26 Acts of Kindness
Last week we all watched in horror as the events unfolded at the elementary school in Newtown, CT. And then as parents we had to talk to our kids about it, or shield them from it, depending on their ages. How do you do that when you can’t make sense of it yourself? There is no answer to the question, “Why?” which is what our children want to know. When they ask “why that person, that school, those children?” what they really want to know is how are we different. They want to be assured it won’t ever happen to them.
Kids don’t want to hear about statistics. Many, mine included, are going to schools this week that have instituted new “safety” protocol, which really have nothing to do with safety and everything to do with fear and paranoia. Our children are afraid and our reactions are modelling that fear for them. I don’t know what to say to my 11 yr old son when he comes home and tells me that his teacher is now “locking them in the classroom” so that no one can hurt them. It breaks my heart. This isn’t how I want my children to live.
I began to tell my children about all the good things that happen. All the people who are good that far out number the bad. Often we don’t recognize or acknowledge these things. We do good quietly. On Saturday, my daughter wanted to bake cookies to give to our neighbors. It seems like children instinctively know that to counteract the ugly in the world you have to put love out there. She wanted to have something concrete to do. In order to really reach out into the world with kindness, you have to extend love and grace not just to your family and immediate circle of friends, but to everyone you come into contact with. As you get caught up in the hustle and bustle of crowds, displace the anger and annoyance with patience and a smile.
I noticed on twitter that Ann Curry (@AnnCurry) began a movement called #26Acts, basically it was a challenge to everyone to commit 26 random acts of kindness in memory of all of those killed. As I watched the topic trend my belief in the goodness of humanity was restored.
I have watched as the days passed and people extended kindness over and over again. Donating their time, money, energy, to strangers. And I think that this is what I want to share with my kids.
At first it felt weird to me, having been raised that you do good, but you don’t talk about it. To talk about doing something good or kind for someone else would almost negate the good thing. Verbalizing this now it sounds a little nuts, but I know that many of my friends were raised the same way–to be selfless and humble and definitely never brag. But for the first time this week I realized that kindness is indeed contagious. The more that people tweeted their kind acts, the more that other people joined in. Giving feels good. Having something to do that can make a positive impact on another person feels good.
I have seen some people attach a particular name to each act of kindness, so that it is in memory of that person. Some people feel lead to pray, send good vibes, or think good thoughts for the family left behind.
My kids have over two weeks off of school for Christmas vacation. I want to take this on as a family. We will be committing our random acts of kindness whenever and wherever we feel lead. I hope when we get to 26, we don’t want to stop. I hope that my children will continue them on into their own days and their personal lives. And I hope their friends become inspired.
Imagine what a world it could be.
That is the world I want my children to inherit. It seems so very different than the world they currently have, but it doesn’t have to be that way.
“..as we let our light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.”-Marianne Williamson