Purposeful Acts of Kindness (PAKs)
Matthew 6:3 states, “But you, doing acts of charity, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.” To simplify that a little, it means do good in the world without seeking credit for yourself. Seems easy enough to understand, but is much harder to practice than to theorize. However, like everything else, practice makes perfect-ish. So we practice purposeful acts of kindness on the down low and teach children to do the same.
PAKs are things we do to help or surprise others just because. We do PAKs for people we know and for strangers, but almost always these are done anonymously. We believe that PAKs require no thanks or praise from the recipient. To do something awesome without getting credit is counterintuitive (especially for kids) because we all like a good pat on the back from time to time. We want our JaiBirds to understand they don’t need to seek praise for doing good deeds because they aren’t defined by what they do. We teach kids that they are valuable because they exist, not because of their actions. No one’s sense of self worth should be defined by praise or criticism for what they do. We are all designed in the image of God…the ultimate creator. We should realize that our very existence means we are valuable. We do good deeds because we are loving people who share love with others because we are loved creations. That's it. Now, what kind of good deeds can families, groups or classes do? Well, here are just a few PAKs we do with kids in our programs or with our family. We have many ideas and will keep sharing over the course of the next few weeks and months.
Care Kits: We make these for the kids who have just gone off to college, people who are away from home for jobs or for people who are stuck at home because of illness or infirmity. We fill the small USPS flat ship box with treats like candy, snacks, deflated beachballs, a stress ball, bright gel pens, stickers, a hacky sack (mostly for college kids), a gift card to a grocery store, Etsy, Amazon, a fast food restaurant or big box store. We include a little note that says, “Just thought of you and smiled and wanted to return the favor. Have a wonderful week!” We send it from the church so the recipient doesn't know who sent it. It’s simple and you can personalize it with a variety of themes. Pick a color, a game, a team or an animal and fill the box with things that fit the theme. I’ve seen sunshine boxes full of yellow items (lemon heads, popcorn, emoji stress ball, sunflower seeds, Juicy Fruit gum, Burt’s Bees chap stick & hand lotion etc) and bear boxes (stuffed teddy bear, gummy bears, Teddy Grahams, & ‘beary’ blueberry pop tarts). We made a baseball box for one of the folks at the assisted living home. It had cracker jacks, a Braves ball cap and tube socks, a large printed game schedule, a stress ball shaped like a baseball, a gift card & large printed menu to a local hotdog shop that delivers, popcorn and some homemade baseball sugar cookies. I think that was my favorite care kit ever.
Rake and Run or Cut and Run: This one takes some equipment and people. We take the kids out to local neighborhoods populated with underserved elderly folks and cut the grass or rake the leaves. We ask permission first, so this isn't anonymous, but it is unexpected. With 6 or so teens and 3-4 adults, it takes like 10 minutes. We also edge the sidewalk/driveway, clear the ditch, bag the leaves/clippings and clean the gutters if they need it. We also leave a pitcher, a just-add-water lemonade mix and homemade lemon cookies on the stoop or porch with a note that reads, "sit back, relax and enjoy your great outdoors! Thank you for allowing us to practice our landscaping skills." We always have someone with plant knowledge along for these little treks. We never want to damage plants or do anything to negatively impact someone's yard. I have to confess, I get the warm fuzzy feeling when I drive by a couple days later and see someone sitting on their porch just enjoying being outside in a pretty space.
Happy Plants: Leave a little potted plant on someone’s doorstep. We choose inexpensive plants that are easy to maintain (think cacti, air plants or succulents) for this so it’s a gift and not a burden. We usually leave a punny card referencing the idea that the plant won’t “stick you with more work” or “suck up a lot of time”. If you know the person likes gardening or cooking, you can give herbs like basil, oregano, mint, or rosemary instead.
As you consider doing acts of kindness in your community, remember to do things that are simple, helpful or encouraging, and FUN! People need more joy in their lives. We have fun in the prep, delivery and debriefing of every act of kindness mission we do. From a distance, we've witnessed the joy, relief and wonder of those who have been touched by these acts of kindness. They may never know who sent them a gift, left a cute plant at their door or who the kids were raking leaves, but they know someone cared enough to do these things. That's all that matters.