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Fishful Thinking: Practicing Kindness

This month’s Fishful Thinking newsletter is about practicing kindness and encouraging random acts of kindness.

Dr. Reivich states, “As a parent, think about the questions below to deepen your own awareness of kindness.” I know she meant “in your head,” but I figured I’d work through those questions here.

  • How do you feel when you help someone or do something kind for another person?
    Obviously, I feel an incredible sense of joy when helping others. I do go through the “Am I doing this for how it makes me feel, or because I really want to help the other person” question, but during our phone conversation with Dr. Reivich, she confirmed that it’s OKAY to do it because it makes you feel good…what better win-win situation could there be?
  • What character strengths do you pull on when you are being kind (love, empathy, compassion, etc.)
    I think what I pull on depends on the situation and the person. If it’s something for a family member or friend and not something I really want to do, it’s all about the love for that person. Otherwise, it would have to be empathy and compassion. I often wonder what it would be like to be in that person’s shoes, and how I’d feel with the help.
  • When someone does something kind for you, how do you respond?
    I’ve gotten MUCH better at just saying, “Thank you!” It’s crazy to think about how hard it used to be to just accept kindness and be happy with it.
  • What messages did you learn as a child about being kind?
    The one thing that sticks out in my head comes from my Dad. I have clear memories of him taking the time to talk with anybody. It didn’t matter if you owned a shop, were a farmer, worked the cash register, or lived on the street. My Dad would chat with you – and still does!
  • How do you promote kindness in your children?
    Right now I’m struggling with how to get them to be kind to each other, so when I see them really helping another out – or even just offering to grab a juice cup for the other – I try to comment about how nice that was.Otherwise, I try to take them along with me when I know I’ll be doing something for someone else – like bringing a meal to a new mom or something. We’ll talk about why the person needs the meal and why we’re doing it on our way.

Here’s what I’m struggling with: promoting vs. bragging. I sometimes end up doing a spontaneous random act of kindness and I’d love to have that “rub off” on my kids; but it usually happens when they aren’t with me. For example, a few months ago at the grocery store, there was an older woman in front of me in line who didn’t have much in her cart. She ended up being around $1.00 short and was digging around in her change purse looking for more money that she obviously didn’t have. She started looking at her items trying to decide which (obviously needed) item to put back, so I dug out a dollar and handed it to the teen-aged cashier. The cashier looked at me like I had 3 heads before she realized that I meant to cover the balance. The older woman was obviously a little uncomfortable, but at the same time instantly grateful. (After she left, the cashier told me that I had just made HER week – she’d never seen anyone do that before…she had thought I was in a hurry and trying to pay for MY stuff instead of waiting.) BUT…my kids weren’t with me when this happened. And I didn’t do it for the “bragging rights” (although, I guess I did just announce it here…), but do I come back and tell my kids all about it so that they’d think to do something along those lines later on in their life? Or is that just bragging? And how do I get them to do the kindness thing without needing to do the bragging thing (or does that even matter, as long as they’re kind?) I just don’t know the answer – but I’d love to hear your thoughts.

The second part of Dr. Reivich’s letter is:

…sit with your family and create a list of Random Acts of Kindness. By creating the list, you are setting a goal for your family, making it more likely that you will actually do those kind deeds. See if you can get to fifty or one hundred simple kind acts and then put a star next to each one your family accomplishes. Make it a goal to do at least one act of kindness each day.

To cover my bases, I asked Burke and Maggie if they knew what “kindness” meant. Maggie immediately answered, “Be nice!” *phew!* We ARE doing something right here! 😉

While I have no delusions that we’ll do one act of kindness each day, I know that if we practice, we may eventually get there. So here’s the list Burke, Maggie, and I came up with:

  • Draw pictures for others
  • Give food to others
  • Give new toys to others
  • Throw away paper (garbage) when you see it on the ground
  • Doing beadwork and bringing it to someone else
  • Knit a blanket for someone else
  • Holding the door open for the people behind us
  • Saving a seat for someone special
  • Letting someone go in front of you in line
  • Helping Logan (or someone small) reach something high

I’m hoping to add to it bit by bit…and perhaps one day we’ll have it all starred. 🙂

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4 Responses

  1. Great post! Thanks!!!

  2. I recently came across your site, very nice. Keep it up.

    http://www.bukisa.com/articles/330413_kindness-can-make-you-happier

  3. What a great list! For your #1 – Drawing pictures for others, there is an organization called Color A Smile (www.colorasmile.org) that you can send kids’ drawings to and they will distribute them to nursing homes. How cool is that? We just did that as an activity with our Homeschool group this past week. Now I just need to send them off.

    I’ve wondered if people perceive talking about acts of service/kindness as “bragging” but, personally, when I hear about acts of kindness, I’m inspired. I appreciate others sharing their experiences because it gives me ideas as to how I can give more and teach my kids to give as well. So I’ve decided not to worry about what some people may think because there are plenty of other people – like the cashier at the grocery store – who are inspired and motivated by the example of others. Thanks for sharing your story too! You are setting a great example for your kiddos. 🙂

  4. Oh! Great perspective! I hadn’t thought about the fact that I like hearing the acts of kindness, so others may like hearing about anything I have done…thank you!!

    And THANK YOU!! I hadn’t heard of Color A Smile before – I know what we’re doing on this projected rainy afternoon!! Burke’s going to LOVE that!

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