Berkeley, California (EastBayDaily) — After heartbreak occurs, feelings of grief and despair can be profound. As a nation, many felt those difficult emotions in the days after the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Inspired by Ann Curry, thousands committed to performing 26 Acts of Kindness—one for each of the twenty children and six adults who were lost on December 14, 2012. Linda Cohen, author of the Seal Press book 1,000 Mitzvahs: How Small Acts of Kindness Can Heal, Inspire, and Change Your Life, suggests that the kindness doesn't have to stop there.
Multiple research studies suggest that people who regularly engage in acts of kindness or volunteerism report higher levels of happiness, self esteem, and purpose, as well as lower levels of depression. There is no doubt that those who participated in the 26 Acts of Kindness movement have already discovered an improved sense of well-being knowing that they honored the victims in a proactive way.
A resident of Portland, Oregon, Cohen personally knows the benefits of using kindness to help ease grief. After her own father died in 2006, she committed to performing 1,000 mitzvahs (or good deeds) to honor his memory. During the two and a half years it took to perform these acts of kindness, Cohen discovered the transformational benefits of giving. Sonja Lyubomirsky—a psychology professor at the University of California, Riverside and the author of The How of Happiness—found that people with a tendency towards grief and depression could benefit from a daily dose of helping others. Even if it's only a few minutes each day, the increase to their positive emotions are tremendous.
For those who would like to continue the 26 Acts of Kindness movement by honoring the victims of Sandy Hook Elementary School through 2013, Cohen offers 13 child-friendly ideas for small actions that can have meaningful results:
1. Cook a meal. Plan and prepare a meal for someone in the community who has lost a loved one recently. This could be organized through a church, synagogue, school, or community group. Mealtrain.org is an excellent resource for organizing meal deliveries.
2. Express appreciation with a note. Write and send a gratitude letter to a coach, teacher, mentor, or relative.
3. Collect coins. Have family members collect all the pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters lying around in the house and give the money to a non-profit organization or charity.
4. Volunteer time. Visit a local senior center or nursing home and spend time with the residents. Volunteer at a local school and bring kids along to give out fundraising material, set up for a school-related event, or even stuff mailers. Another way to volunteer is to bring gifts like art supplies, magazines, and books to children who are in the hospital.
5. Visit. Drop by a friend, neighbor, or elder’s home unexpectedly with flowers and have a visit. It will brighten up their winter day.
6. Start an imagination station. Help an elementary school start an imagination station program where they use recyclable items like cereal boxes, paper towel tubes, and tissue boxes for fun and inexpensive art projects. Collect and donate these kinds of items to the school.
7. Help a local food bank. Are there food pantries that need donations or volunteers? Investigate how to help the hungry.
8. Clean up. Pick up litter at the beach or a park.
9. Get a haircut. Donate a ponytail of hair to Locks of Love.
10. Spend a moment in silence. Encourage children to have a silent moment of healing when an ambulance passes or when thinking about the victims of Sandy Hook Elementary School.
11. Collect first aid supplies. Bring extra first aid supplies for other players on children’s sports teams.
12. Set up a lemonade stand. Organize a lemonade stand or bake sale and give the proceeds to a non-profit that kids might know, like the Humane Society. If donating locally, children can help deliver the money in person and get a tour of the non-profit.
13. Adopt a soldier. Send a care package and letter to a soldier overseas.
To learn about all of the 1,000 ways Cohen chose to make a difference in the lives of others, readers can purchase a copy of 1,000 Mitzvahs at a local bookstore, or by visiting the Seal Press website and viewing a complete list of online booksellers.
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About Seal Press Seal Press was founded in 1976 to provide a forum for women writers and feminist issues. Since then, Seal has published groundbreaking books that represent the diverse voices and interests of women—their lives, literature, and concerns. Seal's authors are radical and original thinkers, professionals with a distinct point of view, gutsy explorers, truth-tellers, and writers who engender laughter, tears, and rage. Seal Press publishes books with the goal of informing women’s lives. Based in Berkeley, Calif., Seal is a member of the Perseus Books Group. To learn more, visit the Seal Press website.