October was a month of kindness for me. I was inspired by Teresa at Mom Grooves to participate in performing random acts of kindness wherever and whenever the urge struck. I had a similar experience last March when CodeName: Mama inspired many bloggers to participate in a month of kindness. It was actually through this month that I “met” Teresa. Part of my month of kindness was to comment on everyone’s blog posts during the month and I got to know Teresa’s tremendous heart and generous nature. She had a giveaway through her Rock Paper Tree store to the kindness participants and I won a beautiful gift set that I still enjoy daily. Teresa’s generosity inspired me to pay it forward and start two giveaways to the other participants that would also benefit my friends who have Etsy shops.
I learned about myself over that month. So, when Teresa announced a month of kindness for October, I jumped on board. I participated every day by looking for ways I could create little pockets of kindness. It was an enjoyable experience to stay fully present in the moment in order to look for opportunities.
There are too many experiences to relate for the entire month. So, here are some of my favorite experiences:
One thing I noticed over the month was that I still find it easiest to give kindnesses to strangers. The closer a person is to me, the more challenged I am to perform random acts of kindness for them. I find it especially hard to do something kind for myself without equivocating.
Part of the reason I was attracted to doing this again (and I hope CodeName: Mama will repeat hers in March, as well) was to see if I had gotten any better at finding random acts of kindness. I did find it easier to slip into the mindset because since my experience last March, I try to seize opportunities more often. But, I found it more difficult to do kind things for myself (I think this is due to some conflicted feelings I’m experiencing) and for my husband. I realized I was sitting in a tit for tat mindset with him. So, when he wasn’t noticing or reciprocating, I was mentally keeping track of that. This was not a nice headspace to be in. I did my best to break that pattern. It felt better to give to him without being attached to him noticing.
For example, I made a point of verbally thanking him when he did things that are in our normal routine: cooking, picking up, doing something with the kids-the usual co-parenting stuff. I tried to acknowledge that I value his contributions, that I notice them, and do not take him for granted. Before this month, I would do that and then note that he wasn’t reciprocating. I was less likely to compliment him a second time. Judging him by my standards just wasn’t appropriate. It’s not in his manner to communicate these things to me. But, it is in mine and I know it helps him feel appreciated. I made a point to touch him, make eye contact, see that he really heard me and that I didn’t expect anything in return. That was freeing to give without expectation of return.
I know he doesn’t have a clue, but I bit my tongue often over the month over little things. I just didn’t speak them. I did notice that keeping quiet made a small difference in how gently we spoke to one another. I try my best to use Non-Violent Communication when I voice a request, but I know from previous discussions, he hears criticism even when I speak only of my own needs. This random act of kindness over the month most likely would be a surprise to him, but I know about it and that makes a difference.
For my kids, I took extra care to find opportunities to speak kindness, hold my tongue, somehow find more patience, let things go and, most importantly, play more often. I said “Yes!”more often during the month. That’s usually my default answer, but I really worked at it. We had a few off the wall adventures like the day we blew off science class to hunt for pygmy goats, but we made enjoyable times out of them.
One of the things I did for someone outside of my family this month that I felt good about was to send a gift card for food to a special mama I know online who needed a helping hand. She’s breastfeeding and struggling hard to make ends meet. I remember being in a place where I didn’t have the money to eat. I remember how scary it was and I didn’t even have kids then.
Another of my favorite things this month was to help a mom out whose stroller wheel broke. I was watching her through the window at the library while I was writing. Her three little kids were running around while she pushed a stroller. The front axle snapped as she tried to push the stroller over a gap in the pavement. I watched her try to fix the wheel, but the axle was too bent. There she was with 3 little kids and a stroller without a wheel. I could see she was about to lose it. So, I quickly packed up my laptop and went outside. I told her I saw she was having trouble and offered to entertain her kids right there as she tried to fix the wheel or to help her fix the wheel. We traded off, but it was obvious she needed pliers to bend a metal piece. So, I went inside and ask for a maintenance person’s help. They couldn’t reach him. So, I walked to the police station next door. One of the officers was happy to grab some tools and help. He wasn’t able to fix it, but he was able to give her, her kids and the stroller a ride home to their house a few miles away.
Both of these acts stand out to me because I have been in situations where I needed help. I knew the immediacy of panic when there wasn’t going to be a way to repair the situation without help. Add into that the responsibility of caring for kids-which creates no wiggle room-and it can defeat the best of us. The times that I did receive help from a stranger lifted a huge weight from me and made things bearable. It felt good knowing these moms gained a little breathing space.
I got so much juicy goodness from this month that I’ve continued going with random acts of kindness: things like giving parking spots, leaving nice notes, taking time for kind words, buying someone a cup of coffee, and supporting bloggers as much as I’m able, etc. Part of the reason I waited a few extra days to write my summary was because I wanted to see if it would stick around. It has. I’m making permanent changes to my priorities and looking for ways to find an act of kindness.