Project Kindness

The official start of the summer season is only a few weeks behind us, but according to my internal mom calendar, when the fireworks fly, it means we are awfully close to being halfway through summer.

They say time flies when you’re having fun. We must be having a blast because in 47 days, my kids will already be heading back to school.

It’s nice to have these long, lazy days together, but a part of me feels like I should have more to show for the season than a few extra pounds from Dairy Queen runs. Thanks to rainy days and TiVo, my kids have every song from “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” memorized.

Summer is my chance to allow our home to be the classroom, and I’m afraid I’m blowing it.

My neighbor came up with a brilliant idea. One day a week, she forces her children to power down. Every Wednesday, the TV, iPods, iPads, computers and anything else with a screen stays off. All day. Her kids have been learning how to entertain themselves with their own imaginations and finding they actually enjoy it.

Kudos to you parents who already do this. I’m still a work in progress. My neighbor’s idea, however, has got me thinking.

Summer is a great time to try something new. It is inherently a playful time of the year. We all have more Vitamin D flowing through our systems, and therefore, tend to be more energetic and less likely to bite each other’s heads off.

I’ve decided this is the perfect time of year to implement a little homework. It’s called Project Kindness. My kids are secret agents. Their mission: carry out one act of kindness a week without being discovered.

I have to admit, I stole the whole “secret agent” idea from Jenessa Filipi, who is a counselor at Nativity Elementary School in Fargo. Last March, the Nativity students were challenged to make the world a better place. In return, the kids got certificates commending them for their great acts of kindness.

First-grade teacher Jean Eppler helped her students come up with ideas for acts of kindness toward their parents, like emptying the dishwasher without being asked, making their beds and listening the first time their parents asked them to do something.

Even those youngest students, whose kindness was limited to what they could do in their own homes, talked about how pleasant life became when everyone was kind to each other.

So how do we give Project Kindness a summertime spin? You may not be able to convince your kids that folding laundry is an act of kindness, but I’m sure if you give them control of the situation, they won’t let you down.

I’m always amazed at what kids come up with when given a kindness challenge.

My 9-year-old daughter is in the process of figuring out which kind of doughnut the clerk at the grocery store prefers. She wants to treat her to a breakfast surprise, and my son has an armful of lime-green bracelets he wants to pass along to unsuspecting friends.

This summertime game isn’t just for children. I’d love to have you play along even if you aren’t a kid or don’t have kids. I don’t plan on giving out certificates, but I would love to share your Project Kindness adventure in a future column.

Who knows? Maybe your act of kindness will motivate others to spread some love, once again proving that kindness is contagious. And when that happens, we can all say: Mission accomplished.

Please continue to share your stories of kindness with me at nphillips15@hotmail.com. Or send a letter to Kindness is Contagious c/o Nicole J. Phillips, The Forum, 101 5th St. N., Box 2020, Fargo, ND, 58107.

Nicole J. Phillips is a former television anchor for Fox News in Fargo. She is an author, speaker and mother of three kids. Nicole is married to Bison Men’s Head Basketball Coach Saul Phillips. Her columns run every Saturday.

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