Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Acts of Kindness

Intentional Acts of Kindness

When I first came across this idea a year ago, it inspired me, but I didn't follow it through. These acts are often called pay it forward or random act of kindness. I want to make it less of a random act and more of an intentional one, as I try to practice mindful living, the art of living intentionally.

My thought is to do an act of selfless kindness on holidays to celebrate the day, to place emphasis on the joy of giving rather than receiving. I can think of no better way to share ones beautiful spirit. Truly, it's a profound lesson that reaches far and cultivates empathy in a world where empathy is often forgotten. Our society has become obsessed with objects and buying - less interested in the root of sharing and giving, so this helps to rekindle that sentiment of finding pleasure in thinking of others, instead of the self.

My second thought is that this kind of intentional living is something that can be done all year and not just on holidays. Maybe during the holidays, it can be a more emphasized theme, but it could definitely be beneficial to do all year round.

And so, I propose a challenge: once the new year begins, try to be a more selfless person. Go out of your way for others, even if you don't feel they "deserve" it. Find empathy and compassion for everyone you meet.

Try this to help you get started. Each week follow a theme and use that theme to inspire yourself to do as many acts of kindness as you can. These acts of kindness can be as simple as saying hello to a neighbor you've never talked to or as involved as organizing a neighborhood project like a food drive.

To keep myself on this challenge, I'm going to post weekly focus themes and then post on what my family does to represent that theme.

I would love for others to join in and to tell me what joy they are creating in the world too, so that it might help inspire others.

-Week One-
Focus on the environment!
-Take part in Meatless Monday. If you can, go meat-free for a whole week!
-Buy or make Reusable Shopping Bags and have the cashier give them to the next twenty customers or stand outside to give them to shoppers entering the store.
-Plant a tree in honor of someone you love.
-Plan for a spring garden.
-Ride a bike, take the bus, or offer to carpool with coworkers for a week.
-Upcycle to create a unique gift for someone. (A soda bottle shrinky dink, a pallet shelf, a t-shirt stuffed animal. There are tons of resources online!)
-Join the freecycle community, so that you can find a home for your possessions that you don't need anymore. It's better than just throwing it away! With freecycle, people post what they need or what they have to offer. You never know what you might find or who you might help out!
-Join a recycling program.

What ideas do you have?

-Week Two-
Focus on giving back to (or appreciating) those who serve you.
-Leave an unexpected large tip to your waitstaff, even if they seemed frazzled or forgetful. Empathy is crucial. We never know if someone is having a hard day or if they are a new employee.
-Bake cookies and take to your local fire station to say thank you for their dedication or write a letter expressing your gratitude.
-Thank your mail carrier! If you can afford to, give them a little gift to let them know you appreciate the job they do.
-Give public workers in the cold hot beverages or doughnuts or muffins, or, if it's a warm day you could give them cold bottled water.

There are many people who work to help make life more convenient and these people are often overlooked and under appreciated for their hard work. What ideas do you have to show appreciation?

-Week Three-
Focus on bringing joy to the community.
-Stop by the nursing home and spend some time with the seniors there who might not have many visitors.
-Join a community program, maybe you could be a Big Brother or Sister. Maybe you could volunteer at an animal shelter or contribute to Habitat for Humanity.
-Hide notes of encouragement or inspiration in library books. In children's books you could hide stickers or dollar bills.
-Leave Easter eggs of random goodies in the park for kids to find. Hide them so that they will be found over time. You could leave stickers, dollar bills, bouncy balls, or other cheap toys.
-Volunteer to read to children at the library.
-Pay for the next person's coffee when you order yours.

-Week Four-
Focus on empathy and compassion and give to those less fortunate.
-Look for opportunities to help others, for example, stop to help someone who drops their papers, help a mother carry her groceries, or help scrape ice off someone's car.
-Try to be more conscious and considerate of the people around you. If someone is having a bad day, offer encouragement. Take the time to listen, try to be a good listener.
-Create a new mom package and take it to the hospital for them to give to a new mother who has no support there.
-Volunteer at or donate to a woman's shelter.

What are your thoughts?

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