Giving Gifts that Make a Difference

It’s that time of year again. So many fun things are going on: Christmas lights, holiday parties, baking days, spending time with loved ones, standing in endless lines to check out at the store to buy gifts that you’re not sure if people will even want.

I love it all!

Well … except for maybe that last part.

Changing lives with your holiday gift budget

I really love gifts (I enjoy receiving them, and I LOVE giving them)… but have you ever sat down to make your Christmas shopping list and just been tired of all of the STUFF? I sure have. So this year, as you’re preparing to shop, I’d like to encourage you to think outside the box a little and to look at Christmas shopping a different way. Let’s shop with purpose this year. Let’s let those dollars in our Christmas budget count.

This week, will you join me in my simple service project? Just take a moment to look at your holiday gift budget, then consider this: is there anyone you’re shopping for who really doesn’t need STUFF? Or is there anyone on your list who would love to receive a gift, knowing that the person who made that gift is being given the opportunity for a better life?

If the answer to that is yes … or even just maybe … join me this week in using those holiday dollars to change lives. Come see the work of The Mercy House, Compassion International, and many more, and see if you get any ideas. And then come back and share your thoughts with us!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Normally on Thursdays, we have a service/kindness challenge. But today, I’m not going to spend much time writing. I’m going to be cooking delicious things (I have a dark chocolate sea salt caramel pie in my fridge, y’all), eating wonderful food, and spending time with my people. That’s about as good as life gets, isn’t it? I hope you get to spend today doing the same thing.

But not everyone has that opportunity, do they? So today (and this week), my challenge to you is simple: reach out with kindness to someone who might not be having an ideal holiday. Someone who has recently lost a spouse, a parent, or a child. Someone who is having financial difficulties and might be feeling the stress of the holiday season. Someone who is spending Thanksgiving working, or someone who has to go to bed early tonight so they can be at work at 3 am tomorrow, getting ready for a storm of impatient Black Friday shoppers. Show a bit of extra kindness. Be a little more patient. Be thoughtful and considerate to one extra person.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. It is a privilege to be a part of this community with you.

Happy Thanksgiving

The Birthday Kindness List

Hello, everyone, and thank you SO much for joining me in celebrating my birthday with acts of kindness! I am going to keep updating this list throughout the day. I would LOVE it if we made it to 100! If you are able to go our of your way to do an act of kindness for a stranger, would you please let us know what you did? You can comment here or on our Facebook page, or e-mail me at [email protected] If you want to include your city and/or state, that would be awesome, too! Thank you for celebrating with me – you have no idea how happy this makes me.

Birthday Acts of Kindness

  1. Left a gift for the waitress at breakfast (Grand Prairie, TX)
  2. Making dinner for a friend whose husband recently had surgery
  3. Bought a gift for P.E. teacher (Grand Prairie, TX)
  4. Packed a care package for a friend who will be in basic training over the holidays
  5. Sharpened pencils to make school kits for kids in need (done by a 5-year-old)
  6. Sent flowers to a friend fighting cancer (Ripon, CA)
  7. Donated baby items to a family who lost their home in a fire
  8. Sent a “just-because” card to a friend
  9. Bought extra toiletries to donate
  10. Gave out coupons for free cookies from the cafeteria for 40 students and staff members to find
  11. Sent a card to a friend who is having a tough year
  12. Gave treats to a friend at work
  13. Wheeled in a neighbor’s garbage can (Manteca, CA)
  14. Handed out stickers in a store (done by a 2-year-old)
  15. Donated 8 inches of hair to a program that makes wigs for kids with hair loss
  16. Send a Hanukkah care package to brother and his comrades on an army base
  17. Spent time talking to a woman who was eating alone
  18. Clicked to donate for free at The Hunger Site
  19. Clicked to help homeless animals at The Greater Good
  20. Clicked to donate at The Breast Cancer Site
  21. Clicked to donate at The Animal Rescue Site
  22. Clicked to donate at The Veterans Site
  23. Clicked to support therapy services at The Autism Site
  24. Clicked to donate at The Alzheimers Site
  25. Clicked to support research at The Diabetes Site
  26. Clicked to help give a book at The Literacy Site
  27. Clicked to help protect wildlife at The Rainforest Site
  28. Brought treats to the staff at a care center for adults with disabilities (Duncanville, TX)
  29. Left a note and a gift card for a new mom to find (tucked inside the diaper changing station in Target)
  30. Shopped for Operation Christmas Child
  31. Sent care packages to military personnel
  32. Sent care packages to college students
  33. Anonymously sent a gift card to new parents
  34. Gave a waiter a gift card to give to another diner
  35. Bought toys for kids with cancer
  36. Sharpened pencils for school supply kits for Operation Christmas Child
  37. Donated a pumpkin pie to a family
  38. Had a shoebox packing party
  39. Helped someone with plumbing questions
  40. Chose a child’s wish list from Salvation Army angel tree
  41. Cleaned up trash in the park
  42. Bought candy for the next person in line at the movie theater

It’s My Birthday!

So you know how some people are like, “Yeah, it’s my birthday. No biggie. Let’s not talk about it.”

Yup. That’s me.

Only the opposite.

Tomorrow is my birthday, and for years, I’ve wanted to do something like Robyn from The Birthday Project. On her 38th birthday, she completed 38 random acts of kindness for strangers. Friends and family joined in, and the idea spread like wildfire. Countless people celebrated that day by being kind to strangers.

What an amazing day.

I haven’t attempted this on my birthday because it’s pretty busy packing shoeboxes. But this year, I thought I’d try.

And I’d love your help.

Birthday Acts of Kindness

Do you remember in May, how we joined together for the Random Acts of Kindness challenge? Together, we completed 65 acts of kindness for strangers. It was a wonderful day. And tomorrow, I’d like to do it again. Will you help me try to hit my big, crazy goal of 100 acts of kindness?

There are only a few requests I have for this challenge. The first: Do something that you would NOT normally do. We’re going out of our way to bring happiness to the life of a stranger. And my other request: will you please come back tomorrow and let us know what you did? (You can leave a comment on the post that will be up, you can comment on our Facebook page, or if you want to be totally anonymous, you can e-mail me at [email protected]) There are two reasons for that. One, it’s awesome to learn from one another’s ideas. And two … there’s such an awesome sense of community that forms when people from all over come together to do good things. It’s amazing. And I’m SO excited already.

For some ideas, feel free to check out our original 100 Acts of Kindness Day results – there were SO many awesome suggestions from members of our Let’s Do Some Good Today community! Here are a few of my very favorites:

Sometimes when I’m doing something kind for a stranger, one of the most awkward things is explaining what I’m doing in a way that makes it clear that I’m not trying to get anything out of them. If this makes you nervous, this might help: Often I print off a little handout (like these free Butterfly effect printable tags) to hand out to people. So if you wanted to give a stranger a gift card, you could just smile, hand them the gift card and this little printable card, and say something like “I’m participating in a kindness challenge today. This is for you. If you can, do something nice for a stranger and pass it on. Have a great day!” Smile again and walk away. And that’s it!

Butterfly Effect

So how are you going to be participating in this challenge tomorrow? I would LOVE to hear! Thank you so much for celebrating my birthday with me, and thank you for spreading kindness!

Kindness Matters Monday: Packed With Love

So I realize that many of my posts lately have been about Operation Christmas Child. This week is packing week, so I promise that they’ll slow down soon. But I had to share this story with you today, in honor of Kindness Matters Monday.

I teach preschool music, and I often spend the first minute or two of class asking kids a question about their weekend, what fun things they’re doing, etc. Today, I told one of my classes that I’d be having a shoebox packing party this weekend. None of them had ever heard of Operation Christmas Child (well, except for my son), and they listened attentively.

” … And then I pack them with things like a toothbrush and toothpaste, school supplies, and toys. Oh, and candy!”

And then came a little voice. “And love?”

I froze. I choked up. And I smiled.

“Yes, sweetie. And so, so much love.”

Your one box? It matters.

(I’ve watched a lot of these videos, y’all. But 20 seconds in, and my heart … oh.)

It’s packing week!

If you’ve been reading here for long, you know that I LOVE packing shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child. This next week (November 16th-23rd) is drop-off week! Just take your gift-filled shoebox to a drop-off location near you … and let the magic begin. 🙂 Seriously, this is one of the most exciting parts of the year for me.

This next week I’ll be packing 31 shoeboxes for my 31st birthday. Some churches and other groups join together and pack thousands. Many families gather together to pack one. And every single shoebox counts. Every one matters.

This week, will you join me and my family?

Family packing time

For ideas, check out our Operation Christmas Child database. And as always, please feel free to reach out to me with any questions – I LOVE to help.

Because here’s the thing. This writing business? It takes a lot of time, and it even costs money to do. And sometimes I get a bit worn out.

But when I get a comment like “Thanks for sharing! I’m going to pack a shoebox!”

That, friends, is my payday as a writer.

Kindness Matters Monday: Hot Wheels

And today’s Kindness Matters Monday story is brought to you by … Facebook?

This morning, Facebook “reminded” me of this story that I shared three years ago today. And since it is a perfect fit with this week’s kindness challenge, I wanted to share it. Keep packing those shoeboxes!

Kindness Matters Monday

Who’d like to read a heart-warming story?

(Hands begin waving in the air. “Me! Me!”)

Okay then …

Today I took advantage of my both-kids-in-preschool day to do a little bit more store-hopping. I went several places, poking through clearance racks and looking for good deals on fun stuff for Operation Christmas Child (especially for little boys – I mostly have girly things). At Kroger, I found a fun little toy truck on the clearance rack, and I noticed there were little “collectors packs” with a small Hot Wheels car and some stickers for 80 cents each. I grabbed a few and went to check out. The cashier said, “Some little boy is going to be very happy!” I laughed and told her, “I hope so!” I explained a little bit about Operation Christmas Child. We chatted, I paid, and then as I started to walk away, I looked at my receipt and realized that the Hot Wheels were only 40 cents. I turned around, grabbed a few more, and hopped back in line. The cashier smiled at me and I explained that I couldn’t resist such a great deal. The elderly gentleman who was checking out ahead of me asked how much the toys cost. I told him, and then he opened his mouth and made my day.

“If I give you two dollars, will you go buy some more and add them to your shoeboxes?”

I hadn’t even realized he was listening to me talk to the cashier a moment before, but he was, and he decided he wanted to help. He opened up his wallet, pulled out three one-dollar bills, handed them to me, and said, “There you go. Go get some more.”

Choked up, I thanked him, ran back, and grabbed another handful of toys.

I don’t know anything about that man. I don’t know if he has millions of dollars sitting in the bank, or if those three dollars were a real sacrifice for him. But somewhere in the world, probably in the midst of poverty we can’t really imagine, on Christmas morning, a little boy will open his box and find several toy cars to play with. I hope that sweet old man remembers that on Christmas. I hope he is blessed for his kind, giving heart.

“I’m Thankful For You” Kindness Challenge

Last week, I told my 5-year-old son how much I love him. And I was delighted by his response.

“I sure love you. And you’re my favorite girl. And you’re my favorite … everything. Because you’re the best at everything. Except bad words. You’re not the best at that. But you’re the best at behavioring. And I just love you so much.”

I don’t think I need to tell you how happy this made me.

Because sometimes, in the middle of the craziness of life, we just need to be SEEN. We just need to be appreciated.

Thanks For Being You

We do a lot of kindness challenges for strangers, or for neighbors, or for those who serve us. But this week, I’d like you to join me in a simple service challenge. In the spirit of Thanksgiving, we’re just going to let someone we love know that we’re thankful to have him or her in our life, and why.

A few ideas to get you started:

  • Write a letter and mail it. People love getting nice mail!
  • Leave a note on a mirror for a family member to find. Wouldn’t it be awesome to wake up and see “You are my favorite person. Have a great day!” when you go to brush your teeth?
  • Stick notes in a lunch box, inside a deodorant cap (I did that one when my husband was leaving on a business trip), or pretty much anywhere.
  • Jazz it up a bit by baking a favorite treat. Deliver it with a simple, “I wanted you to know how much you mean to me.”

Who do you know who needs to hear a kind word from you today? Who might need some appreciation? Take five minutes today to participate in our simple challenge and brighten someone’s day.

Because sometimes, we all need to hear that we’re the best at behavioring.

It’s Shoebox Time!

It’s that time of year.

And I am SO excited!

Packing a Shoebox

If you’ve been around here for a while, you know that Operation Christmas Child is a program that has captured my heart. Because … this.

And in two and a half weeks, collection time will be begin! People from all over will be dropping off their shoeboxes full of gifts to drop-off centers. Those boxes will head to a processing center for inspection. And then they will be delivered all over the world to children in need.

I have been hitting up clearance racks and rejoicing in back-to-school sales and using coupons of all kinds to prepare for shoebox week, and my shopping is nearly done. By shopping ahead, I am able to maximize my budget and pack many more boxes than I’d normally be able to do. But if you haven’t done any of this – there’s still time!

Shoebox pile

Just grab a box and start shopping!

If you’d like tips to get started, please look through our Operation Christmas Child database for ideas and FAQs. Or feel free to leave a comment here or on our Facebook page – if I don’t know the answer, I’ll find someone who will!

Remember, here are the basics:

  • Choose an age group (2-4, 5-9, and 10-14) for each box. If you’re undecided, the age group with the least number of shoeboxes is 10-14-year-old boys, followed by 2-4-year-old boys.
  • Fill up the box! Remember nothing perishable or breakable. In my boxes, I include school supplies, hygiene items (double-bagged), candy (double-bagged), a stuffed animal, an article of clothing, a small sewing kit, and whatever else I can fit in there! Balls, toy cars, stickers, dolls … it’s so much fun!
  • Drop off your shoebox between November 16th and 23rd. They ask for a $7 donation per box to cover shipping. You can use cash, or (my very favorite) donate online. You will be able to print a unique barcode to attach to each box, and you will get an e-mail letting you know what country your shoebox ended up in.

Family packing time

And remember, don’t be shy about asking for help! I have friends save shoeboxes, toothbrushes (from the dentist), Happy Meal toys, tote bags, and all kinds of things for me! And a few days after Halloween, I always ask my friends for any extra candy that they’re ready to get rid of. Fortunately, the candy that’s usually leftover is the stuff that’s PERFECT for shoeboxes! I made a little picture to share on my FB page – you’re welcome to use it, too! I’ll post it November 1st.

Leftover Halloween Candy

Okay – get out there and shop! Are you in?

A surprise Disney trip …

Ready for a feel-good story? Here’s your Kindness Matters Monday tearkjerker.



Kindness Matters Monday