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In contrast to the usual holiday crime wave that sweeps the nation each year at this time, many people in Shelbyville have been experiencing the opposite extreme.
You may have come across some quarters taped to a vendor machine or to a coin-operated washer at the laundry mat. Or you may have received an anonymous gift card, given to you by a small child in line at a grocery store.
Chances are, it could be the work of a Shelby County family that has been having the time of their lives doing good deeds for strangers this holiday season.
“It’s just a new tradition that I wanted to start with my children this year,” said Megan Clark-Dugle, a medical assistant at Middletown Pediatrics.
“I thought, ‘if I can use social media to share this, hopefully, it will encourage other people to do it,” she said. “And that’s exactly what happened. I mean, the moment I started posting pictures on Facebook, I have gotten so many messages from people, such awesome feedback, which is very encouraging.”
Clark-Dugle said that in addition to inspiring the community to imitate her actions, her other motivation for RACKing [Random Acts of Christmas Kindness], is to teach her children, Braden, 5, and Kaleigh Dugle, 8, the true meaning of Christmas.
“I wanted my kids to learn what Christmas is all about, and that it’s not always about presents and gifts, but that there are other people that are less fortunate, so we just have to give back,” she said. “And it’s been awesome.”
The work of elves?
Like Santa’s helpers, Clark-Dugle and her children say they have been leaving good surprises behind for people to find, leaving them pleasantly shocked and understandably puzzled.
“My kids are five and eight, so we’ve been doing things that they are able to understand, like taking four quarters and taping them to a vending machine outside of Walmart with our note that explains you’ve been RACKed, which stands for Random Acts of Christmas Kindness,” she said. “We went to the laundry mat and put ten dollars worth of quarters in little zip lock bags and posted them on the washers and the dryers so we could help them wash and dry their clothes. We went to Krogers, and I just stand at the door, and I tell the kids, ‘Here’s a twenty-dollar gift card – find any person in line that you want, hand it to them, say ‘Merry Christmas’, and then just walk away. They don’t need to know who you are. They don’t need to know your name.’”
Dugle-Clark said she has also been doing what she calls “the drive-through difference.”
“Like, at McDonald’s, we pay for the car behind us,” she said. “You don’t have to tell them anything, just hand them this note and tell them Merry Christmas.”
People who have heard of Clark-Dugle’s kindness campaign applaud her generosity.
“This is the time of year that we celebrate the greatest gift of all – Jesus,” her friend Tony Carriss said. “It is also the time when we all need to focus on giving to those who aren't as fortunate. Megan's acts of kindness is one way of giving. I hope others will follow her lead. There are many Shelby County people that need our kindness and love.”
Said Toby Lewis: “It definitely puts you in the Christmas spirit. When you see children going out and doing the random acts of kindness, it definitely gives you a warm, fuzzy spot in your heart.”
Clark-Dugle’s former elementary school teacher, Sharon Hackworth, said she was not surprised when she heard of her unselfish acts.
“I think it’s wonderful what she’s doing,” Hackworth said. “Even as child, she was kind and compassionate and giving. She is a blessing to so many people.”
Shelby County Sheriff’s Det. Jason Rice said the family’s actions are part of a larger movement he has been hearing about.
“I have heard of it going on not only around here, but around the country as well, and I’m all for it,” he said. “I think it’s great when our society pays it forward and just shows random acts of kindness to others. I think if we had more of that going on, it would mean less business for me.”
Others around the community have been the recipients of similar random acts, such as Laura Shelton, manager of Discovery Gym on Main Street.
When Shelton came to open the gym the morning of Dec. 7, she said she was shocked and pleased to find that the snow that had fallen the previous evening mysteriously had been removed from the gym’s parking lot.
“It turned out to be the fellow at NAPA [Auto Parts, next door],” she said, with a laugh. “It had snowed, and he came over, and he cleared my sidewalks and my entire parking lot. It took some footwork to find out who it was. I went over there [NAPA], and nobody confessed at first, then he finally said, ‘Well, I did it.’”
Shelby Riner, owner of NAPA Auto Parts, was as reluctant to admit his good deed to a reporter as he was to Shelton.
“We were cleaning the Catholic Church’s parking lot for them, and we just thought we would do theirs too,” he said.
Clark-Dugle said that humility is part of what it’s all about.
“It's touching lives. obviously, but we are not doing the Random Acts of Kindness to bring glory to ourselves – we are doing it with no expectancy of [getting anything in] return,” she said.
“A lot of people don't know, but six years ago after a family tragedy, I had a random family buy Christmas for myself and my children. It was such a blessing and meant so much to me, and now I'm in a position where I can help someone out the way I was once helped.”
That experience prompted her to want her children to know the joy that helping others brings, she said.
“I’m doing this as a lesson to my children and to be an outreach to people with no self serving purpose other than to offer the love of Christ and to show these acts of kindness to be the expression of God's love towards an individual,” she said. “I hope that we have encouraged others to do the same.
“I know that we can't help everyone, but all of us in Shelby County can help someone. In light of all the negativity that's going on in the world today, this is a great way for us to start showing love to others and change our community, and a great lifelong lesson for children.”