The approach of Christmas two-and-a-half months after the death of my husband brought no comfort, no joy. Then, 13 days before the holiday, gifts began appearing outside our front door. Hand-written notes with words similar to the English carol The Twelve Days of Christmas came with each one, but offered no clue to the identity of the sender. They were signed simply, “Your True Friends.”
My children and I – Ben then 17, Nick 12 and Megan 10, had no idea who they were from, but they certainly caught our interest and redirected our thoughts away from our troubles.
Two bags of bows, three rolls of wrapping paper, four angel note cards, the mysterious presents came daily until Christmas Eve. With each gift, the mystery of their origin and the magic of their impact deepened. In our quest to learn the identity of the gift givers, we learned how to function as a family again. These random acts of kindness helped my family to heal and inspired us to pay it forward. Today, I set a goal of at least one act of kindness every day.
Mark Twain said, “If you want love and abundance in your life, give it away.”
Scientific studies and my own life experiences are a testimony to that.
Kindness is contagious. November 13 is World Kindness Day, and it offers all of us opportunities to catch the fever.
Smile at a stranger. Be kind to someone you don’t like. Leave inspirational messages on the playground, at the library, around the office or at home.
These simple acts will enrich the life of others and your own.
Research has shown links between gratitude and random acts of kindness such as improved health, a reduction in stress, peace of mind and happiness, according to the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation.
In a 2010 study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers from the University of California, San Diego and Harvard provided evidence that cooperative behavior is contagious. Kindness spreads from person to person to person.
In other words, when people benefit from an act of kindness they pass it on by helping others. A solitary act can start a movement.
The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation is a great place to start if you are looking for inspiration. Established in 1995 as a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, the foundation is a resource for people committed to spreading kindness. The foundation’s website offers suggestions range from no-cost opportunities, to others that require an investment of time or money.
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.
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