Guest post by Dena Sokolow, a Florida mother, attorney and Cwazy Town blogger.
Jenna putting quarters on a candy machine as a part of the Random Act of Kindness
There is nothing like experiencing the holidays through a child’s eyes, with all of its magic, joy and tradition. This is the first year my 3-year-old daughter, Jenna, seems to genuinely understand Christmas/Hanukkah (we celebrate both in our house) and it makes this holiday season that much brighter. In this time of overindulgence, it is important for me that Jenna learns to appreciate what she has and understand that not all children are so lucky. This is a big concept for a 3-year-old. I decided it would be easier for her to grasp if she was actually participating and doing charitable deeds. So I started the Random Act of Kindness Project for our family. Every day in December we do at least one nice thing for someone else without wanting or expecting anything in return.
We started small. First, we took carts from people in the parking lot at Walmart and pushed them back to the store for them. We also picked up toys on the toy aisle that were on the floor and put them back (Jenna did amazing at this). Jenna also wanted to contribute to the Salvation Army bucket. We both walked away that day in such a good mood and for the first time EVER Jenna did not ask me for one of those tiny princess dolls they so brilliantly place at the checkout aisle.
Jenna putting a note and present in the mailbox for the mail carrier
We kept going. Together we made a “kindness list” of things we could do. Once I gave her suggestions Jenna came up with a lot of ideas on her own: draw pictures for her favorite teachers, hand out candy to kids in the park, bring cookies to the firefighters she met on her recent field trip, give blankets to people who are cold.
The next day Jenna asked me for a quarter for a piece of candy from a gumball machine. I asked her if she would rather leave surprise quarters for other kids to find. She loved the idea and taped quarters to the gumball machines herself with a note saying how we were celebrating the holidays by performing random acts of kindness (RAK). She giggled the whole way home about how some little boy and girl was going to be “soooo happy” when they found those quarters. She never did get a piece for herself. I could see she was enjoying the thought of surprising another child.
Jenna brought cookies to the firefighters and left treats and thank you notes (drawn and decorated by Jenna) for our mailman and the garbage collectors. She handed out candy canes to kids in the park (after first asking permission from their parents) and gift certificates at the grocery store. She delivered holiday goodies and a picture she drew for the servers at her favorite restaurant. Every RAK is greeted with surprise, enthusiasm and gratitude.
Now Jenna wakes up every morning and asks, “what are we going to do nice today?” Our “kindness list” of ideas grows every day. This project has turned into so much more than I anticipated. It has become a wonderful way to spend quality time with my daughter while teaching her an important lesson of charity and generosity of spirit. The feedback we have received has been overwhelming. People are so touched and grateful. I love hearing how people are adopting this tradition for their own family or “paying it forward” after receiving a RAK. It is what the holidays are all about.
For more information or ideas about RAK please visit my blog, Cwazy Town. There is also a download on the blog for our RAK card that we leave behind.