This week’s Summer of Kindness initiative for kids is focused on gratitude activities and how to practice gratitude with your kids. Gratitude, like empathy, is not an innate quality humans have when they are born.
Instead, it is a SKILL that must be practiced, rehearsed, and developed over time. It goes beyond just making our kiddos say “thank you,” as this video from the Greater Good Science Center points out.
Gratitude is the key to happiness. Yes, the key to happiness.
So, what does this have to do with kindness?
One of my favorite ways to think of this is….shoes. What, you say? Yes, shoes.
You see, everyone has to walk miles in their OWN shoes. Your shoes represent YOUR story. YOUR narrative. Your joys, your trials, your tribulations, your challenges. Your trauma. YOUR life.
One can never know what it is like to walk in YOUR shoes. And, you can never know what it is like to walk in another’s. You will never fully understand the complex mix of personality, events, circumstances that lead two people to perceive an event in a completely different way.
One can never know what it is like to walk in ANOTHER person's shoes. We live our lives comparing ourselves to others, living in judgment of others, and ignoring entire populations of people.
When you bought your last bag of groceries, did you actually make eye contact with the person scanning your groceries? When you purchased your last cup of $5 coffee, did you personally connect with the person who made it? When the driver at the intersection cut in front of you, did you become frustrated or worse? Check out this video to see what I mean.
Unfortunately, I am consistently deeply frustrated with what I see happening in our country, so I began my own little experiment in my corner of the universe so that I could become an agent of change instead of a bystander. I was intentionally kind to people. To everyone.
What does this mean? It means, well...actually really little extra effort.
I made eye contact with every person that helped me and smiled directly at them - the barista who made my coffee, the grocery store clerk who scanned my groceries, the bus driver. If it made sense, I made a little small talk. But, most importantly, I connected with them.
I read a book called Nickel and Dimed and I had the realization that entire segments of our population are completely ignored. Their experiences, their lives, and how they walk through this world in their shoes. They are ignored.
Kindness, to me, is the ultimate show of gratitude, connection, and empathy. It is the realization that no matter what road our shoes have walked on, we have so much for which to be deeply grateful.
Kindness to others is the active recognition and connection to those whose shoes have walked a very different path from our own.
My goal in life is to make this connection between gratitude, kindness, and service real for kids. I believe SO strongly that we will only change the world through our kids. And, parents have THE MOST IMPORTANT role to play. This is the only way to change the world.
Obviously, this blog article is less about the activity and more about the reason why Gratitude is such an important week of activities in our Summer of Kindness initiative for kids. Check out this week’s free download that outlines this week’s activity, learning resources, and free printables for you to start your own gratitude practice. I’d love for you to also join our mailing list as we build this community!
Listen, I’m not saying this is easy. Believe me, I have faced ongoing push back from my kids on practicing kindness and gratitude everyday. Need some inspiration - check out my blog post on I Hate Gratitude. I’ve been there!