I’ll soon be headed back to the northeast to spend time with family and friends over the holidays. This year, more than ever, I am so aware of how blessed I am to have a home and loved ones to go to. Too many folks back in my home state of New York—as well as New Jersey, Connecticut, and other states—are still digging out from under the recent rampage and wreckage of hurricane Sandy.
My wife Jan traveled ahead of me to make preparations, and tells me just how tough the recovery is for folks who are still without power, heat, clothing, food, or safe dwellings to call home. She also touched my heart with stories of more fortunate people who are banding together to do all they can to get those who lost their homes back in a place to call “home” this holiday season.
I even heard of one Gulf War veteran who went to the local electric company with cash and paid the electric bills of those trying to buy time when they had no money. Plus, another generous fellow gave away gas at his station instead of jacking up prices. All of these heartfelt acts of generosity made me take stock of what I’ve done lately.
While all of these are huge efforts, they remind us that it’s the human gestures of kindness—both large and small—that mean so much more than expensive gifts or fancy parties. I found myself reflecting about how each of us can make a small difference in the life of a family member, or even someone we aren’t acquainted with, if only we just slow down and think to do it. We all mean to, but we get preoccupied.
Donating to food drives, toy collections, and other charities is a good start—but it’s also nice to do things that are more personal. The examples set by several of my friends come to mind—folks who think to do the simple heartfelt gestures over the holidays, and throughout the year.
- Dust off and wrap a game you may have at home that has been sitting on the shelf. “Present” it to a family member or friend to initiate simple time together engaged in a happy activity. Even a deck of cards works!
- Wrap up a favorite magazine or book from your personal library to read. This is especially fun for children who enjoy having us sit with them for cuddling and story time, but can be easily adapted to offer simple compassion to an elderly person or someone with limited vision.
- Pay it forward. Whether you’re going through a toll booth, or grabbing a quick cup of “Joe” (coffee), pay for the person behind you. You’ll be amazed at how such a simple straight-from-the-heart gesture can make someone else’s day, as well as how many folks may take your lead.
How about you? Have you ever offered, or received, a random act of kindness that touched your heart?