For Lent this year I decided to do 40 days of kindness instead of giving up something I love. I planned to do one small (or large) act of kindness every day until Easter. I thought I’d send out letters, help anyone who needed an extra hand, volunteer and whatever else I could think of during the 40 days. My plan did not go at all how I expected. I missed days and opportunities, but ultimately learned a very valuable lesson.
Like all grand and exciting new plans, I started off with a bang. I was constantly looking for a chance to do something nice for someone and very excited when an opportunity came my way. After a couple of weeks, the excitement wore off, and I began slacking on my daily acts. It also began feeling stressful. Sometimes I forgot and other times I just found it difficult.
I quickly ran out of ideas and could only think of acts that costs money. After a few days of struggling I decided to lower my expectations for kind acts and to ask for help. I began looking for anything that might be considered kind. I held the door open for people, let cars get in front of me while driving, made breakfast for Husband, picked up other people’s trash and messes, called friends I haven’t spoke to in a while, stopped participating in small arguments, visited the neighbors, helped family with their projects and so on and so on. At first, many of these attempts seemed too small to make a difference, but after a week I noticed a change in myself.
First, I was happier. Being extra polite and helpful to those around me put me in a much better mood. It’s amazing how helping someone can help you so much in return. Then, I realized it made the people around me happier. While grocery shopping one busy afternoon, everyone (myself included) seemed agitated and in a hurry. In line, I let the woman with hardly any groceries get in front of me and my very full cart. I was happy to do it, she was thrilled to get out faster and even the cashier seemed to be in a better mood. Also, I think being kind is contagious. Soon, I realized that everyone around me was acting kinder towards one another. It may be that I just noticed the acts of kindness more, but either way, it made me a heck of a lot happier to see so much kindness being spread.
What’s really paid off is that this whole “being kind” thing has become a habit. I’m not delusional enough to believe I’m always kind, but I am certainly more aware of how I am behaving towards others and still noticing little opportunities to help someone. Once again, participating in Lent has proven to be meaningful and make a positive difference in my life.
I’m already brainstorming a new idea for next Lent, although my excitement for being kind may wear off by then and then I can just start the whole 40 days over again!
As Ellen always says, “Be kind to one another!”