Take Care Tuesday – The Wonders of Random Kindness

never-underestimate-the-power-of-a-single-act-of-kindness

Rants and pet peeves are all well and good, fun posts and easy to get fired up about … the reality is that most people are just trying to go about their lives and wish no harm to others, and some people are downright nice. So today I wanted to highlight some wonderful things I have seen recently.

1. Subway Savior

When we went to New York, we were headed into the Subway the first day and wanted to buy a Metro Card, and trying to get the best option for both the Path and the Metro. Next to us was a woman in a suit in her 30s, and she overheard us and did two things:
– Gave us a couple of empty cards to refill (saving us $1 per card)
– Helped us make some smart choices about filling up the card.

It was a totally selfless and unnecessary act that cost her time and helped us out. I have no idea where she was headed, what her name was or anything else … but Thank You!

2. Runner Recognition

When I went to a recognition event a few weeks ago, the project manager – who I have emailed but not seen since 2010 – was chatting with me and asking me about running and my fitness and so on. He just came out and said I looked incredible and that I must be a distance runner because that is what I look like. The last time I saw him I probably weighed about 50-60lbs more than I do now …

And once again, here we were at a company event, and there was no need for him to have said anything – but he did and it meant the world.

3. Un-Necessary Kindness

I have talked a lot about the need to ‘shut up … and listen’ – that too often people will speak unnecessary words when what the other person needs is someone to listen. Guess what – sometimes the opposite is true! Sometimes people will open their mouths unbid, and magic will spew forth. For whatever reason I have heard a bunch lately, here are just a few:

– I have a coworker who has been losing weight, had lost a bunch, put most of it back on and then has lost all of that and more. As someone who knows that struggle I am quick to mention if I see new clothes, and so on. But last week a bunch of people were together talking and one mentioned offhand that she looked like she’d lost weight, which she acknowledged quickly before things moved onto another subject. It all passed in a couple of seconds, but from personal experience I know these little things can make your day.

– The dangers of ‘reply all’ sometimes are a benefit! Returning from my anniversary weekend there was a ton of stuff to deal with, but amongst the myriad emails was some information in the form of a discussion I was copied on. Everything was dry and technical, and I had already replied and asked for more information so I could help out when I decided to read through the whole email chain to get further context. Earlier in that discussion my name came up and a bunch of nice things were exchanged about work I had done and help and time I had given to people. It was all small stuff, but the moment of satisfaction – like overhearing someone praise you without knowing you were there – really made the compliments mean that much more.

– In the store last week the person in front of me bought stuff that totaled $19.97 and the cashier noted that was the year she was born. I remarked that was in between my boys, born in ’96 and ’98. We started chatting and it ended up she knew my boys and had wonderful things to say about them – which was really cool since she wasn’t someone I knew.

– I have had a number of instances over the last couple of week where I have seen people I’d not seen in a couple of years, and they have said stuff about my appearance, or have seen me out running, or heard things, or whatever. Again, it is so much easier NOT to say anything, so the fact that they chose to make those remarks brightened my day.

4. Taking Care of Business

At the store the other day I saw a couple who were buying a jug of milk, but neither had their wallet – they thought they were going to have to go home and then come back. But the person behind them in line say ‘don’t worry, I got it’ and paid for it. Sure it was just $3, but in a world where everyone seems so disconnected and miss so much due to being on their phone, that presence of mind to hear what was happening AND step in with an act of kindness … it was touching.

Then the next day at the grocery store I got in line in the ‘express line’ behind someone who clearly had WAY more than the ‘suggested limit’ of items, and who was very easy to judge in many other ways (and honestly, I will say that someone with more than 30 items in a 7 item line opens himself up pretty much to judgement!). But as it got to be his turn in line, he turned to the person behind him and let her go ahead. A new cashier opened and plucked me out of line, but it was one of those totally unexpected moments.

5. Thanks for the ‘guest posts’

About a month or so ago Suz left a huge and awesome comment, and mentioned that it was basically ‘a guest post’ … and she was right! My initial thought was to quote some here … but I realized that to include some but not others wouldn’t be fair, nor could I choose any specific post since it feels like I get amazing comments on even the most mundane of posts.

Instead I just want to thank everyone – I really love and appreciate all of the kind and generous time and energy you put into your comments. It makes every single post better – you enhance things I wanted to say, offer different viewpoints agreeing with my statements, or even disagree in a very respectful manner. It is a humbling thing to read your comments every day.

Bonus. Combining Happiness … and Robin Williams

I haven’t talked much about Robin Williams dying, but it isn’t because there wasn’t an impact. It was more because there was SO much noise last week about it … there is the usual general uproar that centers around any celebrity death, amplified due to William’s career and how much he meant to so many people. But it also got a lot of attention due to highlighting the impacts of depression – and how much progress we’ve made towards recognizing it as a disease and not a shameful thing or just a ‘bad mood’.

I really don’t have much to add to the discussion at this point, so instead I am sharing a video from 1988 of a song by one of my favorite singers, Bobby McFerrin. McFerrin makes ‘one hit wonders’ lists due to the song, but fans knew him before and after as an incredibly talented jazz vocalist, composer and conductor. The song – Don’t Worry Be Happy – is appropriate to the post, but it also contains Robin Williams, making it even more fun! Enjoy!

So What Acts of Kindness Have YOU Seen Lately?

Take Care Tuesday – When is Technology Too Much, Too Young?

baby-technology

Megan had her impressions of the Polar Loop this week, in which she talked about why she enjoyed the Loop, but also asked about the wearable fitness device trend in general. Almost on cue, that same day LeapFrog, makers of technology products for young kids, announced the LeapBand fitness for kids.

The question I have is – are we pushing technology on kids too early?

It should not be a surprise that kids are more sedentary than in any previous generation, and that in general the obesity and diabetes rates have increased along with the decrease of kids’ playtime. More specific to technology, there have been loads of studies on the impact of screen time, and a couple of years ago some major studies linked excessive screen time to attention problems. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics:

“According to the group’s Council on Communications and Media, parents are officially recommended to “discourage screen media exposure” for children under 2.

The main issue for pediatricians isn’t eye strain associated with electronic devices, nor tablet computers’ negative effect on kids’ vocabulary, though certainly both are concerns. Says the AAP, “excessive media use has been associated with obesity, lack of sleep, school problems, aggression and other behavior issues.”

The group notes that by age 8, the average child gets 8 hours of screen time per day – time that could be better spent staying active.

When I was at my fraternity reunion, I talked with a number of friends with young kids – and most of them have fairly unrestricted access to a number of mostly iDevices. iPads mostly, for watching TV shows, movies, playing games and so on. And even at early ages they already had pretty broad access. For them, ‘getting strict’ means changing the unlock code on the iPad. Sure that is overgeneralizing and cherry-picking from conversations – and makes them seem like bad or irresponsible parents. That isn’t my intent. Stick with me for a minute.

Here are some basics of the LeapBand:

The LeapBand, designed for kids ages 4 to 7, gives kids commands like “wiggle like a worm” or “pop like popcorn” and then rewards the activity by giving points that can be used to unlock special game features on the band. When kids get a certain amount of points, they can redeem a virtual pet like a cat, dog, donkey or unicorn. Additional points are accrued to let children interact with their pets in different ways.

First off, I am surprised … surprised that Leap didn’t have this out in time for Christmas this past year!

But seriously – I have two thoughts:
– First, once again I applaud anything that gets your kids moving.
– Second, why are we relying on an electronic device for kids who are preschool – first grade age?

Here is my basic premise: we need to back off looking for a gadget as our answer for everything, and instead encourage them to step away from the iPad and run around outside using nothing but their imagination; and in the winter ditch the pre-fab kits and just dump a bucket of LEGOS on the floor for all of them to play with.

The thought of an 8 year old spending 8 hours of screen time per day absolutely saddens me; I do believe that they should have SOME screen time daily – I mean, I am a VERY strong advocate of technology and the power of learning through gaming. But I am not a supporter of passive absorption of content in place of active engagement.

Think about books vs. TV – in books you create the scene, the setting and the characters, whereas on TV it is all spelled out. One absolutely requires more imagination and active engagement than the other – that isn’t even a point for debate. Have you seen popular book characters such as Harry Potter drawn by kids? They are widely varied based on the imagination – but once the movies arrived they all look the same.

So while I think it is great that Leap (I think they’re a great company, by the way, with loads of fun creative play products reaching back to when my kids were little) is doing something to help engage and get kids moving – what they’re doing is treating the outcome rather than addressing the root cause.

Kids LOVE to move, to play, to imagine, to create … and what we as adults should be doing is seeking opportunities to encourage them to do just that. There will always be time for screens after active play.

What do YOU think?