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January 25, 2016

Kindness Matters

January 25, 2016

Today's prompt: Good deeds. Explore a good deed – yours, or one from someone else. How is the world better for it?

I count myself extremely blessed to have grown up in a home where my parents modeled generosity and regularly invested time in serving and giving back to others. They volunteered at my school events and at our church; my mom logged time as a stage mom for dance recitals and my dad regularly served as a time keeper during swim meets. They prepared meals for families in crisis, shoveled snow for neighbors and donated clothes and household items to help a single mom get back on her feet. It wasn’t just something they did during the holidays- they lived generously all year round. I’m truly grateful for the example they set for me and my sisters.

Now that I have two daughters of my own, my husband, Darren, and I take great responsibility in helping them learn to live generously. At dinner time each night, we take turns answering the following questions: what was the best part of your day and the worst part of your day, what are you thankful for, and how did you help someone? I love hearing the girls get excited talking about how they helped their teacher or helped a friend. We talk often about how helping someone even in what seems like a small way can make a big difference in a person’s day. These regular conversations as a family have helped all of us keep our eyes open to ways that we can engage with others in meaningful ways and spread kindness.

One particular opportunity to spread kindness came in an unexpected way this past year. We had just lost our family pet to cancer a couple weeks earlier and were trying to decide if we were ready to welcome another dog to the family. Darren had been watching Craig’s List and found a puppy that had potential to be a good fit for us. We contacted the owner to learn more about the dog and in the process found out that they were a military family. Both the husband and wife were in the Army and the husband was currently completing training out of state. The woman was a young mom with two small kids under the age of 3, trying to take college classes while working full time. They had recently been transferred to Indianapolis and didn’t have any family in town. Their puppy was a cute yellow lab/basset hound mix that was really great with the kids, but just not getting much attention while this young woman juggled all the other responsibilities she had while her husband was away for another 6 months. My husband is former military, and we discovered that he had gone through basic training at the same location this couple had and even had the same MOS (military occupational specialty) as the husband.

While we really enjoyed meeting this family and their dog, we ended up not taking the dog home with us. As we pulled away, I couldn’t help but think about all that this young mom had on her plate. We’ve had a few different friends deployed at various times over the past several years and know that military families make a lot of sacrifices. Even though I had just met this woman, my heart was really heavy thinking about how she was working so hard to manage school, work and parenting by herself in a new city with no real support system of friends and family nearby. Darren and I talked about how we might be able to encourage her in some small way, to show her that we appreciate the sacrifices she and her husband are making as they serve our country. Knowing that military pay isn’t fantastic, we decided we would find out where she does her grocery shopping and send her a gift card to cover a couple weeks worth of groceries. We bought a Kroger gift card that weekend and sent it to her, along with a card that thanked her and her husband and told them we hoped this would be a small token of appreciation for all the sacrifices they’ve made. 

A week later, we received a note in the mail from this woman. She said that they had been in a really tight spot financially and that part of why they had put the dog up for adoption was to get some extra funds to help cover some of their expenses. The gift card was exactly what they needed to help them make ends meet. It was a really humbling card to receive. We definitely didn't do this for any kind of recognition, and honestly didn't do that much, but our small act of kindness ended up meeting a practical need for this family at just the right time. It was a really powerful reminder to not ignore that nudge to do something when you see a need, to not pass up an opportunity to show kindness. You never know how one small act of kindness can make a difference. 

"In this life we cannot always do great things. But we can do small things with great love." Mother Teresa

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