When I knew this week would include a focus on kindness I immediately emailed Rachel at Hands Free Mama to write a guest post. The stories she has been sharing on her blog this year truly inspire and I wanted her to talk a little about her family’s journey to living a life that includes many random acts of kindness and intentional giving. I hope her post will show you how you can add in big and small acts of kindness into your family life – they need not be grand gestures or large cash donations to impact others greatly.
Actions of the Heart
My husband, two daughters and I had just finished stacking approximately 400 lovingly filled shoebox gifts for children in poverty when a kind woman approached me.
She said, “I was watching your family as you worked together happily doing something for people in need. I can tell it is a way of life for your family; it is just what you do. “
For many days after, I thought back on that woman’s remarkable observation. Out of all the dreams and aspirations I had for my children, being kind and generous human beings was at the top of the list.
I now knew my dream was coming to fruition.
When had it happened?
When did extending kindness turn into an unconscious habit, a natural reaction, a daily practice for our family?
Throughout my childhood and young adult years, I could pinpoint the times in my life that I felt most secure, most beautiful, most content, and most capable. And that was when I was extending kindness to someone else.
Whether it was writing a poem for a family member or helping a troubled classmate, it felt empowering to know I had the ability to touch someone’s life. So as soon as my children were old enough to hold a wooden spoon and a brightly colored crayon, I involved them in spreading happiness.
As we baked muffins for neighbors or made get well cards for ill relatives, I always took the time to explain why we were doing it and how it makes a person feel to receive such a gift.
It wasn’t long before my children began making cards on their own for sick classmates or suggesting we bake treats in honor of a momentous occasion for a beloved teacher or family member.
As time passed, our family attempted to expand our reach by going beyond our typical circle of family and friends to touch those outside the circle – those who are often unappreciated and forgotten.
Our first attempt occurred a little over a year ago when we left surprise Valentine’s Day sacks for our trash collectors and mail carrier. It was the first time I let my daughters (then ages four and seven) take total ownership in decorating, message writing, and deciding the content of the bags.
I will never forget watching from the window as the trash collector, who normally works at lightening speed, actually took pause and smiled at the sight of the bright pink and red bags sitting atop the canister.
When I looked down at the hopeful faces of my daughters witnessing the powerful impact of their small hands, I knew we were on to something.
From that day on, our family has embraced many opportunities to spread kindness and love where it is most needed. To know which opportunities to act upon, we use one simple guideline:
Let your heart be your guide. If a member of the family hears about or witnesses someone who could use a little kindness, he or she tells the family about it. Together we brainstorm how we can help.
One thing we don’t do is try and determine if the recipient is “worthy” of the gift, nor do we speculate if he or she will use the gift or the money “appropriately.” We simply give because our heart is urging us to do so – all the other factors are insignificant.
Over the past year, these are some ways we have helped others. As you can see, the actions have taken place as nearby as our neighborhood and as far away as India. The acts range from requiring absolutely no money to a monthly monetary donation that will last for the next fifteen years. But regardless of the differentiating factors, all acts have made a difference in someone else’s life …
- Purchasing new clothes for teenagers with autism living in a group home
- Providing gift cards for a large family whose father is unemployed, enabling them to enjoy a home-cooked Thanksgiving meal and presents at Christmas
- Sponsoring a needy child’s education through Compassion International and forming a relationship with her through letter writing
- Making a handmade valentine for an elderly woman who recently lost her husband and would be spending Valentine’s Day alone for the first time in fifty-two years.
- Distributing donuts at my husband’s place of employment early on a Saturday morning
- Heading up a community-wide Operation Christmas Child shoebox event which provides needed items for hundreds of children
- Providing “get well” packages for a child in our neighborhood who underwent surgery and another who broke her arm
But the most memorable act of kindness our family has experienced in the past year occurred on Christmas Eve morning. My eight-year-old daughter spent several hours wrapping hygiene items, picture books, and games that she and her sister had outgrown. After placing the packages in a gigantic blue sack, she announced plans for our family to distribute the gifts to needy people in the downtown city streets.
I must admit, I had other plans for Christmas Eve morning and frankly, this seemed like an unrealistic plan. Would we just walk up and give gifts to random people? How would we know who to give it to?
As the questions (and lame excuses) flooded my brain, I took a moment and looked at my child. There she stood with a sack of gifts slung over her shoulder prepared to be a bearer of hope and love to broken souls.
Her heart was guiding us – no, her heart was urging us to take action.
The next day, our family took the gifts and eighteen lovingly decorated envelopes of cash and drove to a low-income area of our city. It didn’t take long to find our first recipient at a gas station. It was obvious something was terribly wrong. When my daughter and I approached her we simply said, “We can see you are having some difficulty today and wanted to give you this.”
The way her face transformed from utter despair to disbelief and then to indescribable joy is something my family will never forget. We saw a similar change in expression on the faces of seventeen more people as we emptied my daughter’s bag of gifts that morning.
While driving home from the remarkable experience, my daughter made a request. “That was so fun. Can we spread love and kindness every Christmas Eve?”
Oh yes, my sweet child.
We can spread happiness every single day we are blessed to be alive with a beating heart that urges us to give.
All we have to do is take action.
From Deb: I love Rachel’s advice to “let your heart be your guide” and “take action”. The simplest acts of kindness can have the most profound effect on others so never underestimate the power your small gestures and efforts can have.
Find your simple,
Rachel’s mission is to provide individuals with the inspiration, motivation, and tools to let go of daily distractions so they can grasp the moments in life that matter. Visit www.handsfreemama.com or “The Hands Free Revolution” on Facebook if you are interested in living a less distracted, more meaningful life!