kindness activist

kindness activist

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Christmas Kindness - All Year Round

Last year my friend Kelly made a Facebook post that really inspired me.  I had begun this project, Kindness Activist, and was on the lookout for KINDNESS in the world.  Kelly’s post really piqued my interest.  She wrote about doing something special with her family for Christmas that she called A WHITE ENVELOPE PROJECT.  She asked each family member to donate to a charity or do something kind, then write about that and put it in an envelope, to be opened and read aloud on Christmas!  I wrote about Kelly and her White Envelope Project here:  White Envelope Kindness

I decided to try a version of the same project with my family! 

KINDNESS - by artist Kemper Englund
I mailed everyone a letter (yes, a real live printed on paper snail mail letter, which I thought would get their attention more than an email).  The letter asked each person to do something KIND during the year, then tell us about it when we got together to celebrate Christmas.  Each letter was personalized for the recipient, with some ideas for kind actions that I thought might be up their alley.  Here is the letter I sent my dad:

“Dear Dad,

I meant to write this letter in January, and here it is nearing the end of April…  I guess I am a bit behind on this, as I am on so many other things!  But I will file it in the “better late than never” category.

I am writing because I want to ask you for something for CHRISTMAS. 

The older I get, the less “stuff” I need.  I know you understand that, every holiday that comes around all of us Thompson girls giggle and say, “What are you getting Dad??  Are you getting him another sweater this year???”. 

So, this Christmas, instead of a THING, I would like to ask for an ACTION:

I am asking each family member to do something KIND.  Some action that you can do for someone else in the world.  Maybe you will change a stranger’s flat tire, maybe you will give a donation to the Open Door Mission, maybe you will pay for another table’s dinner when you are at a restaurant…  Just something KIND.

Then write a note about your kindness, take a photo of it, or draw a picture of it and seal it up in an envelope or wrap it in a box!  At our family Christmas, I would love to open THOSE GIFTS and be inspired by all of the kindness that our family put out into the world. 

There are 8 months left until Christmas.  That means 8 months for you to do something KIND and document it.  If you feel like you might forget and need a reminder or two during the year, just let me know and I am happy to remind you.

Thanks, Dad.  I love you and can’t wait to see what kind thing you do!!”

Every family member got a letter, including the toddlers!  I sent a reminder letter about a month before the holidays, in case anyone had forgotten.  And boy let me tell you, the cost of postage was well worth it – the big reveals were SO WONDERFUL!!

Every.  Single.  Family.  Member.  Got.  Involved!  Everyone!  I was so, so, so delighted!  And people were excited to share!!  The acts of kindness ran the gamut, too – my terrific family spread kindness in all sorts of ways!

Here are just a few examples:

- My dad repeatedly helped two wheelchair bound men get out of the building and into their vehicles.  He also donated to the Open Door Mission in Omaha.  Plus, he paid a woman to come clean the house just because she needed some money (even though the house didn’t really need cleaning).

Classic photo of my dad, 47 years ago

- My dad's wife Evelyn put money in the Salvation Army red buckets each time she passed one.  She also gave her granddaughter the SHIRT OFF HER BACK when the girl complimented it!  Evelyn went right into the bedroom, changed shirts, and let her granddaughter go home with the shirt she had complimented :) .
- One of nephews, Trevor, was amazingly kind to a friend in need.  Even though Trev didn’t have a lot of money himself, he shared what he had with the friend who had nothing and was homeless.  I think we all got tears in our eyes listening to Trevor’s story of kindness – it was amazing.
- David gave a ride to a stranger so the man could make it to church on time, and another time jumped in with a car full of strangers to help lead them to their destination when it was clear that the usual spoken directions were not going to be enough.  He also went out of his way and went into the university on a Saturday (a day off) to help out a student who had a tough semester and missed the final performance.  David giving up a few hours of his weekend meant a better grade (the one she deserved) for the student.

My sisters and I - Christmas 2017

- My sister Annette is great at giving manicures and pedicures.  She gave free 
pedicures to 4 women who needed some extra special treatment and kindness.  She 
also took a couple of friends who she knew were going through tough times out to 
lunch.  Plus, she stocked up on Halloween costumes when the stores marked them 
down after October 31st to have them ready next Halloween when some students at 
the school where she works do not have costumes!  Isn’t that going to be an amazing 
surprise for them?

- My sister Sherry was mindful all year of people who work in service professions. She 
was careful to go out of her way to COMPLIMENT people in stores and other places 
who did good work.  She asked to speak to their supervisor, and made sure the 
management knew that the employee did a great job.  She said most managers were 
surprised that someone would go out of their way to compliment good behavior, and 
that they were all very appreciative.

- My nephew Nate and his wife Lyndsey made a POSTER of many of the kind things 
their family did in 2017!  It was super sweet.  They have a 2 year old and an infant, 
and even the kids got into the kindness!  Baby Keegan donated some of his diapers to 
babies whose families lost everything in the hurricane.  Toddler Ryker helped make 
blankets for animals at a special event.  The family delivered treats to the staff at a 
hospital that took care of their Grandpa.  The whole family did a kindness that I 
thought was really fun and meaningful: they had lots of packages being delivered for 
the holidays, and they left Starbucks gift cards with thank you notes for the delivery 
people!  They left one for the mail carrier, who in return left THEM a thank you note!

Starbucks gift cards for stressed out delivery people = KINDNESS!

Cookies are a great act of kindness!

Nate and Ryker working on a blanket for an animal
My brother in law Jim tried hard to help students who were having difficulty in the college classes he teaches.  He also gave money to the homeless.

- For my kind act, I told my family about a young woman working at an Arby’s we ate at.  I could just tell that was having a tough time in life.  I struck up a conversation with her as she cleaned tables, and it turned out her husband had died a couple of months earlier and she was trying to pay off the funeral.  She had two kids, but had told them Santa was “broke” this year so there wouldn’t be much for Christmas.  I gave her $15.  That’s not a lot of money, and it obviously won’t help pay off her expenses much or buy any great gifts for her children.  But she was very appreciative, and I think it meant a lot to her that someone took time to have a real conversation and listen to her.

- My nephew Jordan had a co-worker who was going through a particularly difficult time.  He took meals to her and collected money to help her out.  

- Hadley Jo is only 2 years old, but that is old enough to be KIND!  She donated some of her toys to kids who didn't have many.  And her mamma, Elizabeth, gave puzzle books to nursing home residents.  The two of them prove that kindness has no age limits!

2 years old is old enough to be kind,but it is not quuuuite old enough
to not be afraid of Santa...  :)  
- And finally, my niece Ashlee and her family (Pete, Kemper, and Tallis) took kindness to a whole new level in 2017!  They took my challenge to heart and did kind things all the time!!  They collected lots of books for a book drive our family organized, they watched other people’s children to give parents some needed time off, they accept a young transgender girl for who she is and welcome her along on many family events, Pete paid for a solo birthday diner’s meal, the whole family made 700 cupcakes to celebrate a co-worker’s special birthday, and many, many more kind things!!!!  They made a whole photo album to inspire us with their kindness!

The Englund family did kind things ALL YEAR!

700 cupcakes????
That is a LOT of cupcakes!

That's KIND, Pete!

Here is a portrait of the whole KIND Englund family :) (by artist Tallis)
This KIND CHRISTMAS was really great.  It was inspirational seeing how my family spread kindness in the world.  The little (and big) acts of kindness that we put out into the world helped to make it a better place.  I like to think of kind acts as ripples – when we do something kind, it creates a RIPPLE in the world.  Those touched by the ripple spread more kindness. 

I think I will ask my family to do kind things again for Christmas next year.  It is not tough – any little kind act is appreciated and goes a long way.  And hearing all of the stories sure helped make my holidays brighter.  Feel free to take the idea and use it with YOUR family – I don’t think you will be disappointed in the results.

Thanks, Thompson family!  KEEP SPREADING KINDNESS!   

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Kindness Rocks

It has been over a month since I last wrote about kindness.  That feels like a big confession.  It is not that I have not done kind things during that time, and it for SURE is not that I have not witnessed kindness.  It is just that sometime I (and maybe all of us?) let “life” get in the way and get too carried away with our “to do” lists to really relax, take in, and appreciate all that is around us.

Then something slaps us in the face and gives us a big reminder that the hustle bustle, hurried life is not a FULFILLED one, and we take a step back (and a deep breath) and re-set.

So, let’s re-set, shall we?

Focus. Breathe.  Re-set.  
I want to share a story of incredible kindness with you. 

I wrote about our neighbor in Florida, Carol, in this blog a few months ago.*  She is a dear, sweet, funny, and KIND woman.  I haven’t gotten to spend as much time with her as I would like, as each time we come to Florida we fill our waking hours with home repair, remote work, swimming, and beach time, so simple things like “visit the neighbors” get overlooked. 

This summer I helped Carol clean out her laundry room.  She had a bee in her bonnet that it needed sorting, so we tackled it.  One of the things we found high up on a shelf was her collection of paints and brushes.  I didn’t know she liked to paint, so we talked about it some as we cleaned.  I told her about the popular new hobby of ROCK PAINTING.  People in many cities are now getting smooth rocks and painting beautiful scenes on them, then hiding them for strangers to find!  Isn’t that lovely?  I had been wanting to try to paint a rock, and when I found out Carol thought it sounded fun to, I put it on my mental to do list; PAINT ROCKS WITH CAROL.

Then I got distracted.  We painted the front of the house.  We went to movies.  We rode our stand-up paddleboard…  And before you knew it, our time in Florida was up and we had to drive back to DC. 

I knew Carol was sick with lung cancer, she had been for a while.  But we come to Florida every few months, and she lives right next door, so, “We can paint rocks next time I am in town,” was the excuse I gave myself.

Then we got the news from her family that the cancer had spread.  And I had crammed my calendar so full of work and travel that I could not find a way to escape to Florida.  The whole situation made me super sad.  I really, really wanted to spend time with my friend, and damn it, I wanted to paint rocks with her!

I am a member of a Facebook group of rock painters called Volusia County Rocks.  I follow their posts and am amazed by the beautiful things they paint on rocks!  They are incredible!  So, after checking with my friend’s daughter to make sure it would be alright, I made a post to the group, asking if anyone would be willing to paint a rock for my friend and deliver it to her home. 

Very quickly, messages started coming in!  It was “rockers” saying things like, “Sure!  I would love to paint a rock for your friend” and “I would be happy to take one over to her”.  My heart melted.  I couldn’t be there to sit with Carol and paint rocks, but these rockers, strangers who I have never met, were kind enough to jump in. 

I told the family to start looking outside the front door to see if anything showed up, and before long, gorgeous rocks started arriving.  Carol’s husband would bring them in to her, and they were both so pleased!!  Carol thought they were beautiful, and her husband, well, he fixated on the rocks themselves – how big and smooth they were – and surmised that they simply had to be from another state…  😊

A sea turtle!  Perfect for Florida

What a fun, happy little rock!  With a hairband! :)

A serene sea scene
We made it to town in time to see Carol.  It has been so nice to sit with her.  She has all of the rocks lined up in her “Florida room”, where she rests in a hospital bed.  Her family and hospice are taking good care of her and keeping her comfortable.  She and I looked through the rocks together, and she held one in her hand.  It made me smile to see – and made my heart sing at the thought of the KINDNESS OF STRANGERS, willing to share their art and their love with my friend.

This marbled effect is so pretty

A MERMAID!  Isn't she beautiful?

It is well.  Simply stated, and so poignant
Love you Carol.  And thank you, rockers.  Your kindness rocks.

The collection.  Kindness in the form of rocks.  
P.S. - I am not here to preach or tell you what to do, but please learn from my mistake:  make time to do the little things you want to do NOW.  Don't put them off.  

*Here is a link to the story of CAROL’S kindness, posted earlier this year:  Coke Kindness

**If you would like to get involved in painting rocks, Google and see if your area is doing it!  Many places are, and it is awesome.

***If you, like me, believe that reading/hearing about kindness is inspiring and makes you more "alert" and receptive to see it in the world, "like" Kindness Activist (this project) on Facebook.  I post stories and photos of kindness there.  

Bonus photo - sea scene with a lighthouse!