Sometimes when I look at the world around me, I feel a sense of despair at how unkind and entitled people behave. Consequently, I think a lot about how to raise children who are kind to others, unselfish, unentitled, and compassionate.
One of the biggest ways to raise kind children who have a desire to serve others is to teach them by example. If I want my girls to grow up and become adults who look for ways to help others, I must do those things myself—on a daily basis.
Serving others doesn’t have to be a big production. While going to volunteer at a homeless shelter or make humanitarian kits is wonderful, it’s not realistic to do a service project on that scale each day. Besides, I don’t really want my children thinking that the only way to serve others is through a large scale effort—though I will be thrilled if they involve themselves in that way. I want them to be aware of the little things they can do for someone else—small acts of kindness that have the power to turn an entire day around.
The ideas that follow are a couple very simple things you can start doing on a daily basis, not only to be an example to your children, but to find the joy in serving someone else. Coming out of yourself to help another person is a wonderful way to find happiness and meaning in your own life, after all.
5 Simple Ways to Make Someone’s Day
As I was thinking of some simple ways to serve others, the 5 Love Languages popped into my head. Each love language has the ability to show love (obviously) and knowing what they are makes it really easy to come up with ways to serve that correspond to each love language.
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1. Surprise someone with a gift
I’m always so thrilled when a friend drops by with something like my favorite candy or another small present that reminded them of me. I’m doubly touched when the reason behind the gift is because they knew I was struggling in one way or another. Be aware of your friends and neighbors—if one of them is going through a difficult time, dropping by a simple gift is a wonderful way to show love and kindness.
When our nephew died, I was so touched that a friend took the time to write a note and send over some muffins from the local bakery. She knew that we would be grieving, especially since we were so far away from our family.
And even if someone isn’t going through something hard, it will still make their day that you were even thinking of them. Everyone wants to be thought of and a gift is an easy way to let them know you care.
2. Give a compliment
I used to be too afraid to give compliments to random strangers, but now I try to make a point to do it. If I see someone whose hair I love, I make sure to tell them. It is a little ironic, since I still have a difficult time accepting compliments graciously, but it does still make my day better to get them. This is an easy way to spread a little joy around.
Another easy way to give compliments is to write thank you cards or just because cards and send them out to your friends and loved ones. Be creative in what you are thanking them for! While it’s nice (and good manners!) to send a thank you card for a gift or service rendered to you, have you ever thought to send a thank you card to someone for being a good friend? For being a good example? To tell them how much they mean to you?
These days, nobody gets much of anything exciting in the mail. Getting an unexpected card from someone definitely makes my day better! You could also send off a quick complimentary email, too. It’s not quite as fun and unexpected as an actual card in the mail, but it will certainly cause a smile and a better day. I even have a folder in my email called “pick me up” where I save all of those types of email, and I seriously look at them when I am having a downer of a day. It helps.
3. Give a hug
Sometimes all people need is a hug. This is not something that comes easily to me since I’m not much of a hugger and prefer my personal space—obviously physical touch is not my personal love language. But, I have found that sometimes the best thing to help someone is to simply give them a hug.
Usually the people that need hugs from me most are my own children. Just today, Chloe was sad about something and just wanted me to hug it out with her. So I did. Hugs are a wonderful way to tell people you love them, you understand, and you want to make it better.
4. Take someone on a surprise date
I know that I sometimes get lonely during the day and wish I had a friend to talk to. I always appreciate it when a friend calls and says, “Hey! Let’s go for a walk!” Or, even better, “Hey! Let’s go out to lunch!”
It’s always nice for people to spend quality time with a friend—and you’re not only helping them to have a better day, I’d say you’re making your own day better, too! Take it a step further and offer to pay for the entire outing yourself.
5. Don’t ask, just do
I will never forget when I was pregnant with Chloe. I was so sick with hyperemesis and could barely move. I spent my entire day lying on the couch with my toddler watching Barney and Little People videos when I wasn’t running to the bathroom to be sick. If any of my friends had called me and asked me what they could do to help I would have said, “Nothing. I’m fine.” But it would have been a lie.
Lucky for me, I had friends that didn’t ask. Instead, they called me up and said, “Hey, Lara. I’m taking Bria every morning from 8:00 until noon and that’s that. I’ll see you tomorrow morning!” Another friend knocked on my door before heading to work and said, “I have 10 minutes—I’m going to do as many dishes as I can before I have to leave.” Still another friend brought us dinner every Tuesday for months and would not hear of stopping.
All of those things were so appreciated and needed. And they taught me so much about service. I think most people will say they are fine and don’t need help when the reality is that they aren’t. Look for ways to serve. When you see a need, do your best to fill it, even if it’s in a small way. Call your friend who is sick and tell her you are going to take her kids for a few hours. Show up at the door of your friend who is moving and tell her you are going to help her pack for the next hour. Think of the things you would appreciate being done for you if you were in a similar situation, and then do them!
They don’t have to take a lot of time—but they will make someone’s day brighter. And, amazingly enough, in the process you will always make your own day brighter.
Small Habit: Serve others in small ways daily.
Big Difference: Experience the joy of lifting another’s burden, teach your children the value of service, turn someone else’s entire day around.
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