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26 Acts of Kindness

After the horrific tragedy in Newtown, I wanted to do something. Something to offset that evil act, even if only in a small way. Something to feel a little less powerless in such a scary world. Then I heard about the 26 Acts of Kindness movement born from a tweet in which Ann Curry said, "Imagine if we all committed to 20 acts of kindness for each child lost in Newtown? I’m in. RT #20Acts if YOU R in." It started trending on Twitter under the hashtags #20Acts, #26ActsofKindness, and #26Acts. I read examples of people giving and receiving acts of kindness, and I knew participating was exactly the something I had been looking for.

While trying to decide what to do for my acts, I remembered the container of holiday cards at the top of the closet. Every year I buy cute cards to send out, but never use them all, so I had a random assortment of holiday cheer I would never mail because my OCD nature refuses to repeat cards. I counted the leftovers and had exactly 26, which gave me chills and confirmed this was what my acts should be.
 
Inside the cards, I wrote a message explaining the 26 Acts of Kindness, and then I dedicated each card to the memory of one of the victims by adding his/her name and age. While it was appalling to see the news reports with the number and ages of the victims, the act of writing each one down really drove home the heartbreaking nature of it all. I had to use quite a few tissues before making it to the last card. 
 
26 Acts of KindnessBut while I wanted to honor the victims, I didn’t want the cards to be depressing, so I also included holiday wishes and a small gift in each one. Then on Christmas Eve morning, I put on a fun Christmas shirt and a Santa hat and took my brother and sister with me to deliver them. 
 
We gave them out to random people in parking lots. We took a few to the administrative offices of senior care facilities in the area. Then we went to Main Street of our small-ish town and delivered them to people stuck running the shops on Christmas Eve. A lot of people seemed wary when we first walked up, probably thinking we were soliciting, but as soon as we said we just wanted to wish them Happy Holidays and handed them a card, their faces lit up with delight. It was awesome. 
 
As we drove home, I practically felt drunk with the power of it. Power doesn’t come from picking up a weapon and hurting someone – that’s cowardice. True power comes from changing someone’s life for the better, even if only for a moment, and even with something so small and silly as an unexpected holiday treat. 
 
I hope to maintain the buzz of this experience by being mindful of ways to be kinder in my everyday life: holding a door for someone whose hands are full, even if they’re farther away than is comfortable to wait; stopping to let someone make that impossible left turn, even though I’m anxious to get home; helping a mother overwhelmed by young kids get her groceries to her car. They don’t have to be big – just little acts to remind us we are all in this together. 
 
I wasn’t sure if I should blog about this, since I worried it might cheapen the intention by “bragging” about it; but participating brought me so much joy that I hope sharing my experience will inspire others to participate in their own Acts of Kindness. Pay it forward!
 
Have you received an Act of Kindness inspired by Newtown? Have you given any? Do you have any suggestions for Acts that don’t cost money for people with limited budgets?