We were out and about again today, running more errands, getting ready for some upcoming Christmas festivities. Since we were going out we thought today would be a good day for the candy cane caper. Sounds more adventurous or slightly naughty than it was, but it ended up being pretty nice. We’d purchased a box of big sized candy canes a while back in preparation and today we took them around and passed them out to people, saying Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, giving people a smile as we did. Librarians, people sitting at a cafe, the ladies who work at the coffee roasters we go to, a couple of policemen, and a girl sitting outside waiting for a ride were all recipients. My honey is really good at this. Her smile can light up a room. Every single person who got a candy cane smiled back at us. We gave a few of the people two candy canes telling them one was for them and one was for them to hand out to someone else. A sweet bit of shared kindness.
Today K and I made our yearly Christmas trip into Chicago. We usually go to several places on our Christmas trip day, but this time we ended up just staying at the Lincoln Park Zoo all day. We looked at the animals, had several different talks with zoo staff about various animals, ate some lunch, then strolled around the place a couple more times after the zoo lights came on. We had meant to park at the zoo, take a bus downtown and check out the Bean, the Macy’s windows, some other sites we usually see at Christmas time, then get back to the zoo in the evening to see the zoo lights, but it didn’t happen that way. At one point we just looked at each other and both kind of said we were having a great time, a very relaxing time, just wandering around, no rush, nice and mellow. It was awesome. While we were there we also decided to put our money where our mouths are and donate a bit to the conservation and research programs the zoo participates in. Kindness through conservation.
Everyone loves cookies and it just so happens my honey makes great M&M cookies. Today’s kindness was a simple one. She made cookies and we delivered them to three of our neighbors. Needless to say they were surprised and very happy to get them. Nothing like seeing people with big smiles on their faces. Kindness through sugar overload. That’s what we’re talking about.
We decided to go with a fun act of kindness today. We taped a couple of packages of microwave popcorn to a Redbox outside a local Walgreens. The signs said, “Enjoy some popcorn with your movie”. We hope someone does!
We found a big package of handwarmers at the bottom of our hat/scarf bin in our closet. At some point we bought them in bulk. Each little package is a pack of two handwarmers. It’s very cold out today so our act of kindness was to drive around our towns, both Champaign and Urbana, for a couple of hours handing out packs of handwarmers to people at bus stops and other people just walking around who looked really cold. We would pull up and K would roll down her window or jump out and offer up a package of handwarmers to the person. Some took them, others didn’t. One guy said he didn’t need them because he had socks on his hands. K tried to convince him socks weren’t warm enough. He smiled, laughed a little, and still refused. We gave that pack to the next cold looking person we saw. Even the people who refused them smiled at us. The people that took them were very grateful. Small kindnesses mean something.
We are very corny. Silly even. It’s something both K and I share, a genuine dorkiness. It makes our lives fun, we laugh a lot. Because we love to laugh, we love to make other people laugh. Sharing laughter is a kindness. To yourself, and to the person you shared the laugh with. So today we recorded ourselves doing really corny knock knock jokes and sent them out to some people. We totally cracked ourselves up. I hope we made our people laugh as well.
We go to the library a lot. I’m a huge fan. All sorts of people use the libary, which is one of the things that makes it so awesome. It’s an amazing resource. One of the things we thought we would do as we go forward with this whole kindness adventure was to write out a bunch of positive notes on post-its and randomly place them around for people to find. Since we go to the library a lot, and since there are all sorts of people there, we thought it would be a good place to put the notes. Today was the day. We note-bombed the library. I don’t know how many notes we made up, there were a lot of them. We each took part of the pack of them and snuck around putting them in places like seats, and on the copier, and on a book I was returning, and in the elevators. We put them all over. They all said different things, like “you have a beautiful smile” or “you are braver than you know” or “you are loved”. It was so much fun. Everyone loves hearing something nice. We hope there will be a few extra smiles today at the library.
We decided, really since we started this whole adventure, but today especially, that we would be mindful of being outwardly open, friendly, chatty, interested, and kind toward whoever we came in contact with. In all actuality, we are like this for the most part, in our daily lives, but it puts an extra special twist on it when you do it mindfully. So today, as we ran some errands, we made sure to look people in the eyes, smile at them, be silly, chat, make conversation, shake hands if it was possible. We ended up getting a lot of smiles in return. Again, sometimes it’s the smaller things that make all the difference in life. A smile costs nothing. Interest in other people as humans costs nothing. Being a tad silly, and chatty, costs nothing. And all of those things together show a kindness, an openness, toward other people, which might just make them feel more kind and open as they go through the rest of their day. Maybe it starts a wave of kindness. And if not, smiling at people generally gets them to smile back. It’s worth it.
Sometimes the kind thing is a thing you might do anyway. Something as simple as helping out someone when they’re in need. Kindness doesn’t have to be done in big grand gestures or deliberate acts for someone you don’t know. It can be simple, and right at home. The kid’s water heater went out. They’ve had a couple of days of no hot water, which they’ve managed to deal with pretty well, but the one thing they couldn’t get done at home were baths for the kids. So today they came over and the littles had a bath. Kindness can be about just being there for someone when they need you to be. And in fact, we should be kind like that as much as we can be.
I spent 20 years of my life working with at-risk kids. It was challenging work, but also very rewarding. Initially I worked for several years with kids at a youth correction facility. Later, and for most of my years doing the work, I worked as a Juvenile Probation Officer. That involved a lot of things, one of those being sometimes trying to find a residential placement for a kid who needed treatment, or safety, or both. I know a lot about residential kids, I have a huge place in my heart for them. Which brings us to today’s act of kindness. There is a residential program here in our town, the Cunningham Children’s Home. We know someone who works there and asked her if they were accepting donations for the holidays. She told us yes, gave us a few suggestions, then told us where to go to drop off the stuff (thanks so much, Evelyne!). We just got done dropping off the goods. If you are local here, consider a donation to Cunningham. Kids in placement don’t usually have very much, they frequently feel unwanted, forgotten, and less-than. They aren’t, but they don’t know that. Just getting to pick out some cool stuff around the holidays helps a little.
We were at the library, where we go frequently. I’m a huge fan of the library. We probably go there a couple of times a week. Anyway, we were in the parking lot, which has meters, and we noticed the meter enforcement person pull up. She got out and walked over to a car and started writing a ticket. So K jumped out of our Jeep, ran over to her with a bag of change we keep in the Jeep for parking, and asked her if instead of giving tickets she would put change in the meters, K offered up our change. The meter lady told K she couldn’t do that, and in fact her bosses had told her specifically not to do it. She could put her job in jeopardy. We definitely didn’t want that. Then she says, “I haven’t gotten to that row yet”, and sort of gestured over to another row. We took the hint. We started moving around the lot trying to spot meters that had expired and if we found one we put change in it. The meter lady was sort of sour when K initially approached her, but by the time they finished chatting, and she suggested the other row, she had a big grin on her face. Sometimes acts of kindness just have to be seen to be appreciated, to lift spirits, and to make people smile.
Point is, we like coffee. Today we decided to spread love and kindness through coffee. We went through a drive-thru and paid for the person behind us. We were going to do it no matter who it was, but in the rear view it looked like a college student. They ordered two drinks. We didn’t know that when we told the girl at the window we wanted to pay for the person behind us, we just figured there were two by how much it was. That made us even happier. The kid behind us was taking a drink to someone else, spreading the joy even further than just his car in that moment.
We pretty much take our dogs for a walk everyday. The length varies, depending on weather and our schedule, but for the most part we try to get them out for a jaunt on a daily basis. When we walk we choose routes in our area of town, in our neighborhood. During today’s walk we decided, as our daily act of kindness, that we would take a trash bag along and pick up garbage. We walked about a mile and a half and ended picking up nearly an entire large kitchen sized bag of garbage. We couldn’t believe some of the stuff we found. Everything from an empty liquor bottle to what looked like old rags that had flown off a truck. A plethora of refuse, just around this particular route in our neighborhood. It made us feel good to do it. We actually wondered why we hadn’t done it before. Just think of how great it would be if everyone did this on theirs walks, even once a week.
Today’s random act of kindness was to call a faraway friend or relative to say hello. We decided to pick up the phone and give Lisa, K’s cousin, a jingle. We hardly ever get to see her, and shamefully never talk to her on the phone, so we thought she would be a good choice. The funny thing is when she answered the first thing she asked was if she was our act of kindness today. We told her yes! It was a great conversation and we were so glad we called her.
It reminded us, again, that we should reach out more often to those people in our lives we love. All it takes is a quick phone call or even an email to say, I’m thinking of you, and I love you.
Today’s kindness adventure led us to our own backyard where we fed the birds with Tessa. As we did we talked to her about how it’s good to be kind to all creatures great and small. Her comment, “I feed birdie’s”. She’s already getting the hang of this kindness thing.
K and I have been in a funk for a bit. A lot of people have, we aren’t alone in this. Mostly for us I think it’s because there’s so much anger and nastiness out there. But when we talk about it we, being us, inevitably end up talking about how we can’t do anything personally about the really big stuff, but we can do something right here where we live. We can volunteer, which we will do starting after the first of the year, but we can also, and I think more importantly, be kind. Be kind, joyful, genuine, and sincere. We can try to spread hope and love. We can look people in the eye, smile at them, and say hello.
This place of wanting to be kind is where this idea sprang from. Starting today, we are using as a blueprint (we aren’t going to do everything on it as written, and will probably change a few of the things to better suit our personalities and such) the Random Acts of Christmas Kindness 2016 calendar we found floating around on the internet. We printed it off, put it on the fridge, and are starting off our Kindness Advent (as we like to call it) with the first thing on the calendar, writing a letter to a soldier.
We liked this idea very much and wanted to send something to a soldier overseas who might not get a lot of mail. I did some research and found an organization called Any Soldier. They have soldiers in units/regiments who act as contacts for the organization. The organization sends you an address for one of these soldiers who then, when the get your letter, pass it on to another soldier in their unit who doesn’t get that much mail. Very cool. We used a card one of my friends made and gave to me a long time ago. She does water-color and this one in particular really spoke to me. It feels like winter and quiet and Christmas.
So here we go. Off on this adventure of kindness. I’m going to post every day about whatever random act of kindness, or not so random, we decide to do. It’s our people see this and decide they themselves could do something similar, or at least smile more, say hello more, be kinder in their every day lives. It’s our hope this helps to start an avalanche of kindness.
Honestly, we could use a bit more kindness in the world. A bit more love. A bit more joy. A bit more hope. A bit more…. so, pass it on.