Posted by: suzan | February 15, 2016

Teaching Kids the Importance of Kindness – Random Acts of Kindness Week

MARTHA STEWART

Kids are like little sponges soaking up everything they see, hear, and experience. I didn’t realize the reality of this until I was a preschool teacher right after college. As I remember the good old youthful days, I was one who just did my job at that time going through carefully prepared lesson plans and disciplining as best as possible. But occasionally there would be one or two children who’s behavior and character left an indelible impression on me and at times when I don’t have the patience or fortitude, I recall those wonderful kids that could never be forgotten.

This one child who was around 5 or 6 years old at that time was visiting with her older sister. Why they were temporarily placed in my classroom I can’t quite recall but it was during those several days they stayed in my care that really opened up my eyes to how cruel people can really be. This one little girl caught my attention immediately and it wasn’t because she was primped and pampered in the finest attire. No, this particular little girl wore a raggedy dress, had hair that looked like it hadn’t been combed in weeks, and beat up, dirty shoes. But it wasn’t her appearance that really struck my chord. No, it was her entire demeanor and the brilliant, million-watt smile that beamed brighter than the morning sun. I thought to myself at that time how an adorable little girl who had a heart full of gold be brought to school as if she had been living on the streets for weeks. I was intrigued and a bit perplexed as her older sister was impeccably dressed in a neatly pressed floral dress with bouncy blonde ringlets. Of course her sister was just as pretty but something seemed oddly off.

As it turned out, the little girl was a step-daughter to the mom who brought them both in. I hadn’t paid particular attention to when the mom dropped them off as dozens of kids were shuttled in, but as I started to pay extra attention to the little girl her enormous heart and generosity caused this twenty-something year old me to be even more curious. I remember the little girl instantly attached herself to me, bringing me books and toys to play with her. I remember thinking at the time and perhaps being a bit judgmental that surely someone who looked uncared for couldn’t possibly read more than at a 3-year old level. But I was wrong because this sweet little girl had such intelligence and kindness way beyond what any normal 5-year old could comprehend and it had saddened me greatly. Why was I sad? Because clearly this girl wasn’t as loved as her older step-sister. Although her outside appearance seemed bleak and unappreciated, it was her inner strength and light that threw off my skeptical mind. How could someone who obviously wasn’t cared deeply for hold so much intelligence and love? She played with all the other kids and doted on her older sister (who, unsurprisingly wasn’t as friendly or generous). The little girl held hands with the other kids, hugged me and my teacher’s aide, and cried after reading an emotionally-charged book. The intelligence shown in her dark eyes carried to her attitude to everyone around her. She was beyond intriguing and as I think about her now, it’s easy to compare her to the likes of Cinderella – the tattered girl with the heart of diamonds.

When her mom came to pick them up, I paid close attention to their interaction and sure as day, she doted on the older sister, cooing and preening her daughter. The little girl ran up to her step-mom joy dancing in her steps with a bright smile and laughter following her and held her arms up as if wanting to be picked up. I looked on in dismay as the step-mom ignored her, gave her a disdained look and led the older sister out by the hand. I noticed the immediate crestfallen expression, the sad little smile that came and went and I bent down to her and held her tightly in my arms, squeezed her so adoringly that I recall not wanting to let her go. But let her go I did for she had fresh tears in her eyes again, and although she didn’t verbally say it, her dark eyes held new light and a renewed hope that yes, she could be and should be loved just like any other child in the world.

The memory of this girl stayed with me and I recall hoping to have a chance to talk with the mom to understand their situation. But they only stayed another day and I gave the little girl as much love and affection as I could at the time. I could never forget how someone who seemed so young and naive held so much wisdom and light in all of her 5 years. I had only hoped that she grew up living a happier life than when I had met her and she is loved and appreciated this day.

So to speak mildly, it doesn’t matter how old you are or how privileged or destitute you may be, it’s the inner light inside all of us that shines brighter than outer appearances. We may all at one point or another wear masks to hide from scrutiny, but when our hearts are pure and light, we can overcome our challenges and obstacles. We as parents or individuals must teach our children the important lesson that when we appreciate others with purity and kindness, we can bring out the purity and kindness in others. That little girl obviously wasn’t taught to be kind and generous from the likes of her step-mom and step-sister but somewhere deep inside of her, she found the courage to overcome the injustice in her young life. To put it frankly, how could a 5-year old instinctively know not to judge others but in turn open her heart to the cruelty she surely was facing?

It’s not too late to teach our children or even children we encounter on a regular basis that the act of kindness is not measured by dollar signs or expensive materials. In this growing world it’s our responsibility as parents to show our kids the proper way in treating others. I still wonder at times why this little girl was placed in my classroom for she and her older sister weren’t quite the right fit. Perhaps it was fate that intervened and showed me at my young age the power of tolerance and acceptance. Surely someone as young as I was at that time still had a lot to learn about life and people in general, and the little girl’s immense kindness and generosity helped me see that no matter where you are or who you are, there should be no judgments.

Here are some wonderful and easy ways of showing kindness to others. In essence, the theory that when we give back, we are actually receiving twice as much through our own selflessness and gratitude.

20 Acts of Kindness

  • Give something away for free and expect nothing in return

  • Greet someone with a smile always no matter how much turmoil you feel inside.

  • Talk to the new kid in school and show kindness.

  • Give your teacher a hug.

  • Say thank you no matter how small the gesture.

  • Return carts at big box stores.

  • Clean up not only your own dishes but those around you.

  • Clean your room without being asked.

  • Help your parent cook or clean up the kitchen.

  • Deliver a compliment a day and really mean it.

  • Leave a kind, funny, or inspiring note in the library book you read.

  • Clip coupons for mom. Help her find those items at the market.

  • Collect food and canned goods for a local food bank. Invite your friends to help you so you can double, triple, or quadruple the amount.

  • Collect toiletries for soldiers. Add a card that says, “Enjoy my favorite shampoo.”

  • Clear your own dishes. Then surprise your parents and clear theirs, too.

  • Be a study buddy—or help a younger kid with homework.

  • Leave a handwritten or drawn thank you note to your previous teacher.

  • Let a classmate go ahead of you in line.

  • Offer to do chores around the house that aren’t already part of your daily chores.

  • Tell a friend “Good Job!” when they get the right answer at school.

 

#PledgeToBeKind_badge_teal

So wherever you are and whatever station you are in life, remember that teaching our kids important life lessons such as kindness can impact them greatly into adulthood. After all, they will eventually grow up, move out of the house and live their own lives. If they learned kindness at an early age their compassion and empathy will carry them much farther than you can ever wish for them.

The week of 2/14-2/20 is Random Acts of Kindness Week ##RAKWeek. Since 2000, The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation organizes a week-long celebration encouraging people around the world to engage in acts of kindness.

This year #RAKWeek will be asking individuals to sign a Kindness Pledge and spread the word via social media about their #Pledge2BeKind.  The organization would also like to collect as many personal stories as possible – via writing, photos or videos, about acts of kindness happening during RAK Week and beyond.  RAK has nearly 780,000 Facebook followers from over 80 countries who are gearing up to participate.

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Please consider joining. Here are some ideas for 2016 #RAKWeek 2/14-2/20:

 

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Responses

  1. I am so happy that you gave that little girl some love and attention that she so deserved. It makes me sad to think she was not given the love like her step sister. I definitely taught my kids to be kind to others and I am glad to say they have grown to be giving and kind adults. We do have to start when they are young and bring them up with a lot of compassion, kindness and understanding and show them examples.

  2. I agree! It’s important to teach kids good behavior when they’re young.


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