It’s February; we have recovered from the holidays, have dealt with cold weather and possibly snow, and are ready for another day to lift our spirits and acknowledge our loved ones. Ah, Valentine’s Day—florists, candy makers, card shops, and jewelers, among others, look forward to this day.
As a child, after being back in school for a month and a half, we readied our decorated shoebox mailboxes to receive cards from our classmates—sometimes learning that the cute boy in class liked you. Our classroom was decorated with hearts, and our party kept with the theme of the day. My parents always had special gifts for my sister and me, and they exchanged presents with each other.
I will be the first to say it is wonderful to receive presents, but this past Christmas I was also reminded about the saying, “It is better to give than to receive.” Spending Christmas in Charlotte with our daughter’s family brought this adage to heart when we helped serve a group of homeless men at their church. In partnership with Urban Ministries, those who signed up were brought to the church. An abundance of food was provided by church members and local businesses. With everything from appetizers to desserts, they were able to eat as much of whatever they chose. Two of my grandchildren and I found seats at a table and conversed with several of these men. My heart was warmed by listening to my twelve and eight-year-old grands politely answer and ask questions, taking a genuine interest in the conversations. I could tell this simple act of kindness meant so much to these men.
Beds had been set up for the men to sleep at the church. They were given towels and toiletries. Several volunteers had washed the feet of those who desired it. I noticed that there was a Christmas stocking on each bed. As we left, even though it was not late, a man was already fast asleep, comfortable with a full stomach and a warm, safe place to sleep. The kindness of strangers.
Now, here we are in February, and the “love” holiday is approaching. It is another opportunity to show our grandchildren that random acts of kindness are things we can and should practice year-round, and not just when we are reminded by the ringing of a bell or because an advertisement tells us. I am not advocating our children talk to or interact with strangers without an adult family member present. Sadly, in this day and age, it isn’t a safe practice. But, when we are out together, simple things such as holding open a door for someone, giving a smile, letting someone in front of you in line, giving a compliment, or just saying “hello” can mean the most to the person who receives it.
Showing and teaching them kindness can apply to their friends and classmates, as well. We remember seeing the kid eating alone and wish we had taken it upon ourselves to sit with them. It is a good conversation starter to ask them if they have noticed someone who might need a friend. One of our grandsons, when going to a playground, will immediately find another child to play with, and tell you about his new “friend,” even though, in all likelihood, he will never see the child again. However, their laughter while playing, and their smiles and waves goodbye, show that it meant something to have a friend at the time.
Whether we contribute tangible gifts to an organization, donate money to a favorite charity, pay it forward in any way, the random acts of kindness should become a part of our lives—not just at Christmas or other holidays. Our grandchildren are more observant than we often give them credit for. As adults, we have seen our fair share of rudeness and inconsideration. Hopefully, it will not come from our precious grands.