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Canines Choose Compassion: Can I?

Tomorrow, Feb. 17, is Random Acts of Kindness Day, a day to do something nice for someone else. As a parent, I am reminded of the time I nearly squelched my child’s desire to do something nice, albeit unintentional squelch, but a good lesson for me nonetheless to watch my words and get out of my head. I wrote about it in the book Chicken Soup for the Soul: Volunteering & Giving Back (2015).

In short, on a family vacation, Number 2 ran back to the room to get the coins she collected. On the previous day, during a family adventure down Michigan Avenue in Chicago she was mesmerized by the vision of homeless people on the street. She stopped to read their signs, and asked if her quarters would help.

At the time, my professional day job had been running a nonprofit corporate foundation. I had developed an expertise in hunger/food insecurity, and from a place of knowledge, I told her that it would be more impactful for us to send our money to a food bank or other nonprofit organization that dealt with hunger or homelessness. It took my husband to remind me that we were speaking different languages – I, from the head and she, from the heart. He also reminded me that she has a beautiful heart!

While this happened many years ago, I remember it often. As a working professional, I have been trained to compile strategic plans based primarily on research and evidence… and a little bit of intuition. As a corporate professional, I have learned to measure my work in performance-based objectives, and push toward outcomes rather than activities. On many occasions this has served me well.

In the case of our then eight-year-old daughter, though, my “job” was to foster her compassion for others. I saw evidence of that in Chicago when she returned to the room to get her change purse so that she could share with others; however, I reacted with my head and started tell her a “better” way. Fortunately, my husband was there to balance my stoicism and wake me up to new ways. He, stopped, gave her a hug and told her how proud he was of her kindness.

As a perpetual planner, I intentionally try NOT to plan what I will do on Random Acts of Kindness Day, and truly make it from the heart. I embrace and encourage the kindness, and even the intentionality of being nice to someone else. For me, it is an exercise of getting out of my head and letting my heart speak, like me daughter.

Today is a good day to spark some kindness, as it is the Chinese New Year, The Year of the Dog. According to the Chinese Zodiac, a dog’s most defining characteristic is their loyalty. They will never abandon their friends, family or work. The website says everyone needs a dog friend for advice, and they help others find and fix their bad habits.

As I write this, our three dogs surround me. They follow me around the house. They greet me at the door. They sleep on my side of the bed. They snuggle when it is cold outside, and even when it is not. It is definitely a heart issue. Perhaps in this year, their year – The Year of the Dog – they will help me fix my bad habit, and I can engage my heart as well as my head when it comes to helping others.

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