I am fascinated by the word kind. And I mean the adjective form of the word. When I describe it, I think of goodness, considerate, helpful, gentle and generous. These are qualities I would hope we all strive to have and that we nurture in our children. It was actually my daughter, Julia, who got me thinking about being kind and ways we can all live our lives with it being central to what we do every day.
Back in January, Julia’s teacher sent a note home to parents that made me smile. Not only did this note reassure me that we made an excellent choice for our children’s school, but I was thrilled to see how excited my daughter was. This is what the teacher wrote to the parents:
“The Grade 2’s have accepted a Kindness Challenge! Our class displays acts of kindness daily. With the new year beginning, we are doing this challenge to go above and beyond and to push ourselves to do acts of kindness that we might not always do! In addition, to be mindful of acts of kindness that we do on a daily basis. Outside the classroom are little notes that say ‘caught being kind.’ If your child performs any act of kindness from holding the door for someone to sharing with a sibling, please feel free to take a note from the bulletin board, fill it out and I will hang it up! I think that this will be a wonderful learning and growing opportunity for all!”
True kindness, for me, is helping or doing something good for someone else without expecting anything in return. That somehow seems unnatural, really just against basic human nature. Does it make sense to be considerate and generous just because? It’s different than paying it forward because you do something truly kind not because someone else helped you but because it’s just the right thing to do.
Over the past few months, as my family has faced some struggles and stresses and I have had some days of feeling quite overwhelmed, extended family and friends have reached out to me and shown me kindness. They paid for a coffee. I got a phone call, just to talk. Some offered to take my kids for a few hours to give me a break (now THAT is kind, or maybe just crazy!). I just know they cared. And I appreciate it, all of it.
And it inspires me to be kind. Not to pay it forward or to thank them, but just because I think it’s the right thing to be a good, considerate, helpful, gentle and generous person. And I like the added twist that Julia’s teacher gave the students and their parents: she asked us to catch the kids being kind. She challenged the children to live their lives doing good things, and she asked their parents to catch them doing that.
We are quick to punish our children when we catch them doing bad things: lying, stealing, swearing, hitting, bullying, teasing and so much more. If a child is caught doing any of these, then there are consequences.
So, while I don’t believe we necessarily need to reward a child for being kind, we sure can catch them being kind. I want my daughter to know that it’s the right thing to pour a cup of water for her sister or give her brother the last piece of gum. I will acknowledge when she makes a card for her friend who is sick at home or to help her little cousin who can’t reach the light switch and she turns it on. No matter how big or small her act of kindness is, I will catch her and tell her she did the right thing. And she will grow up to be a kind person and spread kindness to others.
I am challenging you to be kind, and I am challenging your family and friends to catch you in the act. Be kind, and catch others doing it, not because you want thanks and a reward, but to encourage you to do it again and again.