Ways to show kindness

Best places to go to learn to be kind

“How beautiful a day can be when kindness touches it!” – George Elliston

Naturally, we all want our children to be perfect human beings. We want to raise them so they grow up to one day be described as respectful, well-mannered, funny, attentive, compassionate and encouraging folks. We aim for greatness, we hope for all the right things to fall into place, but we’re practical, us parents. We know that perfection simply doesn’t exist and that sometimes life’s hardest setbacks and lessons are what help shape little personalities, minds and hearts for the better.

So when attitudes, whining, rudeness, silliness or just plain oddball kid behavior strikes, it’s time get back to good stuff that makes the world go round: KINDNESS. And here are some stellar places to go when you’re seeking to learn more of it:

Be kind to the Earth

Participate in Family Drop-In at the Chicago Botanic Garden

1000 Lake Cook Rd, Glencoe, IL 60022

Phone: (847) 835-5440

Considered one of the greatest centers of conservation science, the Chicago Botanic Garden is spread across 385 acres, 26 gardens, four natural areas, nine islands and approximately six miles of lake shoreline. Become one with the Earth while learning about delicate preservation, conservation care and aquatic attentiveness through Family Drop-In Activities at the Regenstein Fruit & Vegetable Garden Center and Native Plant Garden.

Bring that kindness home by … picking up a few packets of seeds and planting them in your yard or a small flower pot. Daily care of watering, sunlight, and pruning will reinforce to kids the importance of tending to nature in a nurturing way.

Be kind to those who are hungry

Start your own food drive via the Greater Chicago Food Depository

4100 W Ann Lurie Pl, Chicago, IL 60632

Phone: (773) 247-3663

Each year 812,000 (1 in 6 in Cook County) seek assistance through the GCFD’s network. In the words of the GCFD, “Food drives d

Shopping with kindness in mind

You already love shopping. But how much more rewarding is it when you are shopping with a purpose or knowing that your purchase makes a little difference? A total win-win in my book.

Here are a few stores and boutiques that are clear examples of just that. They have one thing in common–kindness is shown, whether it’s behind the scenes or displayed for all to see.

After all, kindness is always in style.

Talking Shirt Boutique

19805 S. LaGrange Rd., Mokena

What you’ll find: The super cute and fun boutique shop has cute shirts (of course) with clever sayings, inspirational messages (some faith-based), mugs, jewelry by local artists and a few décor items. All guaranteed to bring a smile to your face.

How kindness is shown: Their tees literally say it all. From inspirational messages like, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made” to “nice matters,” their mission is to spread positivity. The Talking Shirt Boutique also contributes to local fundraising efforts by donating products for raffles, and has even hosted several Girl Scout troops to help them earn their small business badges.

Looking for more places to shop that will surely put a smile on your face?

WAR Chest Boutique

4 E. Jefferson Ave., Naperville

What you’ll find: Candles, jewelry, clothing, fair trade coffees, chocolates and more. In fact, they carry items from over 40 different countries, including the U.S. Items are made with love by or in support of at-risk women.

How kindness is shown: The non-profit boutique is the retail arm for Women At Risk International and 100 percent of the proceeds goes right back to the people who make the products. In fact, every woman is paid an equivalent of what a college educated teacher would make in their country. The volunteer-run boutique also hosts community events many of which are free such as self-defense classes, clothing swaps, school supply drives and fun in-store private parties for groups.


Encouraging random acts of kindness among kids

Nicole Jakob, a North Shore area mom, was inspired by two things: a love of art and a loathing of participation trophies. In an era ripe with humble-bragging and social media ‘Likes,’ she set out to promote something different: anonymous altruism.

“I wanted to encourage kids to do something kind when no one was watching them, when they would not be recognized for it,” Jakob professed. “That being said, if you’re going to sell kids on it, I knew that it had to be fun or they wouldn’t do it. So I kept in mind that it had to be edgy and engaging.”

Three years of research birthed a solution: Renegade Made Craft Kits. The craft kit goal is making people happy and teaching kindness without the promise of reward or recognition–and that doing so is actually crazy fun. All kits include a black renegade bandit mask so that kids can get kind under a sneaky veil of anonymity.

Kit themes include:

Random Acts of Flowers

Bouquets bring out the best smiles, right? Find out firsthand as you assemble your own paper flower bouquet to be placed in public for the taking. Bonus: Each bloom explains the free floral gift and encourages the recipient to pass the positivity around by creating their own kind gestures.

Fairly Painless Tattoo Lounge for Charity

Forget the days of slinging lemonade. This kit takes things to a cute, creative level with a mini tattoo parlor that raises funds for a charitable organization of your choosing. Use the mini megaphone, kitschy table cloth and giant ad poster to reel in those customers. Bonus: these 125 temporary tattoos yield no pain, only pleasant grins.

Sidewalk Chalk Tagging Kit

The goal: to see smiles from those strolling the sidewalk. Mix up chalk paint and use stencils to leave clever messages like ‘Make Art, Not Your Bed’ or ‘The Best Things in Life Aren’t Things.’ Bonus: This graffiti easily washes away in the rain so encourage your kiddos to really paint the town!

Made You Look Kit

Sometimes we all just need a second glance to get a chuckle. This kit aims for hilarity with Zombie To-Do lists, funny fortunes and even a mustache sticker dispensary that will give you a double-take. Bonus: the

7 ways to give back as a family this season

There’s a lot of good to gobble up this month and so much to be grateful for, so why not give thanks this year by giving back as a family? The just dessert: Rich, warm wonderful family time spent together.

Here are some ideas to get you started.

The Honeycomb Project

Created in 2011, The Honeycomb Project focuses on family volunteering. The folks at Honeycomb work with more than 45 organizations, creating quality projects that bring together people of different ages and abilities to develop a deeper understanding of local issues, share their skills and work toward a common goal. All ages are welcome, with most projects best suited for adults and their kids 5-13.

Honeycomb projects help at-risk, homeless and low-income individuals and families, and improve natural and recreational areas in underserved and impoverished neighborhoods.

1658 N. Milwaukee Ave., #190, Chicago; (773) 750-7120.

Ronald McDonald House

The folks at Ronald McDonald House Charities of Chicagoland & Northwest Indiana provide a home away from home every night for 153 families, offering families a welcoming place to rest, relax, have a home-cooked meal, meet other families and find the emotional support they need so they can focus 100 percent on their child in the hospital. How can you help? Volunteer to host a family activities night or bake cookies together at a Ronald McDonald House near you.

Find Ronald McDonald houses in Oak Lawn, Chicago, Hines, Naperville and Winfield

Tree House Humane Society

Tree House Humane Society is a cageless, no-kill organization specializing in the rescue and rehabilitation of sick and injured stray cats. Kids under 16 can volunteer with their parents, helping provide daily care—feeding, cleaning, grooming and playing with the 200 cats taking shelter there.

1212 W. Carmen Ave., Chicago; (773) 784-5488.

Little Brothers Friends Of The Elderly Chicago Chapter

Looking for a fast and flexible family volunteer project?  During the month of December, brighten the holiday season by visiting an isolated elder and delivering a special gift. Simply pick up the gifts at Little Brothers and deliver them in a neighborhood convenient for you. If you have more time to give, you and your family can volunteer to deliver monthly food bags or even get paired with an elderly person for regular bi-monthly visits.

A guide to family volunteering in Chicago

Out of my five resolutions for Chicago families, one truly stands out to me: family volunteering. Although trying to fit yet another activity into a busy schedule may seem like a hassle, considering the benefits, you may come to realize it’s more of a gift.

Just imagine spending time with your loved ones while you give back to the community. Sure, you can teach children to do kind acts at home or give them examples of giving back. However, what is taught at home, along with the actual act of doing good together elsewhere, will reap benefits that last a lifetime.

Think of all the strong morals you were hoping to pass down: compassion, empathy, gratitude, tolerance and responsibility.Along with making all of those values possible, family volunteering provides an opportunity to bond as a family, discover new interests, make friendships and learn more about the community and world we live in.

And the best part about family volunteering is that it’s never too early to start. Even babies and preschoolers can participate. Small steps create the biggest changes, they say.

So, where do you begin?

First, reflect on your interests to decide on a “family mission” that is close to your hearts. Are your kids animal lovers? Do you enjoy cooking together? Perhaps you are all bookworms? Whatever that common interest is, it is the first step in narrowing down the search and deciding where to volunteer.

Next, it is time to search for places to embark on your very own family volunteering adventure.  You can call local places of interests (animal shelters, shelters for the homeless, hospitals, daycares, gardens) and ask if there are opportunities available. Another option is to sign up through Chicago Cares or The Honeycomb Project, dedicated to providing families with opportunities all over the Chicagoland area by partnering up with more than 45 organizations altogether. You can also do a general search by visiting Volunteer Match to find opportunities suited for your family depending on ages and interests.

Lastly, plan ahead for the big day. Explain to your children exactly what to expect, with whom or what they’ll be interacting with and why they are participating. It helps to make simple statements that highlight the importance of their contributions. “Cleaning litter helps protect our planet, reading pl

Volunteer opportunities in the season of giving

There’s a lot of talk these days of spreading kindness. Tim McGraw recently penned a song “Humble and Kind.” The morning team from Chicago’s New Country station (95.5) even has a whole segment dedicated to sharing stories of compassion and generosity. It seems that many of us are sick and tired of hearing of the same sad, terrible doom and gloom news of the world.

And now it’s the most wonderful time of the year: the season of giving. The season to bring joy to other’s lives. The season to be grateful for what you have. In a “Keeping up with the Kardashians,” Instagram-rich world, it’s easy to lose track of what really matters most. So, why not be rich in love and making memories with your family?

Here are some ideas to get you started.

Feed the hungry

Turkey for Me, Turkey for You

Adam Sandler had it right when he sang these lyrics long ago: “turkey for me, turkey for you.” The Chicago Housing Authority is hosting this annual celebration at two low income senior apartment complexes. Volunteers are needed for Thursday, Nov. 24, 10-1 p.m. For more information, please email the coordinators at Mary Hartwell Catherwood Apartments and Lorraine Hansberry Senior Apartments.

Greater Chicago Food Depository

Help fill a plate for a family in need this Thanksgiving. You can either donate or sign up to help distribute 70 million pounds of food to Chicago’s hungry families. Gather your family to help assemble food boxes. There are so many ways to help a family in need this holiday season. Click here for more information on all the events coming up in the next coming weeks.

Spread good cheer

7 Parties of Christmas

Do you wear a cape? The Holiday Heroes Foundation focuses on providing a well-deserved dose of fun for children who are hospitalized due to a critical or chronic illness. Being stuck in a hospital is awful already, being stuck there during the holidays doesn’t seem fair at all. HHF is hosting ‘7 Parties of Christmas’ at several Chicagoland hospitals.

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