So, as promised, tonight’s blog post is an overview of the August Act of Kindness Challenge I gave myself. This challenge really came about because this past year has been so crazy, both in the grand scheme of things (what with the global pandemic and everything) and on the small scale, in my own personal life. I keep seeing so many people talking about how bad this year has been, and it’s true, this year has been terrible. It’s been out of control and all over the place, but at the same time, there are still nearly four full months left in 2020. Why give up on the entire year? Why not try to make the world around us a better place? Why not try to make the next four months better?
And so this kind of thinking is how my idea for the act of kindness challenge came about. I have seen for years on Pinterest all kinds of Random Acts of Kindness ideas, and I’ve even saved some of them myself. But, for the most part, I’ve never really followed through on those ideas. I thought they were cool at the time, but apart from pinning the idea to one of my Pinterest boards, that was really all I did. And then when this pandemic came about, I had even more ideas of my own about what I could for people around me to help them through this difficult time. I decided it was finally time to act.
Initially, I thought about just doing a week of acts of kindness because honestly, it felt a little overwhelming to do an entire month, but I found that when I listed out all of the ideas I thought were really cool, I had way more than what I could do in a week. I decided to take a chance and be brave (to step outside of my comfort zone!) and do an entire month. During the month, I did a range of things, from a neighborhood trash clean up to a nonprofit donation to a care package for my sister to baked goods for my neighbors to canned goods to a local food pantry. For a full list of everything I did over the month, you can look back at week one, week two, week three, week four, and week five.
Overall, I had a lot of fun coming up with these ideas. I consider myself a creative person, and while I can certainly not take credit for coming up with all of these on my own, it did take a lot of creativity to figure all of this out. I created a calendar a few days before August was supposed to start and planned most of these out, and some of them changed or were canceled along the way, forcing me to find some alternative. And while I didn’t enjoy things being changed or canceled last minute, I liked that puzzle of trying to fit things together and create that calendar and figure out how everything worked together.
I also really enjoyed doing these activities. While there a few weeks and days during this where I felt overwhelmed, not necessarily because of the challenge itself, but because of the pressure of the challenge alongside the other everyday pressures I was facing, it was still really rewarding. Seeing my grandad’s face when we all came to visit him at once, seeing the cart worker at Walmart’s reaction when I gave him bottled water and a snack, hearing how my encouraging notes helped my coworkers…there is no way to describe how satisfying those sorts of things felt. While I might not have enjoyed baking the banana bread for my neighbors while I was in the midst of it, and there were dirty bowls scattered around my small kitchen, and I was sweating from the heat of the oven, and I was overwhelmed by the large task I had taken on, I did very much enjoy the reaction we got from our neighbors when we took the banana bread to them. While it may sound clichéd, it did make it feel worthwhile and overshadow those negative feelings I had in the midst of the task.
Originally with this challenge, I budgeted $150 to spend on various acts. Some of these I knew would take of a large chunk of that money, like when I donated $50 on August 9th to Ruth’s Cottage and the Patticake House in honor of the six month anniversary of my mother’s death. Others took up some of that money but a much smaller chunk, like when I left $2 in a dollar store with notes for people to find. I ended up going over that budget and spending about $175 or $180 on this challenge instead of my original $150. To me, this was okay because like I said, some of my originally planned ideas and acts were forced to change a little last minute and I could afford to spend that extra money. Had I needed to be more budget conscious, I would have, and I would say for those who may be reading this who like this idea but are already concerned about paying the bills, I would say that there are certainly acts of kindness that can be done that cost little or nothing at all. And if you can afford to spend a good chunk of money, there are certainly lots of options for you to help your community and spread kindness.
There were certainly disappointments that came with this challenge. One of the biggest ones was the fact that I couldn’t do the Little Free Pantry in my apartment complex laundromat as I had originally planned. As I discussed in my last post and my final overview of each individual day, this was one of my biggest plans for the month and one that I sort of wanted to go out on essentially. I was unfortunately turned down by our property manager and owners, and I didn’t have enough time to find another location and get approval for the pantry. This was really disappointing to me, and it was kind of hard to cope with at first. I was frustrated that I was trying to do something nice for those around me, and it felt like I was having the door slammed in my face. Like it was all worthless. I still plan to try and do this project somewhere else in the community and hope to be able to blog about it at some point, but I was still frustrated. There were also other disappointments and frustrations, like when I did a trash clean up around my neighborhood that I spent hours on and nearly got dehydrated doing, and within just a few days, it looked as if no one had picked up trash at all. Again, it felt like what I was doing was pointless, and it was hard to keep my spirits up. Ultimately, I had to just focus on what I could control and the ways in which I could make an impact.
Overall, I think the idea of doing an act of kindness each day for the course of a month was kind of an arbitrary goal, but at the same time, I think it helped me in a lot of ways. I think if I had just told myself I wanted to do more acts of kindness or even if I had done it for an entire week, it would have been easy to forget about once I had done those occasional acts of kindness or once that week was up. With this challenge though, I was forced to think about doing something for someone else every single day for an entire month, even when I didn’t always want to. And there were times I didn’t want to, and I think in our lives, there are going to be times that other people need help and we may not feel like helping them. However, it is necessary that we still do it. I think that this really put me in the mindset of being of service to others and trying to look for ways I can help, and I have seen that spread out to other areas of my life since. I have also seen how some of these easy some of these acts of kindness were and am trying to incorporate them more often into my life. For example, whenever I go for a walk, I try to remember to take a trash grabber to pick up trash where I go, or from now, if I go into the dollar store and have a dollar on me, I’d like to try and leave it behind in the toy or canned goods section for someone who’s more in need than I am. Those are not hard things to do. They are not things that impact my daily life all that much, but I believe, I hope, that they can truly make a difference in someone else’s life. While I know that not everyone has time to do a challenge like this, and I don’t know how often I will do it, I still think it’s a good exercise. And I would challenge you to try and incorporate acts of kindness in your daily lives if you can.