We have a tradition in our family of beginning January with an introduction of a family theme for the year. This was something I started several years ago as a way, honestly, to make family home evenings easier to plan. I thought a cohesive theme to focus on throughout the year would make transitions through gospel topics go more smoothly and would help my children see a connection between various principles laws, both of nature and of God.
The theme for 2011 comes from a simple little song found in the Children’s Songbook: “Kindness Begins With Me.” This year I really want to make my home a haven; a place of peace and safety where those who spend time here feel loved and appreciated and needed. As my older children are nearing their teenage years, I want to make sure that I keep the lines of communication open between us so that they feel safe in talking with me and with each other. I want my children to be able to teach each other lessons that they have learned, both in their scholastic studies and in the school of life. Beyond the walls of our home, I want my children to learn tolerance of others. To see the good in those around them and to keep people’s names safe in our family and our home by not speaking ill of them or disrespecting them. I want my family to understand the truth of the statement that people will remember the way you make them feel.
A pretty big challenge, huh? Especially when, what I was noticing instead in my home were snarky comments, selfish gestures and an attitude of “why should I do anything for you that you can do for yourself?” Some of that can probably be chalked up to the post-holidays slump we all tend to find ourselves in and the fact that this momma is “great with child” and not creating many adventures for her brood. But I think it is also a result of becoming so accustomed to one another and to always being together that we begin to discount each other’s feelings and forget the power that lies in just being kind.
The theme was unveiled at a family home evening in early January. My family was treated to a fancy candlelight dinner all prepared and assembled by yours truly. I went all out, making individual meatloafs all by myself for the first time (there is just something about squishing raw meat between one’s fingers that I struggle with). The table was laid with a tablecloth, linen napkins, even fancy goblets full of sparkling cider. Everyone got to enjoy an elegant three course meal better than anything we have even done for company, all while being waited on by mom.
After dinner came the lesson of kindness – what it means, who was the perfect example of it, how we can have more of it in our lives. Then we placed every family members’ name in a hat and drew names for our “Secret Servers” project. The name that we drew was the person we were supposed to serve, in secret, for the next week. The big reveal would happen at the following family night and then we would choose names again. This became our focus for the month of January. I tried to emphasize that the best way to remain anonymous was to serve every family member equally so everyone would think that you were their server! What a fun month we had! I would go to my room at night to find my bed turned down and my pajamas laid out. I would come out of the bathroom in the morning to find my bed already made. Family members helped others to write notes so that their handwriting wouldn’t give them away. Skills of stealth were perfected as little ones hurried to do the chores of a sibling without getting caught. The entire garage was swept out by a determined little six year old wielding a giant push broom. A four year old reported that what she had done to serve her daddy was “snuggle with him in his own bed for the whole night!”
At the conclusion of our four week project, everyone was kind of sad to not be drawing names again. However, we are moving on to phase two of the “Kindness Begins With Me” campaign. Our mission for the month is to perform a random act of kindness every day for someone who does not live in our home – even for someone we don’t know. My ten year old really wants to go paint over some of the grafitti in our town. My almost-teenage son thinks that would be much more fun if we were to sneak out in the middle of the night to do it. I am not sure I am up for that… but I am so excited for the huge strength of character that can be built upon the small hinge of kindness. The world could certainly use more of that.
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