Friday, May 6, 2011

The Kindness Game

When my daughter was in high school, she was, like many high school kids, focused on herself. I thought it might do her some good to think outside of her own life. So I came up with a game. Each day we would compete to see who could do the most nice things for other people. It could be something as simple as smiling at someone as you pass by, or saying something encouraging. If you did something nice for someone in your family, you got double points (because we often overlook those closest to us). At the end of the day we would compare notes and see who won.

Playing the game was fun. You go through your day a little differently when you are actively seeking opportunities to be kind. I caught myself smiling more, greeting people, listening more attentively, offering to help a little more quickly, finding something nice to say. I wrote out a compliment card for someone who helped me at the store. Mia ate lunch with a student from another country who was often isolated.

One day, Mia called me as she walked home from school and asked me for directions to a certain address. When she got home, she explained that she had seen a young woman looking distressed. Mia crossed the street to ask if she needed help. The young woman was developmentally disabled and had gotten off at the wrong bus stop on her way home. She was disoriented and couldn’t figure out how to get home. After I gave Mia directions over the phone, she walked the young woman all the way home, even though it was quite a bit out of her way. When she told me the story, I readily conceded the game for that day, for the whole week. I could see that Mia felt compassion for this young woman and was pleased to be able to help her. (Because I have two sons with autism, Mia’s brothers, this kindness on Mia’s part was especially meaningful. I would like to believe that someone would do the same for them if they were lost.)

Playing the kindness game helps us develop the habit of kindness. The point isn’t to “win” or to brag about what a nice person you are. After all, kindness done in secret is often the most delicious. The point of sharing is to help others be more aware of all the opportunities we have as we go through our day to brighten someone’s life, to lift someone’s spirit. By sharing our examples, we can inspire each other to see those chances we might otherwise overlook.

So I hope you will join me in playing the kindness game this month. Let’s try to be aware of opportunities to be kind. These could be spontaneous opportunities, or we could create our own opportunities by giving it some thought as we start our day. Is there someone at work or at home who could use an encouraging word? Is there someone you could say thank you to? Is there a parent or friend who would appreciate a phone call or email?

You can play the game with your family or with friends. It can be a game of solitaire--try for your personal best! Or we can play with each other. You could share in the comments some opportunity you discovered to be kind. For example, here is a great idea from a comment Lisa just left on my last post.

I have been pondering upcoming Mother's Day. Perhaps we might call on those who are Mother-less. I am fortunate to still have my parents, but so many do not. Call a cousin, a friend, or a co-worker who has no Mom anymore and take them for tea. Or make them lunch. Mother them for a few hours. Love them as we are loved.

Lisa's comment made me think of a good friend I have not been in contact with for awhile. Her parents were like second parents to me. I will call her tomorrow and we can share some wonderful memories of her mom. Thank you, Lisa, for this great idea.

We worked hard with some challenging issues in March and April with Steps 3 and 4, regarding letting go of control and feeling our feelings. At least, those were challenging issues for me. Let’s relax this month and have some fun being kind. And remember – fun is good!


  1. I've loved this kindness game! Maybe I have to play it with my daughter... By the way, taking care of your sons and also Mia, I believe that you're a very good mother and you deserve this mother's day more than us.

  2. WOW! amazing story! Loved it! Kindness is something I strive for, certainly wish there were more out there who did.

  3. if ever I'm blue, hopping over to your blog always fills my heart with joy and wisdom and it so brings out all the things that are important for us to do...each and everyday...I not only wish you Happy Mother's Day but thank you for being so inspiring for me...and well everyone who gets to enjoy your blog.....! "HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY!..and may happiness and love follow you where ever you go!

  4. Galen,
    I love the story about your daughter taking the time to help the developmentally disabled girl. That's true kindness and the mark of great parenting! Happy Mother's Day!

  5. Thank you all for being so kind to me!

    Sihirli--If you decide to play the kindness game with your daughter, let me know how it goes. And while I appreciate the kind words, no, I don't deserve any Mother's Day more than others, and certainly much less than some!

    Mitzi--Kindness is contagious so keep up your efforts and there will surely be others who will follow your lead.

    Karen--Thank you! I'm so glad my blog brings a smile to your spirit from time to time. Your words certainly brought a smile to mine!

    Angela--Thanks for following! Yes, I was very proud of Mia that day. As for great parenting, I have my great moments, as do we all, interspersed among mostly muddling along moments.

    Thanks for the Mother's Day good wishes and same to all of you!

  6. What a fantastic "game" and I know someone who I hope to be able to inspire to play it with me. Not only could she use it I could as well. The one part about studying like I have been, and of all fields social work, I don't have much time to go out of my way to help others. I've vocalized about this in my classes in my first two years, I expressed how it saddened my heart that I have to put others on hold because I'm too busy getting trained in a helping profession. Talk about a feeling like a phoney! I feel crappy in doing so, I'm generally a very kind, giving individual. I'm becoming someone who is too busy for others except when it comes to my own. I feel selfish and uncaring at times and I don't like this feeling one wee bit. So you're right on the nose, it takes no time to smile at a stranger, no time to say a kind word or to offer a hug... thank you Galen!

    In looking back at this past four years of education I know that I've helped others, I guess that I just haven't helped as much as I once did and maybe this is what is putting me off. What is meant to be will be I suppose, I'm selflessly giving up my time to study in a field in which I hope to spend my days helping others... so yes selfish on one hand but on the other hand I guess selfless. Now that I take a stand back and really assess this entire situation I guess that I'm doing exactly what I'm supposed to be doing. Kind of crazy making at times but what the heck, I'm a wee bit crazy anyways!

    Enjoy your Mother's Day and thanks again. I talked myself better on your blog, thanks for the inspiration to do so. You have a very kind heart as I've said before Galen, a very kind heart!

  7. This is a wonderful idea. Being kind often has a knock-on effect and kindness spreads further. I am looking forward to putting it into action. I am wondering if this step, while seeming the easiest, might actually become one of the hardest...not because I am an unkind person, but because our lives often revolve around such a small circle, we forget to look outside of it. (except via internet means, of course).

  8. It's what the world needs now... even more than love! But then kindness IS love in so very many ways. Thanks Galen for this lovely kindness reminder. I enjoyed the story of Mia.. she sounds beautiful inside and out [due no doubt in no small part to you!]

    Happy Mothers Day Galen. My very best wishes for a beautiful day :-)

  9. darlin--Thanks for sharing your story. Talking through your thinking process in the comment will help others see their way through similar conundrums. Like the flight attendant says--put on your own oxygen mask first! Then you can help others.

    JackSamMum--You know, I think this step really is the easiest. Being kind doesn't require the same level of "inner work" as letting go of control, for example. You don't even really have to "feel" kind in order to be kind. We just have to see the opportunities and take them. That's why I like this step so much.

    Jean--Mia is beautiful inside and out, at least occasionally!

    Happy Mother's Day to all of you.

  10. I would just like to play a bit of the advocate here...I think I was born KIND and gentle - too many people treat me as a "wimp" or a "servant" I understand, because our society values extroverts and quick smart as a whip folks. In 2010, I decided to work on being KIND to myself more and have stopped giving to other charities this year because I have given and given and can now not pay off my child's medical bills (via our mortgage). I am heaping loads of kindness and gentleness onto my self, and I am healing - slowly and surely healing. I am very forgiving, but I have not been so to myself...nor gentle enough --pushing, pushing, pushing is not lovely kindness.

    I liked your Mia story very much - signs of love and hope abound :)

  11. Galen: Great game. However, I thought that WAS life. You have taught your child well. Happy Mother's Day to you!

  12. Thank you for the great story of Mia, and her great kindness, enabled by a great EXAMPLE(obviously!)...her Mother, YOU--Galen!
    And hey...thank you on the mention of me,and my suggestion to "...Mother the Mother-less" in your post! :D

  13. Galen,
    You are a wonderful example of kindness. Thank you!
    I loved the story about your daughter. She has learned well from you.
    Happy Mother's Day!

  14. Patricia--Your comment is a great example of "putting on your oxygen mask first" wisdom. Thank you for sharing your perspective.

    JJ--Thanks for stopping by, especially with your busy schedule these days!

    Lisa--I did follow your suggestion and had a lovely phone visit with my friend today. We shared some great memories of her mother. You gave me a wonderful gift with that suggestion.

    PAMO--The best part is that I learned, too! Thanks for your comment.

  15. That is a wonderful 'game' to play .... even if we didnt play it with someone else it is a wonderful one to play with ourselves :)

    Kindness costs nothing yet is worth so much

  16. Good morning Galen,

    That is a very nice game. I take note of it and will play it with my son, since it seems the perfect way to encourage kids to become better individuals.

    Have a great day,


  17. It’s really a wonderful feeling when someone does or says something kind to you or you do the same for others. I think I’m lucky to have a great friend like you who writes great articles, even though we know each other only from our blogs.;) And I liked the photogenic dragonfly that’s why I had placed it on my profile. There’s my pic there on my profile now.


Your comment is valuable and valued. Comment moderation is enabled to block spam, so please excuse the brief delay until your comment appears on the blog.