It is impossible to quantify kindness…  This is a truth I have come to realize in the 2 plus years my family and I have been on this journey we call “ReesSpecht Life”.  Kindness cannot possibly be measured because it is something, like love, that exists in our hearts and not in our heads.  There is no computation for kindness… you can’t ascertain a mean, median or mode for it.  Kindness just “is”… it’s inherent in the heart of every person – though, for many different reasons, it lay dormant in too many of us.

When my wife and I set out to form ReesSpecht Life, we did so with a mission to honor our little boy’s brief life and pay back the kindness of those people who rushed to our aid in our time of need.  I never intended for this movement to become what it has.  We just wanted to do something nice.  The teachers in us wanted to pass on a lesson that others could learn from.  We just wanted to let those who made a difference in our time of need know that what they did was appreciated.  Those very people would not let us pay them back, so we decided to pay it forward.

In the two years since we passed out our first “ReesSpecht Life” pay it forward card, there have been countless acts of kindness performed in Rees’ name.  To think that over 100,000 of the cards circulate the globe boggles my mind.  I get messages all the time now about the acts of kindness people perform, and whether big or small, they all generate the same feeling of true happiness in my soul.  Every act of kindness we hear about brings a smile to my face as I know, in some small way, my little boy’s spirit helped inspire it.

When I think about it, all we ever wanted to do with this movement was to inspire others to act on the inherent, and sometimes latent, kindness in all of our hearts.  Based on the picture you see above, that inspiration has hit a new level.  A couple of nights ago I received a short email with a cryptic message line from a young lady who shared with me that she had something “big” to share with us but wished to remain anonymous in doing so.  The name wasn’t familiar and to be honest I wasn’t sure whether or not it was spam.  I almost didn’t respond but a little voice in my head told me to send an inquiry back to her.  It took about a day to get a response, and when I opened the email I realized it was exactly as she said… it was BIG.

My mouth sat agape as stared at a picture attached to her reply that showed a restaurant receipt with a $3,000.00 tip on it… I literally did a double, even triple take.  I then read the note that accompanied it:

Thank you for your kindness and humility.  My teacher in middle school had such a difficult experience a few years ago which has sparked me to do this.  My only requirements are:

1) Go to and learn!

2) Don’t let “Pay it forward” end with you.

3) Since it’s about the idea and not about you, or me, if you decide to share this, don’t use either of our names!

Thank you for being around for all of my shows on and off Broadway.  I hope that someday someone gives as much love and happiness into the world as you do.

In staring at that receipt I never noticed the name and it wasn’t until I read the note did I realize that it was a former student of mine.  I immediately recalled who he was and realized that I had him at least ten years ago.  This young man used to come up to my room to talk with me and I remember many of our conversations that we had over the course of that year.  Sadly, as with most of my students, I never really had a chance to talk to him again after he left my classroom and moved on to the 9th grade.

To think that someone I had a decade ago would honor my little boy or even remember his 8th grade science teacher in such a way blows me away.  In an age where politicians wish to identify “High Effective” teachers simply by test scores and data points, this moment could not be better timed.  I have to admit, as a teacher, I am absolutely worn down by what is going on in education “reform” today.  It breaks my heart to see that people actually believe that a teacher’s impact and effectiveness can measured by data points provided by a single, standardized test.  I am a firm believer that what makes a good teacher is the inherently intangible aspects that no amount of data could ever quantify.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not trying to be political here.  I am not espousing some union “agenda”; I’m simply sharing how I, as a dedicated educator, feel.  As much as I would like to rail against the “Powers that be” I just don’t have the will to do so here.  All I know is that the single, greatest, evaluation I could ever receive came into my inbox last night and it wasn’t an amalgamated statistic generated by some value added model determined to reduce my impact on my students to a single number.  No, what I received last night was affirmation that I made a difference in that young man’s life, and in return he honored my little boy with a gesture that is almost unfathomable. That is all any of us really ever wants, isn’t it? – To know that we made a difference in this world.

New York state can take the rating they gave me and toss it in the garbage, where it belongs.  I don’t need a bureaucrat who has never set foot in the front of a classroom full of children to tell me what it is, in their jaded view, to make a difference to my students… Frankly, based on current events I am witness to in the state of New York, it is abundantly clear that they have no idea at all…

I guess it all really comes back to kindness.  Some things just cannot be measured, yet that does not mean we can’t identify it when we see it.  We all know who the “good” teachers in our lives were because they were the ones who made a difference to us.  Those people who took the time to go that extra step to ensure we understood their message.  Those teachers were the pillars of respect… accepting that we are all different, yet taking our commonality, our humanity, our compassion and kindness and using it to make us feel special and unique.  When I think about it, at the very core of everything, life itself is the one thing we all universally share.  I am happy knowing my little boy and I made a difference in the lives of those who we have touched.  I am proud to say that, as a teacher, as a human being, I ReesSpecht Life, and I will continue to do so.  Go out and make a difference.  Be the change YOU wish to see in this world.  We can all make a difference in this world, one Rees’ piece at a time…



28 Responses

  1. I am a single mom raising 2kids have not been easy. But I taught my children how to be kind an say thank you. When they were young, Elderly people would come to me and say good things my kid did for them. Teachers would call me and say they do not know what I did to my kids. But keep doing it. God has been good to me an with out realizing it. He gave me what I prayed for Good children. My son has keloids on his ears, he is a kind young man. He is 18 now and wants to attend college. My son is working to get a car, he has never been much on running around with others. More of a geek! Never a follower! But because of his keloids he stay inside. Insurance will not cover. He had them for 3 years now. He had to fight in high school. Because of them an he didn’t go to prom. Who would ask him! If someone could assist us for my son. To give him a better self esteem I would greatly appreciate. We have been trying but money wise I can’t help but joy on his face!

  2. I too would like to join & participate in the pay it forward. I’ve never been helped financially but me & my son have been out walking to or from grocery stores in negative or below freezing weather. Strangers have stopped & given us a ride to get us out of the cold. I grew up in sunny California and moved to Kansas. It took me a couple of winters to learn how to passably drive in snow and got my self stuck high center in snow drifts & strangers have helped push me out of them. I am a stay at home mom on a very fixed income so I can’t help financially but if there is another way please let me know

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