It’s that time of year. Seems like there are multiple parties every week between now and New Year’s Day. Cookie exchanges, office parties, tree trimming parties, ugly holiday sweater parties, neighborhood get-togethers, family events, New Year’s Eve and don’t forget Festivus for the Rest of Us!
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Since we started making turkey-themed crafts in kindergarten, we’ve been taught that being grateful is important. However, this year I challenge you not just to share your gratitude at Thanksgiving dinner, but to also be proactive with your thanks by expressing it to those you appreciate most.
You're celebrating Thanksgiving with all of your relatives from near and far. Maybe you'll brave the crowds and lines for Black Friday sales. Then, you plan to squeeze in a few minutes to capture some Cyber Monday deals. But the Tuesday after Thanksgiving is the real day to make a difference.
Valentine’s Day is coming up, and the best way to show your love for others is volunteering. Usually when we think of Valentine’s Day, things like chocolates, flowers, and cards come to mind, but this year why not extend Valentine’s Day to caring for others, perhaps total strangers, who are in need of some kindness.
*This post was updated on 2/11/2016
By: NobleHour Special Contributor Dolly Duplantier
Last February, Chicago marked at least 22 days of temperatures at zero degrees or colder. While winter isn't as bitter as last year, we’ve still got a long way to go with no end in sight. And, we are not alone! Even Southern states are dealing with frigid cold temperatures, ice storms, ridiculous wind chills and hazardous driving conditions. The only people enjoying this crazy weather are the students receiving snow days. The cold days and grey skies take their toll. It’s not easy to be bright and cheery when you’re covered head to toe in fleece, wool and long underwear. It’s just really hard to be nice when you can’t feel your toes.
However, there is something that may help thaw your hardened dispositions and warm your hearts! It's Random Acts of Kindness (RAK) Week, February 14 – 20, 2016.* Considering Valentine's Day is celebrated during the week, it really is a great time to share love and kindness.
According to Brooke Jones, vice president of the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation, RAK officially began in 2000 and is now celebrated by millions of people worldwide.
“The week was created as a way to celebrate the everyday kindnesses we experience, but sometimes don't recognize,” said Jones. “RAK Week reminds us what it means to be kind with every word we speak and every action we take.”
The non-profit foundation was started in 1995 and is dedicated to inspiring people to practice kindness and pass it on to others. Their goals are to:
- Inspire others to be kind.
- Legitimize kindness as a way to improve society.
- Be a highly regarded, visible social and emotional learning education program.
The organization promotes unique opportunities for all types of organizations, groups and individuals by providing free online resources to encourage acts of kindness across the globe, specifically in school communities. Educators can visit their website for lesson plans, projects, resources, and research. In addition, their website lists kindness ideas for the home, office, and school.
“When going to a University of over 40,000 students it is easy to get caught up in all the small stresses of everyday life,” said Varshini Kumar, a student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Kumar saw a need for RAK at the end of her sophomore year and started a chapter at her school in August, 2013. “Random Acts of Kindness, as an organization, serves as a reminder for the campus that at the end of the day kindness is a cyclical thing - the more you are kind to those around you, the happier you are as a person. I think RAK week is a great opportunity for students to get together and create something positive for the campus, as well as spread awareness about the kindness movement that RAK seeks to inspire.”
Kumar’s RAK chapter uses Facebook and social media to post sources of inspiration for performing random acts of kindness.
The Bone Student Center at Illinois State University provided free treats and giveaways during their RAK celebration. The school’s Division of Student Affairs promoted new acts of kindness each day and encouraged the community to pass it on.
At the University of New Mexico, the Division of Student Affairs planned a variety of activities to celebrate RAK, including their “Pit of Kindness” where students could “Take a seat, Make a Friend” in a ball pit! Students also donated new teddy bears and made Valentine’s Day cards for children at the UNM Children’s Hospital Trauma Center and Regional Burn Center. At their student union, students enjoyed free kind words, candy, “Be Kind” buttons and take part in a kindness flash mob. Their RAK flyer encouraged student to smile a lot, send a handwritten note, volunteer at a shelter, pick up trash, or give someone a compliment.
The University of Alabama’s RAK chapter created a Daily Challenge Sheet for students to do something each day hoping to inspire, encourage, and cheer on their community to make a difference on campus. Challenges included encouraging students to introduce themselves to someone new, tell people thank you, pay for someone’s food or drink, and spend time with and listen to friends. The UA chapter planned events all week and worked with other university clubs and groups to “create a community of kindness.”
RAK encourages everyone to step out of normal routines and perform a new random act of kindness each day of the week. Are you ready to get in on the act? Here are 20 simple tips from the RAK Foundation to get you started this week. Who knows, you may want to keep it going all year long!
- Give someone a compliment.
- Post a positive comment on social media.
- Donate old towels or blankets to an animal shelter
- Do a chore without being asked (Moms will really love this one!!).
- Eat lunch with someone new.
- Buy someone a cup of coffee.
- Send a thank you note to a friend, student, teacher, custodian or co-worker.
- Visit a senior citizen home or volunteer at a shelter.
- Walk a neighbor’s dog
- Students can start a kindness chain and add a link for every new act of kindness.
- Put up “Kindness Zone” signs at the entrance of classrooms to remind people to practice Random Acts of Kindness.
- Hold the door open or hold the elevator for someone.
- Babysit for a friend or neighbor.
- Bring a treat to a friend who is tired or has had a long week.
- Surprise your team or study group with coffee or snacks.
- Make an extra sandwich in the morning to give to a homeless person.
- Prevent road rage and let the car in front of you merge.
- Pass out hand warmers or an extra pair of gloves to the homeless.
- Shovel a neighbor’s driveway or sidewalk.
So, as we prepare for the final long months of winter weather, don’t despair. Warm up your home, your office, or your campus with a simple act of kindness. It won’t cost you a thing, but the return could be priceless. Here’s one more act of kindness – come back and share your stories with us!
Want to continue performing acts of kindness all year round? Visit NobleHour for a complete listing of volunteer opportunities!
Photos: Dolly Duplantier
By: NobleHour Special Contributor Natasha Derezinski-Choo
How will you be spending the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday? Will you be sleeping in, grateful for the shortened work week? Watch another season of your latest Netflix obsession? Catch up on work or studying? Will you be treating it like any other long weekend? Or, will you join the thousands of people who will use this day to create stronger communities through service?
What is MLK Day? Why is it Important?
In 1983, Congress signed legislation that created Martin Luther King, Jr. Day on the third Monday in January. In honor of Dr. King’s vision for equality and justice through community efforts, MLK Day is the only federal holiday that is designated as a day of service. People from all walks of life are encouraged to improve the lives of those in their communities by taking a pause from their regular schedule to take action against pressing issues, such as civil rights, education, the environment, health, hunger, and poverty.
We can learn from Dr. King’s life by modeling his dedication to solving social issues through nonviolent community collaboration. It’s “A Day On, Not a Day Off” where we can explore our ability to make positive change through service. The hope is that this celebration will illustrate that those who volunteer can exercise tremendous influence in our communities.
Anyone and everyone are encouraged to volunteer on MLK Day. It is important that both non-profits and businesses in the community collaborate. Non-profits can organize special service events to bring people together around a specific social cause. Businesses can help by sponsoring similar volunteer events or giving their employees time off for service. Both non-profit and for-profit organizations are key to the success of MLK Day.
How Can You Share Your Service?
Not only is it important to serve on MLK Day, it is also important to make your service visible to others in your community. Today it is easier than ever to promote service through social media.
Before MLK Day, share and invite people to volunteer with you through social media and by speaking with your friends, colleagues, and students. Organizations can also join the MLK Day Service network to connect with community members and access resources to help raise awareness and gain funds. Serving as a family can also help form a tradition of service and reinforce community values.
After your day of service, be sure to use social media to share how you volunteered. MLK Day is a chance to replace a lazy Monday off with meaningful action - we can replace one social media post or photo about ourselves with something we can do for others. With service also comes advocacy, and sharing your experiences and actions can help others become involved.
America’s Sunday Supper
A unique way of getting involved with MLK Day is to host a Sunday Supper. In honor of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s dream for bringing together people of different backgrounds in order to foster unity within communities, Sunday Suppers are a chance for people to come together and share a meal while discussing issues within their community.
Hosting these events is not very difficult. You or your organization will need to advertise your event and plan a discussion. If you are looking for funds, you could ask guests for donations, speak with local businesses such as grocery stores about donating food, or make the Sunday Supper simpler by simply having light refreshments and snacks. You might also want to use this event to collect material or monetary donations for your topic of discussion. For example, if you plan to discuss hunger, then ask guests to bring canned food donations.
Alternatively, you could incorporate a plan of action into your discussion. After discussing the important facts and causes of an issue, you could move the discussion into possible solutions and come up with a service project at a future date. Another option might be to plan a service project directly after the discussion.
When I was involved in hosting Sunday Suppers in the past, the program encouraged organizers to begin the meal with a film or documentary related to an issue and then end with a discussion about the issue afterwards. We hosted a Sunday Supper about health and obesity by showing the film The Weight of the Nation and a second event about violence featuring The Interrupters.
This year, documentaries about social issues are not available on the American Sunday Suppers event page, so getting appropriate films and the permission to show them may be more difficult. However, this shows how the idea of the Sunday Supper is versatile and adaptable. A Sunday Supper does not have to take place on Sunday nor does it have to be in the evening, but it is a chance to make the MLK weekend a dialogue about pressing issues in our community.
I hope that you will find some way to spend your MLK Day off by serving others. Volunteering is a special way to honor Martin Luther King, Jr.’s legacy by continuing a tradition of service, as well as a way of honoring your community by giving back to those in need. Tell us how you plan to serve your community.
Looking for a meaningful service opportunity for MLK Day or for service events throughout the year? Sign up for your free NobleHour account and start making a difference today!
The holidays are upon us. As we approach the days of festive get-togethers, parties, and dinners, we sometimes complain that we overindulge. However, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), shockingly there are approximately 49 million people in the United States, including nearly 16 million children, who live at risk of hunger everyday.
The commercial aspects of the holidays can sometimes cause us to question the spirit of giving, thanks, and compassion. Check out these websites that give back a percentage of your purchase to charity.
*This post was updated on 11/4/2015.
By: NobleHour Special Contributor Dolly Duplantier
Veterans Day is celebrated on November 11. Established in 1954, the federal holiday honors the service of all U.S. military veterans. Seems to me though, these brave men and women should be honored every day of the year. Both my parents were Marines. My father retired as a Colonel and my mother a Captain. I believe she was in one of the first classes of women Marines, one of her proudest accomplishments. I never fully realized the importance of their commitment until I was an adult. Maybe it’s because they didn’t talk about it that often. I’m not really sure. I do feel that it is extremely important for all of us to recognize our troops and our Veterans and to teach our children about the sacrifices made.
In the military, “Got Your 6” means “I’ve Got Your Back.” In WWI, fighter pilots referenced the rear of an airplane as the six o’clock position. This term emphasizes the way military members look out for each other. Now it’s our turn - on Veterans Day and year round, here are six ways you, your family and your community can honor all who served in the United States Armed Forces.
- Send a letter of thanks to courageous Veterans. This simple act is so meaningful and can have a lasting impact. In fact, it is one of Operation Gratitude’s most urgent needs. Send a card to someone you know who has served in the Military or you can send multiple letters that fit in a standard size business envelope to Operation Gratitude, a non-profit organization that seeks to meet the needs of and express appreciation to Active Duty and Veteran communities. They will forward the letters to Veterans. If you know a Veteran that would appreciate Letters of Gratitude, you can send his or her name, the war in which they served and their USPS address to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Organize a collection drive or a “Care Kit Assembly” event. Engage friends and family, as well as church and school groups to collect needed items for Veterans. Operation Gratitude’s program delivers thousands of care packages to Military Veterans across the country. VA hospitals, nursing homes, and support organizations make requests for specific items. Their wish lists include everything from hats and scarves, to personal electronics, non-perishable snacks, and gift cards. You can also send donations directly through Amazon.com or donate to Operation Gratitude. Every $15 can cover the assembly and shipping costs to send packages.
- Recycle for Veterans! Collect old cell phones, iPads, and iPods, as well as inkjet cartridges, and laptop computers. Operation Gratitude receives money for items donated in their name and students can earn service hours while helping the environment!
- Take a Veteran to School Day.™ Show the Veterans in your community how much you value their commitment and sacrifice. Students can learn about character and strength, when Veterans bring history to life by sharing their stories.
- Volunteer at your local Veterans facility. The US Department of Veterans Affairs can help you find the nearest facility in your state.
- Use social media to #ThankAVet and help raise money! The HISTORY channel’s Thank A Vet social campaign will donate $1 (up to $25,000) for each Tweet using #ThankAVet sent between 11/9/15 and 11/13/15. Donations will support DAV (Disabled American Veterans).
Continue to honor our Veterans everyday. Let them know, "You've Got their 6!" Tell us about the special men and women in your life that have served our country! Thank you to our Veterans for your bravery and your sacrifice.