As my brothers coach them in sports on the daily, I decided to leave my mark on this trip home with something else. After speaking with a few educators and even interviewing my eldest niece in developing a new podcast, one thing was very clear - kids not only get overwhelmed by the pressures of competing and performing in school, sports and other activities, but their struggles with self-worth are at an all-time high. And, it's not getting any better any time soon. Kids are constantly comparing themselves with others in their achievements or even in just what they are doing from day to day just by watching each others' lives unfold on social media.
I know how comparing yourself to others can chip away at your self-esteem and confidence. But, I also know that practicing aloha can help cultivate self-esteem and confidence, too. I believe that cultivating love, kindness and compassion within yourself will radiate outwards in your actions. Kind, loving and positive thoughts have the power to produce kind, loving and positive actions. These actions create desired outcomes.
So, I created a small mission in aloha by teaching them about Random Acts of Kindness week. I explained how we're going to work together on a special Valentine's Day project for our random act of kindness: making Valentine's Day treats for their neighbors. I further explained how we're using our creativity, ability to work as a family and tapping into our "self-powers" in kindness and compassion to make a difference in the world with this one simple gesture.
When I asked them to choose the neighbors they felt would benefit the most from this act of kindness, they immediately came up with four neighbors - all married couples without children. Jace thoughtfully explained to me that they chose these neighbors because they didn't have children at home to make them cupcakes - either because they didn't have kids or because their kids were now grown and not living at home anymore. Brilliant!
With that, the kids went straight to work. Again, probably because I don't see them often enough, I was truly amazed at how fast and seriously they took to the mission. Immediately, they reviewed the ingredients, gathered them up and mixed them together. We had our own little bake shop operation going with mixing, pouring, putting and pulling each batch in and out of the oven, and decorating.
I was also amazed at how well they did with decorating! The girls enjoyed choosing the colors of M&M's for their bear claw cookies as well designing their cupcakes with different combinations of sprinkles and frosting. Jace even had his own method of putting a cupcake on the table and spinning it around as he slathered on a dollop of frosting. Where did he learn that?
All I did was monitor the baking, move their treats in and out of the oven, help them clean as they worked and took pictures. And, I sat and smiled a lot. I was so proud of them not only for doing such a great job, but also for working well together. They didn't compare their work with each other. They didn't compete. They didn't argue. They didn't complain. Instead, they helped each other out, passing the sprinkles or the next batch of cupcakes back and forth to each other. Their focus was on their individual creations and the mission. They truly wanted to make each delicious bite of love as beautiful as they could for their friends.
After selecting and wrapping the cupcakes for each neighbor, we headed out. It was so cold, we hopped into the car to drive them from house to house. As it was a Friday, everyone was still at work except for one neighbor who just came home. I told them the last part of this mission was to practice our public speaking skills. Each of us had a line to say. Ella would say, "It's Random Acts of Kindness Week." Jace would say, "Happy Valentine's Day!" And, Julia would say, "We made you cupcakes and cookies" while handing over the goodies. And, I would fill in the rest.
The kids did amazing! We really caught him off guard! And, the kids were so happy and excited to see that reaction and by their own accomplishment. Their neighbor loved their kind gesture and even engaged in conversation with them, asking Julia about yesterday's Valentine's Day school choral performance. This is aloha mana, the result of practicing aloha.
No one else was home that day, so we returned the next day. Ella was at a sleepover, but Jace and Julia were anxious and excited to finish the mission. One family was away on vacation, but there were two more families left.
The best part of this mission, was not only to see the shock on people's faces when they see two kids standing in the cold with something to give, but to see how truly happy the kids were in the giving. They loved to tell people what they were doing and they loved to see their neighbors return their kindness with a smile and a "thank you." They even stopped for a picture to help us document this memory.
As, it turned out there was one neighbor who was extra touched by their kindness because her own nephew had just passed away unexpectedly earlier in the week and she had been in mourning! She said this random act of kindness truly made a difference in her life.
You just never know how one small gesture can make all the difference in one person's day or even their life. We all have that power to create happiness in the world through an act of kindness, but kids especially need to know and feel that power. They need to know that they, too, have the ability to make a positive impact on the world without having to be the best at something all the time. They need to know that just doing their best is good enough. And, most of all, they need to know that love, kindness and compassion are always options at their disposal.