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January 9, 2013

The Volunteer Connection by Margaret Shultz

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Written by: Bruce Snook
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Margaret Shultz, Volunteer Services Specialist

A month ago our country was shaken and horrified by the senseless deaths in Newtown, CT.  The victims and their families were in our thoughts and prayers but that seemed woefully inadequate to convey our profound anguish.  Thousands of people from all over the country and even the international community have sent donations of all kinds to the families involved.  This response has been so great, in fact, that the town of Newtown is asking for donations to stop as they are unable to manage it all.  Shortly before Christmas, Ann Curry of NBC News sent out a tweet suggesting that caring people could perform 26 Random Acts of Kindness in honor of the victims.  Tens of thousands of people responded on Facebook and Twitter that they would be following this suggestion and some are even posting stories of the things they have done.

Random Acts of Kindness, according to Wikipedia, are selfless acts performed by a person or people wishing to either assist or cheer up an individual person or people.  They are often performed anonymously and usually seem spontaneous to the recipient.  These gestures can be done by individuals who aren’t in a position to take on more traditional volunteer work.  Common examples of Random Acts of Kindness are paying for the person behind you in the drive-thru, taking a shopping cart back to the store for someone, shoveling the walk of a neighbor, or writing a thank you note to someone who made a difference in your life.  I was once the recipient of a Random Act of Kindness and it made my day.  It had snowed all day and when I left work I knew that I had ahead of me the cold job of clearing my car of the snow.  To my surprise, one of my co-workers had already done it for me.  To this day, that person holds a special place in my heart and I’ve cleaned off other cars because I know what a treat that was.

I’d like to suggest that you think of ways that you could incorporate doing Random Acts of Kindness in your life.  You might want to do this in honor of the Newtown victims or you might decide to go beyond that and do one a week or one a month.  Involve your children and make a new family tradition of doing something special in honor of each family member’s birthday or on other special days.  You can be totally anonymous or you can tell the recipient that you are doing a Random Act of Kindness and ask them to “pay it forward.”  Challenge yourself to look for opportunities where a smile and a simple gesture could make someone else’s day just a tiny bit better.  There are websites that can give ideas or even tools for teachers for creating programs in the classroom.  Start at www.randomactsofkindness.org or just use your favorite search engine.

I’d like to close with a wish for each of you that 2013 brings health and happiness and, for all of us, a true sense of “kindness” in St. Joseph County.

Other programs in St. Joseph County that are looking for volunteers and would like to be included in this weekly column are encouraged to register with United Way.  Contact Margaret Shultz, Volunteer Services Specialist, at 269-467-9099 or at volunteer.sjcuw@gmail.com.


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