I have been thinking about this challenge since Niki first posted the challenge back in May. I love the idea and the message it promotes. This second week was to look for and observe acts of kindness happening around us. Part of being able to emulate a new skill is to observe what is happening in the world around us. I have been noticing kindness in the little things that happen in my interactions with my kids and among my friends and colleagues. It really makes the world a nicer place to be and gives me a sense that each day brings new opportunity to spread seeds of kindness everywhere.
We recently took a trip to Chicago and we encountered numerous homeless individuals in the streets, hunkered down in nooks or holding signs with cups asking for help. My 6 year old daughter asked me about why a man was sitting outside with blankets and a cup outside of the coffee shop. She happened to notice him as we approached the shop and kept eyeing him curiously while drinking her hot chocolate. We had an impromptu discussion about homelessness and how some do not have a home to keep their belongings and to keep them dry when rains come or a place to sleep in their own beds. She asked what we could do to help him and she asked me for the change we got after paying for our drinks. We talked about how this was a nice way to help him. She could not wait to give him the change we got and to place it in his cup. When she quietly placed the change into his cup, he did not say anything but instead nodded a silent thank you. She backed away and looked at me smiling. Every time we passed another homeless person, she tugged on my hand to see if we could give more change.
This small gesture is the beginning of teaching kids to act kindly to others and to be sensitive to inequities in our society. We can choose to help others freely, where we pay it forward and not ask for any thing in return. I love the blog post: Acts of Kindness: Teaching Children to Care and the website, Random Acts of Kindness. This website has wonderful lesson plans and home activities for teaching students Kindergarten through High School that I think are very well thought out and comprehensive. If you have not yet checked it out, please do. I love that they have skits, songs, activities and other developmentally appropriate exercises. For educators, it has a list of what common core standards each lesson plan meets. It cannot get any easier than that!
The most important thing is that KINDNESS CAN BE TAUGHT. It can also be re-learned and renewed within each of us. We all get caught up in our routines and rhythms of our lives that we can forget the bigger picture. That is why this challenge is useful and can re-energize those participating in creating a kindness revolution!
I also have seen my close girlfriends step up for each other when one of us are feeling down and blue, needs a helping hand or just to remind each other that we are here for each other. The group texts, the check ins and the invitations for taking the kids so another friend can have some needed down time is a reminder that we must take time for ourselves to renew and to lean on others who are willing to help out. It is not a sign of failure at all! And by talking with our kids about these small acts of kindness to help out our friends, our family and our community, we are helping to instill these values in our children. We know these small teachable moments may be small in the given scheme of things but it is what makes the world go around. We can show our children how much joy we get from helping others by giving them plenty of opportunities to hold the door open for a stranger, to help the tired momma by picking up the dropped shoe and giving it back to her, to help a friend who is feeling excluded, to help cheer up those in need of comfort by sending a card in the mail or calling them to check on how thing are. As parents we can role model this behavior and we can give simple prompts to our kids and then debrief with them to understand what their action meant to them. I love the book Do Nice, Be Kind, Spread Happy as a great way to engage kids in acts of kindness.
Read this great piece by Amy Joyce in the Washington Post: Are you Raising Nice Kids? A Harvard Psychologist Gives 5 Ways to Raise Them to be Kind. It is full of practical strategies and nice conversation starters.
Thanks Niki at the Richness of a Simple Life for this wonderful reminder to always be on the lookout for the positives. It has been a wonderful few weeks of observing and seeing the kindness in others.