What Makes You Smile (Random Acts of Kindness 1980 Something)

We grew up broke. Flat broke.

I was the oldest of five. It seems like the hard times were always there. Before my dad broke his back in the early 80′s. After my dad broke his back in 1987. Before we had a flood that destroyed every last belonging we owned in 1989.

But there is something about heartache and hard times that makes you dig deep inside and find the funny in life. Things were certainly hard and there were many struggles, but I always remember having so much fun with my siblings and with family. We would laugh so hard and with laughing comes smiles.

Wind the clock back to 1984. This picture was taken at my cousin’s grandparent’s house. My cousin is the boy wearing the Kerry Von Erich shirt. Seriously, do you remember how popular the Von Erich brothers were in the 80′s? My cousin was a huge fan. His name is Little Roy. His daddy is of course Big Roy. His mama is my mother’s twins sister, Bet. (And for the record, I still call him Little Roy and he hates that.)

The boy in the belly shirt, that is my brother James, who just turned 33 yesterday. He is laughing there leaning up against that tree and he looks  just like his now four year old little boy  Wyatt. How history repeats itself.

The little girl in the shirt with hearts who is laughing her head off… that is me, about 8 years old. I laughed at anything. I was generally cutting up. Personally, I thought I was hilarious. I look a that picture and I see my little Matthew. I see me laughing as a little girl and it reminds me of how silly my own boys are current day.

The other three kids in the picture are Little Roy’s cousins, but we all grew up hanging out together at this age. Everyone is grown now with children of their own.

crystal vantassel 1984

Soon after this picture was taken I remember one of the most selfless acts of kindness that happened for my brother James that has never left me.

We attended an elementary school literally down the street from where I live now. Like I said, my family was broke. My brother needed a new coat and our school was doing a drawing giving one away with our school mascot on it. You had to have perfect attendance to be eligible, our names were in the hat.

It was a typical morning. My brother and I were the only siblings old enough for school. We rode the bus in and ate our free school breakfast in the cafeteria that morning. It was a winter morning. James and I soon parted ways and went to our classrooms. The coat giveaway  was done during the morning announcements. He needed that coat so bad. We said The Pledge of Allegiance, a time when One Nation Under God could be said in a classroom without offending anyone.

The principal was going to draw a name for the coat and I knew how bad James needed it. I prayed as I sat at my desk and listened to the slips of paper with names on them shuffle. “Please God, please. James really needs a coat. Please draw his name.”

James’ name was drawn. I am serious as serious can be. As simple as that a random act of kindness that directly effected a family’s life.

I remember being so happy, so grateful, so blessed. I smiled. I cried. So many emotions rights there at my desk in Ms. Giles 3rd grade classroom.

Fast forward to 2004-2009 and my mission was to pay it forward as I served for five years on our local PTA executive board with one mission- to make a difference in one child’s life. I know the power that a random act of kindness can have on someone’s life.


To celebrate random acts of kindness Invisalign is hosting an awesome giveaway because smiles were meant for sharing. You can enter to win a $500 Visa Gift Card which will bring a smile to your face this holiday season.

Have you heard of Invisalign ? Oh man. They are clear, removable aligners that straighten your teeth without metal or wires. (Am I a geek to admit I have ALWAYS wanted braces?!) You can learn more about them over on the Invisalign website.

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What makes you smile? 


While Invisalign is sending me a gift card for sharing this giveaway with my readers, the story shared here today is my own. That said, since I was a little girl I have wanted braces. To know that Invisalign is for adults too and is clear and metal free rocks! I love, love, love this! Bored? Feel free to read my disclosure.


  1. says

    Loved the story!! Y’all were such happy kids. I always see y’all smile in your pictures. Childhood memories seem to make life so simple. I miss those days a lot. I too think about how simple they were

  2. Kim Idell says

    I can’t believe how much Wyatt looks like James! I am so glad he got his coat. :)

    And I love your stories about your family. You guys are awesome.

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