Back-to-School Acts Of Kindness Day!
Posted by Trishna Shah on Sep 13, 2017
Summer Wish List: Acts of Kindness Day Tops the Charts!
At the start of the summer break, I had made a wish list with my daughters, who are 6 and 4, of all the different types of things they would like to spend time doing during their holidays. Of course the list was longer than what we were ever going to have time for, but it was so nice to give them a chance to express their wishes, as the school year can often lack space for creativity and openness.
One of the items on the top of Sareena's wish list was to have an acts of kindness day! A couple of years ago, she had joined a bunch of us for a kindness flash mob on Jubilee Bridge when Nimo was in London and she had the most amazing time giving out free hugs, chocolates, hi-5's and smiles -- ever since, she's asked me several times when we can do it again because it was so fun! The week before school was starting, I flicked back through that wish list to see what final wishes we might have time to fulfill and thought that perhaps the day before school started could be the perfect time to have an acts of kindness day! I checked with the girls and they were both excited and buzzing with ideas! We looked through the kindness ideas at the back of one of their books, Kindess is Cooler, Mrs. Ruler, and Sareena made a list of 6 acts of kindness she wanted to do, one for each year of her life, and Ariyana chose 4 for the same reason :) In preparation for our kindness day, we printed inspiring messages onto coloured hearts and the girls cut the hearts out perfectly unevenly and ready to gift to unsuspecting friends in the neigbhourhood. :)
Grocery Store Kindness
Our first stop was a small local grocery store called Waitrose, where the girls wanted to buy flowering plants to gift to their teachers and classmates on the first day of school. Upon entering the store, Sareena shyly gifted one of the employees with a heart message, chocolate and a smile card and the woman had the biggest smile on her face. She stopped what she was doing to read what it all was about and told them how much she loved it! She told Sareena to come with her as they walked over a noticeboard -- she pinned the heart message onto the board and told Sareena this wat all of the other employees in the store could also be inspired by her act of kindness! Ariyana had fun gifting a heart message and chocolate to the security guard at the front of the store, who was surprised and joyful all at once when he figure out what she was doing. Interestingly, even though she is the younger one, she was not so shy about going up to strangers and tells them she'd like to do an act of kindness for them the day before her school was starting :) When we were buying the plants for their classrooms, the girls also bought an extra one to gift to someone on our kindness adventures that day! The girls tagged a couple of more employees around the store, including one lady who was pregnant, and it was sweet to see the smiles of the recipients immediately reflected on the faces of my daughters -- it was instant!
Spreading Smiles at the Playground
Next, we headed off to the playground, by Riyu's choice, as she wanted to gift chocolates and heart messages to other children to wish them well for their first week of school. Earlier, when we were at home cutting the hearts out, Ariyana asked me a few times if she would also get to have one of the chocolates, but I had told her not this time as we want to focus entirely on others today and not ourselves at all. I wasn't sure if that message would stick, but it was so neat for me to see how later, when she was running around gifting one chocolate after another to employees at the store and children in the playground, she was so joyful and happy to see all of their smiles that she forgot all about herself in the spirit of service and kindness. Neither of them asked even once if they could have a chocolate as well once they got going on their kindness adventure, which was so beautiful for me to see as a mom, and not necessarily expected at their age :) As Gandhi says, "The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others."
During our lunch break together at a local restaurant, Sareena was still on a roll and started leaving the heart messages on empty tables along with smile cards with the cutlery at each place setting. I could see the restaurant manager watching her and looking a little unsure of what she was up to. Later, as he seated a small group at one of the tables she had tagged, he removed Sareena's kindness gifts and returned them to her as he seated them. She was really upset as she couldn't understand why he wouldn't leave them there as a little surprise to make the guests smile as they sat down at the table. Towards the end of lunch, I gave her an idea to go and tag the manager himself with a heart message, chocolate and smile card and to share her gratitude for a meal we all enjoyed. It was so sweet to see him so surprised, "Is this for me?" When she explained more about what it was, he had a huge smile on his face and kept thanking her -- she politely asked him if he could please leave all the heart messages and smile cards on the tables for the guests to receive and, now that he got it, he happily agreed :)
Unexpected Encounters at Cafe Nero
Sareena was keen to do some coffee shop acts of kindness so next up we went to Cafe Nero across the road from lunch. The girls were armed with their heart messages and immediately on the look out for who to gift them to. Ariyana shared one with an elderly lady and she explained all by herself that she and her sister wanted to do acts of kindness the day before school started to spread some smiles. This lady happened to be a teacher herself and was delighted to hear of this -- she asked them both loads of questions about their new school year and wished them well, as they did to her as well for the start of her school year the following week in another country. Sareena also loved paying forward a coffee to a stranger -- it took her a couple of go's to explain the concept to the barista, but once she got it, the barista also had a huge smile on her face and spontaneously gifted the girls two chocolates. I guess sometimes the universe has its own way of giving you what you're giving away with love -- chocolate! :)
Sareena saw a lady working quietly on her laptop and decided she wanted to gift a butterfly to her, but asked me if it would be okay or if she would be disturbing her. I told her I'm sure she'd be happy to receive her act of kindness, so off she went ready to share the story of what they were up to, now that she had overcome her earlier shyness. Kim was absolutely thrilled to hear about what the girls were doing the day before school started and was so happy to receive their offering. While she was telling me how this just made her day, Sareena leaned over and whispered into my ear, "Mommy, can we also buy her a coffee please?" So I shared with Kim what Sareena said, and she said, "No no, please, can I buy YOU both something, how about a treat from the cafe, a hot chocolate?" It was so sweet to see how everyone was seeking an opportunity to give in that moment.
Kim mentioned that she was normally at the cafe with her 92-year-old mother who she looks after, but that today her mother was at a local day centre so that she could focus on getting some work done. As soon as we heard that, we knew we had to tag her with the flowering plant we were carrying around, waiting for the perfect person to share it with, so when she mentioned what beautiful flowers we were holding, we tagged her with them! She was blown away when we asked her to share the plant with her mother later that day. She kept asking the girls what she could do for them, so I told her why don't we take a picture of the girls giving you the plant to share with our friend Amit, who has recently had some health challenges as we wanted to dedicate our acts of kindness to him on this day, as he is always sharing his love with others in this way. She felt shy about being in a photo so I told her we'd try to not include her face :)
What she did next blew us away! She asked if I had Amit's address or something so that she could send him a card wishing him a speedy recovery. I shared his email address with her and she also wanted to know all of our names. Much to our amazement, within two hours of meeting her, she had sent Amit an email, copying me, telling him all the details of the acts of kindness, sharing some of her own story and sending him words of encouragement and well wishes -- wow! The girls were so inspired to have a front-row seat to watch the journey of this ripple unfold in front of their eyes. :)
Connecting with Homeless People and Serving Them Love
As we made our way back to the nearby grocery store where we had parked our car, Sareena spotted two homeless people on the street and gifted them heart messages and chocolates. For the past couple of years, since learning more about homelessness and even having a pay it forward birthday party where she had a chance to pay forward blessing bags her friends had gifted to her, she's had a real soft spot in her heart for serving homeless people in some small way whenever she sees them on the streets. On this occasion, giving them heart messages just wasn't enough, she wanted to do something more. Her favourite kind act to share with homeless people is to offer them a meal, so that was the first thing that came to her mind as we entered the store. "Mommy, can we buy them some fresh food from this little cafe in the grocery store?" Coincidentally, at the same time, I was also looking around for somewhere to get them a hot drink so we teamed up and the girls picked out what they wanted to get them to eat. Sareena thought it was a good idea to buy them three things each to cover their three meals that day: a flapjack that they could have for breakfast, a wrap they could eat for lunch and a steaming hot cup of soup that she wanted them to enjoy for dinner when it was starting to get dark and cold outside.
The girls were over the moon about buying them food and ran out of the store, their hearts bursting with so much love, so excited to share these small gifts with their new friends. Ariyana gifted the lady selling Big Issue the meal in her hands first and she was so happy -- the sweet little lady leaned over, held Ariyana's hand in her own and kissed it and then she gave her a big hug as she thanked her for her kindness. Sareena ran down to gift the man sitting on the pavement the meal in her hands and he, too, was surprised and joyful, as he had just seen the two of them a few minutes back and couldn't believe they had come back with something more for him! While we were chatting with him, I was so surprised when Sareena whispered to me, "Mommy, I want to also give him that chocolate that the lady at the coffee shop gave to me." It was such a beautiful moment to watch her so effortlessly gift something of hers that I'm sure she would have really enjoyed, with such ease, almost without even thinking about it -- it felt like that final act of kindness truly came straight from her heart.
Kindness Makes You Feel "Even Better Than Good"
As we walked back into the store to pick up a couple of things and to make our way to the car park, Sareena's eyes were twinkling and she couldn't stop smiling. She looked over at me and joyfully exclaimed, "Mommy, that was soooooooo fun, can we do it again another time!" Then she went on, "When we walked back into the store, you were focused on buying what we needed and then heading home, but instead we had promised to spend the day thinking of others first. I'm glad we bought food for the homeless people outside because they needed that food much more than we need what you're going to get for us." As a mom, I was really touched to see what a genuine sense of joy both girls' hearts were filled with after doing acts of kindness all day and how they lived into the values they were learning, with such ease and grace. It's so beautiful to be reminded in this way that generosity and selfless service are values that can become a part of who we are through simple, small acts of love.
Later, during evening circle time, we were talking about what we're grateful for and both of the girls shared how much they enjoyed doing acts of kindness all day -- Ariyana loved giving other kids the heart messages and chocolates and Sareena loved buying meals for the homeless people on the streets -- and making people smile with these little acts of love. I chimed in and said how giving to others makes us feel so happy and so good inside our own hearts and fills our own hearts with so much love. Sareena interrupted me and I wasn't quite sure what she was about to say, but when I heard it, my heart nearly melted -- "Mommy, doing acts of kindness makes me feel even better than good!" :)
As always, so deeply grateful to this ecosystem for nourishing our family's journey in so many invisible ways, by steadfastly holding these values and reminding each of us of the power of small acts of love in seeding a kinder, more generous, more compassionate world.