“Mom’s ideas are like city buses,” my daughter, Bella, mused, after listening to me rattle off several things I wanted to do or make for my weekly column here in the Sentinel. “Just wait, and there will be another idea coming in five minutes.”
Her comment was in response to listening to my ideas, which ranged from making gnomes out of Dollar Tree socks for Valentine’s Day to turning an old Airstream trailer into a backyard hangout.
FGG (bless him) immediately went to work trying to grant my wishes. Remember, he gifted me this ancestral family home here in Ripley for my birthday and moved us 800 miles from Florida, so I could live my dream and re-imagine this home (I know: I hit The Husband Lottery). Well, FGG never tires in trying to make me happy and was getting a little frustrated trying to find an Airstream, when Bella made her observation. She’s not wrong. Since my column (and my life) is dedicated to creativity, I am on a constant quest for creative ideas.
Although I am still looking for a cheap, old Airstream, I don’t want to waste any more of my precious allotted space here on discussing that.
As I prepped for writing this week’s column, I thought about Valentine’s Day, and what I will write about for a Valentine’s Day column. It’s a little too soon for that topic; maybe next week. Even still, I found myself thinking about love, and how we can show love to others, especially now, when so many people are feeling disconnected and downtrodden due to the pandemic. It occurred to me that perhaps I could use my column this week to promote showing love for others in our community all year, not just because there’s a February holiday attached to it.
So, this week’s column is about creative random acts of kindness. Our homes, workplaces, schools, and communities can be transformed by individuals just like us, just focusing on doing small acts of kindness. Perhaps you already “pay it forward” at the fast-food drive-thru window, or leave a quarter in the cart at Aldi. Maybe you collect clean blankets for an animal rescue or leave a generous tip for your food server at restaurants, knowing that COVID has impacted them tremendously. You are my Tribe. It feels so good to give, even if that just means being generous with giving compliments (and compliments are FREE. They take nothing away from you, and give everything to another person).
I asked my Facebook friends this week if they had either been recipients of random acts of kindness or had creative ideas for doing random acts of kindness. I got over 50 amazing responses from kind people all over the country. Amy Envall and her daughter, Brooke, make blessing bags together.
Amy explained, “Every other month or so, we make blessing bags that have snacks, water, candy, toiletries, an inspirational message, a pair of socks, etc. in a gallon-sized zippered plastic bag. We keep some blessing bags in each car and pass them out to those seeking assistance in our travels. I recently handed one to a gentleman in downtown Orlando whose eyes lit up. He remarked that it had “exactly” what he needed. He proceeded to go to the side of the road, open the bag, and use the deodorant. He waves to me now when I pass by.
“We also make the blessing bags for the families staying at the Ronald McDonald House. So they can grab a bag as they head to the hospital to see their sick child, and we have made them with school supplies to donate to local schools.
“We often host neighbors and children to assemble the bags, and each participant gets some to distribute. The best part about blessing bags is that their contents can be endless. Anyone of any age can assemble them and distribute them. Blessing bags are something small, but super impactful.”
This got me thinking about all the endless possibilities of the different types of blessing bags. Teachers, First Responders, lonely seniors impacted by the COVID pandemic, family members: who couldn’t use a blessing?
Every kind act matters and has an impact. Doing random acts of kindness is an effective way to move past the blues. When I feel “meh” and can force myself to focus on doing something kind for someone else, I can shift into a better feeling place more easily. Maybe you’re feeling blue because you don’t have a Valentine this year. What better way to shift that negative energy than to dedicate Valentine’s Day to showing love to our community? Why not make doing random acts of kindness a family activity?
There are two informative websites that offer suggestions for random acts of kindness, and even kindness curricula for children: randomactsofkindness.org and kindness.org. The next time you hear, “Mom, I’m bored,” prompt the children to decide on a random act of kindness they can do for someone else, whether it be a teacher, coach, friend, or another family member. I encourage you to take a few moments to check out both sites for a multitude of easy and impactful random acts of kindness. You can make a difference in our community with kindness. See what ideas on those sites inspire you!
Also, don’t forget to be kind to yourself! You matter. Between the COVID-19 pandemic, the recent emotionally-charged Presidential election, the upheaval in school schedules and employment challenges, we have plenty of reasons to feel drained. This is exactly why self-care has never been more important. Admittedly, I am inconsistent with self-care. In last week’s column, I mentioned that “create” is my Word of the Year. Consistent self-care can enhance all areas of one’s life, increasing a sense of wellbeing, enhancing communication skills, sharpening thinking skills, and unleashing creativity. If consistent self-care can unleash creativity, and my Word of the Year is “create,” I kind of think I need to get better at consistently taking care of myself.
It’s not “selfish” to take care of ourselves. When we fly, the flight attendant always advises us to take our own oxygen first and then assist others. If we don’t care for ourselves first, we are incapable of caring for others to the best of our ability. So, what does “self-care” look like for you? The beauty of “self-care” is that it can look like many different things for different people. Is it waking up 30 minutes early before the kids get up to read, exercise, and write in a journal? Is it remembering to take supplements every day or get a facial or pedicure? Is it taking some “alone time” to enjoy a favorite hobby, like fishing or hunting? For me, it means taking my supplements daily, making time to create something/work on a creative project each day, taking time to “dream” on Pinterest, watching something that makes me laugh, petting my dogs, reading something inspirational, or even “unfollolwing” negative people on social media.
If you’re not sure where to start with self-care, I have found that Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy by Sarah Ban Breathnach is a valuable resource. It’s a series of 365 short essays (one per day), designed to get you to connect with your spirit by taking care of yourself in a variety of easy ways. There are simple exercises and monthly suggestions. There is a book for men, as well. My mother presented me with this book as a gift when I was a harried and exhausted young mother. She knew I needed it! I have found copies at thrift stores over the years, and always pick them up to have on hand in case I feel someone would benefit from being gifted a copy, as I was. Take your own oxygen first by being kind to yourself. You are worth it.
As coincidence would have it, if you recall, Together for Tippah was the nonprofit I encouraged the community to donate to in a past column. I sent Ripley Mayor Chris Marsalis this week’s column to see if any other individuals or groups promote random acts of kindness here locally. Since I am new to the area, I had no idea that Together for Tippah already promotes the Random Acts of Kindness Movement! Naturally, I reached out to the director, Dianne Holman, for a phone chat. I asked Dianne to tell me more about Together For Tippah and why they are passionate about promoting random acts of kindness.
She explained, “It’s always hard to come up with the right words to truly describe and explain our feelings towards kindness and what it means to us. Together for Tippah was founded on kindness in so many ways. It started with a small group of friends that wanted to help those in our community. As they worked toward their goals of helping those in need, they saw there was more need in the community. This was the start of something bigger in our community.
“As we continue to grow and help those in need, we celebrate kindness and random acts of kindness every year. We promote RAK in the community for the first full week of July to celebrate our founding month and National Random Acts of Kindness Day in February (This year, it is February 17). We encourage our community to be kind and show kindness in many ways. It can be as simple as holding a door for someone or offering to return a buggy to the cart return. Pay for a person’s meal in the line behind you or leave a little popcorn and Coke money in the Redbox movie case when you return it.
“Kindness spreads kindness, and it doesn’t have to be just one day a year or one week in a month. This is something we can do every day. Show someone that you care. Ask a stranger how they are doing or if there is anything you can do to help them today. We don’t know what people’s struggles are, and often just a kind word and a few minutes of our time can make a huge difference in our community.”
I’ve set up a Tippah Random Acts of Kindness Project page on Facebook, where weekly suggestions for random acts of kindness in our community will be posted year-round. I encourage you to “Like” and share the page and get others involved in spreading kindness every week this year. Kindness during a pandemic is one thing we do NOT want to stop the spread of! Spread it everywhere! It’s what the world needs right now, more than ever. The Facebook page is just a resource for you and your family to get creative ideas for how to spread kindness. Dianne has agreed to moderate the page with me. Thank you, Diane!
The Airstream will show up at the right time. As I always say: what is meant to be will find a way. In the meantime, I look forward to hearing about how your family has implemented practicing random acts of kindness.
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