The Kindness Challenge

kindnessThis season can be a hectic, overwhelming time for many of us, regardless of what holidays we do or do not celebrate. It is often called “the season of giving”, but sometimes it feels more like the season of buying, or at least, the season of giving expensive gifts to everyone we know, the pressure building to buy more, to hit the best sales, to shop till you drop. What could be a bright spot in a dark, cold time often gets bogged down or tensed up with stress and unrealistic to-do lists.

I do love to give gifts to the people in my life, trying hard to think of funny or surprising presents, listening for hints throughout the year. The reason I love this is simply because I like making the people I care about feel good, and they usually feel best not because of the gift itself, but because of the thoughtfulness involved.

My mother-in-law once remarked, sometime in the summer, how much she had always wanted a set of cloth napkins to match the major holidays, and when I presented them to her in December, she cried. It wasn’t about the napkins. She thanked me for simply listening and remembering. People want to feel thought about, and it does not take big bucks or sparkly gifts to show them we are listening and caring.

A phone call, a smile, anything that offers a little bit of consideration to another. Some of the nicest things my family and friends have done for me were simply being there, offering their time, their kindness, their laughter. Everyone appreciates a kindness shown to them.

So I have decided, for the month of December, to deliberately and actively commit an act of kindness every day. I try to do this anyway in my life, but with conscious attention being paid to it this month, I hope the kindness will grow and continue into the new year and beyond. I hope to remind myself how much better I feel when I choose to act this way every day.

There is already a lot of pressure this season; my acts of kindness don’t have to be anything big or fancy. I hope to do some “big” things – collecting food for our neighborhood food bank, for example – but most will be simple: putting all my dishes for the day directly into the dishwasher, so no one else cleans up my mess. Waiting a moment longer to hold open a door for a stranger. Picking up another family member’s light chore when they are tired. Reminding everyone, myself, strangers and loved ones alike, that we all feel better with a little kindness in our lives, and reminding myself that it truly doesn’t take much to make a difference. When we give, we often receive, even if it is only the satisfaction of seeing another smile (and truly, that’s one of the best gifts we can get.) Are you up for the challenge?

[Photo Credit: Darinka Maja]

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