by Shannon Serpette
When I was a little kid, I was painfully shy, probably because I came from a large family. I had so many brothers and sisters, I never needed to make an attempt to find friends. When I wanted someone to play with, I just had to call out a name at home and someone would come running.
But on my first day of kindergarten, my brothers and sisters weren’t around to have my back. I was terrified, and there was no way I was going to initiate a conversation with anyone. I was playing by myself in the corner and I probably would have stayed there every day all year long if left to my own devices.
But that day, a girl came over to me, introduced herself and asked if I wanted to play with her. I couldn’t believe my luck, and even almost 40 years later, I still remember how kind she was to me as I painfully mumbled my name to her and avoided eye contact at all costs. As the days turned into weeks and weeks into months, I no longer had just a playmate – I had a best friend. We remained best friends right up until high school when she moved away to another school district.
Although I couldn’t have known it at the time, that simple kindness shown to me that first day of school changed me and shaped my life.
That one little act made things better for me, and, in turn, for other people. Throughout my life, I’ve always remembered how awful it felt to be in the corner watching everyone else have fun. I’ve made a conscious effort not to let that happen to anyone else when I could prevent it.
When new students moved into my school district, I would always attempt to become their friend and make sure they knew they were welcome. To this day, I encourage my children to show extra kindness to new kids at their school, and I tell them the story of my first day of school and how one girl’s invitation to play impacted me.
While I like to think of myself as being a kind person, I know there’s room for improvement. I’m only human, and there are times when I’m not kind, times when I fall short of the person I strive to be.
When I heard about the More4kids 2017 kindness challenge, I thought it was a wonderful way to improve my small corner of the world, and a way to continue to honor the kindness that was shown to me all those years ago, when I most needed it.
Because raising my children to be kind has been a goal of mine from the moment I held them in my arms, I’ve asked them to take this challenge with me. They’ve accepted with more enthusiasm than I thought they would, and so has my husband. We’ve had a short brainstorming session to think of things that can be done to meet our goal of 365 days of kindness. We’ve come up with a few ideas, but a lot of our acts will be spontaneous.
Since I’m a writer, there are some days where I don’t even step outside of my house, so those days will be challenging. We’ve opted to work as a team to cover our bases and still make our goal doable. Between our team, we need at least one act of kindness every day, but we hope to do more than that.
Here is what we have done so far:
Helping around the house: I’ve been loving the first few days of 2017. I’ve had extra help around the house from my children. They do let me know they are showing me a kindness when they do something extra though. It makes me want to laugh, but I just smile, nod and tell them thank you. Little did I know when I accepted the kindness challenge, I would also become a recipient.
Coaching a team: My husband has offered to volunteer his time as an assistant basketball coach for a team my daughter recently joined. Finding the time to coach 10 girls won’t be easy, but it will help the girls learn basketball skills and teamwork, and they’ll have fun along the way. It will be great for him too because he’ll get some extra exercise when he’s helping.
Acting as chauffer: Two of my friends don’t have as much freedom with their work hours as I do with mine. To help them out, I’ve given both of their children rides to and from school functions when they had no other available transportation. It’s only an extra few minutes out of my day, and it makes a difference for them. It also gives my son a little additional time to spend with his friends outside of school, so everybody wins.
Visiting neighbors who live by themselves: My kids think of one of our neighbors as an honorary grandmother. They wave whenever she goes by, they bring meals to her occasionally and give her gifts for Christmas. But they don’t often stay long when they visit her.
The other day they brought her a bowl of soup and they decided to stay and talk her ear off. They were there for so long I wasn’t sure if I should consider their visit a kindness or an annoyance. The next day, however, she called me and told me how much she enjoyed the soup and their visit. She said she loved hearing them talk about school, their extracurricular activities and their friends. It really brightened her day.
We’re just getting started, but I feel like we’ve made real progress considering we’re less than a week into 2017.
If you haven’t started the kindness challenge yet, I encourage you to give it a shot. Here are the details for the Kindness Challenge. Even if you end up only doing a few small acts of kindness all year, just one of those could change someone else’s life. I’m living proof of that.
Here are some more ideas: 101 Acts of Kindness