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Kristen Swing

Assistant News Editor
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Local News

People across nation #shinelikethestars

March 26th, 2014 8:54 am by Kristen Swing

People across nation #shinelikethestars

Taylor Scout Smith (Contributed)

What should have been a celebration of Taylor Scout Smith’s birthday instead served as a time to honor her memory due to her untimely death earlier this year. Smith, who would have turned 13 on March 6, died in January due to complications from the flu.

The Johnson City girl’s story went viral when her parents discovered a letter she had written to herself that was not to be opened for 10 years “unless said otherwise.”

Smith’s parents, of course, opened the letter that their little girl had planned to read in the year 2023. In the letter, Smith asks herself about life — from whether she was in college to if she had been able to travel the world yet.

In closing, the pre-teen wrote, “It’s been 10 years since I wrote this. Stuff has happened, good and bad. That’s just how life works, and you have to go with it.”

To help remember Smith and the faith she had in people and God, her family and friends set up a Facebook page, Random Act of Kindness in Taylor Scout Smith’s Honor. Visitors to the page were asked to perform a random act of kindness during the week leading up to her birthday. They also were asked to “take a photo, write a description” and use the hashtag, #shinelikethestars, to share their acts of kindness with the world.

And they did.

Members of the David Crockett High School softball team donated stuffed animals to the Niswonger Children’s Hosptial in honor of Smith. Dozens of people purchased drive-thru items — from coffee to complete lunches — for those in line behind them at area establishments.

One person started a memorial scholarship so kids can go to Doe River Gorge “and learn about how much Jesus loves them.” Some donated to other worthy causes such as the March of Dimes and the Marthoma Child Survival Program in India.

“My neighbor got booted from his apartment; had all his belongings in three duffle bags and just randomly asked if I’d give him a ride to the local transit center,” one participant writes. “Found out he was prepared for a three-hour trip, but it was only a 20 minute drive. So — I drove him. Hardly knew the guy, but sure made his day.”

Another left cookies in the mailbox for the mail carrier. Many left waiters and waitresses more sizable tips.

There was sweet tea for teachers, candy baskets for ICU nurses, homemade dessert for neighbors. Envelopes containing cash and gift cards were found taped to vending machines and gas pumps. Cards of thanks were delivered and forgiving words spoken.

“I sent kind words to someone that I haven’t been very kind to in along time,” wrote one poster. “Thank you Taylor for helping me get over my stubbornness and inspiring me with your beautiful soul.”

Another woman posted that she “wrote a letter of thanks to a high school teacher who made a huge difference in my life.”

Many, if not most, of those taking part in the celebration of Smith’s life didn’t even know the girl.

“In honor of a little girl I never met, but whose story has been strongly imprinted on my heart, I put a gift card to Dunkin Donuts in the mailbox of a family I do not know,” writes a participant who also included a photo of herself putting the card in the mailbox. “I got an incredible feeling of joy by doing this! Happy birthday Taylor!”

Responses came from all over the country.

A woman in Peachtree City, Ga., promised she and her boys would be delivering random acts of kindness as a “teaching tool” for her kids.

In Ormo, Wis., sixth-grader Franki Sakschek was inspired to write her own letter to herself and challenged others to follow in Smith’s footsteps.

On the day before Smith’s birthday, Sakschek gave a presentation to her class, sharing Smith’s story. The entire class then received written instructions and examples of how to organize their own letters. Finally, they were given envelopes to seal and mark, “Open on March 5, 2024.”

More than 20 students completed the assignment.

On the Facebook page, several recipients of the random acts of kindness also posted, many pleasantly surprised by the generosity of others.

“I received this and a gift unexpectedly from a customer today,” writes one Facebook user who also posted a photo of an unsigned greeting card talking about Smith. “I did not know Taylor or her story. I want her family to know how blessed I feel to have received this.”

The individual paid it forward, too, by paying for part of another man’s grocery bill with the gift.

“I was the recipient of a Random Act of Kindness! Thank you to whoever paid for my Chick-Fil-A on Stone Drive,” wrote another grateful recipient. “Happy 13th birthday Taylor Smith!”

Another person described coming out to her car after work and finding a pink rose on the windshield of her car, complete with a note reading, “Our act of kindness in memory of Taylor Smith.”

“I’m so honored to be a recipient of an act of kindness,” the poster writes. “It’s the little things that make this world a better place.”

Although, the page was meant to inspire people to commit random acts of kindness during just one week, it seems to have encouraged people to continue with the project as Facebook users continue to post their random acts of kindness on the page.

It is a phenomenon that at least one participant predicted.

“Just wanted to let you know that RAOK will continue far beyond this one week. By sharing her story, you have taught people that time really does matter,” the person writes. “It saddens me for your loss, but my spirit was lifted knowing that she is with her Heavenly eternal Father. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for sharing and encouraging others to not waste the timer hat God has given us. Happy Birthday Taylor!!!!”

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