Random Acts of Kindness to Pay it Forward

31 Days of Good Deeds with My Daughters

People should be kind to one another, and do good where they see that they can. This is a lesson I try to instill in my daughters, and it seems I'm learning it for myself as well. I want them to understand that though we have a house over our heads, and food on the table, there are many in our community who do not. And sometimes, it is the little acts of kindness in life that remind us that life is worth living. This December, my girls plan on performing 31 acts of random kindness to ' Pay it Forward ,' not for any recognition or reward that might come their way, but to simply give back to our neighbors. To stay on schedule, the girls came up with a plan.

Intersection homeless
Like many American cities, we have homeless living on our streets. Often, we pass men on corners with signs reading, "Will work for food," and my girls want to know why. These guys are out there everyday, rain or shine, trying to make a little money so they feed themselves and their families. On Mondays, we plan on stopping at our local market and buying $10 worth of food - bread, peanut butter, jelly, and some fruit to simply pass along to the first person we find who is asking for help. New Hampshire's Coalition to End Homelessness does great work, but often that simply isn't enough. We all have to do our part.

Both our old basset hound Otis and gray cat Lucy are shelter rescues, and we make sure every once in a while to bring some pet food or litter to our local shelter to donate. Every year, somewhere between 6 and 8 million dogs and cats enter shelters across the country. Each Tuesday this December, my kids will bring cleaning supplies, blankets, animal toys, and at least $5.00 worth of canned pet food to our municipal shelter to help.

On the way home from school, we will sometimes skip the long route and take the highway. Often times we will drive by cars where we suspect the drivers having a bad day - whether they have a scowl on their face, or are pounding their fists on the steering wheel. My oldest daughter suggested we pay the toll for the person behind us one day, and hopefully this will make them feel better. On Wednesdays, we will do just that.

This day does double duty. Each Thursday in December, we will fill one large, black plastic bag with toys and clothes found around the house to donate to our local Goodwill. Not only does this clean out the house of clutter that is no longer used, but the money our items bring in from sales goes to a good cause. This thrift store serves communities across the country, and our donations will provide much needed funding for Goodwill projects.

We have a handful of soup kitchens and food pantry's in our city, and each day we hear how it's a struggle to keep them stocked to help these in need. My girls are too young to help by volunteering their time, but we decided we can help by bring canned goods, books, and magazines for those who just need a hand up. Food, of course, always makes an impact, but so do the items that might only be viewed as a luxury.

Just like on Wednesdays with the toll booth, my youngest suggested covering a strangers cup of morning coffee. We will often stop by a local coffee shop before swim lessons to grab Daddy some caffeine, and like on the highway, sometimes folks appear to need a bit of kindness shown their way. Saturdays, we will pay for someone's coffee, and ask the server not to say who donated the cup. It's important to remember that my kids aren't doing this for recognition.

We have a world-class diner in our neighborhood where we enjoy a quality omelet or a stack of pancakes from time to time. A few months ago, our usual waitress let us know that people were getting in the habit of donating a little extra on the check to help feed any homeless who might stop in for soup and a sandwich. This sounded like a wonderful idea, and on Sundays, that is just what my kids will do.

For more information, or to prepare yourself for the U.S. Pay It Forward Day on April 17th, please visit the Pay It Forward Foundation's website.