, but I believe God has blessed me with a heart for doing “random” acts of kindness, so reading this post resinated with me. Thank you for sharing your story and for reminding us of the importance of keep spreading joy and cheers. May the Lord continue to bless your ministry.

    • What a gift God has blessed you with! I appreciate hearing “random acts of kindness” stories because they spark ideas in me. I’d love to hear some of your stories, Sherita.

  4. Debbie Daniels

    Thank you for sharing. I will be traveling in 2 weeks and am now challenged to look for random acts of kindness and joy to share as I go. Your writing isbeautiful! And uplifting.

    • Thank you so much, Debbie. I’d love to hear about your traveling random acts of kindness in 2 weeks. Don’t forget to share here!

  5. Cheryl White

    Marlys – what a wonderful way to make what could be long stressful day into an adventure.I wonder how many of these lives you touched will turn around and bless others because of the example they saw in you? Not only that – but how many of US will look for ways to pass-it-on just from reading this! I know I will!

    • “ … to make what could be a long stressful day into an adventure.” I never thought of it as an adventure, but it absolutely was. I like how you said that, Cheryl!

  6. “Because who knows which ones were carrying pain, or stress, or anxiety, or loss, or fear, or heartbreak — hidden so well behind their masked faces as they passed by.” So true. We often mask our hurts. Thanks for putting others first. You honored the Lord.

  7. Kit

    Marlys! You’ve shined a whole new light on “joy in the journey.” This must be the upside-down life of love and abundance Jesus spoke of—elevating in the in-between places most of us dismiss to a place of eternal value in the grand scheme of things. Once again you’ve inspired me and put a smile on my face. Your spirit of delight, dear lady, is contagious!
    P.S. I love that one of the choir student happens to be wearing a sweatshirt that celebrates “Kindness.” Indeed.

    • “ … elevating in the in-between places.” Well said, Kit. How often have I dismissed the in-between, mundane places? Too often.

      P.S. I noticed the “Kindness” sweatshirt, too, after posting the photo! I want one of those! 😉

  8. Peggy Carey

    YOu are amazing! I love your generous heart! Thank you for showering us all with your love.

    • Actually, it’s YOU who are amazing, Peggy – in living the life of service you’ve given to the Ronald McDonald House, to the cancer center in Bend and in Vale, and now to J Bar J. I love your generous heart!

  9. Grace Lawson

    Thank you very much for this wonderful article Dear Marlys !!! I love random acts of kindness and our Lord does also !!! My most common random act of kindness is picking up junk from streets or sidewalks !!!

    • Picking up junk off sidewalks and streets is a fabulous act of kindness to us all, Grace. Most of us would never think to do that. You’ve inspired me!

  10. Val

    You inspire me! Thank you for sharing! <3

  11. Pat

    You are such an inspiration to me…

    My acts of kindness are done mostly for family, I need to look outside my comfort zone and do more random acts for others.

    Thank you for continued beautiful blogs each week.


  12. Sharon Brorson

    Thank you Marlys for your great post. I loved the story of you meeting the 2 girls from the choir and then they gifted you with a song and anyone close by was blessed also. Shall we say “the ripple affect”? When I was buying some deli food in Minneapolis (July 2007) a young lady was singing softly as she was waiting for her order. When I looked over she apologized and I said “keep going” it is very nice. I remember she was in a group and possibly in a competition and was practicing all the time. Little did she know she was blessing me abundantly as I was getting ready for my only sibling (my brother Dennis) memorial the next day. I know it was a God wink and just what I needed standing in a big store all alone and trying to keep it together. (in public) You are such a gifted writer and always lift me up whenever I read your blog. God Bless you “sweet lady”!!

    • Sharon, what a lovely story of the young lady singing softly in the store on a heart-breaking day for you. Don’t you just appreciate all the small and quiet ways God shows His love for us?! Thank you for sharing.

  13. Marsha Teaford

    I so look forward to your blogs and use them as reminders on how to go from an ordinary life to the charmed life. It is like taking ordinary food ingredients and with the right techniques and spices turning ordinary food into a culinary delight.

    Based on this blog I have tried something with results I didn’t anticipate. My task was to. once a day, recognize something good in someone and act on it. An example is I received great help from an employee when shopping for a bike so I wrote a letter to his employer. That was the most effort
    t I ever used in one day. Another example might be to tell the barista that my specialty coffee was just perfect….. that sort of thing. Another action might be to tell a friend how you admire them for such and such.

    What this did for me was amazing. It took my focus off of the negative and kept me focused on the positive. I was focused on the good in people because I was looking for my compliment-of-the-day. I became less irritated with people (a bad habit) and started to enjoy people even more than I already did. I was looking for the good and found it. The minor irritations started to roll off of me like water off a duck’s duck. I am a happier person because of this one daily transforming, effortless change in the way I look at people. Your article on acts of kindness prompted this. Thank you for your inspiration.

    • What excellent examples of going the extra mile, Marsha. Thank you for sharing these two stories – you inspire me. And I love how you phrased this: “… how to go from an ordinary life to the charmed life … like taking ordinary food ingredients and with the right techniques and spices turning ordinary food into a culinary delight.” Well said!

  14. Nora Weed

    Wow! I was just about to delete this blog before I had read it. How rude! I would have missed your wonderful travel advice. We are taking a long trip in the fall and I was dreading the travel time. But now I will look at it through your eyes and see it as an opportunity to share kindness with strangers. That is really hard to do but I’ll take my chances. It will make the time fly and I’ll share my adventures with my husband Bob. Wish me luck!

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