It’s a wonderful thing to have little personal traditions with your family. Having that one special thing you do together can be a great way to bond in a memorable way, passing on your interests and passions to new generations.
For Barbara Longova, a grandmother of three from Baltimore, Maryland, that love was reading.
“Reading was her favorite activity,” her daughter, Nicole White, told Today Parents.
“She loved to sit on her porch, drinking a glass of wine and reading a good book.”
And in order to pass that enthusiasm for reading down to her grandchildren, she carried on a tradition started by her mother:
Every year, she brought her grandchildren to the bookstore and let them pick out a Christmas gift.
The annual tradition took place at Longova’s favorite bookstore, Browseabout Books in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware.
“The kids could buy the books they wanted and then they would be wrapped and under the tree on Christmas morning,” White explained.
“Oma had a serious love of reading and wanted us to share that love with her,” said her 17-year-old grandson, Gavin, who like his siblings knew his grandmother as “Oma.”
Sadly, just weeks before the family would make their annual trek to the bookstore, the tradition seemed to come to an abrupt end: Longova suddenly died in November 2015.
But rather than let the tradition disappear, her descendants have kept it going in an inspiring way:
They hide book money for strangers to find.
Every year, they return to Browseabout Books and hide $5 bill in books, along with a note that explains that they’re doing it in honor of their late grandmother.
“Oma was so kind and generous with us that we’re paying it forward to others,” Gavin told Today. They even gave their project its own hashtag, #omaluv.
“Please accept this gift in loving memory of our grandmother who would take us to buy a book of our choosing every Christmas,” the notes read. “She instilled in us a love of reading. Use this money towards a new book purchase.”
— Katie Morrison (@katiemorrison09) November 30, 2016
The new tradition is a win-win, not just keeping Oma’s memory alive but spreading random acts of kindness to people who might be in need.
“It wasn’t about the gift because my kids get things all the time,” White said. “It was about finding a way to honor and remember her. We decided Oma would buy books for anyone that needed a little bit of money off the book they were choosing.”
And it turns out, you never know when someone might need a kind surprise like this:
One recipient found the cash the day after the Parkland shooting.
“My faith in the goodness of the world was low,” recipient Andrew Crochunis said. “And then that note fell into my hand and I saw a glimmer of light. Someone’s grandmother understood the importance not only of learning and reading, but of giving that gift to others.”
And oftentimes, the recipients will pay-it-forward themselves, keeping the kindness going:
“Almost every time one comes through, the customer chooses to put it in another random book in the store,” Browseabout managing partner Susan Kehoe told Today. “I did not know Barbara personally, but she must have been the best grandmother ever.”
As the grandkids hide the notes around the store, they keep their Oma’s love of reading in mind.
“When I go to the bookstore I first look at the Stephen King books because those were her favorite,” 14-year-old Lucy said.
And they’ll never forget the impact Oma had on them: instilling a love for reading. It’s a priceless gift they hope to pass on to the strangers who may stumble across the notes hidden in the books.
“Her determination and enthusiasm really worked and to this day, I still love reading and doubt that will ever go away,” Gavin said.
“Oma was so kind and generous with us that we’re paying it forward to others.”