Random Acts of Kindness Week is February 14-20. There’s no sugar-coating how challenging this year has been, but when we tune into kindness happening all around us, the day seems a little bit sweeter, the week seems more manageable and the year begins to look more bright and hopeful. This week is all about showing appreciation for those around you, seeing others in need and taking action, and instilling kindness in today’s youth so the future can look a little brighter.

We often hear of seemingly insignificant moments where a stranger helped someone with a small gesture or act of kindness, impacting the rest of their life. A little too often, we underestimate the power of a smile, a hug, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of kindness, all of which have the potential to turn someone’s life around.

There have been numerous scientific and independent studies showing our health’s effects when we volunteer and help others. Christine Carter, Author, “Raising Happiness; In Pursuit of Joyful Kids and Happier Parents,” said, “People who volunteer tend to experience fewer aches and pains. Giving help to others protects overall health twice as much as aspirin protects against heart disease. People 55 and older who volunteer for two or more organizations have an impressive 44% lower likelihood of dying early, and that’s after sifting out every other contributing factor, including physical health, exercise, gender, habits like smoking, marital status, and many more.” With great wit, wisdom, and compassion, Carter covers the day-to-day pressure points of parenting as well as the more elusive issues of helping children build healthy friendships and develop emotional intelligence in her book.

The following are some suggestions from the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation on how you can spread some kindness in your community.

Get involved:

• Pay it Backward: buy lunch for the person behind you in line.

• Purchase an extra bag of dog or cat food and take it to your local animal shelter.

• Allow someone who has only a few items to go in front of you in the checkout line.

• Send a positive email or text message to five different people.

• Write a letter to someone who has improved your life. Tell them how they have helped you.

• Every time you observe an act of kindness, write it down and place the memory in a kindness jar.

• Take baked goods or treats to your local librarians.

• Collect items to create a blessing bag for a temporarily displaced resident. Once complete, put in your vehicle or your backpack to hand out to the next person you see in need.

• Leave a gas gift card at your local gas pump.

• Encounter someone in customer service who is incredibly kind? Please take a few extra minutes to tell their manager.

• Reach out to local educators and tell them how much you appreciate them.

• Collect food for a food pantry nearby.

• Compliment a parent on how well-behaved their child is while out.

• When you hear a discouraging voice in your head, tell yourself something positive, you deserve kindness too!

Get caught being kind:

Keep in mind; everyone comes from different backgrounds. We’ve experienced extremely different things in our lives and look at life through various lenses. We don’t have to agree on everything, but it costs us nothing to be kind. If we focus our efforts on kindness strategies and creating environments for growth, we can make our community a better place to live. Sometimes the smallest acts of kindness have the most significant impact.

We’d love to know what you’re doing for Random Acts of Kindness Week and any other plans you have to spread kindness this month. Do you have someone who inspired you to be a better person in your life? Did you witness an act of kindness that left an impression? Share your kindness story with The Times-Journal in a letter to the editor.

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