Full of optimism, our team embarked on our first Lenten journey together just over 40 days ago. Inspired by the examples of our patronesses, Sts. Thérèse Of Lisieux and Teresa of Calcutta, we set out to make Lent a #littlekinder. What were the biggest takeaways for our team? Did we achieve what we hoped to through completing 40 acts of kindness?
If there ever was a time that the world needed an outpouring of kindness, it is right now. Being kind reminds others of the beauty that we are capable of, even amidst mass fear, anxiety, and self-absorption. Love is the only thing with which we hoped to infect others.
I loved seeing what others did. It made me want to be kinder and motivated me to do it, too.”Alyssa Sanchez
If you give God the opportunity to do a specific thing, he’ll bring it right to you.”Sefanit Stefanos
It’s a cop-out when people say they don’t have the money to do acts of kindness. Many of the acts were ways to be present to people. There were acts which applied to introverts and extroverts.”Tammi McCarthy
We loved witnessing the effects of reaping and sowing kind acts. The things we did seemed to multiply–the more kindness we extended, the more it inspired us and others to do likewise.
My Acts of Kindness
I was “assigned” the following 5 acts of kindness to go forth and document to be shared on our social media. Each one brought some similar and other unique effects that I break down here a bit.
Pray the Rosary for specific people
We may not think of praying for others as a kindness, but it shows generosity and care. What a selfless gift to speak to God on another’s behalf while placing their intentions in His hands. Of all the ways to pray, the Rosary is one of the most powerful prayer weapons. After all, Mary is Queen of Heaven and a strong intercessor with us before the Throne of God.
I admit that I don’t pray the Rosary as often as I’d like, so it was sweet to begin Lent by taking time to do this spiritual kindness. I imagined holding Mother Mary’s hand while speaking to God about some loved ones in need of His help. This act was a communion between Mary, God, and I, as I didn’t share with the people that I prayed the Rosary for them. The beauty of prayer is that God will apply the grace whether others knew that I did it or not!
Here are the 15 promises that Mary revealed to St. Dominic to those who pray the Rosary.
Cook a meal for a friend
Affectionately known as a “Domestic Goddess” by some friends, cooking and entertaining come naturally to me, so this act wasn’t a stretch. I prepared a meal for our friend and teammate, Bridget, which occurred before the stay-home order. My husband and I were doing a 10-day reboot with just juice and veggies at the time, but it was a Lenten Friday, so it worked.
Since then, the time of isolation has given me a new level of appreciation for the joy that comes from inviting others into our homes and gathering with them to break bread together. We often get so busy that we fail to invite friends over for dinner – but I hope that this won’t be the case once we can safely gather together again.
Warmly smile at everyone you see today
Smiling is another activity that comes naturally to me, but being conscious of doing it to everyone I see is not something to which I’m accustomed. My husband and I both work from home (even before we were ordered to, which we’re grateful for), so, to be honest, I flashed my teeth a lot at that guy all day.
Smiles affect others in a way I find so satisfying–it often causes a reciprocated smile. Sometimes there will be a deadpan face staring back, but most often, I see a grin spread across another person’s face. It’s a small, simple action that has a beautiful impact. Even if my smile didn’t always win one in return, it was a small act of love that I gave throughout my day.
Let someone in front of you in line
I’ve shared a few things that come naturally to me, so I’ll share something that does not — patience. I’m an efficiency nerd, so waiting around an extra amount of time provides a serious opportunity for me to die to self.
That day, my husband and I were out in the car and went through a drive-thru to pick up coffee and something to eat. We had placed our order via their app, so we just had to go through the drive-thru to “check-in.” There was only one line, so we waited while others still ordered. Annoyed, we let another car go first.
It’s funny that letting someone go first only delayed things a few minutes in the drive-thru, but it required overcoming my “get ‘er done” mindset. Furthermore, it’s a simple act that said, “I value your time, too–so you go first, I can wait.”
Offer a family member your help
“Attitude is a choice. Happiness is a choice. Optimism is a choice. Kindness is a choice. Giving is a choice. Respect is a choice. Whatever choice you make makes you. Choose wisely.”Roy T. Bennett, The Light in the Heart
Since it’s my husband and me at home, selecting the “who” of this kind act was simple. The execution was not quite as easy.
I found the morning help pretty simple to execute – make breakfast, help ease physical pain with which he was suffering. At lunchtime, I had a bad case of the “don’t wants.” There wasn’t much food left in the fridge, and what I had required time to prep and cook it, and I just didn’t feel like making another meal and cleaning it up. And that became obvious, to which my husband remarked, and to which I reacted.
But I made lunch, we ate it, and I felt terrible. I took some time by myself to work on my mindset. I decided to be real on the video I shot after that for our social media, sharing that I just wasn’t feeling it. But that’s OK because kindness like love isn’t a feeling; it is a choice. I’m glad that when I’m at my end, the grace of God meets me. He is just waiting to give us all the grace we need when we ask, so I often just pray, “Help, Lord.”
That day I needed the grace to be more loving. After praying and God provided the grace, I still had to choose to be kind or sassy, to look after myself, or to take care of my husband, too. Just because we make bad choices one time that day doesn’t mean it’s shot. We can stop, recollect ourselves, and make a different set of choices afterward.
A few hours after lunch, I brewed my husband’s favorite tea. I pulled out the bright-colored dessert plates we picked up from Mexico, grabbed a few tea cookies, and made tea for two. Carrying his mug and cookies, I knocked on his home office door. As I set it down on his desk, I smiled at him and apologized for earlier. All was forgiven, and we went on to have a better evening.
These exercises in kindness made me look for other ways to be kind in the situations that arose throughout Lent. I love how each act had a similar reaction of causing the other to feel loved, appreciated, seen, or taken care of in some way. And I also love how each act had a different thing to teach me and help me grow. If I didn’t feel like being kind, it was OK to acknowledge that and then ask God to help me make better choices that day.
These 40 days reminded us of how small acts produce significant effects. The beauty of kindness is that each moment provides the giver a new opportunity to try or continue, and we don’t have to be perfect but authentic. It reminds the recipients that there are still caring people who want to serve and love the way to which Christ calls us. Living in a world with kindness rekindles our hope, and that is so important during difficult times.
Did we achieve what we set out to do? Yes, we did. We wanted Lent to be a little kinder, and it was a success. How do I know that? Well, I think back to when I was a kid, and I heard Mr. Rogers define success:
There are three ways to ultimate success:
The first way is to be kind.
The second way is to be kind.
The third way is to be kind.”