Sharing the joy can be as simple as sharing a photo of a snow-covered tree. (Photo provided – Diane Chase)
One college day, my daughter came home beaming because she had spent the morning spreading joy. Her art teacher had asked the students to think of ways to do small acts of kindness. The action was free and spontaneous, with the result of spreading happiness. My daughter received as much from the gift as any of the recipients. The goal was to put someone else’s needs before their own. It also allowed us to discuss small ways to help people without being intrusive.
Of course, there are always lessons for adults and children when it comes to trusting a small or large act of kindness. These small acts help us understand that we can have power over our situations. A friend described kindness as simple as the Pick a Hand game. The chances are 50% to find the hidden object in the right or left hand. We make hundreds, if not thousands, of choices every day, as if presented with both hands stretched out in front of us. We can choose the hand extended with kindness or the one filled with anger.
I decided as I walked around town and finished my vacation shopping to see all the different ways people were showing thoughtfulness without even trying. I saw people carrying packages and helping people across the street. It’s a bit cliché (I apologize for the Grinch in me), but then I started noticing the wave and the smile. I heard people giving directions and recommendations for dinner. I’ve seen people give up their coveted parking spot and let someone walk through a long line of groceries. It’s the simple things.
The problem with great acts of kindness is trust. We are told that people can be dangerous and that we have to be careful. We protect our children, with good reason, from interacting with strangers. We are also in charge of the situation so they can model our behavior. We find the balance between fear and our humanity.
We recently celebrated my mother-in-law’s 90th birthday. On the reception table, we put cards and a box. We asked each guest to write down a memory of the girl whose birthday it was. Later, guests gave speeches and read memoirs. The constant theme was his kindness and generosity. This is the person who smiles at strangers on the street or compliments a new hairstyle. She notices the small miracles on an average day. The attention embarrassed her because she didn’t recognize her impact on people with every small, caring decision.
Sometimes kindness shows up in unexpected ways. This is not a Christmas checklist where we expect everything we asked for to be completed. It’s about deliberately choosing utility. I hope to continue the tradition of spontaneous nuggets of help or joy. It’s the little things, all the time, like my mother-in-law’s actions, my daughter’s teachers, and all the other amazing role models.