Recently, I was at the mall with my two young girls (and about 8 months pregnant too). When I got in line to pay for something, a young man sitting to the side stood up and told me that he was ahead of me. I told him to go right ahead, and as my children crawled on the floor and acted up while we waited, the women in front of that guy told me to go ahead of her because she remembers what it's like to be shopping with young kids.
I literally cried, not because I was so glad to get out of the store (or because of hormones), but because this woman, who I will never see again, was kind to me when she didn't have to be. I won't forget her.
The week of Valentine's Day is Random Acts of Kindness Week (February 11-17). The two events together give parents the perfect opportunity to begin teaching our children about the power of random kindness and generosity. Wondering where to start? It doesn't take much effort or cash to lead your children in a life of kindheartedness and consideration. We've got one act for each day of the week.
1. Pay for the Person Behind You
The next time you go through the drive-thru (and we know it will be soon), tell the person who takes your payment that you would like to pay for the people in the car directly behind you. Chances are their bill won't be too much money and you'll be able to explain to those kids eager for their Happy Meal in the backseat what it means to be kind without expecting anything in return. You'll be back on the road before the strangers behind you even know you paid for their meal. And kindness without expectation of rewards is the best kindness of all.
2. Let Someone Cut You in Line
We've all been there, in a rush, wishing the line would move faster or that the person in front of us would let us cut in line. One day this week, be the person who lets someone cut. You'll be surprised how happy this can make someone, and you'll be a great example to your bewildered children who will most likely question your actions all the way home.
3. Volunteer at a Shelter
Or anywhere. Take your children with you to feed the homeless, donate clothes, clean up the neighborhood, or volunteer at the animal shelter (this one could be dangerous so instill a no pet rule before you go.) There are so many ways you can help your community that you're sure to find the perfect fit for you and your kids to volunteer together.
4. Build a Care Package for a Sick Child
Give thanks for the health of your family and brighten a child's day too. Every day, millions of children sit in hospital rooms. Some of them don't even have families who can be there with them. Contact your local hospital about creating a care package for one or more of the children who are currently admitted. These are children battling diseases like cystic fibrosis and cancer, or recovering from surgeries while missing out on school and activities with their friends. Your care package can make a world of difference to that child and teach your children gratitude and generosity.
5. Make a Treat for School
Show your child's class, teachers, and school administration how important they are to your family by baking some treats for them. With your children, create some cookies or cupcakes to share on a day other than Valentine's Day. Everyone at school will be surprised and their day brightened. Plus, your kids will love to see how much their simple act can make a person smile.
6. Cook Dad's Favorite Meal
Or Mom's favorite meal. It doesn't really matter for whom you cook, but one night this week make sure dinner is an amazing feast of all of that special person's favorites. After a long day, it feels great to know that someone cares enough to plan and create a homemade dinner just for them. Plus, everyone gets the benefit of eating a meal made with love.
7. Send Kindness Notes
One day this week, sit down with your children and write a few kindness notes. You can send one to Grandma, Grandpa, your child's best friend, your child's coach, or the pastor of your church. All you have to do is write something kind and pop the note in the mail. You can download some examples at randomactsofkindess.org. If your child is too young to write, have her decorate the card.
It doesn't take much to pass along random acts of kindness and make the world a better place. You'll soon find that the more love you give, the more love you get and your children will reap the benefits as they grow into adults who understand the domino effect of kindness, generosity, and compassion.