“May you be given more and more of God’s kindness, peace, and love.” Jude 1:2 (TLB)
One year ago, today, March 1, 2018, for the unnecessary sake of redundant clarification, a dear friend of mine, Alyssa De Los Santos, began one of the most influential campaigns I’ve ever whole-heartedly believed in and half-heartedly participated in.
Allow me to explain.
Alyssa had been sharing about the big reveal of something amazing for weeks in advance. With eagerness and because I love her and trust her heart to be in the right place, I planned to offer my support and jump all in with all the gusto.
When March 1st came along and the curtain pulled back, I practiced writing #sowkind just as an engaged girl practices writing her soon-to-be married name. Okay, I really didn’t do that. But I did have every intention of going full speed ahead with all things #sowkind.
I thought and planned and really didn’t do much at the beginning because I had a big overseas trip planned. I did, however, mail a few #sowkind postcards from UK to friends I knew there.
[Sidenote: High fives and bonus points for anyone who counts up all the #sowkind, #sowkindmovement, #sowkindness hashtags and leaves a comment with the correct number.]
So, why did I half-heartedly participate? As it turns out, all plans and dreams for #sowkind and well, because of a devastating situation in my marriage, my whole entire life came to a screeching halt just one month after this awesomeness began. My #sowkind perspective shift came when I realized I was going to need to focus on being kind to myself for a while and allow others to pour kindness into me. This was very uncomfortable for me. It still is. But I’ve witnessed the benefits first hand and I’m alive to tell you about it. I have survived this season so far in large part because I saw the value in self-kindness and I allowed others to show kindness to me as well – as if I could have stopped them. I have some amazingly kind friends!
I longed to do better. To fulfill the desires of Alyssa’s heart in spreading kindness in people’s mailboxes and tucking a sweet note under a windshield wiper. But it wasn’t in the cards for me. I did purchase a #sowkind t-shirt, does that count? And they’re awesome! If you can get your hands on one, you totally should. I did pray for her and for those who had all the cards and the bandwidth to share. But for me, it was about buying a t-shirt and sending a couple of cards to friends in the UK and then letting others #sowkind into me.
The picture below is of one of my most favorite walls in my home. There are days when I go stand in front of it and breathe in the kindness that others have lavished on me over these last 11 months. One of the gems on this wall is from the kind-hearted Alyssa herself. I also have a bathroom mirror covered with post-it notes that two friends wrote messages of encouragement and blessing on for me. There is just enough space on that mirror left to see my face. I love looking in that mirror so much!
I’m not sure if the vision of what Alyssa started one year ago was meant to cross over the realm from doing for others to doing for ourselves but well, I’m a bit of a rebel and do things differently than others most days. Kindness isn’t only a gift to be given to others but is a gift we should give ourselves as well. This being said, I’m pretty sure Alyssa’s vision was all about kindness no matter what, no matter who the recipient. I happen to believe that to be God’s vision for kindness as well.
In case you’ve landed here and have been so generous with your time to read this far, and you’re still wondering what this #sowkindmovement is all about, Alyssa generously agreed to answer a few questions. I’m pleased to share her answers with you here.
1. For those of us whose brains are already on overload and thinking about “joining in” on anything else is overwhelming, can you briefly describe what #sowkindmovement is and why we would want to join in?
#Sowkind is an effort to scatter kindness in communities and around the world. It is driven by an intentional decision to elevate others. Kindness is a universal language that can bridge the greatest of divides.
#Sowkind began as a belief in the ability to make a difference by releasing words of encouragement. When kindness ripples, similar to the idea of “paying it forward”, the impact is immeasurable. Kindness changes the giver and receiver.
Here’s how #Sowkind works. Participants [anyone who says yes] think of someone to encourage through the written word, then they write a note [include the hashtag somewhere on the note], adhere a stamp, and put it in the mail. That’s it! This movement isn’t limited to a card in the mail, though. You can customize your involvement to fit your community, sphere of influence, and range of experiences. The decision to #Sowkind isn’t based on perfect conditions but is rooted in a belief that it can make an impact. The driver is kindness, not a card of encouragement in return (although that IS nice). This is love in action; a movement of kindness for the sake of making the world a little better.
Bob Goff, the author of Love Does, often encourages his audiences to tell the people in their life who they are becoming. Instead of holding someone in the position of who they were, calling out the good you see in them invites them to step into newness. That’s always been such an appealing statement to me. Why not call out the gifting you see in someone? What if, like the rest of us, they have been busy rehearsing their failures?
Think about teachers, adults, neighbors, family friends, doctors, relatives, coaches, or those that share your address. Could any of them benefit from a strong dose of kindness? What would happen if you told them how meaningful they were/are in your life? Does someone come to mind right away? Start your #sowkind with that person.
Tell the teacher how the interest they took in your life made an impact. Call out the good qualities you see in the troubled teen. Remind the widow how their tenacity is inspiring. Encourage the mother living at the hospital with her sick child. You get the idea. Right?
Since kindness begets kindness, your involvement is a deposit, not a withdrawal. We typically don’t want to do more because it depletes us, but this is different. You can do it from your couch, in your pjs, and on a whim. You are already having the thoughts and sensing the promptings. This movement just gives you permission to act on what’s already in you!
The #SowKind movement isn’t a just a cute, naïve gesture. I don’t believe kindness is the solution to gun violence, domestic abuse, racism, or human trafficking.
I DO believe kindness manifests within a person and the overflow is splashed onto the likes of anyone standing near. I DO believe kindness has a ripple effect. I DO believe if you communicate kindness new doorways of relationship open. I DO believe we are living at a time when the loneliness rate is higher than it’s been reported in years, and kind words shared/received feel similar to being seen and known [the antithesis of lonely].
To #SowKind is to scatter kindness. Like seed, some will produce and some won’t. That’s not the point. Our job is to be seed-sowers. The result is outside of our control.
You reap what you sow. I must have heard this phrase a thousand times growing up. It took me a long time to understand the message behind the words. I sowed self-preservation during my teenage years, and my loneliness was prolific. I sprinkled lots of anger through my divorce that cultivated resentment.
BUT, I have been changed by the sacrifice of the kindness of others. The prayer someone took the time to pray over me, the card overflowing with encouragement that arrived at just the right moment, and the unexpected invitation to dinner when loneliness threatened to steal any remaining joy…they all had a profound impact on my life. Kind words invite healing, and our tiny gestures join other gestures to create ripples and waves of love that leave a lasting impact.
#SowKind is a grass-roots effort to scatter kindness and make an impact one word at a time. Who in your circle needs kindness sown into them? Will you be the one to meet that need? Who has impacted your life with acts of kindness? Do they know just how much that meant to you? Will you tell them?
2. What prompted you to start this movement?
Suffice it to say, my personal experience has been the driving force behind the movement. For more information about the motivation, this podcast interview gives more detail about the why, and it’s probably not what you think!
3. What has been the most rewarding aspect of this first year of the movement? What amazingness has God shown you?
The timing of kindness. It seems like every perceived “sacrifice” of kindness has immediately intersected with someone’s need. Know why? Because kindness sees others, kindness destroys dividing walls, and kindness gives the weary sojourner the strength to take one more step along the way.
It’s pulled perfect strangers together for a common good. When is that happening these days? I have yet to meet the person who doesn’t appreciate being remembered, thought of, and cared for. The best part of this experience is seeing the fruition of the “hoped for ripple” effect. When one person shares their enthusiasm about kindness, it generates a momentum that is hard to ignore.
It’s been pure joy to watch.
4. What are a few things you most want people to understand about participating in the #sowkindmovement?
You don’t have to do something every day. You don’t have to do the same thing every time. The beauty of the movement is that you can scatter kindness in the way that works best with your personality, your budget, and your schedule. By using the hashtag, others are invited to join in and make ripples in their communities.
We have loads of ideas to share about ways to #sowkind.
5. What do you hope year two will bring?
In this next year, I hope for the opportunity to see the ripple expand into more communities, to share the message with businesses, schools, podcast listeners, churches, and other community groups. It would be a dream come true to see the ripple move worldwide, to have community influencers join the movement, and to have groups regularly engaged in intentional acts of kindness. On a personal note, I’d love to see #sowkind stories flood the wall on the #sowkindmovement website. http://www.sowkindmovement.com/prayerwall.aspx
In a time when so much divides us, it is my dream to see kindness unite us. #SowKind isn’t new, it’s now!
Wow!! I’m so grateful for Alyssa’s vision and for her taking the time to fill us in.
Sow…. (see what I did there?), how does this motivate and inspire you to sow kindness to yourself and to others? I’d love to encourage you to share an act of #sowkindness and post about it on social media using the hashtag, yes, you guessed it, #sowkind.
Happy birthday, #sowkindmovement!! Kindness sure looks good on you!