Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Spread a Little Kindness

     Lately I have been discouraged with the amount of violence, negativity and discouragement in the world. Not that I'm not always bothered by it, but this week I just though this world is filled with such sadness for so many people. I don't think that anyone can turn on the news, hear about things like the Malaysian flight MH17 being shot down or civil war within a country or bordering countries without feeling sorrow or wondering what is wrong with all of us. (As a Christian, I would say sin.) Day after day we learn of the daily struggles of our family, friends and acquaintances. We suffer from "ear polution" (as I once read in a book) of people complaining about unimportant things or each other. It's 90 degrees here today and I have done my own share of complaining. To be honest, I complain way too much. I try not to but sometimes I am just not a pleasant person to be around. (Especially if it's hot. Who wants to bring me an ice cream?)   Luckily, I'm friends with a ton of good people who are patient with me and are generally uplifting. 
     So, I've been thinking of ways to spread a little kindness and decided to compile a list of some things I've been involved with.  I have also included the links to any relevant pages. Let me know if you decide to try any of these and what your experiences are.  :)  Also, if you have any sites you'd like to share, please add them to the comments. 

More Love Letters More Love Letters is a site that sends letters to people who could use some encouragement. Honestly, Timmy was lucky enough to be a recipient of some of these cards right before he started 2nd grade. First grade was not so great socially and he was a little nervous about the new school year. We got inundated with about 100 letters/cards/postcards and he felt extremely special. After reading their encouragement (some of them over and over), he felt pretty confident that he was a good kid and would do alright in 2nd grade. The current letter requests are for a woman recently diagnosed with brain cancer, a couple preparing to get married, a woman recovering from addiction, a man serving his country, and a girl suffering from depression. Maybe writing to a stranger is weird for you but maybe you have words of encouragement or wisdom that might be life-changing for one of these (or all!) folks!  You could also write a random "love letter" and leave it in a public place where it might be discovered by someone who needs some encouragement. Send a card to a friend who is going through a hard time. Remind your grandma that you love her. Get the good mail out!

The Birthday Project  The birthday project celebrates your life by spreading random acts of kindness to other people. In this project, people celebrate their birthday by doing one RAK (Random act of kindness) for each year they were alive. You obviously don't have to practice RAK only on your birthday but is a cool idea. What are some ideas for things to do? Buy someone flowers. Volunteer at a nursing home. Pay for the order behind you in a drive thru or on a toll. Carry someone's groceries to their car (if they don't think you're sketchy!). Look for opportunities. On Mother's Day this year I went to Dunkin' Donuts and ordered a coffee, wrap, and 2 donuts for the kiddos. The woman behind me was acting a little strangely (to the point that I asked if she would like to go ahead of us in line) and when we got to the counter, she squeezed in and said. "I'd like to pay for their order." We chatted and she said "I don't have a mom anymore, so I'd like to celebrate Mother's Day by buying breakfast for you and your sweet, little boys." I was very touched... and slightly confused. We were on the way to church so I thanked her and headed to church. I wish now that I had taken an extra 10 minutes, invited the woman to sit and have breakfast with us and spoke with her. I've been on the lookout for her every week since then. She really made my day.

Adopt a US Soldier  Although many of our troops are heading home, there are still many, many people serving in various places across the world. AAUSS gives you the name of a person to support while they are on their deployment. I have supported quite a few soldiers through them and have learned a lot. This is not a penpal service so there is a chance you may never hear from your soldier. Out of the 9 I have supported, I only heard from 5 or 6. I was frustrated at the end of their deployment that AAUSS doesn't necessarily tell you so you end up just getting your mail returned. Thinking of what many of these soldiers go through and that some of them don't really have access to communicate much with the outside world fixed my attitude a bit. Realistically, if I had a choice between writing a letter to my sons or a random stranger in my free time, I'm pretty sure the sons would get a response first. Many of my soldiers have told me that my letters and/or packages have been appreciated.  You can also write or put together a package as a group. Timmy's boy scout troop did a package and I have sent cards and letters from church. 

Project Frontlines If you're not really into the whole commitment of adopting a soldier, Project Frontlines basically asks you to send 1 letter or package (your choice) to a soldier they assign you. We just sent a letter  and a postcard out today. This is also run through Adopt A US Soldier.

Chemo Angels  This is not something I have done before but my friend Ashley has and she is trying to spread the word. This site asks you to write cards and letters of support to people who have been diagnosed with cancer are going through chemotherapy. Have you lost a friend or family member from cancer? Maybe this would be a great way to honor them.  This site does ask that you write your partner every week. I just put in an application right now to put my money where my mouth is :)  I'm very excited to start. 

Operation Beautiful  Ever feel down on yourself? Imagine rushing through your day and finding a note with an encouraging message on it. I once saw a post-it from Operation Beautiful on a bathroom mirror at a bookstore. I was in a hurry (as always), went to the bathroom, washed my hands and looked at the mirror, which had a note saying "Smile, you look great!" I didn't look great at all, and I felt like a mess but the note was uplifting and made me smile. 

Not a writer? (Why not? What is wrong with you? Lol. Just kidding... sorta) Here are some other ideas
- Volunteer to babysit for a family (for free) so mom and dad can go out for a date.

- Make a box of sunshine for someone.  We did this as a family. I brought the 2 kids to the dollar store. We got cute little yellow baskets and yellow themed things- a candle, dish towel, candy, hand soap, lotion, a mug with a Bible verse on it, yellow ribbon- it can be anything. We made 3. We gave 1 to a couple just returning home from vacation. We left it outside their apartment door so they would be greeted with something nice. We gave another to the sweetest woman we know at our church (Sorry if you are a church friend and reading this. It was Mary Ellen.. I'm sure you'd agree. lol). Everything we got was yellow, except that the store had run out of a lemon soap we had bought everybody else. So, we got her a cherry blossom soap. It has been about a year since we did this and she still talks about how special that basket made her feel and how nice the soap was. The 3rd we gave to a random couple in a supermarket parking lot. (Yes, my husband also feels that I'm extremely strange)  The kids and I sat in our car in the parking lot with the basket and prayed about who they wanted to give it to. After about 10 minutes, Timmy yelled "them!" and pointed to an older couple struggling to get in their car. We walked over and explained that we had made a basket to brighten someone's day and that the boys wanted to give it to them. They seemed confused and thought we were trying to sell them something. We explained that it wasn't for sale and told them what was in it and gave it to them. The lady gave Timmy a hug and they sat in their car unpacking the basket and smiling. I would definitely do this project again though the random stranger thing put me a little out of my comfort zone.

- Don't forget your family too. Have you ever taken your kids out for a date, one on one, just to let them know how much you love them or to talk to them individually? Breakfast in bed for your spouse? (If they like to be woken up with food rather than letting them sleep in.. my husband prefers the sleep in option!)  Our families sometimes can be the people we take for granted and they're stuck seeing all sides of us, not just the nice ones we present in public. 

- Collect food/supplies for a homeless shelter.

- A former student of mine runs Hope for Creativity  Run an art supply drive at home or school. Send supplies for art packs for homeless children. 

- Bring a child that you care about somewhere special. One of the teens(7th grade)  at church once brought a younger student (kindergarten) to the mall to Build A Bear, just because she's a nice kid. The impact she made on the younger student that day was amazing. Maybe there is a young student, or even a teen, that needs a caring adult to reach out. 

- Smile at people. Look them in the eye. Say hello. Hold a door. Use words like "please" and "thank you" or even "ma'am" or "sir."  

      There are millions of ways that you can change the world in a positive way- even if it is something very small that only affects one person. I'm sure I could've written pages more for ideas of what to do. Think of what you're passionate about and think of ways you can help. I know this post may be "too cheery" for some people who read my blog but hopefully others will be inspired to take a few minutes out of their day to spread a little kindness in a world that sorely needs it. 

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