For those of you who are parents of young children, I’m sure you’ve heard of Disney Jr’s summer campaign of ‘The Power of Doing Good’. In between all of their shows they play a catchy and inspiring song called The Power of Me as well as interviews with kids who do good for their community. Eowyn has been really excited about it, but wasn’t quite sure of what it’s all about; when asked what she could do to display her power of doing good, she replied, “Eating my dinner all gone!” Bless her heart.
One of my dear friends posted about doing a 31 days of deliberate kindness for the month of August on her blog, Lend Me Your Kite. I saw this as the perfect opportunity to teach my kids how to go out of their way to do something nice for someone else, and committed to joining her in her quest to spread happiness all month long.
Whenever I’ve done stuff like this in the past, I would always tend towards extravagant, big ideas like picking up the tab for the car behind me at a drive through or buying a $20 Target gift certificate for a random stranger or paying to fill someone’s tank at the gas station. All of which are wonderful ways of blessing others, but are also expensive. Too expensive for our modest budget. Then I would get discouraged because we couldn’t afford to do any of the things that I wanted to do, and wouldn’t be able to think of anything creative that could fit my budget and my heart for serving others. This time around, I was determined to not get discouraged by something as little as money and really commit to blessing others with whatever I had available to me. God blesses us so that we can bless other people. It’s not right of me to get upset that I don’t have “enough” to do the things that I want to do. No matter how little you have, there is always enough to share. How can I expect God to entrust us with more if I’m too bitter to do what I can with what I have now?
So here it is–all of our acts of kindness that my family and I spread in our community all month.
We paid for someone’s Redbox rental. I got the awesome Random Act of Kindness (RAOK) tag from Thirty Handmade Days. Click here for the free printable if you’d like to do a Random Act of Kindness too : )
Our first idea was to leave a cookie and note in the mailbox for the mail carrier, but it took too long to make the cookies. By the time we got out there, she had already come. So, we saved the cookie for Monday’s RAOK.
There are quite a few houses going up in our neighborhood right now, one of which is 3 houses down from us. This was a particularly hot day, and although the crew was working on the interior, it doesn’t have A/C yet. So we threw some cute labels that I found at Life Rearranged on some water bottles and left them in the garage for them to find. (Click on the link to print out your own free labels)
We moved into our current house at the end of October last year. The previous owners had landscaped the entire acre of yard, so it was very much move-in ready. However, most of the bushes and other assorted plants had already lost their foliage in preparation for winter which was only weeks away at that point. So we really had no idea what exactly was planted. Spring brought many surprises as we got to watch our garden come to life and discover what we had right in our own backyard (literally). One of the biggest surprises came from these seemingly useless green shrub things that were planted all over the place. There was nothing inherently ugly about them, but we couldn’t figure out why anyone would go through the trouble of planting so many boring green things when you could plant flowers instead. Then they started to bloom, and we realized that our garden is FULL of lilies! Yellow lilies, orange lilies, pink lilies, and my favorite–deep red lilies (the very latter which has just barely bloomed).
We decided to cut one of my beloved red lilies and give it to one of our neighbors, who is also expecting a Fall baby. They weren’t home when we dropped it off, so we left it on their porch as a surprise : ) We used the same label on this that we did on the Redbox gift.
We left a homemade brown sugar cookie, (recipe courtesy of Sally’s Baking Addiction. They’re pretty much amazing; I definitely recommend trying them!), with a note for our mail carrier. We made sure to run it out to the box right after breakfast so we wouldn’t miss her again. The RAOK label is the same one we used for the Redbox and flower gifts. You’ll see them pop up a lot in the rest of this post. Eowyn actually caught the mail carrier delivering to us, and the girls and I watched her receive her surprise from the front window. She smiled and waved at the girls, which totally made their day : )
We left a chocolate bar and an encouraging note on a box of Pull-Ups at Target. Going through potty training myself made me want to reach out and encourage one of my fellow moms who is in the same boat.
I’ve been going through some personal struggles recently that have been difficult. As per human nature, I hit a low where my problems consumed all of my thinking. Truth be told, I wanted to give up on this whole project, because I honestly didn’t feel like I had anything to give. But despite the hurdles life is currently throwing at me, I still have a lot to be grateful for. God blesses us so that we can be rivers, not reservoirs. So I forced myself to think on all of the blessings that surrounded me. Instead of only thinking about me and my own problems, I deliberately opened my heart to someone else’s story.
The story of a mom who’s 24 years old who found out that she had terminal cancer when she was pregnant with her second baby. She could have started chemo and risked side effects to her unborn baby or even terminated her baby in order to start the treatments as soon as possible, to give herself the best shot at maybe living longer than the year that the doctors had given her. But instead, she chose life for her daughter and waited to start any treatments until after she was born.
This was the day that she was starting her first round of chemo. I am not friends with her; I’ve never met her. I heard of her story through an out-of-state photographer that I happen to follow on Facebook, who wrote a post asking people to pray for this amazing client of hers.
So I put my own problems aside, and I prayed for Ashley. I prayed earnestly and genuinely for this woman that I will never meet. I battled for her with words, projecting all the faith that I have in the one true God onto her. I gave her all that I had to give in that moment.
If you are interested in Ashley’s story and want to follow her progress, or feel led to give money to help the family out with medical expenses, you can visit this website.
My next door neighbors went on vacation for a week and asked me to water their plants while they were gone. On this day, I also pulled their weeds. Not all of their weeds, but all of the ones that were in their planters.
Like I mentioned at the beginning, I went into this mostly with the intention of teaching my 3 year old how to give selflessly to other people. I believe that we should all strive to go out of our way for those who are in our immediate circle of influence every day, as well as go out of our way to share the love with strangers when the occasion presents itself or when we feel led to do so. She’s only 3, so her immediate family is her primary sphere of influence. On this day, I taught her (again) that one of the easiest ways for her to do something nice for someone else was to simply clean up her toys. When she does this, it helps Mommy and Daddy out a lot because then we don’t have to clean them up. That is the power of doing good. It was completely accessible for her, and (I think) a genuinely valid application of this lesson.
We bought an extra soda at the food court at Sam’s Club, taped a RAOK label on it, and handed it back to the cashier with the instruction of giving it to the next person who ordered a soda. This cost $.80.
This one was 100% Eowyn’s idea: she colored pictures for some out of state family and friends. She is quite the little artist and is always coloring. I’m noticing that her love language is very much like mine: we like to make things to share with other people.
I’m not going to lie to you–this day completely got away from me. Like I mentioned earlier, I’m going through some personal stuff right now. There was sickness and 4 hours of sleep involved. Sorry guys–I’m only human! But Eowyn did her own good deed, and thought it up all by herself – – she colored a picture for her friend next door. She then carefully rolled it up and tied a blue ribbon around it, again entirely by herself.
We went to the Dollar Store with the sole intention of buying a balloon to leave on someone’s car. Eowyn was really excited for this one (obviously, since it involved balloons). She picked out an Elmo balloon, which made Baby Ary go coo-coo because she loves Elmo. Then Eowyn noticed that there were 2 Elmo balloons.
“Can we get the other one for sister, Mom? That would make her so happy!”
How could I say no to that? So we got both Elmo balloons. On our way out we passed a mom with 2 kids who were going in. Her kids immediately locked onto the Elmo balloons, so we decided we would leave our give-away Elmo on their car. I didn’t want to knot it because then they would have trouble getting it off, so I tied the ribbon into a bow on the driver’s handle. Unfortunately the wind was too strong, and I saw the balloon fly ahead of us as we left the parking lot. I didn’t have the heart to tell Eowyn what had happened because she was so happy thinking about how happy those kids were going to be with their surprise. The thought was there; the wind just had other plans.
To make up for yesterday, I also bought a pack of pencils to donate to a military family in need of school supplies at the register. Total cost for both deeds: $2. Well, $3 if you include the balloon Eowyn bought for her sister.
We left a dollar inside a Minnie Mouse snack container in the dollar section of Target for a lucky little girl to find. Of course, Eowyn started moaning about how she wanted someone to buy her a Minnie Mouse snack container…
This day was rough physically for me. My morning sickness has come back to haunt me in my third trimester, and this day it was particularly bad. On top of that, my Braxton-Hicks contractions were the worst they’ve ever been. On a pain scale of 1-10, I got up to about a 5. The contractions only stopped when I laid down…because I totally can just take a sick day with 2 toddlers running around…
Anyways, before the pain got too bad, I was doing yard work while the girls were playing outside. We had pruned some of our tree branches the week before and I was tired of them sitting in our driveway (of course when I say “branches” I really mean glorified twigs; please don’t write me about over-doing it while I’m pregnant. I’m not stupid). There’s an empty lot right next to us that we dump our weeds and such into, because it’s full of weeds anyways. Whoever buys it will have a lot of work on their hands regardless, and we don’t feel like having to have a third trash can just for yard waste. So I start making trips back and forth, discarding our cut branches into the empty lot. I know, I know–this sounds like the exact opposite of an act of kindness. It’s heading more and more down the lines of “Random Acts of a Jerk”. The act of kindness came not from me (obviously), but from my 3 year old. Eowyn stopped riding her bike of her own accord, and helped me haul branches across 100 yards of grass. She made trip after trip after trip with me, happy as a clam to be helping Mommy. Now that, my dear sweet Eowyn, is the power of doing good.
I left money tucked away with the M&M’s at a Target register. Again, had to deal with the grumpy toddler who suddenly got quite the chocolate craving.
When I was a kid, I remember checking the change return of soda machines on hot California summer days in the hopes of finding money so that I could get one. In honor of this classic summer memory, I left money in the change return of a soda machine for someone to find. I hope that someone was a kid, and that they were just as excited as I was when I eventually got my free soda. (Total cost: $1.50)
I didn’t do random acts on these days. Again, I have a lot going on right now. I’m in my 8th month of pregnancy and am trying to keep up with 2 toddlers every day. My initial reaction was to feel guilty and stressed for not being able to do what I said I would do. But the point of this isn’t to get stressed, for stress doesn’t come from a spirit of giving. I accept that I am human, and chose to not force anything.
The girls and I made 2 dozen rainbow cupcakes. Well, we could only fit 4 colors to a cupcake, so they were more tie dye in the end. The first dozed we took to the post office. The worker who helped us has been there since we’ve moved here and I’ve never seen her smile. She’s never been unpleasant or rude; you can just tell that she’s always just trying to get through her days. Her face lit up like a Christmas tree when we gave her the box of cupcakes! I could tell that we made her day, which completely made my day.
The next day, we took the second box of cupcakes with us to story time at our local library. The lady who does story time is awesome; she sings songs and does puppet shows on top of reading stories. She told us that those cupcakes made her day; that it was so nice to know that she was appreciated.
Since I’m a baker, the only thing I had to buy for this was the boxes and cupcake holders. So the total cost for the 2 dozen cupcakes was $5.
These days also got away from me
Tyler went to the grocery store for me this day. Apparently the cashier accidentally rang up our organic bananas as regular bananas, which are $.40 cheaper per pound. Even though her mistake would have saved us money, he decided to do the right thing and correct her.
Target was having a sale on cereal and a promotion on top of it–if you bought 5 boxes, you get a $5 gift card. We go through cereal faster than diapers in this house (which is saying a lot!), so I was all over it. Instead of keeping the gift card for myself, I gave it to the people standing behind me in line.
After I packed the kids and stuff into the car, I noticed a cart that someone had left in the middle of a parking spot. There aren’t any bumpers in this parking lot, and it was a bit windy this day. So I went out of my way to put the stray cart away before it got blown into someone’s car.
At the beginning of this month, Eowyn decided that she no longer liked her bed. She likes Mommy and Daddy’s bed. So every time we put her down, she loses her mind, throwing huge tantrums. Whenever she wakes up in the middle of the night, she throws another tantrum because we won’t let her into our bed. The night before this day, she calmed herself down faster than any other day previously and slept all night! As a reward, I decided to paint her nails (and Ary’s too, of course). I hate painting their nails because it’s messy and therefore stressful. But it felt good to go out of my way to pamper my princesses on this morning, and it made them so very happy!
I went to Target later in the day, and ended up using their bathroom before leaving (of course). I washed my hands next to another woman, who finished before me and left. I noticed that she hadn’t turned her faucet off completely, leaving it slowly dripping. Instead of shrugging it off as someone else’s problem, I fussed with it until it stopped leaking. We may not be in the middle of a drought like others, but that doesn’t mean we should waste what we have.
The girls and I were out running errands for the first half of the day, so we ended up eating lunch at McDonald’s (don’t judge me–we usually eat at home, and they will run it off in one afternoon anyways). The man who took my order was so nice and pleasant, that I went out of my way when I got home to do the online survey. Like most people, I never do those things. But I was really happy with the service we received, the food was really fresh (as far as fast food goes), and the restaurant and bathroom was especially clean. If we all went out of our way to commend one another on a job well done, rather than only speaking up when we’re dissatisfied, then maybe we wouldn’t all be so miserable and not care about our jobs.
I also left my quarter in my basket at Aldi for the next person to use (you have to deposit a quarter to get a basket, and then it gives it back to you once you return it). The first time I went to Aldi, I was unaware of their basket system and didn’t have any quarters on me, so I had the pleasure of holding my groceries while running after the girls. I was happy to save some other poor soul from that same stressful fate.
I didn’t do anything this day.
We made cookies for my OB doctor’s office, with a note from Eowyn on the box. Everyone in the office was very appreciative of the homemade chocolate goodness : )
Later that day, Eowyn and I left bags of Ding Dongs on 2 of our neighbor’s doorsteps. I found the free labels at Poppies at Play.
I had everything on hand for the box of cookies, so that didn’t cost me anything. The Ding Dong ditch cost $6.
My local grocery store has 4 spots next to the handicap spots that are reserved for “customers with young children”. Shockingly, people actually leave these open for people like myself, and they are such a blessing. Shopping with a 3 year old, a 1 year old, and a very pregnant belly is challenging to say the least. To be able to have a close parking spot that’s also right next to a cart return makes my day every time I land one of these prime spots.
This day was a Saturday and therefore very busy. But there was one “customer with young children” spot left! As tempted as I was to say, “Thank you, God!” and take it for myself, I chose to leave it for the next Mom or Dad and brighten their day instead.
While shopping, I also deliberately dropped a dollar bill on the floor for someone to find. Nothing puts a smile on my face like finding free money on the floor : )
This was probably the windiest day that I’ve experienced in Wisconsin since moving here 10 months ago. Our next door neighbors went away for Labor Day weekend, and I noticed that one of their potted plants had gotten knocked over by the blustery day. So the girls and I went over to pick it up and put it in a more sheltered place.
Despite the wind, I attempted to clean up some of my lilies of the dead stalks while the girls played. Eowyn saw what I was doing, and chose to stop playing and come and help me all on her own. When Ary saw her sister helping, she started helping too. While pulling the dead stuff out, both the girls picked a lily and brought it over to me. “Mom! We brought you something!”, Eowyn said as they came running to me holding the flowers behind their backs. They handed them over with the biggest of smiles on their faces. “That’s the power of doing good, Mom?”, Eowyn asked.
Yes, my dear, sweet girl. Yes it is.
We went on a short walk after dinner, and saw the wind blow over another neighbor’s trash can. We rushed over and put their can right side up and picked up the bits of trash that were being blown around their yard. Then we told them about it so they could put the can in the garage to prevent it from happening again. There have been too many mornings that I’ve woken up to a trash filled yard from our cans being knocked over by wind; trust me–that is no way to start your day! I was happy to save someone from experiencing that.
The biggest thing that I learned this month was that a Random Act of Kindness does not have to be some extravagant thing every time. Most of the time, it’s the simple acts that are the most impactful. Putting a stray cart away before it dents someone’s car and ruins their day; picking up a neighbor’s fallen trash can before it blows trash all over their yard; saying a prayer for someone who really needs it. These are all things that are free. All they require of us is our time. Money is not the best thing we can give to someone else–our time is. When we go out of our way and give of ourselves, that is what turns heads and changes hearts. I spent a total of $29.45 on a month’s worth of deliberate acts of kindness, but I believe that the joy we left behind was worth much more.
We all have the power to do good for other people on a daily basis. We just have to have eyes to see and ears to hear and a heart that responds to the call.