For the last nine years or so, I’ve worked in an after school care program with children ages 5-11. Since it operates directly at the school, I get to know my kids really well as I will generally have some of the same kids for years. Overall it’s a rad job that allows me to sing randomly, be outdoors, make art, and hopefully be a positive influence.
Over the years I’ve handled Valentine’s Day in various ways (it’s never been a favorite- cut to teenage me railing against the inherent sexism and consumerism of the holiday). I used to just do some stock heart craft and let it go at that. But a few years ago, I realized that I could use the day to focus on mindfulness and kindness.
My first year implementing this idea, my project was kindness cards. I began in January by speaking to each child individually and asking what they thought was the best quality of so & so or what makes so & so a good friend. I recorded the responses in a notebook and on Valentine’s Day, every child received a construction paper card which announced their top three qualities according to their friends and three quotes from individuals which were especially nice. Afterwards, we discussed how the card impacted our moods and whether or not we were surprised by what we read. I remember one 5th grade girl becoming introspective for a moment and then beaming up at me because a friend had complimented her singing voice. I watched as our group energy became collectively happier and more cohesive and knew I would continue with similar projects.
While totally worth is, the amount of work and preplanning that went into the first project just isn’t always feasible, especially as my group size has almost doubled since then! So now I, or another teacher, come up with a positive attribute for each kindness card. I made 45 of them this year; I even made one for our school nurse and secretary who are always so kind and helpful!
This project is so simple and so gratifying. We all want to feel loved, appreciated, and accepted and it takes little effort to remind someone of the gifts they add to our world. The reward for your compassion is the transformation of the spirit before you. We all blossom under the conditions of love.
Add Your Color!
When we cultivate mindfulness and do our best to be fully present in the every moment, we find that happiness, love, and peace are already there for us. We only need to return to ourselves to touch them. There is joy to be found all around you, in the beautiful trees, a gentle breeze, the warm sunshine, a bird’s song, or a friend’s smile. There are so many reasons to be happy! You can easily reconnect to this peace by breathing mindfully for at least three breaths and smiling gently.
This does not imply that you will never feel suffering; we are human beings and we will all make our share of mistakes, fall victim to misperceptions, or endure other heartaches and anxieties. Practicing mindfulness helps us care for and transform our suffering. Mindfulness allows us to feel our sadness or pain while simultaneously being aware of the present moment. For instance, I can both mourn my grandmother’s passing while also enjoying the warm delight of sitting in a sunbeam in my garden.
Recognizing the interconnectedness of all things aids us on our path to mindfulness. You are a part of the cosmos. All life is connected in this Earth ecosystem. We share the atmosphere, the soil, and the water; whatever is done in one place will eventually effect us all. The same is true for our individual selves. The energy we put out into the universe effects not only ourselves but those we encounter in our daily life.
A little kindness goes a long way. I have found that acts as simple as holding the door for someone or giving a genuine compliment to a stranger can have an immediate effect on someone’s demeanor. It’s awesome to see a person’s face light up by the unexpected kindness. Being kind to others can help you connect to your own happiness. I try to treat people as though we are already friends. I don’t mean by having awkwardly personal conversations with strangers, but by truly being present during the encounter and recognizing that they too are a human being doing their best and that we are here together in this moment. When we intentionally set out to have positive interactions, not only does our whole mood elevate but we are also raising the collective energy vibration of our community!
We are our true selves when we feel happy and at peace and it is then that we shine the brightest. When we are being our authentic selves, we add our color to the world!
Be in such a way that your kindness, peace, and love radiate from you. This is how we can change the world. Breathe deeply. Be present. Happiness is there for you, you need only to welcome it.