It’s that time of the year when Facebook news feeds are flooded with ’30 Days of Thanks’ countdowns, people announcing their RAKs (Random Acts of Kindness), and viral stories of strangers making a difference in the lives of others. Like clockwork, every year as the holiday season begins, we are naturally reminded of what we should be doing all year long–being grateful for what we have and helping others in whatever way we can.
As I scrolled through my news feed to read a RAK story, I began to roll my eyes and think, “Did you perform that RAK to help someone, or to get credit on Facebook?” But then I stopped mid-eye roll as I asked myself if anything can really be selfless, and more importantly–does it matter? The truth is, we help each other because it makes us feel good. We want to feel important. We want to feel needed. We want to feel like we are making a difference, no matter how small. Is that selfish? Maybe. I don’t really know. But I do know it would be a lot harder to teach my daughters the importance of helping others if we weren’t internally rewarded.
As I was trying to think of something to do with my daughters (7, 4, 2) to spread some happiness, I started where I always start–Pinterest. After about a dozen ‘pins’ of super crafty ways we could spread some joy, I stopped. I got off the computer and I asked my oldest daughter what she thought we could do. It was obvious to me that I could come up with dozens of ideas to tell them we would do, and they would likely get involved and enjoy it.
But I knew it would be much more fulfilling if they came up with the ideas on their own.
After some brainstorming my daughter announced she wanted to help her sisters cut out turkey hands and take them to the mall with us to pass out. She asked to tape quarters to some to spread around the candy dispensers at the mall, and we decided to purchase some carousel tokens to hand out with the others.
As my daughters pulled out a stack of construction paper, crayons, and scissors, I debated if I should share some of my ideas to sway them to do something ‘bigger’ and thus ‘more important.’ Ultimately, I restrained myself and let them take the lead.
The point was not to change someone’s life, it was simply to make someone smile.
In fact, as much as I wanted to make this day about spreading happiness to strangers, I wanted even more to share that joy with my daughters and for them to spend the day focusing on how good it makes them feel.
We gathered up our paper turkeys and drove to the mall. As I purchased carousel tokens, I offered one to each of my daughters first. We waited in line as they carefully decided what creature they wanted to ride on. Halfway through the ride, as I watched them smile and giggle, it became obvious to me that they came up with the perfect idea. They live in a world in which a simple carousel ride at the mall is enough to transform a random Saturday into “the best day ever!” and they wanted to share that feeling with other children.
As we sat and ate lunch, my daughter walked to a nearby table and quietly explained to a little girl that she cut out this turkey hand for her and wanted to give her a carousel token. I tried to hold back the tears as the adults at the table began enthusiastically asking my daughter questions about how she made the turkey (pretending as though they had never seen a hand turkey before).
It was in that moment that I realized their heartfelt reaction was more valuable to my daughter than that carousel token was to the little girl.
I went into this day knowing I wanted to write a blog post about it, but as I questioned my own motives I found myself conflicted. Does a kind act become less valuable once you share it on social media? I hope not. I hope instead it serves as a way to inspire at least one person to go do something kind. That’s all it is really about… being kind.
Every morning as my oldest daughter (7) walks to school, my youngest daughter (2) and I stand on the porch and shout things at her. “Have fun!” “Be kind!” “Make friends!” It has become such an important part of our morning routine that my two-year-old now says it to my husband and me whenever we leave and when she goes to bed. Simple yet powerful.