Here we sit basking in the glow of Christmas: gifts have been given, cards have been mailed, we've called our friends and family, and donated gifts to those who need a little help. That warm feeling that swells in your heart this time of year comes from the acts of giving. It doesn't matter if the giving comes wrapped with a bow. The Grinch was right: "What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store? What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more?"
Acts of kindness do just as much for the giver as they do for the recipient. Just as the Whos in Whoville together rose above the dastardly deeds of the Grinch, families on the Northeast shore are helping one another though their own homes lie in destruction, and strangers are demonstrating public displays of honor as firefighters and bikers line the funeral procession routes in Newtown, Connecticut, and #26Acts of Kindness is sweeping the nation as a living memorial movement, doing something good for others in the face of adversity, helps one's heart mend and reminds us that there is kindness in the world.
It's amazing to see people come together for a cause, but I wonder why this can't be a regular practice instead of a response to something awful. Can we capture the Christmas spirit and continue it all year long?
Rather than focusing my New Year's resolution on myself, I'm going to try to do something different. This year my New Year's resolution is to do at least one act of kindness each week. It can be planned or spontaneous, but something that makes another person feel good. The personal gain: keeping that warm glowing feeling going all year.
Here's my starter list of kindness ideas, collected from randomactsofkindness.org and other kindness action websites:
For Your Heroes: Donate Girl Scout cookies to deployed troops through Operation Gratitude, write a letter to your personal hero.
For the Homeless: Donate food to the local food pantry such as ACTS, see how you can help at the homeless shelter, make "carepacks" comprised of a toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, tissue, granola bars, etc.
Pocket Change: Pay for someone's coffee in line behind you in the store or drive thru, pay the toll for someone behind you, tape exact change to a vending machine.
Trash to Treasure: Do some spring cleaning and donate used clothes to a charity.
Public Do-Gooder: Offer gum to those sitting around you on public transportation, give up your seat for someone who could use the rest, leave a post-it with a positive quote on your seat on the bus or in a public bathroom mirror.
Shop & Dine: Anonymously pay for the meal of someone sitting in the restaurant where you're dining, pay for someone's layaway gifts, give positive feedback on a comment card and mention your server by name, leave a larger than normal tip, return the shopping cart for someone in the parking lot.
For Hospitalized/ Nursing Homes: Make cards with your favorite positive quotes and deliver them to residents, bring the nursing home your magazines rather than throwing them away, donate new stuffed animals to the children's wing at the hospital, make bright and fun pillowcases for patients, read to someone.
Workplace: Praise your boss for something he/she has done well, help a coworker who is overwhelmed by a task, hold the door or elevator for someone, invite someone new to lunch, bring in a coffee or muffin for a coworker.
Home Sweet Home: Read an extra bedtime story without being asked, give an extra hug or "I love you", put a vase with a flower in their bedroom, leave them a note on their pillow, make their favorite meal, do their least favorite chore for them.
These, I think, are resolutions I can keep. By making a concerted effort to do acts of kindness, I'll put it into regular practice, and soon they will be no effort at all--just something that I do. I'm hoping I'll be a kinder and more giving person this time next year. Won't you join me? Perhaps your heart too can grow three sizes this year?