Friday, December 21, 2012

The Twelve Days of Christmas Kindness

In the days and even the months leading up to the election it seemed the dialogue in our country took a turn for the mean.  The divide was (and still is) palpable and people were outspoken and cross. It made me weary.

I decided during the month of December to look for ways to be kind 'on purpose'.  I added a button to my blog for anyone who wanted to do the same and thus, The 12 Days of Christmas Kindness was born.  12 Acts of Kindness in the 25 days leading up to Christmas.

I said at the time that I'd post my thoughts when the challenge was nearing an end and today's the day.  I don't know if anyone has a post they'd like to share but I'll add a link to make it easy if you do.

I would like to think kindness comes naturally to us humans, but here's what I've observed in recent weeks~

People are busy, harried, distracted, tired, hurting, broke, and anxious about a multitude of things. All of that keeps us from being kind when, I think deep inside, we really do want to be. I can't tell you how many times during the month I thought of that verse in Romans where Paul says, "For I do not understand my own actions.  For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate." (Rom. 7:15)

We know when two of us are approaching the door to the post office at almost the same time we should allow that other person to enter first.  Instead we avoid eye contact and quicken our pace because, by golly, we've got stuff to do, and this guy looks like he's not prepared and will ask a million questions and, whyyyy does that clerk move so slowly when the place is jam packed???  We have a little conversation with ourselves in situations such as these, and more often than not, self rears its ugly head...we think  my list, my stuff, my life.

There's a lot I want to take away from this month, but I'll keep it brief and share just three things-

1.  Kindness, like almost everything else we feel, is a choice. We can be kind and patient with the people we encounter throughout the day, or we can let them get under our skin. One thing that really helped me was to think about the other person's story. People have stories that we just can't know in a casual encounter in the supermarket line. There are also people in this world who are nasty for no good reason, but still, I guess that's their story, and probably if we dug deep there would indeed be a reason for why they are the way they are. Regardless,  I have a choice and I decided that my small act of kindness was not going to be dependent on whether or not I thought someone deserved it.  In fact, the people who rile me up, frustrate me, and try my patience are often the very ones in desperate need of a little kindness in their world.

2.  While opportunities spontaneously present themselves in the course of a day, a little planning doesn't hurt either.  At the beginning of the month I thought about some tangible things I could do, and I had a lot of fun doing them. I enjoy baking so I went to town making peppermint popcorn for the clerks in the post office and dry cleaners, home-baked goodies for hubs office and also for the girl who cuts my hair and for hubs barber too, and caramel corn bagged up with a tip for the guys who collect our trash and the lady who delivers our mail.

Besides the edible stuff, I've dropped money in every Salvation Army tin I've come across, wrote two overdue personal notes to folks I wanted to thank for something intangible, and we outrageously over tipped our server one Saturday morning along with a parking valet at a party we attended earlier this month.  We're going in to the city while the girls are home and will take a couple of nice coats we no longer wear to give to someone sitting on the cold New York sidewalk.

I looked for opportunities to be kinder as I went about my day and they were everywhere. For starters, I greeted the people I passed. I made it a point to ask clerks and servers how their day was going, and you know what?  People want to talk and they want someone to listen.  I held doors and packages, let cars out in traffic at difficult intersections, and let the anxious looking businessman, fidgeting in line behind me at the market step in front of me.

Sometimes kindness means letting the little things go. Our supermarket has about six self check out registers all in a row, three down one side and three down the other. They don't have a clearly designated queue but people more or less form one line and go to the first available register. As I stood waiting my turn (next in line) a woman marched right up and went ahead of me. She saw me. She acted like she assumed there were two queues, one for the left side and one for the right side, but she knew better.  So did I, but I let it go.  A small thing I know, but sometimes those small things accumulate during the day and ruin not only our mood, but also our sense of good will with which our day began.

3.  Lastly, I want to be more present when I go about my daily errands and life. One thing I especially noticed is that everyone is on their phone everywhere you go. Nobody is actually completely present in the place they are standing.  The sales clerk is asking for a credit card, but the  customer isn't paying attention so the whole check-out process takes 5x longer than it should. The guy in front of me entering the shop lets the door drop in my face because he's engrossed in conversation with someone miles away. We're not noticing that person who needs a hand or a smile or a dollar because we're all doing something other than the one task we need to accomplish in the place we're in.

I don't want to be that person in 2013.

I'm sharing some of what I did, not to be congratulated, but rather as a way to remember how doing something so very small made me feel.  I want to remember a smile given returned with a smile back.  I want to remember the sight of someone's tense shoulders relaxing at the offer of a helping hand in whatever form that needs to be.  I want to remember the little stories people shared with me, sparked by home made food and treats and the simple question, 'How are you doing today?"

This world is harsh. If there's anything we've been witness to this month it's that people want to be noticed. Acknowledged. Validated. Supported. Encouraged.  In this new year I want to not be so caught up in my own story that I miss yours.

So how about we change the name?
Let's make this The Twelve Months of Christmas Kindness.

"Remember there's no such thing as a small act of kindness.  Every act creates a ripple with no logical end."  Scott Adams


  1. I wrote my post this morning and had several of the same points. It can be the little things and just plain old being kind to one another.

    Thanks for starting this up this year.

  2. Joyce, absolutely excellent and should be published in some fashion for all to read. It's just so easy to be kind if we would just think about it and I want to think that for the most part I do a pretty good job of that. Wishing you a super fantastic Christmas!

  3. Cool concept and I like your insights. Having been the "person with a story" this year who walked around in a fog for a good month it's nice to know that people out there can appreciate that sometimes people aren't rude on purpose.

  4. I think it is really important to realize that everyone has a story....I think about that often when I am in heavy traffic or in a long line at a store. I think you have a wonderful idea with 12 months of kindness.

  5. Amen--I have personally made this my resolution for 2013!

  6. I heard a great thing once. Hurting people hurt people. It explains so much, and it can help a person be more patient and loving to someone who is difficult to love. It's amazing what a smile and some kindness can do in those situations.

  7. Awesome post. Nicely said and done.Random acts of kindness and being kind to others is the best feeling in the world. Knowing that I possible made somebody's day today, what could be better? You can't do everything but you can do something to make this a better world.

  8. Love this post! There is so much to be said for for being kind and PRESENT. I am with you on the rude phone people. Aren't there some sort of unspoken rules about these things? How about some common curtesy?

    My kids have always teased me about strangers talking to me in stores, but so many people are sad or lonely or just plain ignored and I tell myself that I might have been the the only friendly face that they encountered that day.I mean how sparse are their conversations that they want to talk to ME?

    One of the things I am asked to do ALL the time is to get something off the high shelf in the grocery store, usually by an older person. Because I am tall it is no trouble for me, but I am always so surprised by their reaction of gratefulness.
    I like your thoughts of being intentional. Kindness goes a long way.

  9. Way to go Joyce. My children would come home from school and say my teacher doesn't like me. Well that was not true and I would tell them "you don't know what might be going on at home for them" and that is what you mentioned in #1. You will not see me on my phone. It is one of my pet peeves. Many months ago I was at a postal service store and the woman behind the counter was on here phone! She waved to me to hand her my package. I said "I can wait until you are off the phone", she wasn't very happy but I wanted her full attention. I was very nice about it, very calm. I love having a phone for an emergency but people live on their phones. I don't enjoy hearing there conversations when I'm shopping either. I have things to share that I have done but haven't had time to write them down. Hopefully I can link up. Merry Christmas Joyce. Enjoy your girls and hold them close. Take lots of pictures. I'm going to get in my pictures this year!

  10. I enjoyed your post so much! It seems people are the same, no matter what area of the country we live in. I can identify with the people always on their phones, and the ones who break in line, we have them in Georgia, too.

    I'm so sorry I wasn't able to link up with you on this. I had the best of intentions, but once again, health problems intervened, and I've had to take a bit of a blogging break. At the moment, I'm having withdrawal symptoms, due to being put on a candida elimination diet. The diet is extremely strict--and what an awful time of the year to be restricted from any sugar or foods containing yeast! If it doesn't kill me, perhaps it will cure me!

    I did a few random acts of kindness,myself, and witnessed some great ones by members of my family. It made this mama proud! Perhaps I will share after Christmas.

    Have a Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year! I'm so glad we met through blogging:)

  11. Joyce, it's late, but I finally managed to get my 12 days of kindness written, and linked up. Looking forward to hearing about your holidays!