When my mom shared with her mother that she was pregnant, my grandmother cried. These were not tears of joy for the sweet little baby to love and cuddle; nope, she was sad.
Now before you go and think my grandmother is a horrible person – she is really quite delightful – let me explain. My grandmother lived through the Great Depression in a rural Tennessee town and lost her twin sister and baby brother due to lack of medical care. She saw many of her friends and family head off to Europe and Japan during World War II only to come home changed forever. She raised a family during the Civil Rights movement in Memphis, one of the most violent places in the country (then and now). She has seen wars, natural disasters, violence, hatred, death, and all the pain and sorrow of this broken world, and she genuinely feared for the next generation.
Truthfully, my grandmother’s concern was not baseless. This world is hard. And dark. And painful. But there is hope.
“Some believe it is only great power that can hold evil in check, but that is not what I have found. It is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love.” -J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit
Small Acts of Kindness and Love
True, there is much darkness in the world, but I believe there is more light. It only takes the small light of a candle to dispel the darkness of an entire room, so by each of us shining a little, I believe we can make this world a better place. My grandmother was right about life’s troubles, but she was wrong to fear. Since I was born in 1985, we have seen immense advances in medicine, social justice, protection of vulnerable people groups, tolerance, love, and more. We do not need to fear for our children; our children give us hope.
How do we raise up a generation that will change things for the better? We teach them the value of small acts of kindness and love. Model it for them, and invite them into the process. As Arthur Ashe famously said, “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.”
For your family, that might look like:
- Doing a family service project
- Spending time with an elderly neighbor or church member who is invalid
- Collecting canned goods for Second Harvest, or even deliver meals yourself to families in need through the Knoxville Dream Center
- Participating in a fundraising 5K or Kids Fun Run to help local nonprofits, like this annual Kids Helping Kids Walk
- Leaving happy notes or sweet painted hearts around town
- Making cards for service members deployed abroad
- Inviting to dinner a guest or family who is different from you – race, religion, sexual orientation, whatever
- Visiting one of Knoxville’s many cultural festivals – like the Asian Festival, Cherokee Heritage Festival, Kuumba Festival, Hola Festival, or Greek Fest, just to name a few! – to learn and appreciate people from many different backgrounds
- Complimenting friends
- Complimenting strangers
- Asking an older friend or family member to share about his or her childhood
- Leaving an extra-big tip for your restaurant server
- Taking pet food to the local animal shelter
- Paying for the car behind you in the drive thru
- Saying “thank you” to custodians, sanitation workers, or others dutifully performing often thankless jobs
- Making a meal for someone who is sad or lonely
- Smiling at people
- One of these simple but meaningful Random Acts of Kindness for Kids
Kids are naturally empathetic, but that needs to be nurtured for them to grow into kind adults. Mamas, we can do this, one day at a time.
The Little Things Matter
Our contributor Meghan is known for her saying, “life is big in the little.” In other words, the simple joys, often overlooked moments of “normal,” and little things we do in life often have the biggest impact in the long run. When we are faced with darkness, tragedy, and hurt, let us not get so caught up in the enormity of the circumstances to miss the little moments that will have lasting impact. The everyday heroes in a national tragedy, the support of someone who shows up in your time of need, the simple kindness of a stranger when you are feeling overwhelmed…
If you are like me this week, burdened by all the hurt, I’ll leave you with another quote that I have been holding to, because there is good in this world, my friends, and it is worth fighting for.
“I can’t do this, Sam.”
“I know. It’s all wrong. By rights we shouldn’t even be here. But we are. It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something. Even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back only they didn’t. Because they were holding on to something.”
“What are we holding on to, Sam?”
“That there’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo. And it’s worth fighting for.”
-J.R.R. Tolkien, Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers