The Character Movement

A Kindness Challenge

My kindness challenge began with a gift. My best friend in college was always big on journaling, so when I hinted that I wanted to try to keep one, she eagerly picked a journal out for me as a present for my following birthday. The journal didn’t just have blank pages but instead began each week with a prompt, a sort of challenge to work on every single day that week.

When I opened this book, I didn’t start from the beginning (because that would be too easy I guess) but instead flipped to a random week in the middle with the challenge: “Say something kind or do something kind for a complete stranger every day this week.” On the bottom of each page, there were a few lines to write down the random act of kindness.

On day one of my challenge, I almost completely forgot about my intention until the evening when I remembered and blurted out “I like your shoes!” to an unsuspecting customer in line behind me at the grocery store. They were understandably alarmed at my abrupt compliment but still gave me a polite “thank you.” Nailed it.

The rest of the week went a bit more smoothly, and I was surprised at how much I began to look forward to this random positive interaction every day. I bought coffee for the people in line behind me and searched for more genuine connections I could make with strangers. I ended up having a 20-minute long conversation with a woman in Barnes and Noble that spanned topics from books to tattoos to traveling.

The challenge woke me up to how easy it was to live in my little bubble of the friends I interact with every day. I am sure many of us consider ourselves kind people, but how much of an effort are we making to sprinkle any of that kindness outside of our comfort zones? Writing down these interactions at the end of the day helped me stay accountable, but I felt a habit forming that continued long after the challenge was over.

I don’t write in that specific journal anymore, but I push myself to complete the “kindness to a stranger” challenge as often as I can. Encouraging ourselves to be kind to strangers, even if it feels a little awkward and forced at first, can create a habit that spreads joy throughout the community. Who knows, making someone else’s day might just make your day as well.

By Kelly Thurmes, Youth Frontiers YCorps Apprentice

This year, on The Character Movement, we are trying something new. We’ll be delving into one of our retreat values each month, examining it on our blog and in our Character Challenges. This month’s theme is kindness.

Update: We are shifting our regular publishing schedule from every Thursday to one Thursday per month during the school year. 

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