Giving back during the holidays, and instilling this mindset in my child, is something I value tremendously. Though we vary in our methods and don’t have a set tradition for contributing to the greater good, my family and I always try to do something special to serve others in the name of the Christmas spirit.
But last year, as I looked at the calendar, I realized I’d failed.
It was less than a week until Christmas, and I’d been so busy preparing for and stressing over the frivolities of the holiday season that I had not yet done a single thing to give back to others in my community, let alone one that incorporated my daughter. Disappointed with myself, I decided to designate the next day as my personal Random Acts of Kindness Day.
I spent the rest of the day brainstorming and eventually came up with 10 simple, affordable, charitable ideas that my then-five-year-old daughter and I could put into action. After preparing our supplies, Harper and I woke the next morning, put on our Santa hats, and set out for a day of performing good deeds around San Antonio. It was a day I’ll never forget.
Here are the 10 Random Acts of Kindness we carried out, along with the cost of each:
1. Because Mama needed some caffeine, we kicked off our Random Acts of Kindness Day by stopping by the Starbucks drive-thru. We bought coffee for the person behind us in line and drove off before he had a chance to acknowledge us. The barista thanked us for doing something nice and said he dug our Santa hats. This cost us a little less than $4.
2. We taped packages of microwaveable popcorn on Redbox machines so people could enjoy a bowl of popcorn with their movie rentals. We already had a few packages of popcorn lying around our pantry, so this good deed was of no additional cost to us.
3. We left a tin full of Milk Bones at the dog park so that all of the pups could enjoy a yummy snack. We already had a box of Milk Bones at home, and Bustopher didn’t seem to mind that we shared some, so this cost us nothing.
4. We had to get some gas, so once we were done we left $10 in cash taped to the pump for the next person to spend on their gasoline. Cost: $10 out of our pocket and into another’s.
5. We stopped by Methodist Hospital to drop off cookies to the nurses in the NICU. Harper stayed in this same NICU for 45 days as a result of her premature birth, so this act of kindness wasn’t quite so “random,” but because we hold the NICU nurses dear to our hearts, we wanted to include them in our Kindness Day. The ladies at the front desk were touched, and Harper told them all about her NICU story and thanked them for taking care of her when she was little. We already had the cookie dough in our fridge from our last trip to HEB, so our only cost was the $1.25 we spent to park.
6. We taped quarters to the front of six vending machines at Methodist Hospital. We’d planned to spread this one out across different places, but then we thought about it and figured that those visiting the hospital were probably in need of a free drink and some kindness more than anyone else. Total cost: $1.75 in quarters x six machines = $10.50.
7. We filled a few Ziplock bags with $1.00 bills and hid them all around the Dollar Spot at Target. This cost us $4.00 for four baggies.
8. We picked up a couple of gift cards during our earlier visit to Starbucks and taped them to the windshields of random cars in the hospital parking garage and Target parking lot. Cost to us: $5.00 x two gift cards = $10.00 total.
9. We filled a Ziplock bag with $5.00 worth of quarters and taped it to the change machine at the car wash. Cost to us: $5.00 in change to help someone make their car look a lot cleaner than ours!
10. We left a king-sized package of M&Ms in our mailbox to say thank you to whoever was delivering packages that day. This cost us approximately $1.00.
A completely inadvertent bonus Random Act of Kindness happened when we found two dogs running loose in the neighborhood and escorted them home to their very thankful owners. I was too busy trying to keep the not-particularly-friendly pups from biting my feet to take a picture, but at least we helped them to make their way home safely.
It took us almost all day, but together my daughter and I completed 10 Random Acts of Kindness in hopes of making the world a little bit better than it was yesterday. The total cost to us? Only $40.75—proof that you don’t have to spend much to make a difference in the lives of others.
I loved everything about this experience. Not only did it provide a unique opportunity for my child and me to bond in the name of goodness, but it taught us both so much. We learned that giving feels good—and that we should do it more often. We learned that it doesn’t take much to give back and make people’s lives better—just kindness and a little bit of time—and that the simplest things can brighten someone else’s day. We learned that we ALL have the power to make the world a better place, even in the slightest of ways, and that no act of kindness is too small. And we learned that, above all, kindness breeds kindness.
Throughout our Random Acts of Kindness Day, I posted each of our good deeds on Facebook as we completed them, hoping to inspire others to do the same. I was completely overwhelmed by the response.
Dozens of friends followed suit by performing their own random kindnesses and then posting on my Facebook to tell us about them. It touched me to see the trickle-down effect of our Random Acts of Kindness and know that our experience had encouraged others to do good in the world, and I especially loved being able to share this with my daughter. Every time I told her that another person had written to express their thanks and share that they now felt compelled to do something similar, her eyes just sparkled. “Mama, it’s really working!” she said. “We really made the world a better place!”
The icing on the cake came a few days later, when one of the recipients of our Random Acts of Kindness took the time to visit ACMB and write to Harper and me. “Chris” was in town visiting his family for the holidays and had stopped by the car wash to clean and vacuum his mother’s car when he came across our bag of quarters. “It [had been] awhile since someone [did] something for me, so it put a huge smile on my face,” he wrote. “Not only did you both make my day by giving me a free car wash, you also helped me complete a good deed for my mother. Thank you!”[hr]
For moms, December can be a stressful time. It’s easy to get caught up in the hype and hoopla of the holidays when there are gifts to buy, trees to decorate, lights to hang, cards to send, elves to hide, and Santas to visit.
But I believe in the importance of giving back to others and teaching children the value of charity. After all, isn’t that what the holidays are all about?