During the holiday season of 1999, my family experienced the healing power kindness can have on grieving hearts. Those random acts inspired us to become givers in our own way.
While my sons and I bemoaned having to wait a full year for Christmas to roll around again, my daughter Megan came up with our new family motto, “every day can be Christmas.”
“All we really have to do is open our eyes,” she said.
That bit of wisdom from my then 10-year-old shone a light on countless opportunities to act as a true friend. You don’t have to be rich, or have lots of free time to try any of them.
You just have to care.
- Go all out Ninja, become a gift giver to someone who is grieving or just going through a challenging time. The key is to leave presents over a series of days; they don’t have to be big or expensive, just tokens that will show the family over a period of time that someone is thinking about them. The gifts can range from homemade cards, to cookies, even diapers depending on what you know the family needs. You don’t have to wait until Christmas to leave anonymous gifts.
- Don’t allow yourself to use the “I meant to call, but never got around to it” excuse. Mark you calendar. CALL THEM REGULARLY.
- Purchase one small gift every month, spreading the expense out over the year. You’ll have a dozen items to donate to your favorite charity by Christmas. Mittens, toys, knit caps, board games, baby blankets and scented soaps, are a few examples, or fill a basket with an assortment of 12 items.
- If kids are screaming in the car behind you in the drive-thru restaurant line and their mom looks harried, pay for their meal. Mom will never know her benefactor, but she will certainly feel as if she has a friend. This example comes from the family of my friend, Cynthia. I call it an act of Keller Kindness.
- If you have expertise in anything – writing, swimming, art, archery, cooking – share your skills with others, volunteer. Commit to at least a dozen sessions and honor the commitment.
- Buy a box of greeting cards and make it a goal to send them all out within 12 months of purchase. Remember, repetition is key. Seek out the lonely, the elderly widower in your neighborhood, the disabled veteran living at a VA Center; ask a nursing home for names of residents with no relatives. Write them letters, postcards, even birthday cards.
- Don’t walk past anyone who is struggling, whether it be a child with a broken bike chain or a senior citizen trying to reach for a can of soup that is out of their reach at the grocery store. Help them if you can. Find them help if you can’t.
- Former Dayton, Ohio Mayor Rhine McLin never walked by a piece of litter without picking it up. Whether she was dressed for a formal occasion or walking the campaign trail, Rhine carried the trash to the nearest bin. I would call her a true friend to the community. Her example is one we all can follow.
- Donate a book to your local library to honor a loved one who has passed away. Their memory will live on in the hearts of all who read it.
- If you want to honor a loved one who has died, model your giving after something they enjoyed. My husband was a toolmaker by trade and a do-it-yourself home remodeler in his free time, so when the giving bug bites me, I head to a hardware store. It’s a way for me to remember him, and also to give a gift that I know would be meaningful to him.
- Give compliments! Look for reasons to compliment friends and strangers, even just by looking them in the eyes as you pass and smile. A lady stopped me on the street once and told me she loved the color of my hair. That quick compliment lifted my spirit and I immediately wanted to pay it forward.
- Be a true friend to yourself. Stop delaying plans to get more physically active and to eat a more healthy diet. Talk to your doctor and make a plan. The reward: increased energy and gusto for giving.
- Be grateful every day for opportunities to share your life. Giving to others is a gift that you also give to yourself.