Thank you, Judy Lee Dunn, for your marvelous recommendations in 52 Baby Steps to Living a More Compassionate Life. Don’t miss these suggestions for random acts of kindness that are easy, original, and endearing.
I happened upon this list and immediately bookmarked it. While it was written in conjunction with starting out the new year, its contents serve to remind us of small gestures that make a big difference — any time of the year.
There’s something in Judy’s list for everyone.
For those who have little time but a big heart. For those who have a big heart and a big wallet. For those with few extra pennies, but time and skills they can contribute in service to others.
Also pointed out: the importance of paying special attention to the elderly, the infirm, the lonely, the troubled — lives too frequently untouched by kindness.
Haven’t we all been there at one time or another? And if not, won’t we be, at some stage in life? Aren’t acts of compassion gifts to ourselves as much as to others?
Who doesn’t love a surprise gift from a stranger? For that matter, who doesn’t love the same from a friend?
Among the more whimsical items Judy mentions:
… At the post office counter, leave a bag of goodies with a note attached on the counter for the next customer to “find.”
Or, try this:
Choose a person or family in a restaurant where you are eating and anonymously pay their bill. Maybe it’s an older person dining alone, or two parents with a couple of small kids. I guarantee it will make their day.
And if you can’t afford to pick up the tab for an extra dinner out or even an anonymous “care package,” what about picking up the tab for the iced coffees at the next table?
Tight budget, but you have time you could volunteer? Complaining about the way your city or state is run? Want to feel more connected to your community?
… Become a mentor to a child. Find a program like Big Brothers/Sisters or Communities in Schools and sign up to mentor a child for one hour a week. So many kids need more good adult role models.
… Vote… If more of us did, we would get the government we want.
… Participate in a neighborhood cleanup… It’s especially good to get the kids involved so they learn how important caring for the environment is.
Some of Judy’s other mentions are old school and incredibly simple. Bake or cook for someone as a surprise, particularly if they’re working a crazy schedule or they’re caring for a sick child or spouse. For that matter, introduce yourself to the new family in your building by showing up with a casserole or your favorite homemade cake.
Rescue a pet! And if you have too many dogs and cats around the house already, encourage a friend to provide one a good home.
How about this act of generosity, which is an idea that those of us who love our online communities should appreciate.
Pick three people you follow on Twitter and tweet why. Be specific. Name what they do that is positive, generous and helpful.
Letters to Loved Ones
Here’s another one of Judy’s suggestions that I love. It’s about writing to our parents — no, not emailing, not texting. Writing.
Send a hand- or typewritten letter to your parent. When my siblings and I were cleaning out our parents’ house after my dad died, I found every letter I had ever written him, going back 25 years, which told me how much he valued them.
I had a similar experience when cleaning out my mother’s house after she passed away. She had postcards going back to my first summer abroad when I was 15 years old, and she had letters from the years I was married, most including photographs of my boys when they were babies.
The letters were neatly stored as if they were precious objects. I was deeply touched by how much they must have meant to her.
Kids and Elders
A few mentions from my compassion files?
- Contact a local school and offer to run an art project. (SO much fun. Make it abstract art, and then you won’t worry if your usual is stick figures.)
- Find a preschool that may be short staffed. Offer to read to the kids.
- Visit a retirement community or nursing home. Spend 30 minutes or an hour chatting with some of the residents. To break the ice, bring a few magazines with plenty of glossy pictures. Great conversation starters!
- If you visit a memory unit, the simple act of engaging can become a great kindness. You would be surprised how many of our elders who struggle with short term memory can enthusiastically discuss events from 30 or 40 years ago.
And shall I add, as mentioned on the topic of negative self-talk, to show some kindness and compassion to yourself?
From Empathy to Action
A positive word. An hour of your time. A surprise for a friend who’s going through a hard time. These are ways that most of us can take our good intentions, our natural empathy, and make a difference — by taking action.
Judy’s list, your list, other lists of this type — they remind us just how easy this can be.
“Giving is the best cure for not having.” Those are the words that a very special man said to me once, and the lesson is one that I’ve never forgotten.
Your suggestions for the Compassion List?
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