Sharing kindness

The other night I asked those on Twitter and Facebook to share their thoughts on what defined kindness. I had some really great answers: “Gentle in Understanding,” “Showing compassion even when you think someone doesn’t deserve it.” One answer in particular caused me to pause. @MarketingMusing said: “doing/helping others even when no one is around to notice or take a pic and talk abt it on social networks.”

We had an interesting dialogue. I asked whether sharing an act of kindness diminished the goodness of the act or whether it was the intention behind the sharing that somehow changed its inherent goodness.

We love stories of anonymous donors who donate money to strangers on the street. But would those stories be just as amazing if the donor was public? Does the donor keep his identity secret so the act stays selfless? Does anonymity make us any less interested in the donor?

This project, in its creation, is social. I did not do 30 acts of kindness on my birthday for mentions or likes. But I did share my experience online… and I asked others to participate. My day would have been no less amazing had I not shared it. But the active doing for others by my friends as a result of the project made it that much more special to me.

Does sharing this project, does posting the acts online, somehow make the kindness less selfless?

My answer is that sharing ENHANCES the act. What I love so much about social media is that it creates communities, communities that can mobilize behind an act (sometimes for good, sometimes not). Take Momastery’s Holiday Hands (which I just learned about for the first time last night). What an amazing community. What amazing acts of charity done BECAUSE of the social element of that site. Acts of kindness are acts of kindness regardless of whether there is a camera there to document. What defines the act for me is the feeling that I have as a result of doing, of giving. Giving the parking attendant a gas card this morning literally changed my day. I have smiled more, felt more positive, been more joyous. Amazing the gifts that giving gives. My hope is that this project inspires others to be more generous, to reach out just a little bit more. That is what I believe can be achieved by sharing these acts, these days of kindness.

No kind action ever stops with itself. One kind action leads to another. Good example is followed. A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions, and the roots spring up and make new trees. The greatest work that kindness does to others is that it makes them kind themselves.

-Amelia Earhart

 

Request for cards

One of the Acts I had planned this month was to ask for all of your help. You see, I love cards. I lost the ones I had saved for twenty years in the fire. But I got cards and cards and more cards after. Cards from people I never met. Cards from people I hadn’t spoken to in years. Cards from people whose lives I impacted but didn’t know. And those cards mean the world to me. I want to give the gift of cards to someone else. But who?

Last night, that who was introduced to me by way of a Facebook post. A little boy with Down Syndrome who was diagnosed with cancer at age 3. He is sick now, and I want to give this family some love, let them know that they are being held up by strangers, by those whose only connection to them is a simple sentence.

Will you send a card? Will you have your children make a card for this little boy? Will you add his family to your Christmas card list? I would love to have the cards by December 15th if possible (2 weeks). The address to send them to is my office:

Digavise
c/o Cards for Kean
910 W Main St. Suite 354
Boise, ID 83702

Words that heal

In 2008, I stopped smiling.

My house had burned down ten weeks prior, my son born six weeks before, and then my face stopped working (yeah, it was really awesome being me that year). The entire right side of my face was paralyzed, a reflection, quite honestly, of how I was feeling emotionally. Within weeks, I was sick, really, really, really sick. I thought I was dying. Everyone else just thought I was depressed. It took a year, and quite a lot of doctor and ER visits, before a neurologist finally tested me for Lyme. And even with a positive test and symptoms that fit the disease to a T, I still had doctors call my labs “false positives.”

It took another year to regain health to 80% of where I was. I have had a rare few months where my health has been a bit better. My doctor doesn’t accept insurance. His office is an hour plane ride away. I had a PICC line, home health. Until the Affordable Care Act was passed, the likelihood of ever being insured under anything other than a catastrophic plan was slim. I am lucky that I have the resources to be able to pay for medical care, even though it ate through a lot of my savings. I know the realities of this disease and the financial toll it can take.

This year, even though I’ve been battling my own relapse and long-term nerve damage, I am giving to others who are not so fortunate, others who are fighting this disease and who are struggling as a result. I have four kids for whom I am sending shoeboxes full of small gifts: an 8 year old boy, a 10 year old boy, a 13 year old girl, and a 16 year old girl.

As I was buying the items for the shoebox today, I was thinking about chronic illness in general. One of the kindest things you can do for someone who is sick is simply ask “How are you feeling today?” For those of us who have been sick for a long time, we know that it is exhausting to discuss health problems over and over (it’s exhausting to us too). We know that it seems like we are always sick (we are). But those words are so much more than a question. They are an acknowledgement, an acknowledgement of the struggle, of the journey, of the successes we have every day. Because Lyme in particular is so controversial, it can also be an acknowledgement that we truly are sick and not just crazy. Another great question? What can I do to help? A home cooked meal can truly be such an amazing gift when you are sick and working to just get out of bed each day. Coffee with a friend can return normalcy into a life that has been turned on its head. Stopping at the store to pick up some groceries may not be a big deal to you, but for someone whose head spins from the noise and the lights, it can be a true life saver.

It isn’t always easy to listen to others talk about their health. But those words can heal. Your words have power; use them kindly!

What is kindness?

What does it mean to be kind?

It’s a question I’ve asked myself many times and one I asked repeatedly during my 30 acts challenge on my birthday. What are acts of kindness? What acts ‘count’?

I’ve read lots of stories, especially around the holidays, of random acts of kindness. The ones reported by the news are almost always monetary, and are nearly always large in scope. A mystery person paying off layaway (which was admittedly really awesome!). A secret Santa giving away $100 randomly. As I started compiling my list of acts of kindness, I wanted to include several acts of monetary charity, like today’s act of handing out gas gift cards at the gas station. It’s random, unexpected, generous.

But is that all that kindness is? Monetary charity?

I’d expect that almost everyone would say “no.” And yet, I feel like my 25 days of kindness journey is supposed to be just about that.

It isn’t.

Kindness is about far more than giving away money. It’s giving away time. It’s recognizing that others’ needs are important. And it’s also recognizing that sometimes our needs are greater than that of others. It’s being loving toward our family as well as strangers. It’s about recognizing the need for kindness toward ourselves. It’s about having the right thoughts, the right intentions, the right words. It’s about being forgiving (gulp!).

I plan on giving to strangers. I plan on giving financially. I plan on loving others more. I plan on showing compassion to those who I want to believe don’t deserve it (oh man is this going to be hard). I plan on trying to be gentle in understanding. This month is about exploring what it means to be kind. As you extend your own acts of kindness into your life and your community, I ask that you too reflect on what it means to be kind. What acts ‘count’ in your life? And where can you find unexpected acts of kindness that bring a smile to someone’s face, acts that may seem insignificant but that, in their simpleness, can change someone’s life?

30 Acts of Kindness

I turned 30 this year.

Thirty.

Unlike many of my peers (and those who have come before me), I’ve always been kind of excited for my thirties. My mom always said I was three going on thirty, so maybe I internalized it as my true age. It wasn’t like my twenties had been all that kind to me either: my dad’s cancer, a house fire, and neuro Lyme are enough to make one long for better days. And that’s what the dawning of a new decade was for me.

I thought a lot about my thirtieth birthday through time. I wanted to do something big, something special to bring in the decade that seemed to announce to the world that, twelve years later, you are actually now an adult (for me, an adult with a house, two dogs, a husband, and two young kids). What I planned for a decade was a trip to London and Scotland. While I had been to London when I was fifteen on a school trip, I wanted time to soak in the English culture. And I wanted to spend my birthday at Wimbledon.  I also wanted to travel the Scottish Highlands, hoping that Diana Gabaldon had not led me astray in my love of the Scottish heritage. And then they announced London as the host city for the 2012 Olympics, an event that would fall shortly after my birthday. And then I got pregnant. I didn’t want to travel abroad with a four month old, and I didn’t really want to be caught in the chaos that would be preparation for the Olympics (though I would love to go to those one day as well).

As it turned out, Dan’s brother planned his wedding for the week before the big 3-0. And he was getting married two hours from where I grew up in Virginia (across the country from where we lived and where his brother had grown up). The beach, rolling hills of Virginia, and D.C. were going to have to be an adequate substitute for Scotland. But still, I had no idea what I wanted to do to mark the birthday that I felt was one of the biggest in my life thus far.

My mom turned sixty two days before me. Thirty had been rough for her (though who could blame her since she was nine months pregnant), and sixty seemed to be another birthday milestone that reminded all of us that this life is short. We were together in Virginia, and I felt like there was a missed opportunity for embracing what should have been a celebration of her life thus far and all of the life left in front of her. I wanted to mark my birthday in a meaningful way, doing something that reflected both the struggles and triumphs of my first thirty years. Thirty acts of kindness was created. Thirty acts for thirty years.

I can honestly say that it was the best birthday I’ve had. I asked friends to participate as well, doing an act of kindness for others in lieu of gifts. What was amazing to me was that in being selfless, I found that others were actually more invested in my birthday. Instead of just the Facebook Happy Birthdays, I had messages of dinners made, Starbucks bought, neighbors called. What a gift!

As it turned out, the day was over before thirty acts were complete. But the day wasn’t about hitting a number, achieving a goal. It was about happiness and love. And the twenty+ acts I did perform were meaningful. I took Subway sandwiches to a fire station, honoring the firemen who go out of their way to protect us; I handed out $10 bills to random people, which was actually one of the most difficult acts, not because I had a hard time letting go of $10 but because it’s kind of awkward and outside the bounds of societal norms to hand people money, telling them to have a good day; I picked up shopping carts at Target. We posted messages along a walking trail; I brought flowers to a cancer wing at the hospital and asked them to give them to someone having a particularly hard day; I visited the mother of my oldest friend from preschool who lost her husband when I was in college and who I hadn’t seen in over a decade. I spent time with my husband; I treated myself. Kindness.

I’ve reflected a lot on that day, about how much joy was created in my life as a result. Christmas, too, is a time for kindness, for joy. I have complained in the past about how much I give to others, how much time I invest in finding the right gift (I truly love getting people the perfect gift). And yet, I never feel that time reciprocated. I get cheese puffs (we don’t eat cheese puffs), cash, and from others, nothing. So I decided to pare down my Christmas list, buying only a few things for a few family members, and instead focusing on others, those for whom I expect nothing in return. This year Christmas will be about investing in others, giving – but in a way that gives more meaning to the Christmas season to me. And in a way that brings me joy. I hope you will join me on the journey.

 

About 25 Days of Kindness

25 Days of Kindness was an idea inspired by Brooke’s 30 Acts of Kindness on her 30th Birthday. The goal of 25 Days is to spread love and charity throughout the month of December by focusing on Acts of Kindness and generosity toward others. You can join Brooke by performing your own acts of kindness, sharing the acts on this blog, or contributing to the 25 Days of Kindness fund to ensure that we are able to maximize charity throughout the month. 100% of contributions (minus the fee GoFundMe charges) will be spent on this challenge.