The Time I Failed A Kindergarten Kindness Challenge

It was the Christmas season when my daughter brought home a note from her kindergarten teacher that said the class would be doing a Random Acts of Kindness Challenge. There was a list of ideas I could do with my daughter that would help to teach her the importance of being kind to others at this special time of year. After we’d completed each RAK I had to fill out a paper that my daughter would then take to school where they would be posted on a board along with all of the RAKs her classmates had done. It was a great idea. One I should have enthusiastically supported. But there was one problem.

I didn’t have the time.

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I know it sounds awful and believe me, I had so much mom-guilt over the incident that it embarrasses me to think about it. But I’ll admit it to you now.

It’s true that it was Christmastime and I had three small children and a million things to get done before the twenty-fifth. It’s also true that my daughter never complained about not doing the challenge. But the fact remains that I didn’t do the project with my child that would have taught her a wonderful life lesson about kindness. Because of my failure will she grow up to be thoughtless and uncaring  towards others? Was she humiliated when she saw that her little classmates had their papers all over the board but she had none because her mother had failed her? The answer to both questions is most likely no. But the mom-guilt thought process is brutal.

I realize now that, while Random Acts of Kindness can be a great way to spread joy, they quite often are time-consuming and require a certain amount of planning (as well as money) to be carried out. Things like volunteering at a food pantry, making care packages for the homeless, buying flowers for someone going through a rough time, spending time with seniors, paying for a stranger’s meal at a drive-thru, donating books to the school library, baking for someone who is unwell, are all amazing, thoughtful gestures that show people you are thinking of them. But here’s the thing; most people lead busy lives. And if your goal is to spread kindness then asking people to spend even a couple hours doing something may mean you’re saddling them with extra chores. The end result isn’t acts done in kindness but in obligation.

I want my kids to learn to give to others willingly out of a loving spirit, not because they are forced to out of guilt.

So here’s what I propose instead: don’t worry about how you can spend time and money performing RAKS. Instead look for times in your life where you have the opportunity to be kind in small ways. Compliment a co-worker on her outfit, smile at a stranger when you pass on the street, say please and thank you at the drive-thru window when you pick up your morning coffee. If the cashier at Walmart asks if you’d like to donate $1 to charity (and it’s a charity you support) say yes. But don’t do it out of guilt.

There’s a difference between buying a friend a coffee because you sincerely want to and doing it because you feel like you haven’t done your Act of Kindness for the day. Goodness that comes from a bad place (even if that place isn’t mean-spirited) isn’t really good, is it?

Too often we feel the need to do the big things that will get noticed. You might post a picture on Facebook of the time your kids collected a box of food for the local food bank though you certainly wouldn’t post a picture of yourself holding the door open for someone. But integrity is built by doing good things when the world isn’t looking.

I would rather my kids learn they can make the choice to be kind and considerate at many small points each day rather than impress on them the need to fulfill an “obligation” to be kind. So while I applaud my daughter’s teacher for her idea of bringing Random Acts of Kindness into the classroom I don’t need to feel guilty anymore that we couldn’t manage to complete any. There is a great amount of value in those RAKs that were done but there is also immeasurable value in the Small Kindnesses that regular people do every day. And if my kids learn to live with grace and integrity and not to feel burdened by obligation and guilt, I’ll definitely be okay with that.


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One comment

  1. Anita Ojeda says:

    I’m with you! I also detest it when speakers get up front and force people to respond to their greeting… Don’t worry about ‘failing’ an assignemtn in kindergarten–you’re teaching your kids a valuable life style!

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