The Button Project

Lessons from a Kindness Scavenger Hunt

432 Friday night, we finished off our Button Project summer adventure with a kindness scavenger hunt. All summer, we've been doing activities with my girls and their friends that focus on how small acts of kindness can make a difference in another person's life.

Our scavenger hunt consisted of 20 items, most of which were random acts of kindness to another person -- from smiling and saying, "Have a nice day" to buying flowers for the cashier at Wal-Mart. Each team had $20 to spend.

What struck me most about this activity was the reactions the girls got. One of their random acts of kindness was to hold the door open for 20 people. We stood at the gas station and the girls opened the door. Several people asked them what they wanted. One man looked at the girls and said, "I'm not giving you anything."

When the girls gave a pack of gum to another child in Wal-Mart (after explaining to the mom what they were doing), the mom asked, "Are you sure?"

It seems that kindness has become so rare in the lives of some people in this world that it's hard for people to accept it. We've become so wrapped up in our own worlds, our own concerns that when someone smiles and says, "Have a great day," we automatically assume that they want something from us.

And I find that sad. As I spent all summer teaching my girls that kindness can make a difference in this world, I assumed that the rest of the world could still recognize kindness. I was under the assumption that being kind to each other was not a forgotten art.

But Friday night, I found that for some people, the words of Ephesians 4:32, "Be kind and compassionate to one another," really are a foreign concept. They have encountered so little kindness in their everyday lives that when it happens to them, they question its authenticity, they assume that the person doing the kind act has an ulterior motive.

And that's why it's so important for us to teach our kids to be kind, to teach our kids to look for opportunities to do a random act of kindness. It gives them the opportunity to be the hands and feet of Jesus to others. It lets them see the difference an act of kindness can make. For as many people as looked at my girls and wondered what they wanted, there were many others that smiled back. They even made the cashier at Wal-Mart cry when they handed her the flowers they had just bought. Our elderly neighbor was in tears over the chalk message the girls left on her driveway.

When our kids are kind to others, they learn what Jesus knew -- not everyone wants to accept a free gift. Not everyone can see the value in loving others. Not everyone wants to believe in kindness.

But as my girls passed out random acts of kindness, I saw their faces wreathed in smiles. I saw their eyes light up when someone acknowledged them. I saw them truly understanding that they can change the world, one small act of kindness at a time, so I think it was a summer well-spent.

Check out the instructions for our kindness scavenger hunt here. Feel free modify it and use it with your own kids.

The Button Project: How One Button is Changing the World

Button Today is the last day of school and the first day of our summer adventure. Every year, I do a themed program with my girls and four of their friends. You can read about some of our past adventures here. This year, our summer adventure is called The Button Project, and we'd love to have you join us.

To understand The Button Project, I have to tell you a story -- a story about a button. Way back when I was a very green, 21-year-old copy editor, just a few months into my first job, I became friends with a new reporter we hired at the trade publication we worked at. This guy was (and is) an amazing writer. I learned a lot of what I know about writing from him. He was older than me and had seen and done some amazing things. And he was an incredible reporter, far too good for our little trade newspaper.

He was living in Kansas because his wife was going to school nearby. Not long after he came, though, his marriage fell apart. It was clearly a difficult time. Even in my 21-year-old, newlywed self-centeredness, I knew that it was horrible for him. One day, a button fell off his suit coat. When he went to lunch, I sewed it back on with a sewing kit I kept in my desk. I never thought anything about that moment again.

Fast-forward 15 years or so to the moment my first story published in a major book compilation arrived on my doorstep. As I was looking at the cover of the book, I realized that I would never have written the story in that book if my friend from so many years ago hadn't given me the best advice I ever received about writing: "If you have something to write about, write it." If not for those words, this blog wouldn't exist. I would never have written any of the Bible studies for our moms' group at my church or even the Everyday Christmas devotional. So, I sent him a Facebook message, thanking him.

The message I got back changed my outlook on life, and it led to The Button Project. He reminded me that all those years ago, I had sewed on that button for him. I truly don't remember that day. He said it was a moment of kindness in a horrible time that he had never forgotten. Fifteen years later, he told me, "It was one of the most touching and kind things anyone has ever done for me." He also said that he had shared that moment with a friend who was going through her own tough time. All this from a moment of kindness I didn't even remember.

You see, kindness changes things. It's one of the reasons that God tells us to be kind to each other. Kindness makes a difference in a dark day. It tells someone that they have value. Kindness counteracts the darkness in this world.

Which brings us to The Button Project. This summer, my girls and their friends are on an adventure to change the world one act of kindness at a time. When the girls meet around my table today, we'll be learning about someone who changed the world with kindness, and we'll be brainstorming ways that we can be kind to others. When they leave my house today, they'll take with them Button Project business cards to leave behind when they do a random act of kindness for someone. All summer long, they'll be doing random acts of kindness and leaving behind cards. When we meet together, we'll be learning about some people who changed the world with their kindness and doing some bigger acts of kindness together.

And this year, you can join us. You see, each card will take the recipient to The Button Project Facebook page, where they can leave us a comment about the act of kindness they received. You can go there, too. Like the page, let us know you're joining us and print off your own set of Button Project cards. By the end of the day, I'll have the lesson plan for the first week posted there, too.

Let The Button Project turn your summer into a summer of kindness as you teach your kids to live out the words of Ephesians 4:32: "Be kind and compassionate to one another..."