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My Year of Kindness Challenge

Guest post from Dallas of Day-by-Day Masterpiece

In December 2012, I read The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin and 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker. Both books inspired me greatly, and I spent a lot of time thinking about how to be a better person.

How could I give more, do more, brighten more, serve more? And then the Sandy Hook tragedy occurred, and I mourned with the rest of our nation.

In my shock and grief, three questions kept rising to the forefront of my thoughts, refusing to be ignored:

  • How can I refocus and remember what truly matters?
  • How can I bring more love and joy to others?
  • How can I use my blessings to make a difference for others?

I want to be grateful and I want to be joyful; and in my experience, the best way to do so is to give gratefully and joyfully to others. I want to work on stepping outside myself {my petty grievances, my small problems, my unhelpful worries} and focus on the people and neighbors and global community around me.

So on the first week of January 2013, I started my “Year of Kindness Challenge” by pledging to do a random act of kindness for every week of the year. Some examples of kind acts I’ve done so far include:

  • donating canned goods to a food pantry
  • giving hot chocolate to someone out in the cold
  • writing and mailing a kind note
  • delivering Valentines to a nursing home.
  • baking cookies for a neighbor
  • leaving quarters on Laundromat washers & dryers

As a newly engaged graduate student trying to save money for my wedding, I knew when I started this challenge that I would not have much money to spare. So I am intentionally choosing every kind act to be inexpensive — some are even free! Also, they all take a short amount of time, so they can easily fit into a busy schedule.

What I’ve learned…

You do not need a lot of money to brighten the lives of those around you. Nor does it take much money to brighten your own life.

All you really need is a kind and open heart, a little creativity, and the willingness to make a positive difference. Who knows the ripple effects of kindness that will spread from your kind acts?

It’s very rewarding to keep track and reflect on acts of kindness – both the kind acts you do and the kindnesses others do for you. Chronicling my experiences on my blog every week has been a wonderful way to relive the joy of the kind act I did that week, and it’s also made me feel more aware and grateful for all the blessings in my life.

Whether it’s a sweet note I received in the mail, a door held open for me when my hands were full, or a free refill of green tea at Starbucks, taking a moment at the end of the day to write down and remember the little kindnesses I received fills my heart with contentment.

My weekly kindness challenge quickly became a priority in my life. It might only take fifteen minutes, but it undoubtedly boosts my own happiness and feelings of connection and positivity throughout the entire week.

Kindness really is contagious! The more I give, the more I want to give and give and give.

Will you join me?

Dallas Woodburn blogs about joyful, healthy living at Day-by-Day Masterpiece. She is also the author of two collections of short stories for children and teens; her latest, 3 a.m., was featured on the PBS book talk show “Between the Lines” and is available on A passionate advocate for young writers and readers, Dallas is the founder of the nonprofit organization Write On! For Literacy and the publishing company Write On! Books, through which she edited and published the acclaimed anthology “Dancing With The Pen: a collection of today’s best youth writing.”

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  • Danna says:

    Wonderful post. I’m thinking this could be a great project for my 6 & 4 year old sons to do with me.

  • I love this!

    I recently decided to start being intentional about performing an act of kindness each week. With young children and a busy life, it’s easy to make serving others something that you’ll get to “someday”. But I realized that, if I wait until everything in my life is in perfect order before helping others, I’ll never get around to helping anyone else.

    Thank you for sharing the idea of keeping track of acts of kindness directed at you. What an inspiring take on a gratitude journal!

  • Inspiring post! I agree that kindness is contagious! I am anxious to start a gratitude journal and would love to get my children more involved in volunteering activities (ages 4 and 6). 🙂

  • I found Dallas’ blog last fall and actually got to have coffee with her this past weekend. She has such great ideas and is super kind in real life too! 🙂 So happy to see this post today!

  • Jennifer says:

    Love this! It really doesn’t take much at all to brighten someone’s day and the ripples go far and wide.

  • Jennifer says:

    I am doing something similar. We took cookies to our local fire station. I provided cookies for a department at work, and took my daughter’s gymnastic teacher a coffee drink. (The last one was fun because it was buy one get one free at the coffee shop, so I got something out of the deal, too.). Simple things/acts, and really fun.

  • Karen says:

    Hmmm… think I’m joining you on this challenge!
    Thanks for the idea!!!

  • deseray says:

    Yesterday, it was raining as I was driving home. I saw a lady standing under a tree by the sidewalk, her bike parked next to her. I pulled into my driveway, and felt God prompt me to offer her help. I didn’t necessarily want to, but I did. I grabbed my umbrella from my van, walked down to where she was, and told her I would like to give her my umbrella. She said no thank you, and then I offered to let her stand under my carport so that she could get out of the rain. She declined again, and thanked me. At least it felt good to offer!

    I also like to pay for the person behind me at McDonalds or Starbucks.

  • I love this! I wrote a few posts on this topic last month, challenging my readers to be more intentional about doing something for others – might be some good ideas for you here:

    Five Ways to Help Others for Free:

    How to get your kids involved in helping others:

  • Dallas says:

    Thank you everyone for taking the time to read my post and for your kind words about it! Please do not hesitate to send me your stories of kindness or links to your kindness blog posts — I would be delighted to feature them on my blog!

  • Sandra says:

    Outstanding idea! After spending every day for 13 months in a nursing home tending to my mother, I can tell you this…there are many, many forgotten souls. So many ideas come to mind. Spending 30 minutes visiting, reading or helping them to write a letter, bring in fresh flowers from your garden, a basket of personal care items from your stock, a brightly colored blanket, or a holiday wreath. So many are in need and the resources are few. I know some will find it hard to go to a nursing home. I, for one, don’t think I could handle right now. Thanks for sharing any/all ideas. I so could get into a year of Random Acts of Kindness.

  • Amie says:

    i am moving and as my last act to help those in my town before i leave i started a diaper drive. collecting from those who have extras and giving them to those in need. i have given some but not collected any. have a month left so hoping something comes of it.

  • Diane says:

    I was so excited to see your post, Dallas, because I am doing something similar this year! After reading about Ann Curry’s idea to do 26 Random Acts of Kindness in memory of those who died at Sandy Hook, I decided to join the movement. However, I didn’t want to do 26 things in a short period of time and then forget about it. Instead, I am choosing to do 26 acts spread across 2013.
    By finding sales and coupon codes on money saving blogs such as this one, I’ve been able to get some amazing deals that have allowed me to do these RAOK so far:
    *Bought winter caps for a local daycare center that works with low-income families.
    *Gave baby clothes to our local YWCA shelter.
    *Sent little girls’ dresses with a group that made a mission trip to an orphanage in India.
    *Gave pajamas to a program that works with abused children.
    Besides being a way to help others, this is also proving to be such a blessing to me. I find it great fun to look for opportunities and then shop for the items that are needed. And I love to think about how my little gifts might touch the lives of children!

  • This is a beautiful post. You are making a difference in many peoples lives. I am going to try to do this once a month( I am another mom with little ones). I read somewhere else to just carry around 10$ gift cards to have on hand to give out. How amazing it is to bless somebody like that.


  • Rebecca says:

    Thanks for sharing this encouraging post! I also am doing the bible study workbook on “The 7 Experiment,” by Jen Hatmaker this spring with my small bible study group. It is absolutely incredible how much God has blessed my family and I. We have been given so many resources that it is just fun and exciting to share those with those who need them. I am finding that the more open handed I am, the more God blesses my heart and my life. This is really where you can find true joy!

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