One I remember being shared frequently was, "It's nice to be important but it's more important to be nice."
(The fact that I remember it all these years later means maybe recycled quotes aren't that bad after all, right?)
At the same time, isn't it interesting how nice people become important?
On August 18th, we held our 4th Annual Random Acts of Kindness Day. Through facebook the invitation spread, and was also shared via email, and blogs. Some people shared with us what they did, and others shared how they were affected by this experience. People did everything from public service to helping a neighbor.
Joie (who is growing into this tradition as she gets older) was excited for the first time this year about doing random acts of kindness that day. That morning she fed the dogs and gave them fresh water, and watered all our (neglected) houseplants. We had some happy dogs and happy plants around our house that day!
Than she spent the afternoon baking:
Yum! That night we delivered the cookies to Gabby's piano teacher and her family. The selection of the cookie recipient was kind of random. Gabby wanted in on the kindness tradition, and Joie was willing to include her by giving the cookies to someone Gabby chose. (Side note: Scary how those two are cooperating these days. They're even sharing a room now...verdict is still out on that one, but it was their choice.)
The morning after our RAK 4 day, Tim and I left for Seattle and the kids went to stay with cousins. We arrived home two days later to find our kindness had unexpectedly been returned. Gabby's piano teacher is a senior in high school and still lives at home. Her mother has MS and suffers daily with symptoms. In the past several years she has lost a lot of mobility, and struggles more with daily tasks. That's not why they were chosen, but this woman's example of facing life with a smile is always contagious. When we arrived home there was a kind note taped to our door from Gabby's piano teacher's family, thanking us for the cookies. It was fun to come home to a personal note, and that particular act of kindness was humbling to me--that on the list of daily tasks of someone struggling with daily tasks was to write a note to a neighbor. It was an example of the ripples of kindness.
I call them ripples because it seems like kindness somehow takes on a life of it's own. It spreads and grows, and even though it's seldom the intention, it ripples back. Many comments about experiences that day reflected the same idea.
One woman posted on the invite wall on facebook and said, "I dont want to tell what I did, but more how I felt. Doing something kind for another lifts our own burdens... I needed the lift of serving others more than I needed the support of being served. I always find that in serving others, my worries become so very small. My heart has been glad all day, and any hiccups along todays path were seemingly small and insignificant. Today I smiled a little more, walked with a lift in my step, and had great peace in my heart as I found ways to share Unconditional Love in Action. Thank you for including me."
Our family's sincere thanks goes out to all those who participated in any way.
I laughed at the idea of my brother and sister-in-law smiling at "the generally stoic Germans" just to watch them smile back.
I was warmed at the idea of a mother including a daughter, and another mother talking about how the mood in her home changed when she looked for ways to be kind to her children.
Someone else did temple service.
Other people shared with us their own stories of tragedy, and we found connections and friends and felt less alone. Some people say they don't like others talking about their own experiences with grief when the topic is raised. For me I've always felt oddly comforted by others sharing their own stories--it somehow signals strength and that we'll all be ok. For those who shared, thank you!
One of my sisters climbed Pike's Peak that day with her husband (happy anniversary Esther and Phil!) and they smiled and encouraged other after they had reached the summit themselves. If you've ever been a hiker encouraged by others who have already been to the top, you know what a welcome burst of energy that can provide!
Another sister offered to host extended family from out of town while they were traveling due to a family emergency. She did so because she remembered another friend who had offered the same thing to her when she and her family were traveling to Utah after Ruth, Nick and Audrey died, and how comforting it felt to stay with friends during a time of crisis.
For me, the amazing part was that I didn't even think (that much) about our loss that day. It certainly had weighed heavily on my mind in the days and weeks prior (bawled my eyes out with Joie the day before) but on that day, I was surprised how reaching out really did help.
Kindness in it's many forms is a gift that keeps on giving. We have been blessed to share our day with so many of you, and look forward to more of the same next year!