Results of Being Kind

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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.

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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.

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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!”

Cheers!

40 Days of Kindness

Today is Ash Wednesday and the first day of Lent. Like I said yesterday, I’m not Catholic, but just as I celebrate Mardi Gras, I also give up something for Lent. I started doing so in high school because all of my Catholic friends did and it seemed like the cool thing to do. Plus, it was an easy way to give up french fries or soda which seemed really important in high school. However, this tradition has stuck with me, and every year it makes a little more sense. 

Many religious people give up something for Lent as a form of penitence, or a way to bring themselves closer to God. Some give up their favorite foods, others give up bad habits, like smoking or drinking and some give up their time to volunteer and help those in need. I know friends who give up Facebook, coffee, shopping, etc. Some of these may seem silly, but it can often be very meaningful, even life changing.

Giving up something you love or just enjoy a little too often can lead to an appreciation of the things you have and are able to use daily. Giving up bad habits is good for obvious reasons, and its easy to give them up permanently after stopping for 40 days. The little changes you make during this time of Lent may make a big difference.

So, after giving it much thought I decided not to give up anything, but instead to do something. Over the last few days I thought about volunteering for 40 days, sending 40 hand-written letters to loved ones, exercising for 40 days straight, but ultimately I decided on 40 days of kindness. I’m not the only one getting creative either. Momastery is doing 40 days of gratitude, and I’ve seen lots of other Facebook friends and bloggers share their ideas for “doing something” for Lent as opposed to “giving up” something. 

My goal is to do one small (or large) act of kindness each day until Easter. A few of my ideas are to send hand-written letters out, visit someone who is lonely, buy a stranger’s drink at Starbucks, volunteer, lend a helping hand whenever possible and much more. I’ve got some brainstorming to do! I’m open to suggestions too, so please let me know your ideas for small acts of kindness.

Anyone else doing something a little different for Lent? Or, giving up something they love? I’d love to hear about it!

Cheers!