kindness

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At 3, Eva Learns A Lesson In Kindness

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There is something so uplifting about seeing the beautiful heart of a little child who already at a very young age knows and appreciates what it means to be kind to others. And behind that child is very likely adult role models from whom those values have been instilled.

Eva Brandstetter is one of those girls. Her parents, Kristin and Tim are two of those role models.

Just recently they delivered filled boxes to Adopt a Book, a local nonprofit organization run by two teens and their mother, to be given to other young people without the means to buy their own books. It was an incredible gift; but what makes it even more so is the story behind that delivery.

It all began when plans were underway for Eva’s third birthday party. Kristin and Tim came up with the idea of asking guests to each bring a book or two toward the collection. It seemed like a perfect age and a perfect opportunity to be teaching their daughter a lesson in giving back.

Eva and her mom made a banner to hang above the donation spot, and thank you notes for their friends who pitched in. “Our hope was to collect 50 books or so. Given that we only had about a dozen families coming, we thought that was an ambitious but still reasonable goal to achieve,” Kristin told me.  “We were blown away by their generosity. We collected nearly 230 books!”

And that wasn’t all. Eva and her mom spent an afternoon painting lots of pieces of card stock, transforming them with brilliant hues into bookmarks that would become part of their donation. “Eva picked her colors carefully and told everyone she talked to for the next week about how she got to make bookmarks for kids who don’t have books,” Kristin said.

Below is more of my conversation with Kristin.

Lisa:   What are some of Eva’s qualities that you would like to share with us?
Kristin:  Eva is an amazing littler person! She can be shy and slow to warm-up to people, but once you’ve made it into her inner circle, she will do whatever she can to let you know how special you are. She is very smart and stubborn. It amazes me how well she already knows her own mind at only three years old. There are so many things I could tell you about her, but it’s her kind and loving heart that I love most!

Lisa:  Explain how this whole idea came about?
Kristin:  My husband and I have always hoped to instill a sense of community and a spirit of giving in any children we have. We’ve both always made it a priority in our own lives to give back and serve our community when we can, and have both had wonderful examples of that in our own parents. Eva is at an age where she’s really excited about being “a big helper”. As she develops her own individuality, she is learning to be more independent. That newly discovered independence combined with her big heart make her incredibly eager to help others in whatever small ways she can.

As we are seeing this side of her personality develop, we thought she might be at a good age to show her ways we can be involved in our community and help others, so we decided to invite guests to her birthday party to bring a donation of some sort instead of gifts. We wanted to pick an organization we felt represented Eva’s interests, and something she could be excited about. Since she loves books and reading so much, we started looking for organizations that serve children and somehow foster learning, literacy, and a love of reading.

Lisa: Does Eva understand why she did it?
Kristin:  We decided on Adopt a Book a couple months before the party, which gave us lots of time to talk about it and help her understand what we were trying to do. Because she has such a giving spirit, she understood pretty quickly and was excited about the idea of it. When we went shopping for books to donate, she helped pick most of them out. She tried to pick books and characters she knows her friends like because she thought other kids might like them too. When the party came, I heard her telling several people that we were going to take all of the books to kids who don’t have books of their own, which was pretty cool.

Lisa:  As a parent, I bet you are very proud of her.
Kristin: Leading up to her party and after we collected all of the books, I was just so amazed by how much Eva understood our goal and how excited she was by it! I really wasn’t sure she would get it, and figured that this year it was more my husband’s and my project, and maybe next year she could be more involved. Boy was I wrong! From choosing the books we donated, to explaining our goal, to making the bookmarks…she was involved every step of the way!

The moment that really got me was after her party. We were opening the handful of gifts she’d gotten, and a few people had gotten her books in addition to the books they donated. As we’re sitting there looking at the books, she picked up a couple of them and took them to table of donated books. When we told her she could keep those books, she said “I know. I have lots of books. Kids who don’t have books can have these.” And they were pretty cool books!

For her to decide, completely on her own, to give away birthday presents she liked and would enjoy simply because she thought other kids needed them more was really amazing to me. It’s a side of her I know we will get to see a lot more of, and I think we have a new birthday tradition!

Last night, I asked Kristin to talk with her daughter about the meaning of their actions. She shared with me how it went.

Eva explained that the reason they collected books was, “because I like reading books and I want them (other kids) to like reading books too.”

The rest of Eva and her mom’s conversation went like this:

Kristin: “Was it nice of us to get the books for kids who don’t have them?”

Eva: “Uh huh!”

Kristin: “And why do we want to do nice things for people?”

Eva: “Because it makes them happy.”

Kristin: “Any other reasons?”

Eva: “Because when we’re nice to people, they get happy and feel good, which makes me feel happy too!”

Such a powerful lesson from an amazing little girl!

Isabella’s Lesson In Kindness

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My intern, Isabella Noe, a senior at Walnut Hills High School in Cincinnati is a very special person. It gives her such satisfaction to reach out and help others. Below is her story, in her own words, of how a simple acts of kindness touched her; and how she thinks about that impact.

 

Isabella’s Story:

Isabella Noe, a Cincinnati students, talks about kindnessAt my job at the Fresh Healthy Café in the Kenwood Towne Centre, in lieu of a tip jar, we have a jar for the homeless. Most people drop in their change, while others dig into their wallets for a few extra dollars.  This may not seem like much, but during the holiday season, the mall is bustling with excitement.  When each person donates a spare quarter or two on average, it adds up.  A few weeks ago our donation jar topped $100.  Each day we collect change so the Fresh family can donate a large sum of money at once, rather than multiple small donations.  While it is certainly not enough to make a huge impact, it feels good to be doing something to help.

Especially around the holidays, I was extremely concerned for the homeless.  As temperatures drop, I think of all the people who do not have a warm meal or place to stay the night, or even a family to celebrate with.  I feel incredibly grateful for how privileged I am, but often find myself wishing I could do more for those who are not as lucky.  I hope someday I can make more of an impact because it is sometimes difficult as a teenager to bring about huge change.  However, I have come to realize that change doesn’t need to be earth shattering- one can make a big difference in small ways, such as delivering for the St. Vincent de Paul food pantries.  My grandfather and I spent a lot of time working together at his local pantry, which I enjoyed very much because it taught me about kindness. The pantry was often at capacity due to a huge influx of donations, which warmed my heart.  It was an incredibly humbling experience.

I often think of the food pantry or other similar organizations when I see people drop their change into the small jar at work.  I remember the ease of picking up and delivering food, and how something so simple for me could make such a huge impact.  Kindness works in many ways, and doesn’t have to be big.  Small acts of kindness can make a huge difference, just as spare change can add up to a warm bed and a hot meal for someone in need.

 

Oklahoma Restaurateur’s Note Of Kindness Teaches Us A Lesson

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By now, you may have already seen this photo as it has gone viral since being displayed outside P.B. Jams, an Oklahoma restaurant, and on Facebook.

Oklahoma Restaurant Owner Writes Note For Dumpster DiverThe restaurant’s owner, Ashley Jiron, posted it after realizing an anonymous person had been sifting through her garbage. She told ABC News of how her heart sank when she noticed bags and containers in her dumpster that once held disposed food, were emptied. “I knew I needed to do something right away,” she said.

Perhaps that person’s plight struck her so deeply because Ashley understood better than most.

“I am a mother of two little girls and I’ve struggled like a lot of single parents out there, and I’ve had to ask for state assistance food stamps and such,” she told Good Morning America. “Sometimes at the end of the month there wasn’t enough to feed me and my family. Something as simple as even just a peanut butter and jelly sandwich is very comforting to somebody and maybe even offer them a few words.”

It got me thinking, of the times in my own life when I have faltered. I will never forget the people who were there for me with support and encouragement, even when I didn’t ask for it. They were just there. They grounded me and kept me focused in a positive direction. Those acts of love and kindness embed in our souls.

They strengthen us. They nurture us. They give us wings.

There is something so powerful about our human connection. Often we don’t even know of the impact we are having on those whose lives we touch. But make no mistake; kindness has huge potential for affecting change in individuals, families, workplaces, classrooms, and the community.

And the giver can be just as much the receiver as its effects boomerang. Helping someone else has a way of lifting ourselves up as well, even more so sometimes when we are dealing with our own challenge.

Yet, how often is it that we know someone may be going through difficult circumstances but in our busy and already cluttered lives, we don’t reach out.  Not because we are not generous people. We just don’t get around to it for any number of reasons.

Ashley and her compassionate sign that has been seen around the country, maybe even the world, make me question – if the tables were turned, if I had seen that someone had been rummaging through my garbage, would I have posted a sign like hers.

The truth is, in my life, I have been a shoulder for so many people. I have mentored youth. I have given of my time and resources to help people when they needed it. I have encouraged others to see their own strengths when they were focused on their weaknesses. I have volunteered for causes when I can.

But…I may not have thought to put that sign on my restaurant door if I noticed someone had gone through my trash.

I am so inspired by Ashley’s gesture. Whether or not that anonymous person comes forward, Ashley has reminded me of the power we each have to impact those around us.

Let’s make a point to not forget.

Kindness Keeps Coming Back

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The thing about kindness is that it is difficult to give away because it keeps being returned. Still, you’ve got to keep trying.

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