We’ve all heard of the concept of practicing random acts of kindness — though how well we ascribe to the concept in our own lives probably varies. We’d all do well to follow the example of the women who have come to be known as the 9 Nanas.
These women have spent the last 42 years spreading love and kindness to people in their community.
The best part? They spent the first 30+ years doing so in total secrecy. The women kept their secret so well, not even their husbands knew.
The women, who live in Tennessee, think of themselves as sisters. In fact, several of them were raised by the same couple, known as PaPaw and MaMaw Ruth who were the start of their mission to do good.
MaMaw Ruth was known to scan the local obituaries and find a family that had recently lost a loved one.
Then she’d bake one of her famous pound cakes and send it as a gesture of sympathy. It didn’t matter whether they were a friend or a stranger — they got a cake all the same.
So, in 1977, the nine women decided to carry on her legacy.
“Not everyone is as lucky as we were to have MaMaw and PaPaw to take care of them, to fix all those things that are wrong,” they said. “So, this is our way of giving back. We want people to know that someone out there cares enough to do something. We want to make sure that happiness happens.”
They decided to save money for doing good by setting aside the funds they usually gave to a laundry service.
They said their husbands never noticed that it was gone. Instead of spending the money on laundry, they put it toward giving to those in need.
“We’d drive through low-income neighborhoods and look for homes that had fans in the window,” said one of the “nanas. That told us that the people who lived there didn’t have air-conditioning. Or we’d see that there were no lights on at night, which meant there was a good chance their utilities had been turned off.”
They also bought school clothes for children and helped out single mothers. As they went about their daily lives, they kept their collective ear to the ground. When they heard about someone in need, the nanas acted.
Whenever a package arrived, whether it was money or clothes or something else, it included one of MaMaw Ruth’s pound cakes and a note that read, “Somebody loves you.”
It took their husbands 30 years to notice, but at last, they asked their wives about disappearing money and mileage on the cars. So, the nanas finally confessed. But to their delight, their husbands wanted to help.
Then their adult children found out and helped them bring their efforts to the World Wide Web.
Now, the ladies have their own kitchen and even a “happiness coordinator” who helps them find people in need. But even she works in secret.
“We swore her to secrecy – her parents think she works in marketing,” said the nanas. “And, really, if you think about it, she is doing public relations and spends a lot of time looking for people to help at the supermarket!”
The women are extraordinary and their love is felt throughout their community. And to think it all started with a recipe for delicious pound cake.
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