One girl, 89 random acts of kindness: Teenager's Amazing Homage to Late Great-Grandmother

An Ohio teen, grieving over the February death of her 89-year-old great-grandmother, has begun an incredible quest in her memory: to perform 89 random acts of kindness for total strangers over the next 18 months.    

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“Some of her last words were, ‘I don’t want anybody to be upset.’ And I was really upset for a few days,” Samantha Manns, 18, told her hometown Ohio paper, the Chillicothe Gazette, which reported her story Monday. “Then I thought, maybe I can’t be happy right now, but I can do things to make other people happy.”

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She launched her plan back in February at a McDonald's drive-thru, where she paid the $5 bill of the customer behind her. It was simple, really, and made a total stranger's day.

The customer, she said, cried tears of joy. “I saw it in my rear-view mirror,” Manns told Yahoo! Shine. “It made me feel pretty good.”

She repeated that deed a few days later, which immediately started a chain of several other customers paying for the folks behind them. Other random acts: donating items to the Humane Society, hanging out with orphaned puppies there and “being a happy presence,” and baking a birthday cake for a friend. She’s also been inspiring others to follow her lead on her Facebook page, 89 Acts of Kindness, by offering packets with good-deed suggestions, plus a photo and bio of Manns’ late great-grandmother, Virginia Booth, whom she called “Jinjey.” 

“It’s crazy how many people have asked me for the packets,” Manns said.

Other plans in the works include filling a stranger's gas tank, and paying for someone's groceries. She's also set up suggestion box email for supporters to share ideas about her next moves and how they can help. In the meantime, Manns is updating her Facebook followers with new acts of kindness almost every day. "I baked a cake for a man who probably thought I forgot when his birthday is -- but we'll see how it goes, and I'll log about it on here," she posted recently. (It went well.)

Doing good deeds would be a particularly appropriate memorial to Booth, she added, as the octogenarian was a kind and giving person. “She was like the Golden Rule put in motion,” Manns said. “And she was a really big influence in my life.”

That was especially true in recent years, when Manns spent time in and out of psychiatric hospitals after being diagnosed with an eating disorder, as well as post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety as a result of being bullied in high school.

“Anytime I was in the hospital she was always right there. I knew I could count on her,” Manns said. “She came to the psychiatric hospital the last time I was there and told me I was looking good and doing fine and that I was going to make it. It was really nice to hear those words of encouragement.”

Today Manns is living in Columbus, a freshman at the Vet Tech Institute with the aim to become an animal cruelty investigator. She lives with a psychiatric service dog, a Great Dane-pit bull mix that “recognizes panic attacks and gives me something tactile to focus on,” the student explained. And she works as an apprentice at a tattoo shop, where she’ll soon be memorializing Booth in another way: with an old-style portrait of her on her left arm.

For now though, she’ll be continuing her goal of acting impulsively to make others feel good—something Manns estimates will take a year and half to complete. “Next up is whatever comes my way,” she said, adding that she thinks Booth would have been proud. “She would’ve wanted me to remember her in a good, kind way, surrounded by love and happiness.”

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