Kindness Menu

I started writing my new series, The Kindness Club, because I was having a really bad day. One of those days when you just want to stay under the covers for awhile. But on that day, I had a number of commitments that required me to leave my house. So I did, feeling really crabby about it. And then something happened -- I witnessed a supreme kindness. It wasn’t a kindness to me, not directly anyway. But just seeing it changed how I was feeling. It made me happy.

When I got home, and got onto Google, I read about why: when someone is kind to us, when we are kind to someone, or if we merely witness an act of kindness, the serotonin in our brains gets a boost. I’ve always been told to write what interests me, and I find that bit of biology fascinating. The following day I wrote the first lines of The Kindness Club Book #1: Chloe on the Bright Side.

Since you can never have enough kindness (especially during the holiday season), I’m sharing some of my favorite kindness ideas. Kindness isn’t one-size-fits-all and we each have our own way of showing we care about others, so I’ve assembled a smorgasbord of options for your family to choose from. Pick one or two, or, if your kindness appetite is really big, fill your plate, and come back for seconds.

Kindness Menu

1. Thank your everyday allies.

Every day we interact with dozens of people who, though we may not recognize it, help us in important ways and make our lives run more smoothly. They might be the crossing guard on the way to school, the doorman, or the person who makes lunch at school. Recently, I met with a Girl Scout troop and we wrote thank you notes to these “everyday allies.” This is a great family activity, as we all have people in our lives who might not always be recognized and deserve a “thank you.”

2. Share your passion with someone who is struggling.

If you love baking, deliver cookies to a homeless shelter. If you’re an artist, create a piece for an elderly relative or friend. If you love to sing, volunteer to perform for patients at the hospital in your community. Sharing what you love will always touch others’ hearts in a way that even the most expensive gifts can’t.

3. Give compliments.

When was the last time you told your brother how great he is at basketball? Or complimented your dad on making the best pancakes in the world? Try giving each member of your family one or two compliments each day. You can slip a note under their door, or tell them in person. It only takes a moment of your time and a little thought, but it goes a long way.

4. Help out around the house.

To go along with those compliments, show your family how much you appreciate them by taking on one or two extra chores a week. Choose things that you can lend a hand with, even though they aren’t your assigned chores.

5. Ask “How are you?”  

One of the simplest but most powerful questions we can ask is “How are you?” So the next time you see a classmate or your teacher ask how they’re doing. If you’re already in the habit of asking this question, take it up a notch by listening more carefully and attentively to the response.

6. Read someone a book.

Reading is a simple pleasure that many of us wish we had more time for. Give the gift of a great book to someone you love by reading out loud so they can simply enjoy. Kids can read to parents in the car on the way to school. Parents can read to kids (even big kids!) while they’re relaxing before bed.

7. Find a new home for the things you don’t use.

We all have items in our closets and drawers that we no longer use. Why leave them to collect dust when they could be a treasure to someone else? My rule of thumb: if you haven’t picked it up in six months, you can give it away.

8. Get creative with low-cost, high-love gifts.  

When I was younger and didn’t have a lot of extra cash to spend on gifts, I began giving everyone in my family a pair of new socks on January 1st, to “start the year off on the right foot.”  It was an affordable way to let everyone know I was thinking of them, and I’ve continued with this tradition every year. Now I give socks to a few dozen family and friends! A small, thoughtful present can spread just as much joy and love as a more extravagant gift. A few other ideas: A new pencil to start the year off “write.” A bar of soap for a “fresh start.”

9. Give the gift of memories.

A photo album is another low-cost, high-love gift. Go through old photos (which is half the fun!) as a family, and put together a special album for a friend or relative who might need an extra dose of smiles.

10. Spread kindness on social media.

Make your social media a source of kindness. Share an inspiring quote that might brighten up another’s day. Make a beautiful graphic to share. Reach out to someone you haven’t talked to in a while with a friendly message.

As we launch into this time of togetherness with our families, these are simple actions we can all take -- within our homes, schools, neighborhoods, and larger communities -- to make the world a more compassionate place for us all.