When I was a child, my parents sometimes gave us those cardboard advent calendars in December. My siblings and I would wake each morning, excited to look for that day’s numbered door and rip it open to find our surprise. Of course, having two siblings, we didn’t get to enjoy every surprise ourselves, but just knowing we would get to open a door every third day was exciting.
I decided to continue this tradition as a parent, buying cute little advent calendars for my boys when they were young — Spongebob Squarepants, Spider-Man — pretty much whatever was popular that year. It was fun watching them get excited the closer we got to December 24th (which was always the biggest door!). As they got older, I realized they became only interested in the chocolate and the anticipation of each new door wasn’t exciting to them anymore.
As an adult, I love surprises. For the past two years, I have begun a new tradition of sharing an advent calendar with my partner, both surprisingly from Starbucks. The first featured seasonal-coloured tins with cookies inside, while the second was individual tree ornaments with small chocolates. I really enjoyed these, so much fun and full of surprises. And it was really special having someone who shared in my excitement each day.
Much to my dismay, Starbucks did not create an advent calendar this year. I’ve been searching for an alternative but hadn’t been able to find anything . . . until this morning.
My cousin posted a link to a ‘Kindness Advent Calendar’ on Facebook and it caught my eye. As I clicked on the link and began reading through each day’s random act of kindness, I knew this would be my replacement. And something I could write about and share with others every day. (You can also share your kindness stories online at Facebook.com/spreadingalittlekindness)
There are small acts of kindness you bring to other people throughout the month, but there are also days when you do something for yourself — which many people forget to do once the holidays start creeping up and stealing our personal time away. I hope everyone who reads this considers using this new advent calendar — not only to bring a little kindness to other people’s days, but to bring a little happiness to your days.
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Dec. 1 — Share this Kindness Advent Calendar to encourage others to practice kindness this month (see above!)
Dec. 2 — Surprise a friend with their favourite chocolate bar. My first thought was to buy a Kit Kat for my son who just got his full braces in this morning. Then I realized . . . he just got his full braces in this morning. He’s not going to be biting anything hard, like chocolate bars, just yet. So my next thought went to my coworkers. We have mailboxes at work, yet not very often do we actually get mail. I changed the kindness advent suggestion around just a bit, and bought one of my favourite chocolates and put them in all the mail slots. Surprise!
Dec. 3 — Buy a few extra items during your supermarket shop and donate to a local food bank. Luckily, I have never had to use a food bank, although I have experienced years where I didn’t have money for extras at Christmas. A couple friends at work actually helped out and made those holidays really special for me and my family. I have always been grateful for those people. Most of the grocery stores in London, Ont. have food donation bins near the door, so you can drop off items for the London Food Bank. As I went shopping this morning, I thought about picking up some canned goods to drop off, then saw Sobey’s had already made bags of food items available for purchase near the checkout. Such an easy way to help others. If we all had $5 to spare, it would certainly add up. Consider donating to your local food bank this holiday season.
Dec. 4 — Be kind to yourself – do something that makes you laugh out loud. This weekend was the first time in quite some time, in which I had two consecutive days off. Yesterday was incredibly busy, but in a great way. Ran errands, baked cookies, put up the Christmas tree and outside lights and attended a party with old friends. After running a couple errands today, we decided to spend a few hours relaxing — Christmas tree lights on, warm drinks in hand and fur babies laying beside us on the sofa while we caught up on some of our favourite TV shows. I am a relatively new fan of DC shows (Arrow, The Flash) and love how they do crossover shows. Being a fan of both, it’s so much fun to get the ‘inside’ jokes during the crossover episodes. And since recently adding Supergirl and Legends of Tomorrow to our viewing list, it looks like more great fun to come!
Dec. 5 — Smile at everyone today, including strangers. This began today at 6:30 a.m. While I was standing at the bus stop, a woman who lives down the street joined me. Usually at this point in the day, I’m still tired and not very sociable. Adding to this, I had just finished more than a month of night shifts and today was my first day shift in quite some time! In any case, I turned to the woman, smiled and said, ‘Good morning.’ We then started talking about the weather, the changes in the bus schedules and she even mentioned not seeing me around lately (I honestly don’t even know her name!). But it was a pleasant beginning to the day. Smiles were shared with the bus driver, a custodian at work, coworkers, even the boss who came out of his office to complain about me forwarding e-mail complaints to him (ummm….he is the boss!). After work, I continued smiling at people — the teenager on his skateboard, the dad with his little girl at Walmart, and ending up striking up a conversation with an employee there, while going through the self-checkout. No photo for today, but it was a very nice start to the work week!
Dec. 6 — Offer to run an errand for someone who needs help. While I listened to people chatting at work today, there was no one (or nothing!) needing my help. I may have held the door open for people a few times today and when getting off the bus, but that doesn’t really count as an ‘errand.’ After work, I stopped at the grocery store for a couple items, then remembered my son had asked me to pick up a Christmas gift for him. He isn’t in ‘need’ of help, but since I was in proximity to where he needed said gift picked up, I decided to help him out. Even though this wasn’t a true ‘Kindness’ act of the day, I still helped someone (my son) and all the other people I held doors open for today. Maybe this is a to-be-continued act of kindness that may happen at any time throughout the month. I’ll be keeping my ears open 😉
Dec. 7 — Sign up to the organ donor register. I am a huge supporter of donating organs. There are so many people on waiting lists for kidneys, lungs, etc. and if there was a chance that I could help someone out, I would. In an instant.
My niece fell ill in August 2013 and by the end of the month, her liver began to fail and she was No. 1 on the transplant recipient list. Her parents were told that if she did not receive a transplant within 48 hours, she would die. Over the Labour Day weekend, my niece received that transplant. Since then she has been fighting other diseases and illnesses, but her family is so grateful to just have her still with us.
My friend’s son was born with Polycystic kidney disease and is currently operating with 19% kidney function. He has undergone the transplant work up, and will receive a kidney from a living relative once his kidney function drops to 15%. He has medication that he takes daily, and is monitored closely by his nephrologist. The progression of his disease has lead to the decline in his kidney function. I can’t imagine what her family has gone through over the years, dealing with this illness. I pray that he gets that transplant soon.
I am an organ donor. Please consider being one as well. Visit www.beadonor.ca.
Dec. 8 — Text, tweet or e-mail a compliment to three people. Since I’m almost always online, I gladly accepted this challenge. The only issue I had was choosing just three people.
I volunteer with some really great people who are always deserving of compliments. During my break at work, I sent a few messages to some of these people just to let them know they are appreciated — more than they probably know. It is truly amazing how much time they give up to volunteer and help others. They inspire me to want to give more of my time in working alongside them.
During the past couple years, I have met new friends through Twitter. Even though we may not see each other for months, we still keep in touch online. I sent a couple tweets to some friends I have been missing, hoping we can get together over the holidays. Not so much a compliment, but I wanted them to know I was thinking about them.
There are also some people I’ve really connected with on Twitter but have yet to meet. And I thought about them and how much we have in common. A couple tweets to let them know I appreciate ‘meeting’ them, then thought, maybe someday we’ll meet in real life, too! That would be a lovely surprise. And something I can look forward to 🙂
I am so grateful to be surrounded by these amazing people and hopefully by sending today’s little messages, they realize just how important they are in other people’s lives . . . like mine. #thelittlethings
Dec. 9 — Write a positive message on a post-it and put it on your work, or a public, mirror. As I was cleaning out my drawers at work recently, I found a bunch of old post-it notes. I grabbed them tonight and started writing little messages on them, but wondered if they would even stick anymore? I have no idea how old they are. And I’ve been working here for more than 19 years! Then I thought, who cares? This will be fun!
We only have mirrors in the bathrooms, so I decided I could just leave these notes on people’s desks so they would read them at the beginning of their next shift. I looked around and decided to post them on everyone’s phones, then if they fell off, the notes would still remain on their desks.
Since morale has been down a bit lately, it’s very rare to see people smile or laugh. I hope when reading these little notes (ie. Have a great day! Your work is appreciated! You inspire others at work!) my coworkers will at least smile for a moment and know someone is thinking of them. And honestly, it was fun choosing notes for different people.
Dec. 10 — Give someone your full attention – put down your phone and really listen. This weekend I’m dog watching Thomas and Amelia. Even though Amelia could play fetch with me for hours, Tom is content to snuggle with me on the sofa. Sometimes I do have my phone out, taking cute pictures of them or trying to catch them in a bark fight for YouTube. But this morning was spent just paying attention to them and enjoying all the dog licks I could!
In the afternoon, I had made plans to meet my son at the mall. We walked around the shops, looking for Christmas ideas for loved ones. We checked out a couple stores for running shoes for him as well — and I had no idea how many NBA stars now have lines of shoes; guess Michael Jordan started all of that! We saw the insane lineup to see Santa, which was when my son offered to give me $20 to sit on Santa’s lap. (He’s the funny child.) And we waited in line at Starbucks for about 15 minutes before changing our minds. All the while, my phone stayed in my pocket. The only time I pulled it out was when we both stopped to look at this decoration and my son said it was really amazing. A quick memory for the two of us, then back it went!
Dec. 11 — Be kind to yourself – get outside for a soul soothing stroll in nature. It snowed today. A lot. While I’m a huge fan of nature and seeing sunrises and sunsets and walking through forests and along rivers — I am not a fan of winter or snow. Being kind to myself today was staying indoors as much as I could!
I did manage to get outside with the pups, following them as they ran down their little paths, watching Amelia run through the freshly fallen snow. It was great fun watching her. I know it’s only the beginning of winter, but I’m already looking forward to taking strolls with her and Thomas next spring!
Dec. 12 — Let someone go in front of you in traffic or at the shops. It was a last-minute vacation day for me, and a snow day for my boys. The city plows had not been down my street yet (and if they had, it was a very poor job on my side of the circle!) so I decided to stay home and in pjs all day. I would not be able to guess the last time I did this. I don’t drive, but the next time I go shopping, I will most definitely keep this one in mind. Imagine if everyone did this once in awhile, there would be some pretty happy (and thankful) people out there 🙂
I had thoughts of showering early, but let the boys go first so they could have the hot water before it ran out. I had thoughts of doing some laundry, but waited until my son was finished his. Guess these were my little ‘let someone go first’ moments today. I’m sure the boys appreciated the hot water. At the end of the day, I neither showered or did laundry. I can do that tomorrow.
Dec. 13 — Share positive posts on your social media pages. Last night before falling asleep, I thought of some positive thoughts I’d love to share with family, friends, and even online followers. I truly believe that the more positive we are in our daily lives, the more happier our lives can be. Yes, people go through difficult times, but it’s how you deal with these issues that makes you a better person. Thinking positively or looking forward to whatever tomorrow brings, can only make life better.
I filled up my social media feeds (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram) with some things I hope would make others smile and some things I personally felt. And it felt really great to share them!
Dec. 14 — Forgive someone you’ve been holding a grudge against. That’s something I rarely do in life, so difficult to think of one.
After hours of trying to remember any grudges I may be holding, I could only think of one: at my workplace, I’ve been denied or overlooked for three different positions — even though I had the skills and experience to be successful in each role — by the same person. I’ve been holding his decisions against him, but I realize he’s just doing what he feels is right, whether it’s due to work friendships or work politics, I must let this go. I’m hopeful a new job will present itself to me in the new year, so I will put my energy towards finding that. It will probably be better for me in the end anyways.
Dec. 15 — Write and send a thank you note to a teacher, friend or loved one. Two years ago, we bought an Advent Calendar from Starbucks. Each day had a little cookie inside. But my favourite thing about it were the tins. I could easily leave little surprises for each day of any month, whenever I wanted to. Last year, and again this year, I’ve written little notes to my partner for the month of December. Not exactly ‘thank you’ notes, but these are little memories of things we’ve experienced together in the past. I hope he looks forward to opening them every day.
Dec. 16 — Be the one to shift a negative conversation or gossip into something positive. As a parent, this is something that is done, almost on a daily basis. Especially with two teenagers. Not so much in regards to gossip, but I find myself shifting some conversations around. I realize they both like to joke with each other, but at the same time I want them to be respectful of each other and if that means stopping negative talk, so be it. I’m hopeful they’ll pick up on some of my positivity and carry that into their adulthood.
Dec. 17 — Appreciate good service — smile and say thank you to everyone who serves you today. Such an easy thing to do — every single day. Think of bus drivers, snow removal workers, mail carriers, newspaper delivery people, retail staff, coffee baristas, any drive-thru employees. Even when my son brings me a snack or a drink, I will smile and thank him. Even when my boyfriend makes French toast for breakfast or places a blanket on me while I’m watching a movie, I will smile and thank him. It really does mean a lot to be appreciated, so consider thanking everyone who helps you throughout this holiday season…and beyond.
Dec. 18 — Be kind to yourself — dance around the house to your favourite happy music. This *may* have happened all throughout the weekend. On Friday, my son was playing some of his tunes through the TV and spontaneously, my boyfriend grabbed me and started dancing around the house. Saturday, we continued with our holiday Harry Potter movie marathon and there were a few times someone would get funky to the music in the movie (ie. during Goblet of Fire’s winter dance). And Sunday we were able to snag tickets to the Bon Jovi concert in April in Toronto and I just about lost it! But I wasn’t feeling well, so I think we just hugged and spun around the kitchen. Still…happy music is important to everyone’s well being, even if you don’t dance around the house 😛
Dec. 19 — Be positive all day long; say only nice things to yourself and to others. This is such an easy thing to do — every day of the year! I posted some positive things on my social media pages, such as photos of my boys stating that I love them and tweets about the city I live in:
I also posted a meme from Facebook that really had some truth to how I look at life. Being positive in life can be shared with others so easily and hopefully it helps them to be more positive as well.
Dec. 20 — Take time to appreciate someone who does something you take for granted. This person for me is my boyfriend, Jamie. He mentioned today that we are a ‘good team’, but I don’t think he truly realizes how important he is to my everyday life. It’s not that I really take him for granted, because I don’t. But I certainly appreciate the little things he does for me, without even thinking about it.
- I sit on the sofa with the fur babies and he covers me with a blanket.
- Often offers to drive me to work or pick me up late at night.
- He asks how my day was, listening to every detail.
- Ever since I met him, he promised to always have hot chocolate at his place for when I’m visiting. I enjoyed one of those hot chocolates today 🙂
Dec. 21 — Write and leave a kind message for a loved one to find. This week my son has been sick. It’s just a nasty head cold but he has a horrible cough. After missing a couple days of school, he told me he needed to catch up on work and had to go back. I admire his school-work ethic but feel sorry that he’ll be unwell through the holidays. Before leaving for work today, I left him a little note ❤️
Dec. 22 — Cheer someone up — ring or visit a lonely relative or neighbour just to say hello. Unfortunately, my neighbourhood is not very friendly. We don’t have get together or community events, although we do have a Neighbourhood Watch, but that communication is all done through e-mail.
I thought of my parents. I haven’t seen them for months and rarely speak to them. I sent a message to my mom, hoping to be able to set up a holiday visit soon. I sent a message to my dad, asking how he was doing. They don’t visit and I don’t drive so making plans for a family visit was necessary! I messaged both my brothers and started making plans for a family lunch early next year. We may not all be lonely, but family is definitely important. Even just to say hello.
Dec. 23 — Buy a lottery ticket and give it to a friend, loved one or stranger. We decided to hit the grocery store for last minute items for Christmas brunch. As I usually work Christmas Day (15 of the past 19 years), my boys know we usually have a Christmas turkey dinner later in the week, but Christmas morning brunch is a tradition.
All the checkout lanes were especially busy, so we chose the shortest line. While waiting in line, I overheard people in the next lane talking about NASCAR. They were discussing favourite drivers (Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jimmie Johnson) so I chimed in with my love of Jeff Gordon. We chatted about what a great commentator he’s become and I mentioned that he was a fantastic morning show host when he had filled in for Regis Philbin numerous times in the past.
Anyways…as we chatted, I looked over their shoulder and saw the lottery checkout, remembering today’s Advent post. After paying for groceries, I went over to that checkout and waited in line. The two women working the cash registers in that area were always pleasant with customers, even though they were working non-stop. When my turn arrived, I chose 4 scratch tickets as stocking stuffers and then two Cash 4 Life tickets. After paying, I told the one woman that the Cash 4 Life tickets were for her and her coworker. I said ‘Merry Christmas’ and was off. Fingers crossed for them!
Dec. 24 — Put your loose change in a charity box. I had been planned on this day since I found the Kindness Advent Calendar! I have a container that I throw all loose change in during the year. Just before Christmas, I usually cash it in through one of those change machines at a grocery store and use those funds for Christmas brunch or dinner items. This year I had planned on dropping it all into a Salvation Army kettle. It is amazing some of the work they are involved with. I have friends with stories of how the Salvation Army has helped them or family members and it always touches me when I hear them.
Unfortunately, I forgot the container of change at home when we were out and about today. But fortunately, I had just gone to a bank machine downtown yesterday and had cash in my wallet. After picking up some last minute items (ie. wrapping paper), as we left Walmart, I dropped a $20 bill into the plastic kettle. If everyone could donate just $20 — once a year — it would certainly add up. And it will certainly help make a difference in someone’s life. Maybe even someone you know. Merry Christmas.