Part 4 in the Choices for Change Series
I was touched by a recent story shared on Facebook. A woman had been at the grocery store – a cart full of food at the checkout – when she realized she didn’t have her wallet. She apologized to the cashier and asked them to keep her cart to the side while she quickly ran home. Upon returning she found her food bagged and paid for with the simple explanation that the customer behind her had asked if she could pay for the groceries. This was not a simple pay it forward for a few items, but a large weekly shopping trip. The kindness of this earthly angel was a huge deal in the eyes of the benefactor. Her family was going through a particularly trying time, with financial and emotional stresses beyond their ability to handle. This random act of kindness had meant the world to this family.
This made me think of the story of the good Samaritan in the bible. While this woman was not lying on the side of the road asking for help, she was in need. The good Samaritan of the bible ministered to the man in need, he showed him kindness and compassion. He did not stop to consider how the man got himself into his predicament, nor did he assume he was suffering because of his own foolish decisions. He was kind simply because it mattered.
Being kind seems like a bit of a no brainer – right? We’ve all seen spiteful comments on social media and rioting in the news. Showing kindness seems to be on a downward spiral – especially when it comes to our ability to care for those who look, worship or vote differently than we do. And then I hear a story like the one I shared from FaceBook and feel like maybe there is still hope.
Ideally, we would like to see the rising generation grow into kind, respectful, and responsible adults. But that only happens if we practice and show by regular example how to be kind to our family, friends, and neighbors.
What are we teaching our families?
Several months ago I wrote an article on 5 Keys to Raising Wise Children, the first key was teaching kindness. According to a Harvard Graduate School of Education study, we are falling short as adults. Nearly 80 percent of children in the study said the adults in their life were more concerned with achievement or happiness than caring for others.  We can do better than that. As families, we can find ways to practice kindness and help our children to learn what really matters in life.
Here are some ideas to consider as a way to practice more kindness. It may not be paying for a load of groceries, but the little things teach important values.
- Make kindness for others a priority. Instead of saying your happiness is most important – say it is more important to be kind.
- Teach our children to address others respectfully, even when they are tired or grumpy.
- Be a role model by doing community service. If possible, include your children. Help a local food bank, play games with residents at a nursing home, volunteer for an eagle scout project, or join a community clean up day.
- At dinner role play with the family. Make up an ethical dilemma and discuss how the best way to react might be.
- Talk with your family about the uncaring acts that bombard us on various forms of media. Discuss justice and injustice.
- Make gratitude a daily ritual. Be friendly and grateful with all the people we come in contact with. Express thanks to the waitress, bus driver, and store clerk – and do it throughout the day – at dinnertime, bedtime, in the car, and everywhere outside of the home.
- Encourage kindness for those who are vulnerable. Share ideas for comforting someone who has been teased or bullied, and then set the example by doing the same with those you interact with.
Small and Simple Things
Need a few more ideas? It is the small and simple things that can make a big difference in the life of others. Religious leader Thomas S. Monson said:
“In a hundred small ways, all of you wear the mantle of charity. … Rather than being judgmental or critical of one another, may we have the pure love of Christ for our fellow travelers in this journey through life. May we recognize that each one is doing her or his best to deal with the challenges which come her or his way, and may we strive to do our best to help out.”
Just for fun here are a few small and simple things that I’ve collected from various articles. Go out and find the joy in being kind, it is contagious!
- Bring in your neighbor’s trash cans.
- When you see a group trying to take a picture, offer to take it for them
- Make eye contact with the cashier, receptionist, car washers, post office clerk – anyone who serves you.
- Put extra change in the metered parking.
- Leave a generous tip.
- Write special notes and hide them for family members to randomly find.
- Leave a positive review for your favorite restaurant.
- Send a text to let someone know you are thinking of them.
- Let someone go in line before you.
- Hold the door open for someone.
- Have a family contest to see who can say “Hi” to the most people in a day.
- Shovel a neighbor’s driveway or rake their leaves.
What are some small and simple things that you’ve done or have seen done? Share your ideas in the comments below.
 Joyce, Amy. “Are You Raising Nice Kids?” The Washington Post. July 18, 2014.
 Monson, Thomas S. “Charity Never Faileth.” Ensign. November, 2010.
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Will you allow life to teach you or defeat you?