16 Days of Kindness
Since I saw the documentary about Mr. Rogers last week, I’ve been thinking about how radical kindness can be (in both the sense of being “rad,” which is one of my favorite words, but also in terms of being capable of making real change in the world). It’s made me want to lean into kindness and do what I can to bring more of it into the world.
It’s made me think about how kindness has affected me in my own life. Having a child with special needs has brought into sharp relief how valuable kindness can be. Watching the therapists and teachers who have made their life’s work helping children whose roads are harder than many others has been an inspiration. But it also inspires me to see the role of everyday kindness in making my daughter’s life more joyful. When someone goes out of their way to make her feel welcome or appreciated, it touches both of our hearts.
And watching the effect that my daughter’s kindness has on other people also makes me see that it doesn’t take anything over-the-top or super-expensive to make a difference in people’s lives. I just returned from lunch where my daughter was greeted by name (and with a hug) by our server. That same server doesn’t know my name (and didn’t greet me with a hug). But he knows my daughter’s because she took the time to know the names of all the servers at the restaurant and is so sweet to him when he sees her that she clearly made an impression on him. This is not the only restaurant where this happens, either.
Just by taking the time to greet someone warmly, or say a sincere thank you, or give someone a compliment, you can have an effect on their days. I know that it perks me up when someone gives me a compliment or unexpectedly remembers my name. Not to mention when they do something helpful or kind for me. When someone in another car pays a toll for me they might as well have handed me a hundred dollars for the effect it has on how I’m feeling. And that’s something we can easily do for others.
So on Monday I am starting a 16 day Kindness Challenge, and I’d love for you to join me. Each day I am going to do something kind for someone (from something small like smiling at a stranger or feeding an expired meter for someone to something larger like writing a letter thanking someone for a difference they made to me, donating to a cause I care about, or giving an extra tip to someone doing a great job). Then I’m going to post on Instagram (with the hashtag #16daysofkindnesschallenge) about the effect kindness had on my day– maybe I saw someone do something kind, or someone was kind to me. Maybe being able to do something kind made me feel great. This, by the way, is what studies show tends to happen. Kindness affects not only the beneficiary, but also makes the giver feel good, and influences anyone who witnesses the kindness (or even hears about it) to be kinder themselves. And a recent study found that doing kindness activities for seven days increased the doer’s happiness; and the more kindness activities they did, the happier they became! Not only that, it didn’t matter whether the kindness was done to someone close to them, someone they didn’t know, or even if they performed an act of kindness for themselves!
This is a great challenge to get your kids involved in with you, too! Let them help you decide how you’re going to spread kindness, and let them help you. I remember hearing years ago that one of the ways parents most influence their children is in how they treat people. Watching us be kind and showing our children that it’s something we value will affect their own choices in the world. And help your kindness spread far beyond the small acts you take each day.
This is the kind of world I want to live in. One where kindness is contagious. Please join me! And I’ll see you on Instagram with the hashtag #16daysofkindnesschallenge