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It's woman's birthday, but strangers get cards
Spotsylvania woman finds a unique way to show thankful feelings in celebrating 75 years of life

 Jan Williams is celebrating her upcoming 75th birthday with random kind acts. Helping is nothing new for Williams, who volunteers, collects goods and knits scarves to give away.
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Date published: 11/20/2012

By Rob Hedelt

JAN Williams doesn't need to stop and find ways this Thanksgiving week to express how thankful she feels about life.

The caring Spotsylvania County woman has already embarked on a unique journey leading up to her 75th birthday in June.

She's purposely and joyously committing 75 random acts of kindness to celebrate the milestone.

The idea was triggered a while back, when the pastor at her Lifepoint church was talking about random acts of kindness.

It got her thinking about finding a unique way to show how thankful she is for a great life and "a wonderful family"--her son David Williams and daughter Melanie Eackles live in the area, and she has two other daughters, one in Atlanta and the other in Florida.

Williams came up with the notion of buying gift cards--most for $5 but occasionally for as much as $25--and giving them to folks she encounters out and about.

"I usually look for a parent with a child," she said, noting that she often simply approaches and asks something like, "Would you like to help me celebrate my 75th year?"

If they say yes, as most do, she'll reach into her handbag and pull out a Walmart, McDonald's or Dollar Tree gift card.

The reactions of folks who have just received such a selfless, random gift make it special for her.

"I had one woman tear up and say 'You have no idea what this means to me!'" said Williams. "It wasn't that it was so much money or anything like that. It was just that someone she didn't know wanted to do something nice for her."

Included in the little packets she gives folks are gift card receipts and a brief note about how the gift is part of her 75th-year celebration.

"It's not a huge thing, but I just get such a kick out of doing this for people," said Williams.

She grew up in Washington, raised her children in Fairfax County and moved to Spotsylvania in 1989 after the retirement of her late husband. At first, she wanted her random giving to be done anonymously.

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