Category: Weekly Service Challenge

The Teacher Appreciation Challenge

Once upon a time, you were a little kid. You didn’t know how to read. You didn’t know how to do math. You didn’t know much about the world around you. You couldn’t play sports, you couldn’t carry an informed discussion about politics, you couldn’t quote a favorite poem or speak another language or divide 1/3 in half.

But now you can do¬†all of those things … or most of them, at least. ūüėČ

Why?

Because someone taught you.

And this week, we are going to say thank you.

As you might know, Teacher Appreciation Week is coming up soon in the US. All over the country, parents are (hopefully) taking this week to thank the people who teach their children. And we’re joining in the fun!

Even if you’re not a parent (or if you don’t have school-aged children), you’re not off the hook! This week’s service challenge is for you, too. I’d like to encourage you to think of a teacher who has been influential to you at some point along the way – a school teacher, a coach, a teacher at church … anyone who has helped you learn and grow. Then find an idea below, and say thanks! Drop off a gift in person, mail a card … whatever works for you!

Teacher Appreciation Challenge

As always, I’ve tried to come up with lots of ideas for you. (Remember, the goal of our service challenge isn’t to wear you out! But I do hope that you can find one or two of these ideas that resonate with you.) So here we go … ways you can show appreciation to a teacher, organized by budget:

My budget is $0. If you don’t have any extra money to purchase gifts, don’t worry! You don’t need any money to show appreciation.
* A thank-you card. I taught school for two years, and let me tell you something: a thoughtful card was a treasured gift! I would save them in my drawer and re-read them when things got stressful. Thank a teacher who has blessed you, or thank a teacher who has helped your child. Be specific – it’s always great to hear what you’re doing right! And let your child help; those little notes are priceless.
* Make a small gift. If you happen to have craft supplies lying around already, you might be able to make something that a teacher would really appreciate. For instance, many teachers write thank-you notes after teacher appreciation week. If you have scrapbooking supplies, you can make handmade greeting cards for the teacher to use. Thoughtful and practical.
* Volunteer to help in the classroom. If you do this, make your offer very specific. A generic “Let me know if I can help” is less likely to be taken up on than an offer like, “I know how busy you are, and I’d like to help! For Teacher Appreciation Week, my gift to you is 2 hours of after-school help. I am happy to cut, glue, grade, copy, laminate, or whatever you need help with! I’m free every Tuesday afternoon – please let me know what day works best for you and I’ll be there.”
* If you have young children and want to make their teachers laugh, this free printable¬†has the potential to be funny! I’m planning on doing this with my kids, and I can’t wait to see what they say!

My budget is tight. Here are some gift ideas that are $5 or less.
* If you enjoy cooking, bake a treat. You can even make a healthier snack, like homemade granola or fruit leather. (Note: I’d only do this if the teacher knew me.)
* I love this idea of turning a bottle of soap into a clever gift. As a teacher, there are LOTS of germs floating around. A nice bottle of soap or hand sanitizer is a practical gift that is guaranteed to be used.
* This Redbox gift basket is such a fun idea! You can keep it simple and cheap, or you can add a few small things to it (like popcorn and soda).
* All kinds of things (from nail polish to a candy bar) can be turned into a fun teacher appreciation gift with a clever gift tag. If you’re not very clever, no worries – me either! That’s why I love sites like this one¬†that round up¬†lots of fun ideas.

I have a little more to spend. If you’d like to spoil a teacher a bit, here are a few more ideas. (Keep in mind – you can always ask around and see if any parents want to chip in and buy a group gift.)
* Gift cards. I can’t tell you how touched I was, as a brand-new teacher, to get a $25 Outback Steakhouse gift card and a $25 movie theater gift card during teacher appreciation week. I was floored! As in intern teacher, I was earning $900 a month and helping support my husband (who was in grad school). To be able to go to a restaurant and to a movie … it was such a treat!
* Buy an experience. Teachers work hard all year taking care of others – it’s time to give them the opportunity to do something for themselves! A manicure or pedicure … tickets to a museum or an exhibit … even something like rock climbing or skydiving could be fun. (I’d only do something like that if I knew the teacher fairly well and was pretty sure he or she would enjoy it.) You could even check out a website like Groupon and find something that looks fun and different.
* Put together an end-of-the-year “survival kit”. Anything you already know the teacher likes (soda, candy, etc.) is great. You can also add items that you know teachers go through a lot of (school supplies, hand sanitizer, etc.). A search on Pinterest will give you lots of suggestions!

So there are some of my favorite ideas! Have you decided who you’re going to thank this week? And have you decided how you’re going to do it? I’d love to hear your ideas!!

Reaching Out to Someone with a Disability

Today, I’d like to begin our Service Thursday¬†by telling you a bit about the man who calls me his best friend. His name is Jonathon. He’s tall, he’s handsome, and he makes me laugh. He lives halfway across the country from me, and whenever I leave California at the end of a vacation, saying goodbye to him breaks my heart.

He’s my brother. He’s an uncle to my children. He’s possibly the sweetest man I know.

And he happens to have autism.

Siblings

This is a picture of my siblings and I. You’d never know, looking at this picture, that one of us has a disability, would you? … And that, my friends, is kind of the point. My brother has a disability. But he’s still my brother. He’s still my friend. And he’s still a person who needs friendship and love.

My guess is, you know someone who has a disability. Maybe, like me, it’s a member of your immediate family. Perhaps a sibling or a child. Maybe a neighbor, a friend at church, or a child’s classmate. Do you have someone in mind?

Good. Because it’s time to do some service.

Reaching Out

My major in college was Special Education, and I taught for two years before my daughter was born. I’ve also tutored in a variety of settings. I still don’t consider myself an expert, but I have several ideas to share with you today. The difficulty in writing a post like this is that, of course, no two individuals are the same, and there’s no one-size-fits all ideas that I can give¬†you. One child with autism might be lacking in social skills, while another¬†might be completely non-verbal. You might have a friend in a wheelchair who is temporarily unable to walk, or you might have a friend in a wheelchair who is unable to walk, talk, or even eat without the assistance of a feeding tube. So read through my suggestions with your friend (and his or her own unique interests and needs) in mind, and hopefully you’ll get a new idea or two.

This week, I’d like you to consider doing one of the following things for someone with a disability:

* Be a thoughtful friend. This might come very naturally to you, or it might be very difficult. But think of the person you’re going to be serving. Does he enjoy watching movies? Watch one with him. Does she enjoy pretty things? Bring her flowers. Everyone, at every ability level, needs kindness and love. This might look like a trip to the arcade. It might look like a quiet afternoon doing puzzles. It might look like books or coloring or jumping on a trampoline. It could mean running an errand or cleaning or mowing the lawn. It all depends on who you’re serving. If you need ideas, please feel free to reach out to me! I’d love to help you brainstorm.

* Support parents. As we all know, being a parent is difficult business. To a parent who has a child with a disability, life can throw a few extra twists and turns. Reach out to that parent with a specific offer to help. “Let me know if I can help,” while kind, is much less helpful than “I’d like to bring you dinner tonight – what kind of foods does your family like?” or even, if you have a good relationship with the family, “I’d like to babysit your kids so you and your husband can go on a date this weekend; does Friday or Saturday work better?” A plate of cookies left on the door with an encouraging note can be an answer to prayer for an exhausted parent. And if you truly don’t know what to do, just ask. Look into that parent’s eye and simply say, “What do you need today?”

* Volunteer. Recently, I learned that there’s a center in my city for adults with disabilities. I’ve only gone twice, but y’all, I’m hooked. Even with my background in Special Education, I was a bit nervous to go at first. (I’ve worked with many children, but rarely with adults.)¬†But as soon as I walked in, I felt right at home. My new friends there were tickled¬†to¬†have visitors¬†(and especially to have kids there). They loved playing games. They loved singing songs. They were thrilled with the prizes I brought (most of them from the Dollar Tree). We’re going back on Friday, and I can’t wait! If you are interested in doing something like this, ask around or do an internet search. There is likely somewhere nearby that would love to have you come visit and volunteer. The center near me is willing to take me whenever I can come, where it’s monthly or weekly.

* Provide respite care.¬†Very simply put, respite care is trained babysitting. If you’re interested in being able to provide breaks for families who might desperately need it, consider becoming a respite care provider. This isn’t something I’ve done in the past, so I can’t tell you much about it, but here is a great article¬†that sums it up pretty well. (If you’ve been involved in respite care, I’d love to hear your thoughts!)

* Involve your children. This final suggestion is something that I am passionate about – I want my children to be comfortable around people of all different ability levels. That means doing intentional things, like taking them with me to volunteer. But it also means that when we see someone with a disability, we take a moment to be kind. We smile. We introduce ourselves. And we look for something to compliment. We admire “cool wheels” on wheelchairs, we admire pretty shirts, we admire friendly smiles. Teach your kids that everyone has something to contribute to the world, and teach them to look for the unique gifts in others.

Those are a few suggestions for you to get you thinking. How are you going to participate in this week’s service challenge? I’m planning on taking my kids to volunteer at the center for adults with disabilities tomorrow – and we’re going to egg¬†the hard-working employees. ūüôā I’d love to hear your thoughts!

You’ve Been Egged! – An Easter Service Challenge

I’m looking out my window right now, and the sights I see fill my heart with joy. The trees are tentatively releasing leaves. Curious young plants are poking out of the ground. Daffodills – which, just two days ago, were just green stalks and leaves – have bloomed, giving my backward a glorious splash of yellow. Life, which looked much more bleak and dismal a week ago, is full of promise and potential.

(Can you tell what my favorite season is?)

Y’all, I love spring. It’s good for my soul. And I love that Easter happens in the spring. It’s a time of hope and rejuvenation and new life. The winter is ending, the days are getting longer … I am just thrilled. And in honor of my favorite season, we’re beginning a new service project. Like many of our other projects, this is a “pay it forward” idea. Basically, you do our service challenge this week, and hopefully the recipient of your service will pass it on before Easter!

You've Been Egged!

This week, we’re going “egging”. Not the mean kind of egging where you toss raw eggs at someone’s home. But … service egging, I suppose. ūüôā

To participate in this week’s challenge, you just need a few things:

* Plastic Easter eggs and something to fill them with

*¬†This printable tag¬†(Note – this will open as a Word document and print¬†two tags per page. If you’d like a larger or smaller image, please let me know! I’d be happy to send it to you.)

You've Been Egged printable

The idea is simple – go spread some Easter sunshine! You can leave a stocked Easter basket on a doorstep. You can hide the eggs on someone’s lawn, leave an empty basket on the doorstep, ring the doorbell, and run. You can even make an Easter craft (like this cute one here) if you’re artsy!

Here are a few ideas for egg fillers:

* Individually wrapped candies

* Small toys or stickers (for children)

* Little notes (love notes, encouraging notes, favorite scriptures, etc.)

* If your budget allows, you might even consider adding money to the eggs if you know someone who is struggling financially. Or even just adding a few coins to your eggs will delight small children!

I’ve created these printable tags¬†for use to use. Why? To encourage people to pass on the fun! The nice thing about plastic eggs is that they’re reusable. The person you “egg” can enjoy the treats in their eggs, fill them up again, and pass on the fun to someone else. Wouldn’t it be awesome if everyone in your neighborhood was “egging” each other?

Update: My kids and I “egged” their teachers this week, and the printables were too big for us to use. So I re-formatted the printable – if you’d like a smaller image, you can print off this one –¬†You’ve been egged printable – 8 per page.¬†These are small enough to print, cut out, and tuck inside a plastic Easter egg with a few pieces of candy. ūüôā

Here’s an alternate idea for you: If your budget is tight, there’s no need to buy anything this week. Just cut some eggs out of construction paper, write fun notes on them, and leave them on someone’s door. You can even do that in public places for strangers to find – stuck on windshields, taped on bathroom mirrors … be creative!

So go out and spread some Easter sunshine this week! I’d love to hear what fantastic ideas you come up with.

We Are Abolitionists (part 2)

This week’s service challenge is the conclusion of a previous challenge. As our community project draws to a close, I wanted to sincerely thank those of you who have joined in with me! I can’t tell you how much your support means.

A few years ago, I sat in a movie theater, frozen in my chair.

I am very familiar with the story of Les Miserables. I read the book in high school – the abridged version, and then the unabridged. (And let me tell you what – that thing is HUGE!) I have seen the play several times. I know most of the music. So when I went to see it in the movie theater, I wasn’t expecting to be surprised.

But I was.

Although I typically enjoy books and plays more than movies, this one … it got me. One scene in particular.

To be honest … it was a scene that has always made me feel uncomfortable. The “lovely ladies” lewdly sing about their customers, and Fantine’s face shows her disgust, her horror, and finally her fearful resignation as she spirals into her desperate new life. Prostitution is always a subject that had made me uncomfortable, as it probably does you. And I used to skim over that part of the story.

But as I watched this movie, my eyes were opened. Perhaps it was seeing it on the big screen, and perhaps it was seeing it as an adult and as a mother. But as I watched sweet Fantine look around her and realize that she could only see one option to earn the money to feed her child, my heart shattered. Not just because of the story.

But it hit me that this. Is. Real.

That there are women all around the world who are so desperate to feed their children that they have no option but to sell themselves at whatever price they can get.

And that, even worse, there are CHILDREN in this same condition.

Friends, this is hard to read. This is hard for me to type. I’d rather not think about it. But I ask you to. Not because I want to make you sad or fearful or helpless. Just the opposite.

I want you to think about it because there is something we can do.

We are Abolitionists

You and I, in the safety of our homes. We can give to a cause that rescues children from a life of sex slavery.

Although we’re not on the airplane to rescue these children, we can pay for the flights. We can fund the sting operations. We can finance the undercover missions. We can rescue children from hell on earth.

This is the last week of our fundraiser for Operation Underground Railroad. And together, we have donated $368 as a group. I am so thrilled and grateful to see that! And this week, as our fundraiser ends, I’d love to see that grow even more.

So this week, for our service challenge, I ask you to look into your heart, open your wallet, and see if you have a dollar or two to donate to this cause. Is there a purchase you were considering that you could skip? A lunch out that you can brown bag instead? A few chores your children can do so they can add their dollar to this cause?

If you haven’t read our first post, I’d love to have you check it out here.¬†If you’d like to know what your money is going to, check out their website¬†or Facebook page. In just the last few weeks, they have had four successful missions, freeing dozens of slaves and sending many traffickers to jail. This group is getting out there and changing the world. And I feel privileged to be able to help.

I truly believe that every dollar that we can give to this wonderful group will be greatly appreciated. And remember, the money does NOT come to me (or through me). You donate directly onto the website, meaning any donations are tax-deductible. I am not sponsored or affiliated in any way with Operation Underground Railroad. I just love the work they do, and I wanted to join in on this with my people.

(That’s you.)

Thank you for joining me, friends. I believe, with all of my heart, that together, we can make a difference in this world.

To view our fundraiser, just click here:¬†Let’s Do Some Good Today’s fundraiser page

The Lucky Day Challenge

Well, friends, it’s almost March already. So this week, it’s time for a new service challenge! And in honor of Saint Patrick’s Day …

Lucky Day

Everyone loves feeling like they’re having a lucky day. Wouldn’t it be fun to go around, doing random acts of kindness for others and CREATING luck for them? I think so!

This challenge is similar to our other Random Acts of Kindness Challenge (like the Service Ghost challenge¬†and the Feel the Love challenge). You can print off a copy of our little handout. Then … just go spread some good luck!

Here are a few of my favorite ideas:

* Use the ideas from our quarter challenge and our dollar challenge – go hide a little bit of money somewhere intentional (taped on a vending machine, in the Laundromat, etc.) and leave one of these notes behind.

* Do something kind for someone in your house and leave a card behind. “It’s your lucky day – I did your chores for you! Pay it forward by making it someone else’s lucky day!”

* Leave a small present on a neighbor’s doorstep, and start a kindness movement in your neighborhood!

* Pay for the next person in line at a fast food restaurant or on a toll bridge, and ask the cashier to pass along a “Lucky Day” card to the person you’ve paid for.

* Go to a local thrift store. Hide a little bit of money in a coat (or purse, or inside a book). Be sure to attach a note – either one of our printables or an encouraging note of your own – so the recipient knows it’s meant to be taken, not just lost money that perhaps should be turned in. ūüôā

If you’d like to print off copies of our image (shown above), just click here –¬†Lucky Day printables. This will download as a Word document with 12 images per page. Then you can just print, cut, and serve. ūüôā If you have an trouble with the printable, please let me know!

So let’s get going and make it someone’s lucky day! What are you planning on doing this week to spread the luck?

The Color of Compassion – Aunt Dorothy’s Challenge

Normally our weekly service challenge¬†happens every Thursday. But today, along with 1000 other bloggers, I am raising my voice and speaking for compassion. And this time, our service challenge begins with a story. This story is about a woman who exemplifies the word “compassion” more than anyone I’ve ever met.

It’s a story that makes me laugh, cry, and want to be a better person.

I hope, in a small way, it does the same for you.

The Color of Compassion

Once upon a time, there were two 10-year-old girls. They were names Anna and Dorothy. Anna was, at the time, an only child, and Dorothy was the only daughter in her family. They became fast friends … and soon, less like friends and more like sister.

Their families began spending time together – although they were very different from each other, a mutual respect, admiration, and love developed between them. And the girls giggled and plotted and schemed and dreamed … wouldn’t it be great if they got to be actual sisters someday?

Enter David.

Dorothy’s older brother was 5 years older than the giggly girls. Anna was smitten. David was … not. He was kind to his little sister’s best friend, but she was … well … his little sister’s best friend. But the girls dreamed on, and their wonderful friendship developed.

Fast forward several years. David enlisted in the Army and left home. When he returned, he found that his little sister’s best friend had changed. She was a young woman. She had matured. She was beautiful.

At David and Anna’s wedding, there came a slightly awkward moment. Everyone was seated in the chapel. The groom stood at the front of the room. The guests were waiting. The bride and bridesmaid were … not coming down the aisle.

Where were they?

They were hugging each other, squealing, bouncing up and down in the hall in their puffy dresses and yelling, “We DID it! We DID it! We GOT HIM!”

If I didn’t know how much Anna loved Dave, I might be a little sorry for him.

But I know how much Anna loved Dave – and still loves him. I know how much Dave loved Anna – and still loves her. Because Dave and Anna are my grandparents. And Dorothy was, in every sense of the word, my great aunt.

Best photo bomb
From left to right: Me, Uncle Chuck, Aunt Dorothy, Grandma, and Grandpa.

Now I want to tell you a bit more about Dorothy that will explain the love I had for her. From her childhood, she possessed a unique gift – she was always, always looking for someone to love and to serve. She loved to perform, and her animated personality made her one of the most popular girls at school. But when it came time to go on field trips and everyone would pile on the school bus, she didn’t head to the back to have fun with the other popular kids. She would look around and find an empty seat beside a shy, quiet student who was sitting alone. She would sit there and laugh and joke and create memories. She would transform that bus experience for the lonely child.

I imagine, to the lonely students she joined, she was their angel.

That pretty well sums up Aunt Dorothy.

Her entire life, she dealt with serious health challenges and pain. She always, always hurt. There was always something wrong. But from the smile that was always radiating on her face, you’d never know. I often wondered how she did it. After dealing with a fair amount of pain of my own these past few years, several times I called her – hesitant to bother her – and always found a listening ear, sympathy, and that even more precious gift of empathy. She mourned with me when I had to make the decision to have a hysterectomy. She cried with me when I wept into the phone, telling her how I just didn’t feel like I could live with the pain one more day. And never – not once – did she make any kind of comment to remind me that her pain was worse, her life was harder, her trials were heavier. She loved me and wanted me to be happy, and she did everything in her power to support me.

And that is how she lived for EVERYone.

But how did she do it?

My dad helped put into words what I couldn’t express adequately. Aunt Dorothy KNEW that she was (and is) a child of God. She KNEW that you are too. And so when she met you, it was like a joyous reunion with a long-lost sibling. She couldn’t wait to hold your hand and look into your eyes and hear about your life. She wanted to know you. She wasn’t just kind – she genuinely loved everyone she met. And with that love filling up her heart, she couldn’t help but pour it out to every person that she met.

This past week, Aunt Dorothy returned Home to her Father in Heaven. For those of us still here, there was shock and heartbreak. Her children and grandchildren, nieces and nephews, great-nieces and nephews, childhood friends, adult friends, people who barely knew her … we booked flights and jumped in cars. We flocked to California to mourn and to celebrate her life.

As I saw her sweet, frail little body, lying so still and peaceful, I spoke with her daughters and they told me how much they loved her beautiful hands. I asked if she liked having her fingernails painted (which they weren’t at the time), and the girls told me no, she was allergic to fingernail polish.

That little fact, for some reason, moved me deeply. This kind woman who had spent her life doing so much for others – including giving birth to four children, when she had been told it was almost impossible to even have one – had spent nearly every moment on this Earth struggling with the limitations of her body. She couldn’t paint her nails. She couldn’t wear much jewelry. She couldn’t be around fresh flowers. She couldn’t walk without pain, or sit without pain, or dance without pain. Her whole life, her body held her back.

But she kept loving and serving anyway.

Friends, this is compassion. To forget yourself, and to go about loving and serving everyone you meet like a long-lost brother or sister.

This is compassion.

This was – and is – my Aunt Dorothy.

So this week, as I raise my voice with 1000 others to speak for compassion, I wanted to share her story with you. And this week, as you go about meeting new people and serving in your homes and doing your jobs and reaching out in your community, I want you to keep one thought in mind: Forget yourself, and go about loving and serving everyone you meet like a long-lost brother or sister.

I don’t know exactly what this week’s service challenge will look like for you. It’s not quite as straightforward as “spread quarters around town” or “thank a fireman“. But this is what it will look like for me.

Serving new moms

I rarely paint my fingernails. But this week, in honor of my precious aunt who couldn’t, I painted my fingernails – light blue, her favorite color. Light blue is now, for me, the color of compassion. And as this color catches my eye all week, I will smile.

I will remember to forget myself and to choose kindness.

I will remember compassion.

I will remember Aunt Dorothy.

The Love Note Challenge

It’s service Thursday¬†– Valentine’s edition. ūüôā

Do you love Valentine’s Day? This challenge is for you!

Do you hate Valentine’s Day? This challenge is for you!

Are you indifferent about Valentine’s Day? This challenge is for you!

So here’s the thing about a holiday that’s all about love and romance: it can be really fun. Or it can be really hard.

But no matter how you feel about it … it gives you a great opportunity to spread kindness!

This week, we are going to write love notes. Not the sappy “You are my sun and my world and my universe” love notes (although, of course, those are great, and feel free to write one of those, too). We’re just going to use Valentine’s Day as an excuse to make sure someone knows that they are loved.

Ready for some ideas?

Love note challenge

* Leave a note for someone who lives in your house. You can write in a mirror, leave a note taped somewhere, write a note on a napkin of a lunch bag, hide a note somewhere that will eventually be discovered … just a little way to let your spouse, parent, or child know that they are loved.

* Hide a note for a stranger to find. You can leave a “You are loved!” note on a bathroom mirror in a public restroom. You can tape a motivational note up somewhere in your workplace for others to find. “Thanks for being here today – you matter!” Cheesy, yes. But … it’s Valentine’s Day. You have an excuse to be cheesy. And you never know who might really need a little bit of love.

* Mail a Valentine’s card. Do you have a loved one who will be lonely on Valentine’s day? A grandparent? A widowed friend? A single relative? Someone going through a divorce? Someone in a nursing home? Valentine’s Day can be a rocky one for many people. Who do you know that could really use a kind card? (Pretty much anyone! Who doesn’t love finding actual mail – not just bills – in their mailbox?)

* Write notes with sidewalk chalk. Leave a message on your driveway welcoming home a family member from work or school. Sneak to a friend’s house and write a message (you can do it anonymously if you want). Write notes on a sidewalk for passerbys to read. Something as small as a simple chalk picture can easily be enough to brighten someone’s day. This is a great one to get kids involved with!

* Give someone a heart attack. (A nice one, of course!) Cut out paper hearts and plaster a door with them! This would be fun on a bedroom door as well as a front door. Leave behind a kind note.

And remember, you can always use our printable, especially if you want to be anonymous, or if you want to encourage someone to pay it forward. ūüôā

Happy Valentine's Day!

That’s¬†our simple little challenge! Who are you going to write a note to this week?

The Random Acts of Kindness Challenge

Last week’s service challenge was a little bit heavier, but I am so grateful for the support that was shown! If you’d like to learn more about Operation Underground Rescue, please see last week’s post here.

This week, I was thinking about Black Friday.

I’m sure you’re familiar with that infamous day. The day after Thanksgiving, the news is full of stories of people pushing and shoving and fighting and hurting one another so they can get a good deal on their Christmas gifts. In fact, several years ago, I walked into Walmart on Black Friday … just in time to see someone getting tasered by a police office.

Over what???

I’m not anti-Black Friday by any means. I still do a bit of shopping that day. And I am all about a good deal when I get one. But when saving money becomes more important than being kind … well, that’s when things get sad.

This past November, I was introduced to a fun page on Facebook called RAK Friday. Their goal was to take Black Friday – a day known for impatient people and short tempers – and turn it into a day full of Random Acts of Kindness (“RAKs”).

I LOVE IT.

Although it is wonderful to serve our families and our friends and our neighbors, there is a power that comes from serving a stranger. You’re doing something good, knowing that you will never be repaid. You’re reaching out of your comfort zone a bit, and you might never know what a difference you’re making.

But you are going to make a difference.

RAKs

We’ve started a new feature here at Let’s Do Some Good Today: Kindness Matters Monday. Because … well, the name says it all. Kindness really does matter. But sometimes, it’s easy to forget.¬†Sometimes don’t realize the lasting impact that out kindness can have. I hope these stories show you that it DOES matter. It CAN make a difference.

This week, I want you to go out of your way and do something for a stranger that you wouldn’t normally do. I want you to be consciously kinder than you would normally be. I don’t want you to just read this article and think, “Well, I’m a kind person already.” I know you are, and I am so grateful to have connected with all of you. But I don’t just want you to be kind – I want you to take action. I want you to go out and intentionally do something to make a stranger’s day better.

Here are a few ideas to get you going:

* Go around town with quarters or dollars and spread some sunshine

* Flower bomb someone

* Leave coupons in the grocery store for someone else to find

* Donate a few dollars to a charitable cause, such as Operation Underground Railroad

* Buy a gift card and give it away (or leave it for someone to find – make sure to attach a note so they know it’s for them to take)

* Print off some Feel the Love printables to share, encouraging others to pay forward the kindness they receive

For more inspiration, you can check out some of my favorite websites, Pennies of Time and The Birthday Project. Or you can read through our previous weekly service challenges to find some more ideas.

So what are you planning on doing this week to make someone’s life a little bit better? I’d love to hear your ideas!

 

 

 

Operation Underground Railroad

Welcome to our weekly service Thursday! This week’s challenge is a little different than our usual service challenges. Rather than serving on our own communities, this week we’re going to look into our hearts. We’re going to think about things that hurt. And then together, we’re going to do something big…

Slavery.

There aren’t many words that pain me more deeply than this one.

From the time I was very young, the idea of slavery hurt my heart (as I’m sure it did yours). As a child, the idea of a complete lack of liberty was beyond what I could comprehend, but the more obvious horrors of slavery – the idea that someone could whip you, let their dogs attack you, even kill you – were almost more than my child heart could bear.

And as I grew older, other things horrified me even more. Stories of husbands and wives being ripped apart. Children taken from their homes and sold, never to be heard of again. People being raped (or bred) with no recourse. People denied freedom, and rights, and an education, and property, and paychecks, and a future.

As a teenager I would read historical fiction novels, and a tiny part of my heart wished that I could go back in time so I could help, and fight, and serve. I wanted to be a part of the Underground Railroad. I wanted to teach freed slaves to read. I wanted to help mothers to find their lost children.

But then I would think about the cruelties of slavery and I would change my mind. I realized that even if I could, I wasn’t brave enough to travel back in time – it would be too heartbreaking. I would put the book down, look around my peaceful home, and count my blessings. I was SO grateful to be living in this day and age, where there is no more slavery.

Guess what?

I WAS WRONG.

It’s so easy to forget, and frankly, I WANT to forget. Oh, I desperately want to forget that there are families that are being ripped apart. I want to forget that there are people whose liberties have been taken from them. And a part of me would love to go back to the time when I didn’t realize that all over the world, children are being taken and sold as sex slaves. Parents are crying themselves to sleep, wondering if they’ll see their children again. Children are waking up every morning to a living hell.

I just did what was perhaps the most painful internet search I’ve ever done. “How many children are sold into slavery”. Oh, how my heart broke even typing those words. And the answer, from Force for Compassion … “Are you aware that 3,287 people are sold or kidnapped and forced into slavery every day? Not many people are. That’s 136 an hour and that’s just the reported cases. Are you aware that most of these are children and most of them are sold repeatedly for sex? Again, it’s a little known fact but it’s real and it’s happening all around us — even here in the US.”

I don’t want to think about it.

I don’t want to think about it!

But guess what? Whether I think about it or not, IT IS HAPPENING.

Ignoring it might make us feel better. But IT IS STILL HAPPENING.

So I’ve made a choice. I’m not going to ignore it any more.

I’m going to fight.

And I want you to fight with me.

There is a group called Operation Underground Railroad. These brave men and women are fighting, and they’re doing what few have the courage to do. They’re going in and rescuing children who are caught up in sex trafficking rings. These rescuers are putting their lives on the line and they’re going to hell on earth. And they’re succeeding. They’re saving children.

And I’m going to help.

Will you help, too?

As I’m sure you can imagine, these rescue operations are incredibly expensive. It costs $20,000 on average. A mission can end up rescuing anywhere from 1-50 children.

$20,000, and only one child might be rescued. That seems like a lot of money.

Unless it was my child.

So what if it was my child? What if it was YOUR child?

$20,000 would mean absolutely nothing to you. You would empty your bank account and sell everything you owned. You would work until your fingers bled. You would beg and plead and grovel and do whatever you needed to do to rescue your child.

No, it’s not your child, and it’s not my child. My children are safe. As I write this, they’re at school, playing and learning. They’ll come home, get a snack, do homework. We’ll play a game, we’ll eat dinner, they’ll take a bath. I’ll cuddle and kiss them, I’ll read them a bedtime story, I’ll pray with them and, later, I’ll pray over their little sleeping bodies. Tomorrow morning they’ll put on their clean clothes, eat a filling breakfast, hop into my safe car, and we’ll go to school.

My children are not lost. My children have not been taken.

But these child sex slaves … they are somene’s children.

And … they are CHILDREN.

We are Abolitionists

Today, I am starting a fundraiser. I do so with hesitancy – I know that for many people, money is tight. I know that there are many opportunities to do good in the world, and for the most part, I want to encourage you to do small acts of service in your own communities. I don’t want you to feel like this is a website that is always asking for money or making you feel guilty.

But this is different.

These are children. And I’m ready to fight for them.

So here’s my goal … as a “Let’s Do Some Good Today” community, I’d like us to come up with $2000. This might seem like a lot of money to you, or it might seem like nothing. But whatever your financial situation is, I ask you to look in your heart and see if you have anything you can give. Because your $5 might not make a huge difference, and mine might not. But yours and mine together … that’s $10. And if you invite a friend, or if your employer¬†matches your donation … that makes $15. And maybe your kids can earn a dollar, and maybe mine can. Perhaps you can do a bake sale or work some overtime or skip a fast food lunch. And suddenly … our dollars become a big deal.

Do you know what those dollars can mean?

They can mean freedom.

They can mean that we are abolitionists.

Please join me.

If you’d like to learn more about the work of Operation Underground Railroad, you can visit their website¬†here. And to join in the Let’s Do Some Good Today fundraiser, you can click here. You can donate as little as a dollar, or as much as you feel led to give. All donations are tax deductible. Thank you so much for joining with me. We are abolitionists!

The Feel the Love Challenge

Happy Service Thursday! I’m so excited to introduce our newest service challenge. For those of you who have been around for a few months, you might remember our service ghost. I LOVED that challenge, and it was so wonderful to get to hear back from a few people who were recipients of the service ghost in different areas. So in honor of Valentine’s day …

Feel The Love

This week is the “Feel The Love Challenge”. Do something nice for someone. Leave behind a note challenging them to pay it forward. That’s it! (And I’ve even made the note for you!)

Here are a few ideas for you:
* Print off¬†our note (or make your own) and start it going around your house! When you do something extra nice for a family member, leave behind a “Feel The Love?” note. Then it’s their turn to serve someone else!
* Get some ideas from the Quarter Challenge¬†and the Dollar Challenge¬†– leave coins (or dollar bills) around town with a note attached to it. Quarters are great to leave in candy machines, taped on vending machines, at Laundromats, and at car washes. Dollar bills are fantastic to hide at a dollar store, by the treats at the cash register, or … well, anywhere that a kid might find it!
*The next time you’re grabbing fast food or crossing a bridge/driving on a toll road, pay for the car behind you. Leave a note with the cashier and ask them to pass it along.
* Start a movement in your neighborhood! Print off a few of these tags and leave a treat or small gift on your neighbor’s doorstep.¬†You could also do this at work or at school (for a friend or for a total stranger).
* If your budget is very tight right now, you can still participate! Think of something you can do that’s free – shoveling someone’s snowy walkway, leaving an encouraging note on a mirror in a public place, leaving coupons behind for someone else to find, sending someone an anonymous card, or whatever you can think of!
* Just do a google search for Random Acts of Kindness. There are SO many fantastic ideas out there. You can even find ideas on Pinterest – I have several on my Let’s Serve board, and there are many, many more ideas out there. Find something that resonates with you and start a movement in your community!

If you’d like to print some notes, you can do so here (Feel The Love – full page) or here (Feel The Love – 9 per page). If every one of us did just a few acts of kindness for a stranger this week, just think of all the sunshine we could spread! And if they decided to pay it forward … Well, that would just be amazing.

So let’s get out there and spread kindness!