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Last year this time, I was in the midst of nine days of activities starting on the Acts of Kindness Day at Bloggers Unite on December 17th, 2007 and continuing until Christmas day. Bloggers Unite is a group within BlogCatalog that seeks to harness the tool of blogging in support of various social causes. Blogging about Acts of Kindness inspired me to explore different kinds of kindness – some intentionally “random” and others for people who I knew.

As this year’s Christmas season approached, I wanted to make it a tradition to continue some of the activities from last year and also to explore new variations on the theme. Repeat activities from last year included taking part in the Toys for Tots drive and buying children’s winter coats to donate.

And new variations? I wanted to bake cookies again this year but give them away to more than just my chiropractor, co-workers, etc. However, I figured that most food banks need donations to be non-perishable. With unemployment higher in my state of RI than anywhere else in the country, I wished I could somehow donate cookies to unemployment offices and reach people recently out of work.

After finding out that this part of government has mostly gone the route of e-government with filing by phone or Internet, I stumbled across this novel nonprofit  Drop In and Decorate – started in Rhode Island no less – by food writer and Nine Cooks blogger Lydia Walshin. She started a nonprofit that guides people in how to bake, decorate and donate cookies to community organizations. While I did not do an actual Drop in and Decorate party to bake and decorate sugar cookies, I did find out from Lydia that the Ronald McDonald House in Providence takes baked goods and yesterday morning I brought them some chocolate chip cookies with Ghiradelli chocolate chips and some pumpkin muffins that are delish – here’s the recipe I used. What an unexpected gift to learn about this important community service provided by the Ronald McDonald House located near the hospitals in Providence – it gives families a place to stay while their children/siblings are in the hospital.

Spirit of Giving Holiday Drive at Children's Friend

Then it was just around the corner a few blocks away to stop in at Children’s Friend & Service Family Support Center. With a big snow storm forecast to arrive later that day, the drop off area was like a bustling den of Santa’s elves. Bags of gifts from sponsors that adopted families were piled skyward in every direction. I was more than humbled as I dropped off my own small drop in this ocean that offers holiday presents to children in almost 600 families. What another unexpected gift to take part in this wonderful organization’s efforts during the holidays – this one discovered at the Volunteer Center of Rhode Island website, the same resource that led me to find a place to help serve Thanksgiving dinner to the community at a local church in years past.

Last but not least in finding new variations on last year’s activities was the discovery that the Salvation Army now has an online kettle initiative – a response in part to the fact that more and more people shop mostly online for their holiday gifts.  You can create a kettle and invite friends to donate to it or join a pre-existing one by donating over the Internet. CNN featured the new trends with giving to the Salvation Army 21st century style – via cell phone, credit card swipe at a rea kettle, via Twitter or online at places such as
Facebook. In the article, they state:

Contributions to the thousands of iconic red kettle donation stations that dot the nation each holiday season are slowing, officials say, and demands for help are rising…Hoping to harness the generosity of millions of online social networkers, the Salvation Army now has a Twitter feed for so-called “tweets” about its Red Kettle Campaign. “Chris Rock and his wife were at The Salvation Army / Target event today!” wrote a Twitter user named “bansheewigs” on November 12.

While the method may change with changing times, the underlying message upholds a time-honored tradition. The holiday season is a special time to remember strangers and friends alike with a spirit of kindness and giving. My meditation teacher Sri Chinmoy’s philosophy emphasized the importance of a concept he called “oneness” – a belief that all people are inextricably linked as one world family. His life’s work and message touched people all across the globe inspiring them to cross over boundaries of religion, culture and separation. In a series of books that transcribed hix various interviews, he states:

If we want to become good citizens of the world, we have to be part and parcel of the world. We cannot enter into the Himalayan caves and ignore the world. If I consider my fellow citizens to be members of my family, then there has to be mutual give and take. I give you what I have; you give me what you have. One person does not and cannot have everything. But if we are united, I offer you my goodwill, good wishes and whatever I have, and you offer me what you have. Only in this way can we establish a oneness-world-family.
Sri Chinmoy, Sri Chinmoy Answers, Pt. 11

As Christmas Day fast approaches, I smell the aroma of gratitude and goodwill as much as the scent of pine needles, snow and cookies baking. I am especially grateful to the folks at Bloggers Unite for including an Acts of Kindness initiative as part of their humanitarian efforts. I find it continues to resonate one year later after first taking part in it. I hope it continues to inspire a tradition of linking kindness and Christmas for many more years yet to come.