by Marcie Cuff
February has long been celebrated as a month of romance and giving. Valentine greetings were popular as far back as the Middle Ages, though written valentines didn’t begin to appear until after 1400. The oldest known valentine still in existence today was a poem written in 1415 by Charles, Duke of Orleans, to his wife while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London following his capture at the Battle of Agincourt. Ah, true love!
Americans began exchanging hand-made February valentines in the early 1700s. By the middle of the 18th century, it was common for friends and lovers of all social classes to exchange small tokens of affection or handwritten notes. In the 19th century, the Industrial Revolution ushered in factory-made cards. In the 1840s, Esther A. Howland, known as the “Mother of the Valentine,” began selling elaborate creations with lace, ribbons and colorful pictures known as “scrap”—the first mass-produced valentines in America. Today, the holiday is big business. An estimated 18.6 billion is spent on Valentine’s Day each year in the U.S.
Let’s rethink February. Let’s take a step back from Hallmark cards and Russell Stover chocolates. International Random Acts of Kindness Week is coming up —February 9th through the 15th — a time to celebrate the little things we do for others. Celebrate it with me. Whatever your circumstances, your time and unique skills can have a positive influence on the world around you. Everyone has something to offer. Be thoughtful and purposeful and give yourself creatively. Know what you can do and seek out others who need help. Do more with less.
No kind act is too small or too big. Give up your seat, pay for the guy behind you, or sneak an apology into a friend’s pocket. Give part of yourself—it benefits both parties. Your simple everyday gift can change a person’s day and it can also provide you, the gift-giver, with a silent strength. Good feelings come from doing the right thing when nobody’s looking.
So, join me this month. Use this list as a resource to perform random acts of love and kindness every single day—I’ve provided you with an entire month of them. Keep the list up your sleeve to keep you on track, and check off as many as you’re able.
“The greatest gift is a portion of thyself.”
—Ralph Waldo Emerson
Random Acts of Love and Kindness
>Give a compliment to a stranger
>Make eye contact and smile
>Put coins in an expired parking meter
>Post inspirational notes around town: “Smile! You are amazing!”
>Put quarters in an empty Laundromat machine
>Call someone you love
>Leave flowers on someone’s doorstep
>Leave a copy of your favorite book in a public place
>Join the bone marrow registry
>Donate your unwanted stuff to a non-profit organization
>Cheer someone on
>Leave a big tip
>Leave love notes in random public places
>Pay the tab for the person behind you
>Write a thank you note to a server
>Hide a handmade bookmark in a library book
>Give a big, long hug
>Write a letter to an old friend
>Leave a treat for your mail carrier
>Check in with an elderly neighbor
>Hang a birdfeeder in your backyard
>Listen to someone, and don’t interrupt
>Use a vacation day with your family
>Thank an emergency service worker
>Write a Haiku to a loved one
>Give flowers to someone who has inspired you
>Write a thank you note
Marcie Cuff lives in Irvington and is the author of the book “This Book Was a Tree”(Perigee Books). For more hands-on projects like this, look for her book at any bookstore, or visit her blog Mossy at mossymossy.com.