Many years ago, shortly after my twins were born, I was having one of those days. No one was eating or sleeping, the house was a disaster, and I hadn’t showered in days. So I did something that I never do…like, ever. I loaded the babies and my two older ones into the car and drove to McDonald’s for ice cream. My big kids were beside themselves, as they had never even experienced a drive-through. I was also beside myself and figured if the frozen concoction that came out of McDonald’s soft serve machine could somehow change the direction of this no good, horrible, very bad day, I was desperate enough to try. As we approached to order, it occurred to me that if I made someone else’s day better, perhaps mine might improve, too. I told the kids that I was going to pay for our ice cream as well as for the car behind us. We watched excitedly as the driver and her passenger learned of our good deed. They pulled through and received their order (ice cream!), sending enthusiastic waves and smiles our way. That no good, horrible, very bad day had officially turned into one of the best ever, and eight years later, we still talk about it.
In a world that feels faster and scarier than ever, stories of people giving to others without expecting to receive never fail to capture our attention and our hearts. We see random acts of kindness all the time on TV and social media. My favorites are at holiday time when someone pays off all the layaway items at a store or anonymously sends a check to a non-profit. And if it makes us feel this good, imagine how the giver feels. I spent $3.00 on ice cream for a stranger and I’ll never forget it. Now I want more. Lots more, and this is one thing that you can never get too much of.
My birthday’s next month, and in honor of turning really, really old, I’ve decided to perform 50 acts of kindness. I don’t want a party, gifts, or even a gluten-free cake. I want to do the giving, because what I’ll receive in return I’ll keep forever. And I’m bringing my kids along for the ride.
I made a big sign on a piece of tag board to record my kindnesses, and one of the kids colored it. We hung it in the kitchen and began googling for ideas. From simple compliments to bringing blankets to a dog shelter, the options are literally endless. The more we read, the more excited they became, and THIS is the kind of excitement I like to encourage.
Starting off strong, we donated our foosball table just last week to FAVARH, a local organization that helps people with developmental disabilities reach their fullest potentials. They were so excited to receive it, and we were delighted to know that it will finally get some good use. The kids and I plan to bake muffins for our local fire stations, and we’ll be heading to a grocery store soon to pay for someone’s order. We’re overflowing with kind ideas, some requiring money, but plenty more just requiring our time. It now occurs to me that we might hit 50 acts of kindness fast, and if that happens, I’ll just double it. I love a challenge.
But if 50 acts of kindness are so simple to complete that they may need to be doubled, where does it end? And why does it end? It seems silly that we would celebrate 100 acts of kindness, just to stop doing them. Perhaps we should celebrate every 50 acts of kindness, rewarding ourselves for deeds well done and then gear up for the next set. Imagine if everyone did this – the world would be a much different place. But, everyone is not going to do this, so my kids and I will do our best to give back to our local community and keep adding to the list that hangs in our kitchen. It’s my hope that even just one person is inspired by this blog post to do the same, .
This birthday of mine is heralding in a new culture of kindness in my house. It’s a shame that I had to get really old for it to begin, but it’s never too late to start anything, really. My 8-year-olds are so excited to give back to friends, neighbors, and strangers. And, though it may not be obvious, I’m certain that my sulky teenagers are paying attention, as they were the kiddos who witnessed our first act of kindness at McDonald’s so many years ago.
So, on your next birthday, try a little giving along with the getting. You may be surprised by how great it feels. And, if my family is reading this, you should know that bringing a gluten-free birthday cake to someone who says she doesn’t want one actually counts as an act of kindness.
Abby Helman Kelly, a Simsbury mom, owns and operates www.glutenfreeconnecticut.com. She has a bachelor’s degree in Communications from Boston University and a master’s degree in Counseling Psychology from Loyola University Maryland. Abby can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.