Dec 102012
 
 December 10, 2012  Random Acts of Kindness

PhotobucketThis is the sixth installment in our new series on Random Acts of Kindness. Each week a different blogger shares about a day that they and their little ones dedicated to committing random acts of kindness.

Readers will have a chance to share their own experiences with committing random acts of kindness on our Facebook page, to be a part of our final series post on December 21.

This week’s post comes to us from Vibrant Wanderings, who shares about her Random Acts of Kindness Day in the US. Visit the main Random Acts of Kindness Challenge page for a full schedule of the posts in this series.

Random Acts of Kindness: Vibrant Wanderings

When Leanna approached me about her Random Acts of Kindness series, I was initially a bit hesitant to commit. Our family had recently been through some massive changes and life was feeling a little out of control. My husband and I, together with our two year old, had moved back from overseas with just enough time to unpack and take a breath before our second child came along and, well, suffice it to say that I was overwhelmed. Still, I loved Leanna’s idea, so I told her I’d love to take part and would do my best to contribute a post.

As one of the last writers in this series, I had plenty of time to think over what we would do with a day dedicated to random acts of kindness, and yet I was still stuck. I really wanted to come up with something that would be concrete for my two and a half year old, who doesn’t fully understand money, especially on the emotional level that acts of kindness like paying for a stranger’s coffee involve.

While I was mulling all of this over, my daughter, Annabelle, hit what I can only describe as an emotional rough patch. Despite having always been pretty gregarious, she was suddenly very hesitant about interactions with people she didn’t know well. All of the sudden, anytime strangers would smile at her or say hello, she would frown, turn away dramatically, and sometimes even shout, “NO! DON’T smile!” As someone who values both kindness and genuine interactions, I was stuck. I didn’t want to tell my child that she had to smile at others, or lecture her about kindness in a way that made her feel as though it was her responsibility to behave in a certain way to make others happy. I did a whole lot of modeling, and we had many, many conversations about what she could do – besides yelling – if she didn’t want to interact with someone. Despite all of this, I saw no change and began feeling a bit discouraged. I certainly didn’t want to convince her to act a certain way out of obligation, but I did want her to have interactions with others that were both genuine and peaceful.

In light of this, what I decided to do for our day of kindness was nothing profound, and I’m sure it wasn’t even noticed by other people, but I hope that it was the first brick in the foundation for a life of genuine kindness. On a regular weekday, I planned a special outing for us that would involve a whole lot of interaction with others, starting with a walk through our town to the metro station and a train ride into the city. After that, we were to visit a little place called the Playseum – a children’s used bookstore that is modeled after a city with a number of different rooms designed for imaginary play. Our last stop before heading home would be a little grocery store, where we would pick up some non perishables to donate for a Thanksgiving meal a local church was organizing for the community.

Setting out. This is what I get when I request smiles for the camera lately 😉

Annabelle and I had already talked extensively about how others might feel when she yelled at them,and I didn’t want to start our day with yet another conversation that could be received as shaming or guilt inducing. Instead, that morning after breakfast I sat down with Annabelle and had a chat with her about kindness and what that looks like. I asked her to help me think of some things she thought might help others feel happy or brighten their day, and I wrote her ideas down. She mentioned smiling, hugs, and kisses first and we took it from there. I told her that today, we were going to go on a special “kindness mission” and try to do as many of these things as we could while we were out. I explained about the food drive and the plan to stop and stock up for that, too. As a physical reminder of our mission, we cut hearts out of red felt to wear on our clothing and we set out for the day.

While we were out, nothing extraordinary happened, but I did notice a slight shift. There was absolutely no yelling at all, which had been a normal part of outings for awhile. Annabelle picked up some trash she saw on the sidewalk as we headed to the train. When we were putting away some toys we had used at the Playseum, she decided it would be kind to put away some blocks another child had left out, and so she did. This was very much like a normal day for her, but I could see her being mindful of others and their feelings and we had some great conversations as we walked from place to place about how we felt, too.

In my mind, I expected this to be a normal day for me, too, as I like to think of myself as a kind person, but I was surprised to note a definite difference in my behavior toward others that came from actively thinking about how I might brighten their day with my interactions. Again, it was nothing profound, but noticing others in a more deliberate way allowed me to enjoy their presence and brightened my day.

Back at home, we talked a bit more about Thanksgiving and the food drive as we put together the things we planned to donate. Conveniently, we’d been given a paper bag to fill with food and place on our front porch for pickup. Annabelle seemed very moved by the idea that not everyone had a warm home to enjoy a holiday meal in. We ended up going through the pantry, where she found even more unopened packages to include. Together we put the bag out on the porch and moved into our evening routine. It was really a wonderful day and a small, but apparently successful way to start thinking more about the needs and feelings of the people we meet. I’m so grateful for the inspiration from Leanna to dedicate a day to the cause of kindness!

Vibrant Wanderings

Melissa is a writer, mother, and lifelong learner who lives and dreams just outside Washington, DC with her husband and two children. She is passionate about many things, but chief among them are gentle, respectful parenting and the Montessori method of education. She writes about both topics at Vibrant Wanderings and is also a contributor to the Natural Parents Network. In real life she’s working to advance peace through education by bringing Montessori to the children in her neighborhood.  You can find her on Facebook.

Watch for a post next week from Discovering The World Through My Son’s Eyes! You can see a full schedule of the posts in this series by visiting the main Random Acts of Kindness Challenge page.

  11 Responses to “Random Acts of Kindness: Vibrant Wanderings”

  1. Lovely post – wearing the felt hearts as a reminder was such a great idea.

    • I agree – I will definitely have to remember the felt hearts! What a great concrete visual for little ones (and us, too!)

  2. Thanks again for the chance to take part in this series, Leanna. It was such a great idea! 🙂

  3. Oh, this was wonderful! Great suggestion and I’m definitely going to have to try this. Here in Kenya greetings are incredibly important and even babies as young as 1 years old know how to shake hands with strangers. My son, at nearly 4, does not. It frustrates me to know end, and like you, the more I ask him to comply, the more stubborn he becomes. But I think asking him what HE would do to make sure others don’t feel bad when they extend a greeting might work. At least he’ll feel some more control and ownership – things which seem suprememly important to this 4 year old. Great post!

    • Oh, yes – control and ownership make such a difference at this age, don’t they? It takes a lot of self restraint to respect their timelines sometimes, especially when it comes to something so public as greetings, but it tends to be worth it. Kudos to you for being so patient. I hope you’ll share your wisdom if you do have a breakthrough!

  4. I loved this. One of our advent activities is to bake a cake for the homeless, so I’m going to steal all your ideas and make it a day of kindness. yesterday she had a day of being “helpful”! I get so many ideas from the way you interact with her – the discussions, the asking for suggestions, the writing down….fab fab fab.

    • Oh, I’d love to hear how your day of kindness goes, Rach! Baking a cake is a wonderful idea. I really wanted to involve Annabelle in a service project over Thanksgiving, but I couldn’t think beyond the sorts of things I’ve done before, which all involve physically going someplace – serving food, cooking, or the like, and I just pictured us being more in the way than helpful. Baking in our own home we can do, though! Will have to arrange something along those lines, too… 🙂

  5. I always enjoy reading your postings Melissa! I really love the felt heart idea. I can see how this was kind of a normal routine in your families’ life because the comments you leave on my blog certainly fall under random acts of kindness. You are such a beautiful person!!
    Thank you for sharing.

  6. This sounds like a day well spent! 🙂 What a great idea to spend a whole day thinking of how our actions impact others, will definitely try this when Jess is a little older.

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