“Fall” in Love with Your Family in November
“If you only have a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail.”
— Abraham Maslow
If you only have kindness and compassion, you see every person with love.
Recently I read about a Kindergarten teacher at Sandy Hook Elementary, where one of the school shootings occurred, and her response to that tragedy. During the horrible event, she hid all of her students well and as a result, their lives were saved. But after mourning took place, they had to return to the classroom. She struggled with a sense of hopelessness and fear and wondered how she might lead her class while feeling such despair. Then the class received a package of toys from some caring person in the U.S. who wanted to help them through the sorrowful time. It was that package that offered her a way to cope and help her students cope. “When someone does something nice for you, you have to do something nice for someone else in return,” she told her students. And so they began doing good deeds for one another and for others in the school — holding doors, writing positive notes and complimenting others. Parents were asked to donate to reward the good deeds. With this, Kaitlyn began to put together donations for other classrooms outside of their school and began a nonprofit with a social network to grow the work called Classes 4 Classes. She has a new book out about her experiences entitled Choosing Hope and is a great inspiration.
Kindness is contagious. When you experience it, you want to share it and pass it on to others. But in our busy lives, we naturally tend to see problems. With a critical eye, we look for what needs fixing so we can get to work. And at times, we see our children with that same critical eye. This can serve us well to a certain extent as we are able to define and solve our own challenges. But it can overwhelm our focus. So in order to shift our lens to the positive, we need to be intentional about it.
Here’s a proposed simple experiment to try out in the next few weeks leading up to Thanksgiving and also in celebration of Worldwide Random Acts of Kindness Day on November 13th.
Choose a weekly kindness buddy.
Pick one night a week when your family is typically together. Perhaps you have a dinnertime when you can count on each member being present? Ask each person to write their name on a piece of paper and throw it in a hat. Pick names (throw back your own if you pick it). Keep it a secret! (It’s a better game that way!) Now do one random act of kindness for that person in the coming week and if you can keep your identity a secret, so much the better. Little ones can play this game but may not be able to keep the secret! That’s okay. They will benefit from the experience without anyway.
Guess your Kindness Buddy and Recount Stories.
One week later, guess your kindness buddy. It may be obvious or your family member may have made it difficult to guess! Tell the stories of the kindness that was done for you from the past week. Make sure your stories are specific. Ask questions of your kids to prompt details.
Each week leading up to Thanksgiving, pick a new person to be your kindness buddy.
Bring It to Your Thanksgiving (If You Celebrate) OR Count It As Your Participation in World Random Acts of Kindness Day
If your Thanksgiving includes extended family or friends that have not participated in your kindness experiment, use the chance to involve them. At your meal, share the stories from the random acts done for you in the past month. Then consider the others at your table and tell stories about how they have shown kindness to you. What a rich meal it could be if all individuals around the table could share an specific appreciation of another at the table.
Be sure and reflect on the experience. Ask, “How did you feel when the kindness was done for you?, How long did that feeling last? Did it influence your thoughts and feelings throughout that day? Throughout the week? How? Did you do anything in response?” Through reflection, we deepen our learning.
This experiment will help you look back on a month where you have, in a small but significant way, shifted your family’s focus toward kindness. Do you feel it’s made a difference in the culture of your family? Do you see relationships as a bit more connected and trusting? Kindness does not have to be an elusive concept. But it does require focus, practice and intentionality. It doesn’t take much to make a difference in the feelings and attitudes of the ones we love.
Roig-DeBellis, Kaitlyn. (2015). Choosing Hope. NY: Penguin Books.