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Making a Difference—One Ark at a Time
By Susan Hines-Brigger

Q U I C K S C A N

Nothing New
Get Started
For Teens: Form Your Own Kindness Crew
For Kids: Day by Day


Recently, on a rare Saturday when my family did not have any soccer games, birthday parties or other family commitments, we actually sat down and watched a movie together. We had rented Evan Almighty two times previously, but never quite got around to watching it. But this time we were determined to spend a lazy Saturday afternoon snuggled up in the family room together.

In the movie, Evan Baxter, played by Steve Carell, is elected to Congress on the campaign slogan “Change the world.” Suddenly God, played by Morgan Freeman, shows up and asks Evan to build an ark. The rest of the movie details Evan’s struggles to complete God’s request while convincing those around him that he’s not crazy.

Finally, at the end of the movie, God asks Evan, “How do we change the world?” Evan replies, “One single act of random kindness at a time,” as he scratches “ARK” into the dirt.

The movie really hit home for me. But it was not because the concept was anything new or startling. It hit me mostly because it came at a time when I was struggling as a mom to instill in my kids the notion that the world is bigger than they are. And that contrary to their beliefs, they have it pretty good.

So I took the movie’s message to heart. I decided that I was going to teach my kids—by word and example—that the world can be changed “one single act of random kindness at a time.”

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Nothing New

The concept of committing random acts of kindness is certainly not a new one. We’ve seen it on the big screen (Pay It Forward, based on Catherine Ryan Hyde’s book, starring Kevin Spacey, Haley Joel Osment and Helen Hunt), on television (last October, Oprah Winfrey gave audience members $1,000 and told them to use it to do something for others) and even in commercials (Liberty Mutual shows the chain of good deeds that can happen when started by just one person). There are even organizations—such as the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation—devoted to encouraging people to practice random acts of kindness.

And our faith certainly encourages us to reach out to others in a loving way. But unfortunately for any number of reasons, for example, being too busy, too cynical, too exhausted or too overwhelmed, we often fail to commit these acts.

I personally found that, once I started doing these small acts, it became a bit addictive. The first time I saw the reaction to my little kindness, I wanted to do more. And honestly, I gained as much from doing it as the person on the receiving end. Now I find myself trying to find new and creative ways to be kind.

Get Started

February 11-17 is designated as Random Acts of Kindness Week in the United States. Here are some suggestions for ways you and your family can make a difference:

Start small. Don’t overwhelm yourself by thinking that your first acts have to be big ones. I love fountain Pepsi. So anytime someone brings me a drink for no reason, it makes my day. Sometimes it’s the simple things—a hug, a note, a compliment, a flower—that can mean the most. Then you can build from there.

Find inspiration. Here are some Web sites that offer stories and ideas about ways to practice random acts of kindness:

www.doonenicething.com
www.actsofkindness.org
www.payitforwardfoundation.org

Use your strengths. You know what you’re good at and what your strengths are. Use them to make a difference. If you are a good writer, send someone an encouraging note. If you like to cook, make a nice home-cooked meal for a busy family.

Just do it. Don’t wait for the right time or idea—just get started. Every little bit helps.

Keep it going. While this month offers a special focus on performing acts of kindness, make this a yearlong endeavor for you and your family.

Let’s start changing the world with kindness!

 

For Teens: Form Your Own Kindness Crew

In 2002, four young men from Victoria, Canada, hopped in a bus and traveled for three months on what they called The Extreme Kindness Tour. The group—known as the Kindness Crew—practiced random acts of kindness from giving flowers to helping renovate a daycare center. They have documented their work in the books Cool to Be Kind: Random Acts and How to Commit Them and Call to Arms: Embrace a Kindness Revolution, as well as on the Web site www.extremekindness.com.

Maybe you and your friends could follow their lead and start your own kindness crew. Gather your friends, classmates or youth group and brainstorm a list of different ways to practice random acts of kindness. Map out a game plan for when and how you are going to put your plan into action and then start. It probably would be a good idea to ask an adult to help with the planning and execution.

Then go out and see what a difference can be made—one random act of kindness at a time.

For Kids: Day by Day

Thinking up acts of kindness isn’t easy and might make you feel a bit overwhelmed. In order to give yourself a jump start, get a calendar and write a different act of kindness on each day. Or cut strips of paper and write one act on each strip. Make some of the strips easy to accomplish and others a little more difficult. You might want to get your family to help you come up with different ideas.

Put all the strips in a jar and pick one out every day. Either you can do this on your own, or you can make it a family project, with each person completing that day’s act of kindness in his or her own way. Then, depending on how many people are in your family, that one act on the calendar or paper could be multiplied.

 

Do you have ideas or suggestions for topics you'd like to see addressed in this column? If so, send them to me at “Faith-filled Family,” 28 W. Liberty Street, Cincinnati, OH 45202-6498, or e-mail them to Family@franciscanmedia.org.


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