This week is spring break for me. As a teacher, it is always good to have a little break to catch up on all I have been postponing and meaning to do. However, spring break is a little earlier this year in our school district. Usually I'm in school on April 1st.
Now those of you who know me, know that I love things like practical jokes, water fights, snowball fights and just to play in general. So, it wouldn't surprise you to know that I've played a few April Fools pranks in my life. I try to pick pranks that are just funny and not malicious in any way. I've never wanted to be hurtful in my jokes. However, since I'm not at school today, I started my morning with a little exercise instead of a practical joke. As I was working out, the thought came to me that instead of spending time and energy thinking up pranks, that it would be more fun if on this day every year I did a random act of kindness. Then the thought grew. . . maybe I could encourage others to participate too and together we could really make a difference. Wouldn't it be a surprise to someone to be the recipient of some random act of kindness rather than a joke on April Fools' Day?
About a month ago you probably read on Facebook or heard in the media about 8-year-old Myles Eckert who found $20 in the parking lot of Cracker Barrel. He was excited about his find and was considering spending the money on a video game. However, he changed his mind when he saw a soldier in uniform that reminded him of his dad who was killed in Iraq. Myles decided to give that $20 to the soldier and wrote him a note thanking the soldier for his service and telling him that in their family they liked to "pay it forward". Lt. Col. Frank Dailey was the recipient of that child's random act of kindness. He feels it was an honor to receive such a gift and he is now paying it forward. He says it has changed his direction in life.
I too have received random acts of kindness in my life. Some years ago when money was very tight for us we received a $50 gift card to a local grocery store from an unknown donor. Can we ever pay it back? No, but we can certainly pay it forward and help someone else. Over the years I have had treats left on my doorstep, gifts left on my desk, and received happy notes from people. All these acts of kindness have made my day.
As I was thinking about changing my tactics on April Fools' Day, I thought of those I know who are struggling in life right now. Would I want someone who didn't know their struggle to play a joke on them? No, I wouldn't. Continuing along the same thought, would I want to play a joke on someone who is struggling, but I'm not aware of his or her circumstances? No. Since I don't know a person's heart, perhaps a random act of kindness would be a better choice on my part. So, I'm starting a new tradition on April Fools' Day. I am going to do at least one random act of kindness today and each April Fools' Day. I am going spend my energy doing something positive for someone else. If you think this is a good idea, join me. It really doesn't matter which day you give a little sunshine to someone, it will make a difference whether today, tomorrow, or some other day.
"Nothing can make our lives, or the lives of other people, more beautiful than perpetual kindness." --Tolstoy
A few ideas for paying it forward with a random act of kindness:
1. Hold the door open for the person behind you.
2. Introduce yourself. Make new colleagues, classmates, etc. feel welcome.
3. Clean out all your old clothes and donate them to your local charity thrift store.
4. Listen intently to people without trying to fix everything.
5. Donate blood. One pint of blood can save up to three lives.
6. Check up on someone who is elderly, sick, or lonely.
7. Let someone with only a few items cut you in line at the grocery store.
8. Stop and buy a drink from a kid’s lemonade stand.
9. Pay for the person in line behind you.
10. Drop off your old eye glasses at your local LensCrafters as a donation to the OneSight program
11. Create a care package and send it to an active duty military unit.
12. Be a courteous driver. Let people merge in front of you.
13. Put some change in an expired parking meter.
14. Offer your seat to someone when there aren’t any left.
15. Clean up litter in a park or open space nearby.
16. Leave encouraging post-it notes in library books and other random places.
17. Donate cat and dog food to an animal shelter. Call and ask what is needed.
18. Compliment someone who deserves it.
19. If there’s been an accident or a potentially hazardous situation presents itself on the road, report it to the local authorities. Your phone call could save a life.
20. When someone wants to repay you for something, ask them to pay it forward.