In the past we have participated in the 30 Days of Gratitude for November (Where you make a Turkey out of two foam balls wrapped in yard, then each day you add a feather made from construction paper attached to a popsicle stick- write what you are thankful for on the feather, & then press it into the Turkey….thus having a full turkey at the end. This activity is perfect for toddlers and preschoolers!), and have done the Acts of Kindness Countdown to Thanksgiving and the children seem to favor the latter. Read more
What Kids Can Learn From Volunteering
- A sense of responsibility. Kids and teens learn what it means to make and keep a commitment. They learn how to be on time for a job, do their best, and be proud of the results. But they also learn that, ultimately, we’re all responsible for the well-being of our communities.
- That one person can make a difference. A wonderful, empowering message for kids is that they’re important enough to have an impact on someone or something else.
- Tolerance. Working in community service can bring kids and teens in touch with people of different backgrounds, abilities, ethnicities, ages, and education and income levels. They’ll learn that even the most diverse individuals can be united by common values.
Have you ever been sitting in your car at a red light and suddenly you find yourself thinking about a certain friend, relative, or neighbor? Thinking about the relationship and how much it means to you. And how you should really give them a call, invite them over for dinner, or perhaps visit them at their retirement home? Then what happens? The light turns green and the thought is left behind.
Or perhaps maybe you have considered giving your time at a local food shelter or even making it a family affair but quickly excuse the idea. You are way too busy with work, household responsibilities, running kids around, etc. You’ll reconsider when the children’s schedules aren’t so hectic and work let’s up a little, maybe next year?
Maybe your spouse has been bugging you to go on a date. But you keep putting it off until you have enough money budgeted for a fancy meal and night out on the town. You’ll go in a couple months once a few things are paid off.
What if there were no more tomorrows? Those friends, relatives, and neighbors would never know how much they meant to you. And the people’s lives you could have touched and whose lives could have touched yours through volunteering will never happen. Why do you keep putting off gratitude until tomorrow? Why do you keep putting off acts of kindness until you have more time, more money?
I hadn’t really considered how often I put off small acts of kindness and gratitude until I received an email from a gentleman about his wife who is a cancer survivor. As I read the email and watched the video it touched my heart deeply.
Heather is an 8-year survivor of mesothelioma, a rare cancer caused by asbestos exposure. When she was diagnosed, she had just given birth to our little girl, Lily. Heather was told she only had 15 months left to live. I was quickly thrown into the role of caregiver and together we decided we would do whatever it took to beat the cancer. Nearly 8 years later, Heather is cancer free and doing what she loves most; raising Lily. Because she beat the odds and is one of few long-term survivors of mesothelioma, it is our mission to spread awareness of mesothelioma by sharing our personal story.
If her cancer has taught us anything, it’s the value of life and the value of gratitude. Her diagnosis was in the Holiday season, and every year around this time she gets what we call the “Holiday Blues” Therefore, she created “30 Days of Thankfulness” where she acknowledges something in her life that she is thankful for every day throughout the month. (Taken from email that was received)
I think sometimes we forget just how important small acts of kindness can be. We almost fool ourselves into thinking that sending that text, card, calling, paying for a perfect stranger’s coffee, etc. isn’t significant enough. Will it really affect them that much? Will it really have any impact on them? Why should I even bother?
After watching and reading Heather’s story it really got me thinking about others who might be experiencing the holiday blues so I did a little research. Depression and suicides rates are at the highest during the holidays. So yes, it turns out that an act of kindness could have a significant impact on a person’s day, holiday season, even their life! Often time’s people keep their emotions and struggles bottled up. Who’s not to say that receiving that card via snail mail, an invitation to dinner, or having a perfect stranger pay for their coffee might be just what they needed to prevent themselves from taking catastrophic steps.
So the challenge is this…
Don’t put off small acts of kindness. We are not promised tomorrow. Start today. Start small. Stay small. Remember it isn’t the grandeur of the gesture but rather the love behind it. Starting this week put some action behind those kind thoughts. Do at least one small act of kindness each week. It can be well thought out like a special card or package in the mail for a friend or a random pay for a strangers coffee/food. There are only 52 weeks in a year. We should be able to come up with 52 acts of kindness. That’s right; this challenge is running ALL YEAR! Are you up for it? I think you are! I think you will be pleasantly surprised at the results and consequences that your acts of kindness will have on your own life.
Here are a few ideas to get you started:
Call a friend or family member you haven’t spoken with in a long time
Send an “I am thinking of you” card to family/friend
Send a car package to family/friend
Put together a kit for homeless (Ziploc with small toiletries)
Make a meal for homeless shelter
Offer to babysit for another family (and don’t expect anything in return)
Help someone for FREE (clean house, yard pick-up/maintenance, help with taxes, etc.)
Pay for the person’s order behind you in the drive-thru
Leave waitress a nice tip
Feed the meter for someone
Leave coins in vending machine
Offer to go shopping for elderly neighbor
Shovel neighbors drive
Mail money to a perfect stranger with a small encouraging note
So what do you say? Are you up for the challenge? Have a past experience or act of kindness to share? Have any ideas to add to the list?
Like the little black dress (LBD) is the staple for any wardrobe, gratitude should be the staple attitude. In this day and age it seems like many would prefer to be self-serving as opposed to serve others. As parents it is important that we break this cycle. How do we break the cycle? As Ghandi said, “be the change that you want to see in the world”. Model the behavior you would like to instill in your children. In the book Raising Unselfish Children in a Self-Absorbed World the author Jill Rigby suggests a few ways in which unselfishness can be taught:
•Refusing to overindulge your kids by helping them develop patience and teaching them responsibility
•Teaching empathy and understanding
•Helping them understand the importance and necessity of forgiveness and how to ask for it and accept it
•Spending time together as a family
•Helping out in your community
I realize that as parents we often have the best intentions of helping out in our community but sometimes it just doesn’t make it on the calendar. So, we need to make it a priority, just like we place the PTA meetings, soccer games, dance class, piano lessons, etc. on our calendars we need to also include serving the community. It need not be something to time-consuming, you could make brownies with your children and drop them off with a thank you note to your local fire station, have kiddos help you go through the pantry and fill up a bag to donate to a local food shelter, volunteer at a local Ronald McDonald house, etc. You could do something different each month or the same things every month but the key is to schedule it on your calendar as you would any other priority. Make community service and gratitude part of your family’s routine and it will become a part of your children’s life.
It can also be fun to get friends involved. This also increases your chances of following through with your plans, similar to having a workout buddy, have a family you volunteer with and chances are you will be more accountable.
This year we started, Sponsor Pizza and Movie Night with our playgroup. Every other month our playgroup donates and serves pizza, pop, juice, dessert, and donates a movie to our local Family Shelter. The experience has really taught my little ones the virtue of patience and service, to put others before themselves, to serve those residing in the shelter the food and dessert, to make sure others are provided for before themselves. It has also taught them to be thankful for what they have, their home, their bedroom, their toys, etc. It has been a positive experience and I look forward to serving many more meals.
Please share ways that you have incorporated service into your life and/or family’s life. How did you find the time?
We wish everyone a Safe and Happy Thanksgiving!
Last November our family lived 30 days of Gratitude which was extremely fulfilling. This November we are doing something similar but this time there will be more order to the activity and the children are involved in preparing the activity…Acts of Kindness Countdown to Thanksgiving!
The idea is kind of similar to an Advent calendar. However in addition to a piece of candy each day there is also an act of kindness for the children to engage. First things first…assembling an Acts of Kindness Countdown to Thanksgiving….
What you will need:
- 1 mini 24 count muffin tin/pan
- 4 sheets of construction paper (let kiddos select colors, need two colors)
- 1 bag candy corn or equivalent sized candy pieces
- 22 Adhesive dots (Scotch has great ones)
- Thanksgiving themed stickers
- 22 Acts of Kindness (See our list below…feel free to add, or alter the list so that it is age appropriate for your children. Ours is geared more towards our 5 and 6 year olds.)
Acts of Kindness List:
- Make an afterschool snack for your sibling.
- Put together a fun package for friends who live out-of-town. Make a card; include stickers, and other fun activities.
- Help clean out the pantry. Put all canned goods in a pile to be donated to the shelter.
- Give someone a compliment.
- Organize your clothes and place the ones that no longer fit in a pile and you and mommy can donate them to a clothing drive or shelter.
- Hold the door for someone; allow them to enter the building first.
- Go through your toys and books and those that you no longer use will be donated to children in need.
- Help around the house without being asked to do so, such as cleaning your room, the family room, or arts & craft drawers.
- Help your sister or brother with something in a kind manner.
- Teach your sibling how to do something, to put their shoes on, a crafts, trick, etc.
- Visit or call a relative or family friend that you do not see often.
- Make and Send a Random Card of Kindness to an ill child. http://loveletterscares.org
- Help mommy make dinner for a relative or family friend.
- Write a letter to a soldier and send to http://Kidz4Troops.org
- Get out your crayons and color one of the coloring pages found on Color A Smile and then send it to Color a Smile where it will be distributed to the elderly in a Nursing Homes or through Meals on Wheels Programs. http://www.colorasmile.org/coloring.html
- Help organize books in the book shelf.
- Read an extra story with mommy. (Or read to mommy, if old enough).
- Help pack a Shoe Box filled with items for Samaritan’s Purse Operation Christmas Child. http://www.samaritanspurse.org/index.php/OCC/Pack_A_Shoe_Box/
- Praise your siblings or a classmate when they do something kind.
- Kids Choice (allow your child to come up with their own Act of Kindness)
- Purchase mittens and hats to donate to the homeless shelter.
- Help mommy collect and drop off donations to the animal shelter.
Please encourage your kiddos to participate in the assembling of the Acts of Kindness Countdown to Thanksgiving. By doing so they have the opportunity to practice and sharpen up on their fine motor skills, patterns, sequencing, addition, subtraction, etc. (steps towards writing, reading comprehension, and practicing math skills).
- Print off the Acts of Kindness list and cut each into one strip.
- Have children trace circles on the construction paper (we used the bottom of a cup as our template).
- Cut circles out.
- Have children place stickers on the circles.
- Have children place circles on the table in patterns. Have some fun with this, take your time and see how many different types of patterns they can create.
- Have children wash their hands and then open candy corn or equivalent sized pieces of candy, package. Then take a few minutes and have some fun with math! Do some simple addition… place 5 pieces of candy on the table and then add 3 more, ask your child how many there are? Then subtract two from the table and ask your child how many are left. If you have older kiddos have some fun with multiplication! Add five pieces to each cubby in the first row; have them multiply 4 x 5 and then check their work by actually counting out each piece of candy.
- Once you are finished having some fun with math have children count out however many you wish to include in each cubby (we included 3 pieces in each because all three of them will be participating in the countdown, so each will receive one piece of candy each day)
- Then have them roll up each Act of Kindness and place one in each cubby. (Well, 22 of the cubbies since Thanksgiving in on the 22nd, or adjust to your liking…24 days).
- Then place one Scotch adhesive dot at the top of each circle. And place circles over the cubbies thus hiding the candy and Act of Kindness.
Then each day have the children take turns uncovering the Act of Kindness for the day. Take a moment and discuss the act of kindness with your child/children to make certain it is comprehended accurately and then later in the day (we like to do this over the dinner table) discuss how they accomplished the act of kindness. Ask them how it made them feel, how they think it made the other person feel, and any addition questions associated with the act.
Does your family have a similar tradition around this time of year? Do you have any suggestions for additional acts of Kindness? Was there an act of kindness you did or received from someone who had a strong impact on your life? Please share…