Kindness when I needed it most.

I’m sure it bothered me more than it bothered my neighbors that my front lawn was overgrown with weeds and the grass was getting longer by the day. Every time I pulled in and out of my driveway, it was there. A reminder of things left undone.

My mower had stopped working on me. Not once, but twice. The first time, I topped off the gas. That wasn’t the problem. The mower still wouldn’t start.

“Did you check the oil?” my dad asked when I mentioned it to him.

“It takes oil?” I asked, chagrined.

Adding oil to the mower fixed the problem long enough for me to mow one section of the yard, and then the mower cut out on me again.

By way of context, I should tell you that the overgrown grass is just one of my current concerns. Financial worries and physical exhaustion have made the days when I was carrying out my kindness challenge seem like a lifetime ago. In a way, they are. So much has changed in my life in the past eighteen or so months since my marriage and family started to fall apart. (I separated from my husband a year ago).

Just recently, I’d listened to a meditation series presented by Oprah and Deepak Chopra, on Manifesting Grace through Gratitude. On Day 19, Oprah introduced the meditation with a story about a difficult time in her life. She was crying to her mentor Maya Angelou who, rather than try to console Oprah, told her, “Stop it. Stop your crying right now and be grateful.”

Be grateful, Angelou continued, because God has put a rainbow in every cloud. And that rainbow is waiting for you, yet to be discovered.

Today, I found my rainbow.

I was working at home this afternoon and I heard a mower outside my office window. I turned to see my neighbor mowing my lawn. I was slightly embarrassed, I’ll admit.

But mostly, I was grateful.

Thank you, Chris, for showing me kindness when I needed it most. 🌈

 

 

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Kindness Day! (Hurricane Florence-style)

For all its drawbacks, social media gives us the opportunity to connect with people we would otherwise never have the chance to meet. One of those people is Kevin Buchanan, an author, speaker, and podcaster, and the creator of a nationwide celebration of kindness, Kindness Day!

The first Kindness Day was celebrated on April 26, 2018, on what would have been the birthday of Kevin’s late father. Kevin created the day to honor him.

Today, Kindness Day is back and promises to be bigger and better than before! Kevin started a Facebook group to encourage interaction and, at last count, people from all 50 states and 5 countries had agreed to participate.

The idea is simple: join others across the country and globe to do a simple act of kindness on the same day.

I live in an area that was impacted by Hurricane Florence. Although Raleigh didn’t receive near the blow that our neighbors near the coast did, many businesses are closed and some roads are flooded, and we’re expecting more rain today. It kind of puts a damper on going out and spreading kindness. Or does it?

It got me thinking, what can I do to spread kindness when I’m stuck indoors? So I created this simple list of ways to spread kindness when you’re stuck at home, including ways to help the victims of Hurricane Florence specifically.

  • Fund organizations who are helping victims and survivors. Every $1 donated to the Food Bank of Central & Eastern North Carolina provides 5 meals to those in need. To donate to the Food Bank’s disaster relief efforts, click here.
  • Love the ones you’re with. You don’t need to look far to find someone who could benefit from kindness. Do something kind for someone in your own home, from a simple kind word or compliment to spending time with them doing something they enjoy. If you live alone, you could do something kind for a pet. Being kind to yourself is important too.
  • Offer to share supplies with someone who needs them. Perhaps you stocked up on water or nonperishable foods and didn’t lose power. Or maybe you have an extra phone charger lying around. Find someone who could use these and give them away or lend them out.
  • Recognize clean-up opportunities. Once the storm has passed, pick up trash, limbs, or other debris left by the storm. 
  • Empty your pantry or closet. Being stuck indoors provides a good opportunity to go through your items and donate things you don’t use. Clothing, toys, household items, and even items from your pantry may be taking up space in your closets and could benefit someone else.
  • Notice others who are helping and thank them. If you venture to a restaurant or store, thank the employees for being there. Take every opportunity to thank our first responders who are working day and night to help those in need. 
  • Check on a friend. Call to check on a friend in an area that may have been hit by the storm. Ask what they need and how you can help. 
  • Encourage others by writing letters. If you’re stuck indoors and can’t get out to see other people or spread kindness, you can still bring a smile to someone’s face. There are plenty of opportunities to make cards and send letters to people who need a smile. More Love Letters posts specific letter requests on their website. Carol at the Word Rocks Project also collects and shares letter requests, and you sign up to receive the Love It Forward List delivered to your email here. You can also make cards or write letters to the elderly, hospitalized kids, and/or the military, and now is a great time to get ahead on making Holiday cards for these groups.

“Do what you can, with what you have, where you are,” Theodore Roosevelt once said. Yes, I think I will do just that.

Remembering 9/11

9:11

I imagine that most of us remember vividly where we were seventeen years ago. Our country was forever changed by the events of 9/11, from the way we travel on airplanes to the way we attend many public events.

What remember most about September 11, 2001, is the way people came together. When tragedy struck our country, it brought with it a sense of shared humanity. We spoke more kindly to our neighbor. We let others go first. We felt empathy for families that were impacted directly. We hugged our own families tighter.

It can be easy in the rush of the day to day to forget what matters. Tragedies like 9/11 make us slow down and remind us of what’s important.

Today, as we remember the people who died and honor the heroes who saved them, let’s also recall the love and generosity that swept our country in the days and weeks that followed. Let’s relive the goodness in people that adversity brought to light in all of us that day.

 

 

It Takes a Village

There's something extraordinary that bonds us as mothers. In one way or another, we're all tunneling at the same time. And somewhere inside each of us is the capacity to get through it a

We’re not meant to “mom” alone. We need each other.

Late last week, I was sitting in the Chick-fil-A drive thru line when I found out that the afterschool care arrangements I’d made for my boys for Monday had fallen through. You see, on Mondays, I work late, so every other week when my kids are with me, I often have to rely on friends to pick them up from school and watch them until I get off.

I had swallowed my pride and was writing a text to a friend to ask for her help – once again – with caring for my youngest after school. I was still formulating the words, trying not to come across as desperate as I felt. Before I could click “send,” this message from that very same friend came through:

“Can Ian hang with us again Monday?”

And, just like that, I was crying in the Chick-fil-A drive thru line. Not tears of sadness, but tears of gratitude and appreciation for an answer to a prayer I hadn’t even spoken aloud.

I won’t attempt to name all the other ways people have been there for me as I’ve transitioned from stay-at-home mom to single working mom. I’d surely forget someone.

But to all those who have helped with transporting my kids from place to place, who have invited my boys for playdates and sleepovers, who have cried with me or prayed with me or for my family, and so much more, this post is for you:

Thank you doesn’t even touch the surface, but I couldn’t do this without your kindness. And I just hope that somehow I will be able to share the love that has been shown to me and my family with someone else when they need it most.

Happy Mother’s Day.

 

Kindness Takes the Stage at Town Hall Meeting on School Safety

Last night, I had the opportunity to attend a panel discussion in a nearby town. It was a poignant discussion surrounding safety in our schools, held in response to school shootings that have occurred across the country, the most recent of which occurred in Parkland, FL.

The discussion, “Today’s Talk Toward Tomorrow’s Walkout,” appropriately took place the evening before today’s nationally organized student walkout, set to honor the seventeen lives lost at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School one month ago. The walkout commenced at 10 am on March 14, and lasted for 17 minutes, one minute for each of the lives lost during the Parkland, FL school shooting.

Thirteen panelists considered both problems – such as bullying and lack of awareness – and solutions – including gun control and working with society to remove the stigma surrounding mental illness. Among the panelists were six local high school students, three Wake County parents, a local pastor, a student from local police preparatory school Blue Lights College, a school resource officer, and a security industry professional.

While the panelist’s views on these issues were somewhat varied, the consensus among the panelists was the need for stronger communication and awareness. “We can learn something from each other,” offered Wake County parent Therese Potter, “Everybody has a different perspective and we have to be open to listen to that perspective so that we may be able to learn. We need more communication and more kindness in the world.”

The Day After Tomorrow

The discussion was moderated by Captain Jacques Gilbert, Captain of the Criminal Investigations Division at the Apex Police Department and president of Blue Lights College, a community college with the mission of bridging the gap between the community and police.

Challenged by Captain Gilbert to consider what should happen in the days following the walkout, the student panelists emphasized the importance of simply being kinder to their fellow classmates. “Keep your eyes open. Keep your hearts open. Love one another,” local High School Senior Kiersten H. implored.

Pastor Kyle Meier of The Peak Church in Apex agreed. “After the walkout, let’s be people who are more committed to walking up: walking up to the person who is getting bullied,” challenged Pastor Meier. “Walk up to the person who is obviously suffering from some mental illness. Walk up to that person who never gets invited to do anything and invite them to sit with you at lunch, to be a part of your group project, to participate in whatever you’re doing in P.E.”

“Reach out to somebody who needs a smile,” concluded Pastor Meier. “Do it 17 times. We might not be able to control the next shooting that happens in Washington, Oregon, Georgia, or Texas. Maybe we can make it a lot less probable that it’s going to happen here in Apex.”

 

 

Reflections from a Year of Being Intentionally Kind

Today marks one year since I began my intentional journey of spreading kindness on a daily basis. Reflecting on the past year, I realize I’ve learned a lot about kindness. I wanted to share some of those lessons here:

  1. Kindness is not random. Kindness is a choice. While it’s true that we often encounter opportunities to be kind that we didn’t intentionally seek out, it’s still up to us to say “yes” to those opportunities.
  2. Small acts of kindness are as impactful, if not more impactful, than a more grandiose display of giving. I have given up a spot in line to someone else and watched their entire demeanor change. In this world where we’re often rushing and focused on our own agendas, putting someone else’s needs before our own can go a long way in showing people that there is still a lot of good in this world.
  3. Kindness is contagious. This is just one reason why small acts of kindness are so impactful. When you show kindness to someone, chances are, they will be kind to someone else. Kindness ripples have no foreseeable end.
  4. Kindness heals. When I am having a hard day, or when I have received bad news, I turn to kindness. It helps me to take the focus off the negative and turn it into something positive. I know countless others who have used kindness to honor someone they’ve lost. Turning a bad situation into something good has tremendous healing powers.
  5. Be kind to everyone. It’s not easy to be kind to people who aren’t kind to you. Be kind anyway. You never know what trials other people may be facing. Often, those who are unkind are hurting. They are the ones who need kindness the most.
  6. It’s okay to promote kindness, as long as you recognize that it’s kindness you’re putting in the spotlight, and not yourself. At times, I’ve struggled with using social media to share my acts of kindness, because I don’t want it to appear as if I am seeking others’ praise or approval. But here’s how I see it: Plenty of people use social media to complain. They share their political views or their thoughts about the current administration, for example. And that’s okay; I think they’re looking to connect with others who feel the same way that they do. So, why not use the power of social media to spread light and positivity, and to connect with others who are doing the same thing?
Going Forward

No matter what lies ahead for me in the coming year, I know that kindness will carry me through. Because, that’s the other thing I’ve learned about kindness: while kindness expects nothing in return, it always comes back to the giver in a multitude of ways.

 

No Act of Kindness Too Small

Ah, kindness. What a simple way to tell another struggling soul that there is love to be found in this world. – Alison Malee

Often, the simplest gestures of kindness can mean the most.

Yesterday, my family and I spent a beautiful December morning exploring the new greenway trails in our neighborhood. In order to get there, we had to cross a busy street. When the traffic coming from our left cleared, there was still traffic coming from the right. A car making a left-hand turn stopped and motioned for us to pass. I didn’t realize at first why he was stopping. After all, we weren’t crossing in front of where he was going – the street onto which he was turning was before our crosswalk. I quickly realized he was stopping so that the cars behind him would have to stop too, allowing us to cross.

It was unnecessary, this gentleman pausing for that brief moment to help us make it safely across the road. It was a small gesture that might have gone unnoticed – mere seconds, he waited to make his turn. But what struck me was that, during a time of year when so many of us are rushing in preparation for the holidays, he was considerate and kind enough to pause for those few seconds and allow us to cross the street.

That simple gesture was a reminder to me that there is still so much good in this world. Would his simple act of kindness make it on the morning news? Of course not! Does it even warrant a blog post? Yes, it does.

It made me pause to think, what other ways can I slow down this season and show others that I care? Holding a door open for a woman with a stroller, letting someone with fewer items go ahead of me in line, and being a courteous driver are just a few ways I can show both patience and kindness during the rush of the holiday season.

This week, I challenge you to look for opportunities to slow down and be kind. It will cost you seconds, but it may mean the world to another person.

Side note: At the end of our walk/bike ride, we spotted this sweet image (pictured on the bottom right of the photo above): an 8-year-old neighbor walking a younger neighbor, who is legally blind, to her house to play. So much goodness witnessed on this simple morning outing.

Join the Movement on #GivingTuesday

#GivingTuesday is a global movement that celebrates and encourages charitable giving. Now in its sixth year, #GivingTuesday falls on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving, and uses the power of social media to promote giving back.

How to Participate:

First, identify the charitable causes that are most important to you. This might include charities benefiting children/families, charities that fight hunger/homelessness, charities that help animals, etc.

Next, search online for organizations in your community that support the causes you care most about. Identify one or two organizations and explore their website(s) to learn more about their needs for donations and/or volunteers. Subscribe to their newsletter and/or follow their Facebook page to learn about their current needs and volunteer opportunities.

Finally, decide how you want to help your favorite cause on this #GivingTuesday. There are several ways you can give:

  • Donate money. Many charitable organizations accept donations online, and can tell you exactly where your dollars will go. For example, at the Raleigh Rescue Mission, it costs only $2.80 to provide a holiday meal to a person in need.

Donations made to participating nonprofit organizations through Facebook starting at 8:00 am EST on November 28 will be matched, thanks to Facebook and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Facebook and the Gates Foundation are contributing $1 million each for the campaign.

  • Volunteer your time. Volunteering gives you the opportunity to see firsthand how the organization operates, and it feels good too! Register online or contact the organization’s volunteer coordinator to sign up.
  • Donate items. Many of us have items in our homes that we no longer use. Why not give them to someone who can? Warm coats can be donated to organizations that help the homeless, and many organizations accept used household items for resale. In my community, the Green Chair Project helps provide household furnishings to people transitioning from homelessness. They include a list of needed items on their website, and often feature most wanted furnishings on their social media pages.
  • Promote your favorite charitable organization on social media. You can help spread the word about the causes you care about by posting on social media. Share about your volunteer experiences on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. Show your support for your favorite charitable organization by posting an #UNselfie: Take a photo showing how and why you are giving back this year and post it on social media along with the hashtags #UNselfie and #GivingTuesday.

How will you make a difference on #GivingTuesday?

A Crash Course in Kindness

I’ve always been a big Oprah Winfrey fan. I grew up watching her talk show, and there’s a good chance I’ve read 90 percent the titles on the Oprah’s Book Club list. So it should come as no surprise that, when I spotted the latest issue of The Oprah Magazine on my hairdresser’s magazine rack, with the words “A Crash Course in Kindness” on the cover, I searched 3 stores to locate a copy.

Excited to hear about lessons in kindness from Oprah herself, I cracked open the magazine with anticipation. It was not what I expected. The article focused on how and why we should withhold our criticism and judgement of others. While I recognize that accepting others is an important aspect of being kind, I think kindness goes beyond doing what we should be doing anyway.

So, knowing that kindness is a virtue that is cultivated (and inspired by the caption on the latest issue of The Oprah Magazine, if not the article itself), I’ve decided to draft my own “Crash Course in Kindness.” Here is my step-by-step primer on cultivating kindness, so that it becomes second nature to you.

1. Set a goal.

I’ve always been told that it takes 3 weeks to form a habit, so why not start there? Commit to at least 21 days of being intentionally kind. As with any goal, tell people about it. Perhaps even ask someone to hold you accountable. Maybe even start an Instagram page to keep track of the things you do. (wink, wink)

2. Start where you are.

Look at the things you enjoy doing and start there:

  • If you like letter-writing, there are numerous opportunities to write letters to hospitalized kids, veterans, the elderly, etc. Or write a thank you note to someone who has made a difference in your life.
  • Think about where you are going today. If you are heading to the library, take some positive notes and place them in books, or pay a stranger’s overdue fines. If you’re going to the grocery store, tape coupons to items throughout the store or return someone’s shopping cart to the cart return. Heading to the office? Print a compliment flyer and post it in your break room.

The possibilities are endless. I encourage you to check out the Acts of Kindness Ideas on this blog and the Kind-Minder Calendar for more ideas. Oprah has a great list on her website as well.

3. Step outside of your comfort zone.

Once you’ve gotten a few intentional acts of kindness under your belt, step outside your comfort zone. I always felt a little more comfortable doing anonymous acts of kindness. However, I found that being more visible provided me the chance to witness the joy of seeing another person’s reaction at receiving a random act of kindness. In addition, unlike an anonymous gift left for anyone to find, handing a gift card to a stranger and saying, “This is for YOU” can be pretty impactful, to both the giver and the receiver.

4. Don’t stop.

Once your 21 days is up, keep going. When you start to spread kindness and give to others intentionally, you will start to notice opportunities for kindness everywhere you go. Embrace those opportunities. Say yes to them! Kindness will soon become a new way of life.

The Kind-Minder: a monthly guide to purposeful giving

Don’t get me wrong: I love random acts of kindness. But I believe there is something powerful in being intentional about showing kindness. That’s why, since I started my kindness challenge at the start of this year, I have used monthly calendars to plan my acts of kindness in advance.

Starting this month, I am making my calendars available to you. Each month, I will give you 30-31 activities you can do to spread kindness and give back to your community. In addition, each month will feature:

  • a Monthly Intention (November’s intention is Gratitude);
  • Kindness-at-Home Sundays (activities to grow kindness in your family);
  • Suggested activities based on National Day/Month Celebrations and Holidays; and
  • Ideas for being kind to yourself.

Click on the link below to download The Kind-Minder for November, and let me know what you think.

Kind-Minder Calendar: November