This article will appear in the June 2022 issue of HomeLife Magazine. Order your subscription today!
Kindness will change your heart, inspire your family, and draw you closer to God.
Who has the bratwursts? We’re going to need more!” The grill master called above the general ruckus as a teen took the now towering platter of fresh-off-the-grill meat to the buffet table.
A temporary lull in my duties as potato salad server allowed me to take in the scene of happy chaos. A group of families, us included, had set up a Father’s Day BBQ in the back parking lot of our downtown fire station. Rotating crews of on duty law enforcement, EMTs, fire fighters and other first responders (both men and women) were swinging by for a quick bite to eat at the picnic tables we’d found from somewhere and set up on the asphalt.
A siren blared, drawing our momentary attention to the crowd of youngsters gathered around a deputy and her squad car with front and back doors swung wide. I saw several smiles before people returned to conversations, realizing the siren was for entertainment rather than need.
I heard snippets of conversation as my husband and others from our faith community spread throughout the picnic tables, striking up conversations about sports, hunting, and a hundred other topics.
This is community done well, Lord. Thank You for this opportunity to shower gratitude on the men and women who work hard to keep us safe, even on days like Father’s Day. Thank You for using kindness and generosity to show our kids what it means to be the hands and feet of Jesus. Thank You for this journey of no-strings-attached loving our neighbors.
My silent musings on faith, community, and loving others interrupted as a new wave of hungry people put me back to work with a warm smile and words of gratitude on my lips.
Late that evening, with our tired feet propped up and our favorite mugs of tea in hand,
my husband, Aaron, and I got to unpack our individual experiences and those of our children.
We agreed that it was hard work between the setup, the hosting, and the tear down. We mused that children always add a layer of chaos and complexity — even under the best of circumstances — but it was worth including them. We acknowledged that things didn’t go quite as expected when the hamburger patties we’d picked up were a little too greasy to be truly good. And we knew that today’s event meant Aaron’s own Father’s Day celebration was incorporated into an act of service for others.
But, despite those hiccups, the event accomplished what we’d hoped: We’d blessed our community’s first responders, and God had done a work in our own hearts and those of our children that wouldn’t soon be forgotten. We wondered aloud what act of service our small group of families could tackle next in our ongoing attempt to live our faith out loud and in ways that revealed the goodness of God to our children and others in our community.
Living Out Jesus’ Commandment
While our Father’s Day event was an especially big to-do, we purposefully fill our summer breaks with acts of kindness, intentional and random, big and little, as a fun way to keep our kids learning about God, trusting Him to take our small gifts and multiply them above anything we could have done on our own, and learning what it means to give generously of our time, talents, and treasure.
We’ve taken to calling this annual adventure our Summer Bucket List of Kindness. It’s a beautiful mix of preplanned ideas and random acts of kindness when we feel the gentle nudge of the Holy Spirit. Paying for the car behind us in the drive-through and praying a blessing over the occupants is a favorite random act.
The scriptural underpinnings for our kindness bucket list come from Jesus’ commandment set forth in Mark 12:30-31: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is, Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other command greater than these.”
As part of learning to live out Jesus’ commandment, we spend time talking with our children about having a godly relationship with money and taking care of others in our community. We also discuss what God says about a generous heart, and what it means to be the hands and feet of Jesus. Some of the verses we use include:
“Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Make money-bags for yourselves that won’t grow old, an inexhaustible treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys” (Luke 12:33).
“If anyone has this world’s goods and sees a fellow believer in need but withholds compassion from him—how does God’s love reside in him?” (1 John 3:17).
“Give, and it will be given to you; a good measure—pressed down, shaken together, and running over—will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you” (Luke 6:38).
“Each person should do as he has decided in his heart—not reluctantly or out of compulsion, since God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make every grace overflow to you, so that in every way, always having everything you need, you may excel in every good work” (2 Cor. 9:7-8).
“But someone will say, ‘You have faith, and I have works.’ Show me your faith without works, and I will show you faith by my works” (Jas. 2:18).
Scripture is replete with stories and exhortations about generosity, loving others, and looking out for those around us. While the above verses are enough to get you started, there are plenty of others your family could use in your own summer bucket list of kindness.
The Cost of Kindness
If your budget isn’t being kind to you, there are some free or low-cost acts of kindness you and your family can do. Here are a few ideas to get you started.
• Use sidewalk chalk to write encouraging notes on sidewalks in your neighborhood or at a nearby park.
• Volunteer to water an elderly neighbor’s garden or a community garden.
• Plan a board game night or other fun event for residents of a local nursing home.
• Double a favorite cookie recipe and leave it at a friend’s house for a little encouragement.
• Go on a prayer walk with your family. As you walk, pray for each home or business on the block. Choose a new block each week.
• Put together small flowerpots and leave them on a friend’s or neighbor’s doorstep.
• Paint rocks with kind messages and hide them at local parks for others to discover. Pray for the person who will find the rock.
• Place bottled water and snacks in a cooler on your front step, clearly designated as a thank-you gift to postal workers and delivery drivers.
• Pick up litter at a local park.
• Share homegrown produce with a neighbor or a local food pantry.
Set the Example in Your Home
Summer can sometimes be a challenging time for family relationships when too much time and boredom are in the mix. Encourage kindness between siblings and other family members. Challenge your family to do three kind things for someone else in your house each week. Again, here are a few ideas do get you started.
• Make the bed for someone else in your house.
• Do someone else’s chores (such as emptying/loading the dishwasher, taking out the trash) without telling him or her.
• Do the laundry for someone else in your house.
• Spend some of your allowance or “fun” money on someone else.
• Make a bouquet of your garden flowers for a neighbor (or your mom).
• Write prayer notes and tuck them into a family member’s pockets.
• Make a meal for someone else (for instance, my kids like to make breakfast for a sibling).
• Write a thank you note to someone who has done something nice for you.
• Contact a relative you haven’t seen in
a long time and catch up on how he or she is doing.
• Invite a family member for a walk and ask them about their day.
Keep It Going
Being kind should be as natural as following Jesus and not an exhausting add-on. But life and schedules and expectations aren’t always kind. Here are a few tips for incorporating kindness so it adds much and takes away little.
Be realistic. Set small goals to start, and be realistic with how much time and energy you have available. Understand that there are seasons. Sometimes we can do more than other times.
Look for opportunities that fit naturally. Going to the grocery store? Buy extra for the food pantry. Walking around the neighborhood? Pray for your neighbors and community while you walk. Purging items from your home or closet? Seek out people and places who could put them to good use, or sell them and donate the funds to a worthy cause.
Partner with other people. Don’t feel like you need to reinvent the wheel. When you see someone doing something amazing in your community, ask if you can partner with them, combine resources, or volunteer.
Spend these long summer days (and nights) with Jesus. Dive into God’s Word, and let it influence you and your family to be kind. As you dig into this summer adventure, you’ll find yourself encouraged, even as you encourage your children.
About the author:
Julie Fisk left a 15-year career as a lawyer to follow her childhood dream to become an author. Julie is a national speaker and author of five books, including her newest: One Good Word A Day: 365 Days Invitations to Encourage, Deepen, and Refine Your Faith. Together with Kristin Demery and Kendra Roehl, her co-founders of The Ruth Experience, Julie connects with thousands of women online through real stories about seeking and living out their faith.