Giving Up Self: A Kindness Project for Kids {and parents too!}

I had an idea this morning.

As in, like 6:27 this morning.

It all started when a friend shared that March is National Reading Month, so Amazon had a variety of Kindle books for $1 (and lots of other deals the rest of the month).  Among the list, I found The Kindness Quilt.  It’s a simple children’s book that tells the story of a classroom of bunnies who are assigned the task of drawing a picture of an act of kindness.  Minna has so many she wants to share that she ends up creating a “quilt” of drawing squares.  Her classmates (and eventually the whole school) loves Minna’s idea so much that they all end up adding to the quilt making it as long as a school hallway.


It’s a simple book, but a sweet one, and for a dollar, I recommend it.  (By the way, did you know you don’t have to have a Kindle to download digital books?  You can view it right on your computer screen, or download the free Kindle app on your phone or tablet.  FYI.)

Henry really enjoyed the story because it reminded him of the Freedom Quilt he learned about in school last month.  Wanting to capitalize on his excitement, I made a mental note to do a similar activity.  Soon.

Then this morning, Glennon posted this status:


Lent starts tomorrow. Traditionally this is the time that Christians “give up” something for 40 days in order to prepare for Easter. I’d like to invite everybody- Christian or not- to give up something with me this year. Together – let’s try to give up ingratitude.
I have a hunch that gratitude is the key to peace. I’m not sure we need to change our circumstances, but I think we might need to change the way we SEE our circumstances. 
So here’s what I’m going to do: I’m going to open this little journal I’ve been holding onto, and each night of lent -before I go to bed, I’m going to write down three things for which I felt especially grateful that day. Anybody want to join me? 40 days is a spiritually important amount of time for experiments – and not surprisingly, it’s the amount of time many psychologists suggest that it takes to form a new habit. 
I want to wander out of the desert of ingratitude and into the paradise of gratitude. Anybody want to join me? Maybe we could meet here each night at nine. I’ll post something on my list and you can list one of yours on the thread. We’ll create a nightly waterfall of gratitude for forty night and then expect miracles.

And I thought…DANG, THAT’S GOOD.

I haven’t observed Lent in years, and a few weeks ago, I had decided I really wanted to do it this year.

And so, birthed my Idea…a marriage of these three things:

kindness project

If Lent is all about “giving something up in obedience and sacrifice”, I decided that giving up a bit of ourselves…our busy lives…our hectic schedules…our “not now…maybe next months”…our “I do not have time for this”…perhaps the concept of thinking of others no matter what, in order to glorify God was a decent tie in.

Kind of like an Easter-y version of The Happy Day Project.

photo 1 (18)

Now before you get all upset because Lent starts tomorrow and this is super last minute, know that this doesn’t have to take up a lot of time.

I quickly cut up 40 strips of paper and the kids and I brainstormed over breakfast, a bunch of random acts of kindness we could do.  We talked about how the acts should come from one of three categories: Home, Community, World.  I wanted our Lenten season of service to include big stuff, little stuff, and all the stuff in between.

We also talked about how we should live our lives serving in this order:


Others Second.

me last.

The kids weren’t able to come up with all 40 tasks, partially due to time constraints before Henry had to head off to school, but also because at 4, Lucy couldn’t seem to think of anything else besides something to do with sharing her dollies.  So after they left, I scoured this round up of random acts of kindness and filled in a bunch of the strips.

Because my kids are young (4 and 6), I knew they would get a kick out of an element of surprise, so our pile of strips will go into a big jar and every morning we will pull one task for the day.  I fully realize that many days I’m going to hate myself for allowing this much spontaneity because you better believe “make cookies and deliver to the fire station” will get pulled on a day when I have 8,861 things to do and precisely ZERO time for any kind of cookie delivery shenanigans.

BUT.  This is as much an exercise in giving up a piece of MYSELF as it is for my kids.  And with that, I’m sucking it up and letting my schedule take a hit depending on which strip gets pulled.  Others second.  my stupid schedule last.


If this is a little more unplanned than you’d prefer, you can also create a checklist and choose tasks that are more appropriate for the level of crazy in your day.

Some of our tasks cost money (buy toys at the dollar store and hand them out to random kids at the park) and some are free fifty free (go to the mall and spend a half hour just opening the door for patrons).

Because my kid are young, and it ties in with the Kindness Quilt idea, I plan on having them draw a picture of each day/task.  I will take all the pages at the end and put them in a binder or have them bound at a local copy store.  Because that’s a fun little memento, right?  Plus, it works as a homeschool activity because I’m gonna make Henry write a sentence too.  Mwahahaha.  It’s all so sneaky on so many levels.

If this is something that appeals to you, don’t get hung up on the details.  You can think of tasks each day if you don’t feel like coming up with 40 different ideas.  You can hang pictures up on a wall in your house if you want (like in the book).  You can do it however works best for your family.  Or you can not do it at all.  All I’m saying is that I often find myself really liking something, but getting sucked into the concept that it’s too last minute, or whatever, and I throw the baby out with the bathwater, you know?


Anyone in?  Am I insane?  (don’t answer that.)


I decided to share our list of things in case you need some ideas:

compliment at least 5 people

shop from compassion catalog

surprise dad with lunch at work

surprise jilly at school (cake!)

mow the lawn for dad (gulp)

buy a sewing machine for empart

spend 20 minutes playing with jilly

take treats to fire station

giftcard for homeless

donate toys/clothes to thrift store

pay for person behind us in drive thru (#AJO)

play legos with brother/play tea party with sister

send a “hug” to grandmas

order pizza for a friend.

take tithing money to sunday school

take treats to friends at school

make sno cones for our neighborhood friends

mail notes

drop a vase of flowers on a doorstep

buy toys at dollar store and pass them out

buy/collect cans and donate to food bank

go all day without fighting with your siblings (“mom!  you’re just tricking us so you can have a day of peace and quiet!”)

have friends over for dinner

bake treats for neighbors

spend 20 minutes playing with owen.

make a no-sew blanket for the Linus Project

make love rocks and hide them at the park.

pick up litter somewhere.

go to mall just to hold doors open for patrons.

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I'm a mom to four. A wife to one. I believe in story. I love telling you about mine and would love to hear yours. There's really no sense in wasting our suffering and not sharing in each other's joy. We're all in this together...even if it doesn't always feel like it.


  1. 1

    Well..While reading this I got a different idea for lent….Write 40 cards to friends. uff da. There’s no reason not to do it. Guess I better get started!
    Katie´s last blog post ..Monday Moment: Motivation!

  2. 2

    We’re in! What a wonderful, wonderful idea(s)! After reading, I too came up with some creative ways to be helpful. Mine include some for myself thought because believe it or not, I put myself last for almost everything and my stress level gets far too high to handle. So sitting in a corner and taking time for ME is totally added (not all 40 days but like 2!) Thanks for sharing!

  3. 3

    Jeannett this is a huge sacrifice of self that will be multiplied into far reaching blessings (think generations to come). In 20 years (and probably before) you will be given eyes to see the returns on the investment in the lives of your children. Their character is being shaped by this fun, spontaneous way of giving of self in kindness to others. You know how to spell JOY right? Jesus, Others, You. Thanks for spurring others on to love and good deeds!

  4. 4

    This is great, Jeannett. But how can I play with Jilly if I live here in L.A. hahaha I started doing a thankful jar, but that didn’t last long. But maybe this will help motivate me again. So, 9:00pm, huh? Hope to see you then.
    Robbin Mote´s last blog post ..SUNDAY HOPE

  5. 5

    Great ideas! I had forgotten about LENT. HOLY MOLY I have fallen off the Catlick bandwagon. So first up for me, tomorrow at 8 a.m. – get ashes on yer forehead.
    I signed up for a project on FB with a friend – we picked five people to send something to out of the blue, during this next year. Your project also sounds like a fun idea, as well; how can random acts of kindness not be a fun contribution to the overall well being of humanity?
    Thanks and I know you will do a great job with your 40 day!

  6. 6

    We’re in! Sort of. We’re not doing the random acts of kindness thing, but we are so doing the gratitude thing. And we’re going to write them on sticky notes and put them on our window so they are in front of us the whole entire Lent season. We did this a few summers ago and it’s so very easy, but reaps such huge rewards.
    Jenni´s last blog post ..Thinking Thankful

  7. 7

    I love it. We don’t typically participate in lent, but I think we’ll hop on board with a version of this.