14 Little Ways to Encourage Kindness

Do Unto Others...

Lighten someone's load.

Send your child out to meet the mail carrier on the sidewalk before he or she has to climb your steps or walk up the driveway. Offer a fellow grocery shopper help to the car with her bags. Let someone with less stuff go ahead of you in line at the supermarket.

Cheer up a stranger (or a friend).

If you see that your neighbor's newspaper is always getting soaked by the sprinklers, toss it onto her porch. If the guy who drives your bus has been gone for a few days, ask him how he's feeling when he returns. Is a friend sad? Give her a hug. Teaching your kids to notice what's going on in the lives of folks in their own backyard fosters empathy and can inspire them to become keen helpers.

Do something that's above and beyond the call of duty.

If your neighbors have lost a pet, call and ask whether they've found their furry friend. If they haven't, you and your child can offer to hang up more signs and keep an eye out for their pal.

Give thanks.

Compliment a stranger on her great sweater, say "good morning" to a neighbor, and thank the pizza delivery guy. Sometimes a simple acknowledgment or expression of appreciation is all the boost someone needs to get through the day.

Be a good neighbor.

My family lives in an area that was built in the 1940s as a place where returning WWII veterans could buy a first home, settle down, and start a family. Today, many of the houses are still occupied by their original owner, typically an elderly widow. On our street, there are five such women, and a neat thing has happened. Without anyone's suggesting it, the immediate neighbors of each of these ladies have taken to rolling their garbage cans in and out of their garage and to the curb and back every Monday (trash day on our street). We recently joined the ranks of the Croydon Avenue trash-can brigade when the husband of our elderly neighbor passed away. The Monday morning after the funeral, Travis, my 10-year-old, said, "Maybe we should get Ann's cans too." And so now we do. There's probably a group that needs help or a problem to be solved in your own neighborhood. So the next time you see something awry, don't complain. Look at it as an opportunity to get involved. Inspire your kids to find ways to make their corner of the world a brighter place.

Copyright © 2007. Used with permission from the October 2007 issue of Parents magazine.

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