Whether you’re on the giving or receiving end of an act of kindness, there’s something about it that feels really good.
An act of kindness or random act of kindness is an action taken to improve someone’s life.
Random acts of kindness are proven to boost our mood and mental health. According to the Canadian
Mental Health Association (CMHA)
, when you help others by performing an act of kindness, it promotes positive physiological changes in the brain associated with happiness.
Helping others improves social support, says the CMHA, and encourages us to be more physically active, distracts us from our problems and allows us to engage in meaningful activity.
Acts of kindness and acts of kindness ideas may seem elusive in 2020, when the world is dealing with a pandemic that has us keeping our distance from one another.
Yet, there are still so many ways to show we care and what better time to do it than at Christmas, when the days are a little colder and the sun sets a little earlier?
Here are some ways you can perform safe, socially distanced, mood-boosting acts of kindness this Christmas, or any time of the year.
1. Be kind to you
Kindness starts with you and within you! Book that massage you’ve been putting off, take the time out of a busy day to make yourself a nourishing meal, write self-affirming notes and leave them around your house, start a gratitude journal. Treating yourself with kindness can improve your outlook and boost your spirits on even the hardest days.
2. Pay for the coffee or meal of the person in line behind you
This was the very first act of kindness idea I ever heard of and I love it because it’s simple, easy and convenient. It delivers a sweet surprise to the unsuspecting recipient (who will hopefully pass the kindness on to another) and you can do it while you’re safely distanced from others, in the drive thru.
3. Call a loved one just to say “I’m thinking of you”
We rely so much on communicating through text messages, social media and even email, but nothing can replace the experience of hearing your loved one laugh at your jokes or excitedly share their latest life updates. Call someone who’s special to you and let them know you’re thinking of them.
4. Give to an international charity
Despite the challenges we’ve faced in 2020, many of us still have so much to be grateful for, whether that be our health, jobs, the safety of our families or shelter. In many parts of the world, children and families are struggling, and the global COVID-19 pandemic has made things even harder. Give a gift from the World Vision Gift Catalogue
and know that you’re helping improve life for a child, family and community in need.
5. Shop small
Supporting small businesses is more important than ever. Many small and independent businesses face an uncertain future in the coming months. Why not incorporate them into your shopping? Some ideas include: purchasing a gift card to a nearby salon or spa, shopping at a local farm, deli or bakery for dinner items, purchasing birthday or Christmas gifts from small online shops and checking out local handmade goods for sale on Facebook Marketplace. If you don’t have the funds to spend, you can still help by writing a 5-star review for your favourite local businesses.
6. Donate supplies to a classroom
Teachers are working harder than ever for our children and in some cases, are using their personal dollars to purchase extra classroom supplies. Find out what your child’s classroom could use more of (and what they’re able to accept) and send some extras with your scholar on Monday morning.
7. Start a fundraiser for a cause that moves you
A friend of mine recently shared a link to her fundraiser which got me thinking... We don’t have to have a special holiday or occasion to start a fundraiser. There are so many people in need of support, and so many charities tirelessly advocating for them, it would be an immense act of kindness to step up and help, just because.
8. Care packages for our homeless
Being homeless is difficult, and in the cold winter months it can be especially challenging. Care packages in the winter can help make life a little more comfortable for the homeless. Try to think outside of the box: thermal or wool socks, waterproof gloves, chewable immune-boosting vitamins, Chapstick, sunscreen and band-aids, and non-perishable foods of course.
9. Take care of your community
Check on your elderly neighbour, have a meal delivered to someone dealing with an illness, or a treat delivered to a friend having a rough day. Do you know a new mom? Deliver a care package
to her doorstep. Caring for your community can be as big or small of an act as you want it to be.
10. Support your local food bank
According to Food Banks Canada
, Canadians visited food banks 1.1 million times in March 2019 alone. And 34 per cent of people who rely on food banks nationally are children, even though they only make up 19 per cent of the population. Support your local food bank and know that your act of kindness is helping to strengthen your community members.
11. Be an encouraging and positive online voice
We’ve all seen posts and comments by people who focus only on the negative or on putting others down. Online bullying can have horrible effects, so why not combat that? Use your online platforms to lift others up, focus on sharing good news and you’ll be someone people look forward to hearing from.
12. Donate blood
This may seem a little strange, but if you think about it, there really isn’t a bigger act of kindness you can perform than donating blood
. This one goes well beyond kindness, it’s downright lifesaving.
13. Easy act of kindness wins
Here are a few more, simple acts of kindness: share an encouraging word with service workers like cashiers, grocery store clerks, bus drivers, waiters, delivery workers, etc. – we rely on these individuals so much, yet they’re often the most undervalued (you can even increase the kindness meter by sharing your compliment with that worker’s boss). Compliment someone – it could really brighten their day. Help someone who looks lost. Leave a coupon next to that item in the grocery store. Learn CPR. Let someone cut in front of you in line. Let the car ahead of you merge into the lane.
How your kindness is changing lives worldwide
Acts of kindness can go far beyond your community or even country, they can extend across borders, into the lives of people far away.
These are the types of acts of kindness Canadian child sponsors perform every single day. When you sponsor a child
, you improve the life of a child, their family and their community for years to come. Here are some of the people child sponsors are empowering through their acts of kindness.
Photo: Laura Reinhardt, World Vision
“My father buys me books for school. There are moments when we laugh together,” says seven-year-old Debby. Her father, Obby watches and helps her draw in the notebook he gave her for school.
Life used to be challenging in southern Zambia, recalls Obby, “We never had resources. We never had knowledge in the way World Vision has brought knowledge. We never had a toilet. You would walk a long distance and draw water from shallow streams, which were dirty. Death was very common in those days. People were dying from preventable diseases.”
Obby’s sister died of cholera. The family’s six-year-old boy died of diarrhea. Then, in 2013, things changed. “God answered our prayers through World Vision,” he shares.
Obby became a caregiver for World Vision and today looks after 120 sponsored children. The family also received five goats—one male and four females which has helped them earn an income.
Overall, life has completely turned around for Obby, Debby, their family and their community, thanks to the many acts of kindness performed by World Vision donors.
Photo: Laura Reinhardt, World Vision
In Armenia, 14-year-old Davit (left) and his brother, 12-year-old Yeghish (right), play soccer with a ball donated by World Vision.
The boys are a ray of sunshine in their mother Zoya’s life. Zoya’s husband abandoned her and their children before their youngest child was even born. They live with a relative.
“I had difficult times in the past and World Vision was the only one to stand by my side,” she says.
Life started improving when someone decided to perform an act of kindness and sponsor a child; that child was Davit.
Since then, Zoya has benefitted from parenting classes, the boys have received school supplies (they were most excited about their new backpacks) and their home was outfitted with clean water.
“I know I can count on World Vision,” Zoya says confidently.
Photo: Biplab Clement Mondal, World Vision
Habiba, 9, would agree that sponsoring a child is an act of kindness. When Habiba became a sponsored child, her entire family’s lives changed.
Before that, her mom and dad were working on someone else’s farmland. There was no one at home to run the household, so Habiba’s parents pulled her and her sisters out of school to do the chores.
Then World Vision started a development program in Habiba’s community. Her parents learned how important it was to treat their daughters fairly, to support their education and advocate for their rights.
Habiba and her sisters were able to return to school. They received school supplies, Habiba’s mom was trained in livestock rearing and she received a cow.
“We would never marry our daughters before 18,” say Habiba’s parents proudly, “rather we will make them well educated for a bright future.”
Among the many benefits they’ve experienced, one of Habiba’s favourite is the latrine that was installed in her home.
“I am happy that I don’t need to go in the wild anymore, now we have our own toilet,” says Habiba. “It’s more comfortable for me to use and safe from diseases."
Photo: Laura Reinhardt, World Vision
In 2013, Hector, 45, joined a savings group. Life in western Honduras was difficult and his family had no income, they ate corn for every meal. Hector thought he’d have to travel to the United States to find work, but the prospect was daunting.
“There are people who go to the United States from here, looking for the American Dream,” says Hector, “They come home without arms or legs.” One of Hector’s friends fell from the train, losing his arm. Others die, falling between the train and cars.
“I want to change my children’s thinking,” says Hector, “They will work for the country instead of leaving.”
When Hector joined a World Vision savings group, so did his daughter Janeth (pictured above). Janeth took out a loan to plant coffee with her dad. She harvested her crop, paid back the loan and the following year, she borrowed even less and quadrupled her earnings.
Now, Janeth, who is also a sponsored child, has enough money put aside to pursue her dream of becoming a nurse.
“I have a great father who supports me,” says Janeth. “There are a lot of pregnant girls and young mothers.” But none of the girls who belong to the savings group is pregnant. “We are interested in the future,” says Janeth.