One of my goals/resolutions for 2012 is to incorporate intentional acts of kindness as a regular part of my daily life. About the same time I committed to that, I ran across this title that became available at our library... 1,000 Mitzvahs: How Small Acts of Kindness Can Heal, Inspire, and Change Your Life by Linda Cohen. What perfect timing... This gave me some ideas and inspiration for things I could do above and beyond the "say something nice to someone" efforts. It also caused me to think outside of the more traditional person-oriented acts of kindness.
Contents: Food For The Body, Nourishment For The Soul (food); Change The Toilet Paper (paying it forward); Volunteer With A Vengeance (volunteer work); Clear The Clutter (donations); Dollars And Sense (money); Slow Down (driving); My Home Away From Home (synagogue-related mitzvahs); The Reusable Bag Lady (environmental conscience); In The Doghouse (animals); What Goes Around Comes Around (teachable family moments); Expressions Of Gratitude (a hundred ways to say thank you); Blow Out The Candles (birthdays); Do Unto Others (thought, speech, and action); Oh, The Places We'll Go (traveling and vacations); The Final Good-bye (death and grieving); Resources; List of Charities
Ms. Cohen lost her father in 2006, and people were asked to donate to a small group of charities in his name as a mitzvah of tzedakah (donating money in someone's memory to a charity). This mitzvah, or blessing in English, prompted her to start thinking about beginning her own mitzvah project. That idea turned into her 1000 Mitzvahs project (with a .org website of the same name). This project, while outwardly focused on others, also helped her deal with the emotions and grief of her father's death. She found that by giving kindness to others, she also changed her entire perspective on life and the role she could play in the lives of others.
Fortunately, the book doesn't try and list all 1000 mitzvahs that are covered on her blog site. Instead, she has grouped a number of them into basic categories that give you an idea of the types of things you can do in various parts of your life. Some might not be applicable to your situation (such as synagogue-related mitzvahs), but it doesn't take much effort to apply those same activities and actions to similar groups that do align with your life. For me, it was interesting to see how acts of kindness could be done in situations that weren't people-oriented. One example was asking for a regular cup when going into Starbucks to have a coffee that would be consumed on-site. Why use paper resources and generate waste if there is no need to? Another example was donating pet supplies to a local animal shelter. Yes, kindness to animals is definitely worthy of pursuit, but it wasn't something that I had connected to my own efforts.
1,000 Mitzvahs is a good book to read regardless of your particular religious (or non-religious) affiliations. You won't relate to every one of the acts she describes, as some won't be applicable to your current life situations. But there are more than enough other mitzvahs you can learn from and incorporate into your own life. It might even motivate you to start your own personal "daily acts of kindness" project. It's a given that you'll make the world a little better, and you'll also change yourself in the process.