Our book, Plant a Garden of Kindness, A Child’s Guide to Filling a Year with Weekly Acts of Kindness, encourages children to do simple acts of kindness in their community, getting to know their neighbours and building a friendlier community in the process.
Once you start to build your World-Changing Community, and get to know your neighbours, you will start to make connections with other like-minded people – people who also want to make the world a better place. And this will result in collaborating on acts of kindness, making the impact of your kindness even greater.
We have built a fantastic friendship with our amazing neighbours across the street – Sheila and Eric. This couple does so much good in our community. They do this very quietly, and if we hadn’t started talking about all my crazy, world-changing ideas and plans, I would never have known about all the amazing work that they do. But once this door was opened, the conversations about new ideas and collaborations just overflowed, and keep overflowing.
Sheila and Eric asked my children to be in charge of their mail while they were away over the summer. Sheila proposed that she would pay each of my children $10 for this job, and give them another $50 that they could donate to the charity of their choice.
I know that it is now December, and that envelope has been sitting on my dresser for many months – I don’t know where the time has gone.
But I finally sat my children down and discussed this with them last week and asked where they would like to donate their money to. They both decided that they would like to help animals with this donation.
I mentioned that BARK, the organization through which we adopted our dog 11 years ago, is a great organization to support, and they are right in our neighbourhood. So the kids decided that they would donate half the money to BARK.
My kids were then trying to figure out what their favourite animals were and how they could help them specifically. I said that Jane Goodall does great work through her Roots and Shoots program on behalf of endangered species, particularly chimpanzees. My kids thought that this would also be a great organization to donate to.
My son, who is eight years old, said that he would also like to donate the $10 that he received for collecting the mail, so we could make our total donation $60 – and give $30 to each organization.
My daughter, who is five years old, wants to keep her $10 to buy a Lego Ninjago book. This is a totally acceptable decision, especially for a five year old. I don’t believe that you can force children to do acts of kindness. All you can do is provide them with the right conditions to learn how good it makes you feel to do the acts of kindness. It is something that they have to discover for themselves, something that has to become internalized.
That is what I love about the way that Sheila and Eric set this up – the kids get a little bit of money for their work, and a larger amount to give away. This really shows the kids that giving feels good – my daughter will receive something that she wants, a book that she can enjoy, but she will also get to feel the joy that comes from giving. She will experience the positive reinforcement that she will receive from her family and friends as they learn about her donation.
Both kids will see that the adults in their lives value acts of kindness and helping others. The kids will know that the adults in their lives are proud of them when they are kind. And because I believe that all kids start out wanting to make the adults in their lives proud, this will encourage the kids to look for more chances to complete acts of kindness. And creating a habit of completing acts of kindness as children will result in adults who make it a habit to complete acts of kindness.