25 Family-Friendly Days of Kindness

December 30, 2013

This year, we chose to once again participate in our Second Annual Advent Acts of Kindness, in which we chose to create, give, or share one kind act each day during the Advent season, chronicling our adventures via Facebook and Twitter (@RuthExperience) and sharing joy and ideas with others. We were thrilled when the amazing women at SheLoves Magazine joined with us in our quest for kindness. We laughed, cried (a lot...), and felt overwhelmed with how blessed we felt, simply by looking for ways to bless others. We wanted to take a look back at the season, so here's a recap --
Elise and Noelle with some of the coats for OWC

Day 1: Donating new and gently used coats to One Warm Coat. Even a 2-degree drop in body temperature can result in reduced heart rate, loss of coordination, and confusion, but a warm coat can help solve the problem for those in need.

Day 2: Donating some much-needed basic necessities to New Beginnings, a residential program for pregnant women, new mothers, and their babies.

Day 3: Sending an encouraging note (and a little treat) to a woman facing a difficult Christmas season.
Day 4: Choosing gifts for kids at University of Minnesota Amplatz Children's Hospital. So brave! Warning: This video is a total tear-jerker!
Leaving a gift for our waiter!
Day 5: Leaving a gift for our waiter (who had to leave early for a family emergency). Today my girlfriends and I decided that we would do an act of kindness tonight at our annual Christmas party. We decided to bring a gift for our waiter/waitress. We prayed a simple prayer for someone who may need an extra boost this holiday season. Our waiter was an older gentleman who gave excellent service. Three quarters of the way through our meal another waitress came up and told us she was very sorry but our waiter had to leave for a family emergency. We immediately pulled out extra gift cards and cash to bless this man and his family. We were able to offer encouragement, thoughts and prayers for his family during their emergency. We left the restaurant thankful that God answered our simple prayer to help someone who really needed it.  

Tim and Tony
Day 7: Paying for someone's gas. While we were driving, Tim and I had been talking about how we'd like to bless someone in the military, especially given that it's the anniversary of Pearl Harbor. Tim told me, "What are the odds we're going to find a person in the military, in uniform, in Monticello, Minnesota?" Waiting patiently for the perfect person to bless, sure enough, a man in uniform pulled up to the gas pump -- Tony is in the Navy, a husband and father, and was on his way to the airport to head to Florida for six months. So thankful for his service and sacrifice! Tim told me it was one of his favorite things that we've done.

Day 8: Choosing World Vision gifts. For the last few years one of our kids three Christmas gifts is a gift they give to somebody else. Each year they scour the World Vision catalogs to pick out the perfect gift. This year they chose to: provide safety for young girls, give a ger (a house in Mongolia), and provide a small business loan to help a mother provide for her family.  

Day 9: Making homemade gifts for our teachers.

Jeremy and I when we were little
Day 10: Donating to something that matters to me. When I was three years old, a new cousin was adopted into my aunt and uncle's family. Since my parents were the youngest in their families and I was the youngest in mine, that was rare and wonderful. Jeremy could swing higher and climb more nimbly than I could, and easily outdistanced me running. Years later, he now loves professional wrestling and can tell you everything you'd ever want to know about the U.S. presidents. My amazing cousin was also born with fetal alcohol syndrome. It wasn't until I was older that I knew what that meant, and as far as I'm concerned, it's part of what makes him unique. But I also know that it can be challenging. Did you know that fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) are the leading preventable cause of birth defects, developmental disabilities, and learning disabilities? They affect around 1 in 100 babies each year (about 40,000 total), and are more prevalent than Down Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, SIDS, Cystic Fibrosis, and Spina Bifida COMBINED. That's why I'm donating today to the National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. They provide everything from resources encouraging expectant moms not to drink alcohol during pregnancy to information on summer camps and other resources for those with FASD and their families.
Day 11: Sending a card and stickers to a little girl named Ella through Post Pals, a charity helping you to "Post a Smile on a Sick Child’s Face" by the sending of cards, letters, emails and little gifts to seriously ill children and their siblings. Jasmine loved this one so much last year, we had to do it again! 

Goodies in the mailbox
Day 12: Giving our friends from China a tour of several neighborhoods with houses decorated with Christmas lights -- an American tradition they've never experienced before.
Day 13: Leaving goodies in the mailbox for our mail carrier. I love being able to include my little ones in our plans, it feels like the very best kind of secret, so of course they love it -- today Elise insisted on adding in a homemade gingerbread magnet, although giving up the chocolates was much more of a sacrifice.  

Day 14: My daughter Eleanor was born yesterday and it gave us the perfect excuse to do an AAK at the hospital! We brought crayons, coloring books and stickers to leave in the waiting room and coffee gift cards for the parents who have kids in the children's unit this Christmas season.  

Day 15: Making Secret Santa gifts for our neighbors (the kiddos are decorating the cards and will help deliver them).

Day 16: Bringing a meal to a family in need. Today the girls and I packed up a meal for the family of a mama on extended bedrest at a hospital (pregnant with twins!). She and her husband already have two little ones at home, and were so appreciative of the best of North and South -- my family's favorite "hotdish" (baked ziti) and a pecan pie straight from Texas.
Bringing a meal to a family in need
Day 17: Writing a letter to encourage a survivor. Did you know that there are more than 27 million slaves in the world today? There are many amazing organizations whose purpose is to combat human trafficking, including The A21 Campaign. Today I had the opportunity to write a letter to a young woman who is living in one of their shelters.  

Day 18: Sewing pillow cases for children with serious illnesses. Julie shared this story about the experience over with SheLoves Magazine: "It was an accidental discovery. I was searching Pinterest for simple sewing projects to go along with the beginner sewing kit my daughter will get for Christmas when I stumbled upon the Conkerr Cancer site. This organization donates handmade pillow cases in bright, rainbow-hues to children with serious illnesses in a variety of participating hospitals all across the country. My local chapter located in Minnesota just donated it’s 10,000th pillowcase.

"I couldn’t believe it. You see, my mother-in-law has been sewing brightly colored, fun pillow cases for all of her grandchildren for years. We have a collection of fun, beautifully hued pillow cases lovingly made by Grandma Connie that my children LOVE.

"And, after my son and I made a trip to the Mayo Clinic this past summer, he was gifted his very own, handmade, brightly colored surgeon’s hat to wear on his way into the operating room. It seems only right that we return the favor.

"My family has joined forces with Grandma Connie for our extra special Advent Act of Kindness. The kids will help us pick out fabric, and we will gather together as a family to cut and sew our pillow cases.

"We will make a mess and laugh and teach our children that Advent Acts of Kindness is as much about family and love as it is about giving of our time, talent, and treasure.

Volunteering at Place of Hope

Day 19: Feeding the hungry. Roughly 30 of us traveled to Place of Hope Homeless Shelter to serve 20 pans of lasagna to 50 people experiencing homelessness and help 160+ local at-risk kids shop and wrap gifts for their families. What those statistics don't tell you are the number of tears we privately shed and the overwhelming joy we felt from helping others. And on a personal note: If I didn't already love my husband's generous heart, the fact that he literally gave a homeless man (and fellow Broncos fan) the shirt off his back would have made me fall in love with him all over again.  

Day 20: Making Christmas goodies for the neighborhood!
Day 21: Pulling ornaments of the YMCA's wish tree. Today we chose the ornaments, and we'll be buying the items on the list and delivering them this week.

Day 22: Planting a tree. I know people say that "every dollar counts," and in this case, that's true: One dollar plants one tree via an organization called Plant a Billion
Bowling with residents
Day 23: Sending cards for military personnel through Operation Gratitude. It's easy (just no glitter) and they receiving love cards all year long.

Day 24: Visiting a nursing home. Today we went to a local nursing home and spent the afternoon with residents who did not have family visiting today.  

Day 25: Finale! This year for our finale, we are once again collecting clothing items for a Single Moms Retreat that we helped with last spring. We'll be collecting items between now and May 1st. If you'd like more details, contact us and we'll give you the full scoop. Here's a post from last year that Kendra wrote about the retreat.

Whew! It is truly amazing to pause and reflect on this year's acts of kindness -- not because we did anything special, but because we were able to witness all the ways God worked through us to touch the lives of others. No wonder AAK is my family's favorite Christmas season tradition...

1 comment

  1. You guys are amazing! I love all your great ideas! Thanks for sharing.