by Yvonne Roe
Usually I am all about doing nice things for other people and surprising friends with thoughtful gestures; however, the last few months of living through a pandemic have left me feeling completely depleted.
Then I saw what teachers were enduring to make the best of this unprecedented school year. My teacher friends were experiencing insomnia, stomach pains, and anxiety attacks because they were so overwhelmed trying to prepare for their first year of distance learning. I decided to take my toddler for a car ride (read: get coffee) and we dropped off Starbucks for one of my teacher friends. Just this small act of kindness made her smile widely and paused, even if only momentarily, the accumulated stress. Her eyes revealed how much she appreciated being “seen” during this challenging time. The beauty of small acts of kindness is in the ripple effect, and the joy I felt from making her happy made me start to feel replenished.
Now, because we are still in the middle of a pandemic, helping others comes with its unique challenges and limitations. Although we can’t help others in ways we might be used to, here are a few super easy ideas for spreading kindness, even when you feel like you have nothing left to give.
Drop off a surprise treat
This is simple and does not require a lot of time. I really enjoy being able to surprise my friends with their favorite goodies, so I pay attention to what they order or what I see them enjoy. Then under their name in my phone, I add their preferences under “notes.” When I am out running errands or just driving around with my toddler (because, pandemic), we go through the Starbucks or Dunkin’ Donuts drive-thru and pick up something special that I know will hit the mark.
Write a thoughtful note
The first day of distance learning was filled with tech glitches and Zoom mishaps but teachers did the very best they could. I e-mailed my kids’ principal and teachers to express my gratitude that they did what they do best: make lemonade out of lemons. Many of them are balancing their own children’s needs at home while trying to learn new technologies at record-speed and going live for several hours a day. It took 3 minutes to send a quick thank you and according to the teacher, the e-mail made his day.
Model the behavior and watch it spread
When I was looking through my 4th grader’s assignments online, I noticed that he had sent an unprompted e-mail to one of his teachers as well. It looked like this: “Hello i just wanted to say hi and PS you are my Favorite teacher ?.” It was heart-warming to see my 9-year old exhibit the kind of behavior we try to model for our children. Remember that they are always watching how you treat others.
Acknowledge the difficulty
The pandemic has taken a toll on everyone and the first step in creating kindness is acknowledging this fact. So be honest with yourself and others that the last few months have been extremely challenging. Then offer yourself kindness by allowing for the space to explore your feelings and speak openly about them. You can’t pour from an empty cup; so, before offering kindness and grace to others, start with yourself.
About the Author
Yvonne Roe holds a Master’s in Teaching Literature and Writing and taught high school English for over a decade. She is raising 3 little boys in the Washington, D.C. area and writes about parenting, education, and mental health.