One Grain of Rice

onegrainofriceOne grain of rice by itself seems quite insignificant. However, grain by grain, rice can add up. Just read Demi’s book by that same name. Now, how much rice would it take to stop or even slow down world hunger?
Some is better than none, that’s for sure. Enter the Free Rice website where participants can answer questions online to earn rice for the United Nations. Every correct answer is worth 20 grains of rice. If you want to learn some vocabulary words and donate to a good cause, click here and give it a try.

Kind Acts

kindactsfoundlogoThe Kind Acts Foundation honors students for their random or planned acts of kindness. Have you caught someone showing kindness, caring, or compassion lately? Educators, parents, even students can nominate students who are going above and beyond to put caring into action at http://www.KindActs.org/
Every nominee receives a nice certificate and lapel pin for their efforts. The Kind Acts Foundation’s weekly electronic newsletter shares three examples of kindness in action from around the nation which all have one common thread – they’re sincerely heartwarming. Why not make it a point to be on the lookout for Kind Acts this month?

Caring Coupons

Kids don’t need money to give birthday, holiday, or everyday gifts. Challenge your children think of things they could give that don’t cost a dime. Get some construction paper, some crayons or markers, and some plain white pieces of paper and help them make a little book with a coupon for each of the items on their list.
For example: This coupon is good for one half-hour backrub or This coupon is good for one car wash. Unlimited hugs, one extra chore, breakfast in bed, a lullaby at tuck-in time, a tune on the piano, help in the kitchen. Caring is thinking with our hearts; what other things could your children put on their caring coupons?

Pay It Forward

When I think of the caring pillar, I can’t help but remember the movie starring Haley Joel Osment entitled Pay It Forward. That precious child from a single-parent home just wanted to make a small difference in his world, so he mapped out a way through a social studies project to do just that. I strongly recommend that everyone see this movie. Anyway, the premise of the Pay It Forward movement is that people perform planned acts of kindness without expecting anything in return but the hope that the recipient of the act will turn around and do the same for someone else, and so on and so on. Notice I didn’t say random acts of kindness.
There’s nothing random about this movement. In fact, you can visit the website and see how this concept has exploded since that film hit the big screen several years ago. So my Pay It Forward challenge to you during the month of December and beyond is to sit down with your family and plan some acts of kindness. Do you have a neighbor whose leaves need to be raked? Can you bake holiday goodies and distribute them to retirement-home employees or residents? Why not take the family up and down the street to spread some cheer by singing holiday songs or Christmas Carols? Maybe you can go shopping for an angel-tree child or a neighbor that you see might have a need? Even sending holiday greetings in the form of a card or an e-mail to soldiers abroad or community servants close by is a worthwhile act of kindness. Figure out a way to Pay It Forward and sit back and watch the gift that keeps on giving.

An Attitude of Gratitude

thanksPsychologist Robert A. Emmons says that people who choose an attitude of gratitude give themselves a life-long gift of health and happiness. His new book, simply entitled thanks!, offers specific techniques for implementing a lifestyle of gratitude.
Emmons maintains that you cannot be grateful and ungrateful at the same time, so when you choose gratitude, you gain control over your emotional destiny by replacing negative thoughts with positive ones.

What are you grateful for? The gratitude journal is a great place to start. Emmons’ research found that people who keep a gratitude journal slept 1/2 hour more per evening, woke up more refreshed, and were actually more likely to exercise by 33% over those who are not keeping these journals. List the people, places, and things that make a positive impact in your daily life. Reflect upon those blessings and then decide how you can best use them to pave your life’s journey with happy thoughts and a grateful heart. If you want more ideas on fostering an attitude of gratitude, then check out this book.


Kind Words

positivewordsI’ve had the pleasure of hearing teacher and author Hal Urban speak on several occasions, most recently at the Character Education Partnership’s National Forum, and I’m inspired every time by the simplicity with which he shares timeless truths about the power of kind words.

In his book Positive Words, Powerful Results, this well-known leader of the character education movement motivates with simple wisdom and practical advice about honoring, affirming and celebrating life.

Did you know that kind words have the power to lift our spirits, boost our confidence, inspire us to give our best, cause us to giggle and laugh, brighten our days, and teach us valuable lessons? And that’s only part of the list from Dr. Urban’s masterpiece. His advice to me as he signed my copy of this book was, “always have something good to say,” which follows the Mother Teresa maxim which rings true: “Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.” If you’re looking for an uplifting, encouraging quick-read full of insightfully-easy principles to live by, I enthusiastically recommend that you check out this book.

For more information about this award-winning educator and his common-sense approach to everyday life, visit him online at www.halurban.com.

Kindness is Cooler, Mrs. Ruler

kindnessI sat down to peruse new children’s literature when this brightly-colored book caught my eye at Barnes and Noble last August. With proper processing, this book about planned acts of kindness can act as a springboard to brainstorming even more ways that kids can put caring into action and spread kindness everywhere.

The one flaw I found is that the assignment to come up with the good deeds came as a result of classroom misbehavior. Two things about this strike caution in me – without proper processing, this book risks sending the message that assigning community service is an effective disciplinary action. I’ve always thought that it was much better to teach students to perform good deeds proactively rather than assign them as a consequence for inappropriate behavior.
Additionally, removal of recess isn’t always an appropriate consequence for students, especially those who need that movement time as a physical release or outlet.

Still, there is a great deal of merit in the author’s premise that we ought to get kids excited about planning and carrying out acts of kindness.

The following is a synopsis of this newcomer to the market:

When Mrs. Ruler sits five of her kindergarten students out of recess, she’s got a special plan up her sleeve. She’s about to teach a new golden rule: KINDNESS IS COOL!

Soon the entire class is doing so many good deeds that their kindness bulletin board barely fits in their classroom! From clearing the table after dinner to helping the elderly, one kindergarten class is proving that kids really can make a difference.

Acclaimed picture-book author Margery Cuyler sets out to inspire children to save the world, one good deed at a time! Count along with Mrs. Ruler’s class. Can all of their ideas really add up to 100 acts of kindness? Why not check out this book and see.

Rooted in Forgiveness

I came across this story years ago and remembered it again this week as I pulled a rotten potato from the 5# sack in my pantry. Why not try this activity with your colleagues, students, or family members? It’s a great metaphor for the forgiveness “peace” of our caring pillar.

One of my teachers had each one of us bring a clear plastic bag and a sack of potatoes. For every person we’d refuse to forgive in our life we were told to choose a potato, write on it the name and date, and put it in the plastic bag. Some of our bags, as you can imagine, were quite heavy.

We were then told to carry this bag with us everywhere for one week, putting it beside our bed at night, on the car seat when driving, next to our desk at work.

The hassle of lugging this around with us made it clear what a weight we were carrying when we don’t forgive, and how we had to pay constant attention to it to not forget it or leave it behind.

Naturally, the condition of the potatoes deteriorated to a nasty slime. This was a great metaphor for the price we pay for keeping our pain and heavy negativity!

Too often we think of forgiveness as a gift to the other person, and while that’s true, it clearly is also a gift for ourselves!

So the next time you decide you can’t forgive someone, ask yourself, “Isn’t MY bag heavy enough?”

A Note of Thanks

Writing a thank-you note to express your appreciation is a caring gesture. You can fill even short thank you notes with appreciation, sincerity and meaning. A handwritten note of thanks should be sent via mail (not electronic mail) for gifts received or in appreciation of a favor. Although thank-you notes should be sent promptly, “better late than never” does apply as the recipient will always enjoy your note of thanks.
Here are six simple steps for teaching kids how to write a thank-you note.
Step One: Begin with a fresh sheet of note paper and a smooth pen. Thank-you notes are traditionally written in cursive, and are headed by the date and a salutation followed by a comma: Dear Grandma,
Step Two: Thank the recipient for the gift, favor or entertainment given. “Thank you for the cool train puzzle that you gave me for my birthday.”
Step Three: Write about the appropriateness of the gift or favor: “I love the challenge of 200-piece puzzles.”
Step Four: Write about how you plan to use the gift: “My dad helps me put puzzles together on the kitchen table.” If you received a gift of money, mention how you will spend it.
Step Five: Add a line to update the giver about your life and/or to give a compliment: “I have been very busy with soccer lately,” or “I’m glad you’re my Grandma (or friend, neighbor, teacher, etc.).”
Step Six: Sign your thank-you note: “Thanks again, Jacob.”

Carrying a blank thank-you card with you will ascertain that you always have one handy for that quick note of thanks or to affirm someone who did something to make your day extra special. Thank-you notes do not have to be reserved for recent acts of kindness. Imagine if you sent your favorite teacher a note of thanks along with an update. Modeling the writing of thank-you notes is a great way to teach your children to follow suit.