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Twenty-six ways to remember

PRINCETON — It was the Saturday before Christmas, and Karen Podobinski of Bureau was running some last minute Christmas errands.

She had just come out of the Dollar General Store in Princeton and noticed a flyer or something under her windshield wiper.

“I didn’t pay any attention to it, and then as I was backing out, the sun hit it. And it looked like there was money in it,” Podobinski said.

So she stopped the car, got out and removed the paper from her windshield.

“It’s an envelope, and it says, ‘Merry Christmas in honor of Sandy Hook Elementary #26 Acts for Caroline Previdi,’” she said.

Podobinski opened the envelope and saw that someone had given her a $5 bill in honor of one of the 6-year-old victims of the murder of 20 students and six adults at the Connecticut school Dec. 14.

Podobinski said immediately all the memories of the tragedy became alive again.

“It kind of brought me back to that day and watching it on the news,” she said. “Here we are, rushing around, trying to get ready for Christmas, and someone took the time to remember these people.”

Standing there in the parking lot, Podobinski felt the tears start to flow. Then she felt guilty.

“I thought, well, I’m not worthy of this,” she said. “Why did somebody single me out? My family’s been blessed.”

Podobinski went home and told her son about the incident, and he said he had heard about something regarding NBC News correspondent Ann Curry. Podobinski looked it up on the Internet, and learned that Curry had shared a suggestion about performing 26 acts of kindness to honor the people killed at the school. The idea took off, and soon the hashtag “#26acts” was trending on Twitter and a “26 Acts of Kindness” Facebook page had exceeded 17,000 likes.

“It doesn’t have to be monetary, but any kind of kindness,” she said.

Even though $5 isn’t a lot of money, Podobinski is determined to pay it forward, to make it mean something.

She’s considered a variety of options.

“I though about donating it to the food pantry,” she said. “I had to go to Walmart and thought about putting it into the Salvation Army bucket.”

She thought about going to McDonald’s and buying a meal for a hungry traveller. She even thought about sending it to the family of Emilie Parker, to help them bring their daughter’s body back to Utah for burial.

For now, she’s just holding on to the $5 and keeping her eyes open.

“I think what I’m going to do is someday when I’m in Walmart, and maybe I’ll see a needy family and I’ll just pass it on,” she said.

Podobinski really wants to let her anonymous donor know how kind they were to take the time to do an act of kindness to remember the Sandy Hook victims.

“Whoever did this, my hat’s off to them that they would take the time at this busy and expensive time of the year to do this for someone,” she said. “I want to make it worth of someone doing this.”

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