Let’s face it: The world is a scary place these days. Our political climate is charged with anger, our country is in mourning over yet another devastating shooting, and everywhere you look, it seems like people are frustrated. Even the aisles of the grocery store are filled with people who have seemingly forgotten their manners and basic human kindness.
It’s disheartening, really.
Kindness is a concept that children are expected to understand, and yet parents often do a terrible job of demonstrating kindness in daily life. We tell kids to play nicely and to use kind words, but our world is filled with hate spewing politicians and extremist groups hellbent on destroying our national safety. It can be confusing for little ones when they see the news and our generation is having conversations with our kids that our parents never had to have. Parenting is hard when the world seems so full of hate.
A few years ago, right after my father died, I had a terrible time going out for a run, something I had always enjoyed. Because of my grief, it was too hard to be alone with my thoughts, and though I missed my sport, I couldn’t find my way back to lacing up my shoes and hitting the pavement.
About a month after his passing, I received a note from a friend’s dad. Enclosed in the envelope was a copy of a registration confirmation for a race he knew I loved to run. He had paid for me and his daughter to run the race, and in the note, he offered to let us stay at his house on the weekend of the race. He also promised to hug me at the finish line, much like my father did for me. It was the single nicest thing anyone has ever done for me, and it was exactly what I needed to get my head back on straight. And when I saw his face at the finish line, I was grateful beyond measure for his kindness.
Random acts of kindness are necessary in this time of unrest. And we need to teach our kids that kindness is what conquers all of the fear, anger, and hatred in our world. Something as simple as saying thank you to a stranger can mean a world of difference in someone’s life. Kindness doesn’t cost a cent and is worth its weight in gold. Here are 25 ways that you and your kids can sprinkle kind gestures all over town:
1. When you see a police officer, thank him for being on duty. This will make his day and also make your kids less afraid to approach an officer should they ever need help.
2. Pay an unsuspecting family’s dinner bill at a restaurant. Their bewildered smiles will make your heart happy.
3. Have your kids use their allowance to help pay for a waiter’s tip.
4. Fill a grocery cart with canned goods and deliver them to a local food shelter. Arrange for your kids to help unload their donations onto the shelves and watch the magic happen.
5. Write funny notes on a pad of Post-its and have your kids leave them around town. We like to use “You don’t suck!” and “Hope you are feeling groovy!”
6. Have your kids write a note to their grandparents about their favorite memories with them.
7. Wash a neighbor’s car on a summer afternoon.
8. If you are in a drive-thru line, pay it forward and purchase the coffee (or burger) for the car behind you.
9. Buy lunch for a soldier you see in an airport. Often, they are traveling with very little cash, are far from home, and are eating alone. Thank the solider for their service.
10. Lower a flag to half-mast when a tragedy strikes.
11. Visit a nursing home or an elderly neighbor and watch as their faces light up when they see your kids. Let them tell you stories from when they were young.
12. Load groceries into someone’s car or offer to return their cart.
13. Volunteer for a local non-profit organization.
14. Give away your extra ride tickets as you are leaving a carnival. You’ll make a kid’s face smile.
15. Put flowers in a random mailbox. So much better than bills!
16. Weed a neighbor’s garden and plant some pretty flowers.
17. Use chalk to write happy messages on public sidewalks.
18. Collect can tabs and donate them to the Ronald McDonald house.
19. Bring pet supplies to a local animal shelter. And then stay to pet and cuddle animals who don’t have anyone to love them.
20. Pick up garbage when you see it. It seems small, but it makes the world a little prettier.
21. Roll down your windows at a stoplight and yell, “Have a great day!” to the car next to you. They’ll think you are crazy but they’ll smile, too.
22. Donate used books to a local library or take those hardly worn clothes to the local shelter.
23. Adopt or foster a pet.
24. Offer to take someone’s tray to the garbage at a fast food restaurant.
25. Simply say “please” and “thank you” with eye contact and a smile to everyone you meet.
Kindess isn’t hard — it’s free and it’s a choice. Practice a random act of kindness today, and you will find it not only makes someone’s day, it’ll also make yours pretty special too.