the mother teresa effect

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photo credit: quoteaddicts.com

This morning as we watched the news about Mother Teresa being declared a saint, I turned to our daughter, Kate, and asked her the following question:

“If kindness were a color, what color would it be?”

Without hesitation, she smiled and responded,

Yellow. Yellow is the color of a smiley face.”

(I couldn’t agree more.) :o)

So…about a few of my favorite things…kindness and the impact of one very special woman for others…a saint…Saint Teresa. 

A couple of months ago, I had to turn in a research paper about one component of Positive Psychology.

I chose…(you guessed it)…kindness.

More specifically, I chose to explore the multi-directional and positive effects of kindness on self and others.

As the field of Positive Psychology grows, there is an increasing amount of scientific research about the impact of kindness on our overall well-being. Psychologists have found that engaging in helping behaviors actually changes our brain chemistry. Researchers have also found that receiving an act of kindness positively influences our well-being. The benefits of positive social support are even more important than many people originally thought – especially in adolescence. I look forward to learning WAY more about this as I move through the program.

But…something else really struck me as I was discussing my research topic with my dad and a couple of friends: What happens to a person’s well-being when they watch an act of kindness? How far-reaching is this effect? As it turns out, bearing witness to a random or intentional act of kindness is perhaps the most compelling of all the facets of the concept of kindness.

Over the last year, I have been contacted by numerous people saying that they have been deeply impacted by the acts of kindness we have posted on social media. Not only have friends, family and complete strangers reported feeling deeply moved, but they were also inspired to go out and perform acts of kindness themselves. I never realized it, but there is actual scientific research out there that says our health is positively impacted just by witnessing acts of kindness. 
An interesting study that highlights this point was performed in the 1980’s when Harvard students watched a film of Mother Teresa caring for the poor in Calcutta. The researchers took swab samples of the students’ saliva before and after the film,

[they] showed significant increases in the protective antibody salivary immunoglobulin A (S-IgA) over those watching a neutral film. McClelland termed this the “Mother Teresa Effect.” Moreover, S-IgA remained high for an hour after the film in those subjects who were asked to focus their minds on times when they had loved or been loved”  (Post, 2009).

Based on the data, they concluded that there are significant positive physiological changes, including benefits to one’s immune system, overall health and well-being from simply watching or thinking about a person treating another with kindness, love and compassion.

The Mother Teresa Effect…a scientific explanation of what most of us have always believed – we should never underestimate a simple act of kindness...love, or the power of one person.

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#242. Supported hs freshman football team with donation/coupon card
#241. Started recruiting process for kindness initiative at kids’ school.
#240. Packed kindness notes in kids’ lunch boxes
#238. Sent flowers to a friend to wish her a speedy recovery.
#237. Didn’t honk at person in front of me who was texting at light when it turned green.
#236. Used recyclable bag at grocery store
#235. Working with a stranger to carry out a top-secret RAK

#234. Bought glue for science teacher. We ran into him at the store a week ago and he was buying school supplies with his own money.
#230 – #233: first day of school survival kits
#229. Put a few stranded carts away in BJ’s parking lot.

#228. Completed an online survey for recent car service.

#227. Let someone in traffic at awkward intersection (the person behind us did too!)
#226. Gave books to a friend.
#225. Held the door for a few people at eye dr appt (every single one said “thank you”)
#224. Threw away someone else’s garbage.

savoring every moment.

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When I was newly pregnant with our third child, I spent the better part of the day and night on the sofa curled up in the fetal position trying not to get sick. Somehow I had forgotten the morning (ALL DAY!) sickness of my first two pregnancies and realized relatively quickly that although I always wanted FIVE children, this would be our last baby.

This decision was made during the 14th week of my pregnancy.  One night I was back on the sofa, attempting to keep down some saltines and not look up at the TV (Did you ever notice when you’re not feeling well that EVERY single commercial is a close-up shot of a big, bloody steak from Ruby Tuesdays or gigantic platter of greasy nachos from Chili’s?). I took several deep breaths and buried my head in the cushions. I had no idea what our other two children, only two and four years old at the time, were doing upstairs. And, quite frankly, I didn’t care.

Until I heard a door slam. Knocking. And then a scream.

I ran up the stairs and found our four-year-old daughter looking into the keyhole of the bathroom door and frantically pulling on the doorknob. While they were playing, our two-year-old daughter ran into the bathroom, slammed the door and turned the lock. Because she was only two, she couldn’t comprehend that she needed to turn the lock the opposite direction to open the door. At the time, we lived in a house that was nearly 100 years old. All of the original details had been maintained over the years, including the locks which required skeleton keys. We did not have a set of those keys! Panicked, I started looking for anything I could find to try to open the lock.

Luckily, my husband had returned from work at just the right moment. After several failed attempts with other household items, including keys, screwdrivers and even a paperclip, we finally decided he should try to get in through the window. Unfortunately, the window, just like the door, was locked. The only way in was by breaking the glass. He took our extra-tall ladder, propped it up along the front of the house and climbed up to the second story window. I stayed inside the house on the other side of the locked door trying to distract and soothe our little girl with familiar songs and stories. I’ll never forget her screams when the window broke on the other side of the door – she started yelling for me and pulling, pounding and scratching at the door. Even though I knew she was safe, it was the most helpless feeling in the world. I felt so much guilt for leaving them alone. I kept calling her name so that she would stay close to my voice through the door…I was so worried that she would run over the shards of glass when she saw her dad. Thankfully, she stayed right next to the door. He crawled through the window, stepped over the glass, picked her up and unlocked the door.

At the same time, I looked down at my belly and thought, There is no way we are having five children – this baby will complete our family.

FullSizeRender (22)Seven months later, as we drove less than a mile home from the hospital, I sat next to my newborn baby safely belted into his car seat in the backseat of our minivan. This is the last time I will do this drive home from the hospital, I thought sadly. I looked out the window at the changing leaves, smelled the fall air and felt every single bump in the road. I then looked down at him, kissed his little forehead and took in his sweet new baby smell. I was grateful. Our last baby. I will never do this again. I savored the moment. I was both happy and sad.

 

FullSizeRender (21)This week I pulled the last car seat out of our minivan. Our third baby is now an almost 8-year-old child. He’s above average for height and weight and I probably could have removed the seat a while ago. I didn’t tell him that though. :o)

I smiled as I watched him sitting in the car…he looked so old to me. Our last baby. I will savor this moment too.

 

 

ps. After our third baby came home, our 2nd child continued to get into mischief even when I was doing a pretty good job of keeping a very close eye on her. When I asked her why she colored herself green, she answered, “I wanna look like Shrek.”

 


 

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#223. Brian and I tipped a street musician and gave him two YAB “You Are Beautiful” stickers (one to keep, one to give away). : )

#222. Donated to Louisiana Floods/Red Cross efforts.

#221. Picked up garbage out in front of our favorite ice cream shop before it opened.

#220. Gave a donation to a teacher for her school supplies purchases.

#219. Left a small DQ gift card for the next customer.

#218. Gave a little extra tip at a restaurant.

#217. Paid a compliment to a stranger on her sundress (she was totally surprised and her face lit up).

#216. Made a promise to kids’ science teacher that I would purchase a dozen bottles of glue for him for the first day of school.

#215. Paid a compliment to a stranger.

#214. Gave cold water bottles to landscaping crew.

#213. Bought a bag from a friend’s online shop (kindness to self).

#212. Treated two friends to Bad Moms.

#211. Held door for a bunch of people leaving the movie theater.

#210. Started recruiting team Choosing Grace.

#209. Printed out and delivered important paperwork for neighbor.

#208. Made a donation to an important cause.

#207. Listened. While rushing to get a bunch of items checked off my to-do list, stopped to enjoy a nice conversation with one of the workers at Stop and Shop. He shared that he hasn’t had a vacation in years, he is estranged from some of his family members and he feels stuck in his job. After he finished, he said he knew I couldn’t do anything but he was thankful that I just listened.


*I’ve been learning a lot about the concept of savoring in my positive psychology coursework. It’s a really important component of well-being:

It involves an awareness of pleasure along with quite deliberate attempts to focus attention on the sensation at hand and delight in it. In a sense, savoring seeks to extract every nuance and association continued in the complexity of a pleasurable experience.” (Compton & Hoffman, 2013)

the anti-suicide squad

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Over the last few weeks, I have cringed every single time I have seen a movie trailer, interview, promotional material or review for the recently released movie: Suicide Squad.

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photo credit: google images

I’ll be honest, I really have no idea what the movie is about other than it seems to have some comic book villains and Will Smith is one of the stars. I love Will Smith and I’m sure the movie will do really well at the box office.

Maybe if I was familiar with these characters and the plot the title wouldn’t bother me so much.

Maybe…

Probably not though.

It’ll probably be one of those words that just really bothers me the rest of my life.

It has affected too many of our family members.

I will probably always cringe when I hear the word: suicide.

But, I won’t stop saying the word.

I won’t stop fighting or fundraising or learning or sharing or walking in an attempt to prevent suicide.

And, our team, our squad, is back again this year…

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Choosing Grace 2015

We are the Anti-Suicide Squad and we are BADASS.

We are Choosing Grace.


IMG_6948For more information on how you can join us in Chicago on October 15th and/or donate (we have a long way to reach our goal!), please click on this link: http://afsp.donordrive.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=donorDrive.team&teamID=104761 or visit http://www.chicagowalk.org and enter “Choosing Grace” to find our team.


weekly rak up

#206. Sent a thank you to a friend to thank her for a very thoughtful and generous gift.
#205. Asked manager to turn down volume when everyone in the theater was plugging the ears from deafening sound. She was so nice about it and checked in on us afterwards.

the good mess.

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This is Jack.

imageWe met Jack one week ago today.

Jack is 90 lbs. of pure LOVE. He is a gentle giant. Jack also has no sense of personal space, as is witnessed by his favorite resting place – a person’s lap.

We found out about Jack when my friend, Lisa, called to say that she just saw a beautiful Golden Retriever at an animal shelter. Jack was surrendered to the shelter by a woman who realized that she couldn’t properly care for him. His large size and extremely high energy level proved to be more than she could handle, so she hesitantly brought him to the shelter (on two separate occasions!) in the hopes that he would find a good home. Even though a second dog wasn’t in our immediate plan, I loaded the kids up in the car and met our friend at the shelter about an hour later. I texted my husband just before we left that we were going “Just to look”.

When we walked into the shelter, Jack’s crate was empty. We looked outside and there he was…with another family! I quickly shifted into “It wasn’t meant to be” mode, but we decided to stay and wait our turn to meet him. The other family left the outdoor area and we stepped inside the pen.

Jack greeted all of us like we were his long lost friends – there were great big bear hugs and sloppy dog kisses. His enthusiasm for life! balls! his tail! was contagious. He exudes the most innocent, energetic LOVE. Even our pup, Jane, who doesn’t get along well with other dogs, must have sensed this when she first met him too. She was surprisingly tolerant of his puppy-energy during their preliminary visit. The animal control staff was amazed at how quickly they got along with one another. They received several applications for Jack, but they felt like our family’s situation seemed like the best fit. After just a couple of visits, we were approved for his adoption and allowed to take him home.

Ever since Jack stepped through our front door just five days ago, it’s been a cRaZy WhiRlwiNd of activity. The floors are a little hairier, our clothes are a little slobberier and the remotes, iPhones, markers and sunglasses have all been moved a little LOT higher.

We’ll have to break him of his overly enthusiastic hugs, chewing of EVERYTHING and his ability to grab things off the counter with ease. He will need to learn how to sit and stay, walk on a leash and not jump at the screen door and/or windows. He has a lot to learn and so do we.

It has been, is and will be a TON of work (did I mention that we’ve only had him FIVE days?).

On the very first day of Jack’s arrival, Brian walked into my room and said,

Our house is a MESS now that Jack’s here! But, Mom, it’s good. It’s good-messy. Like…medium-messy. It’s good.”

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He’s right…it is messy but it IS good.❤️


weekly rak up
#204. Sent a “thank you” note to the shelter with pictures of Jack in the hopes that they would share with his first owner.
#203. Gave a nice tip for great service.
#202. Adopted our sweet Jack from the animal shelter. (RAK of the week)

#201. Donated dog toy to animal shelter.

 

#200. Paid a compliment to a stranger.
#199. Bought supplies for homemade dog toys-kids delivered some to local shelter.
#198. Left a cold bottled water for our mailman.
#197. Left cash and kindness note in vending machine.
#196. Fixed flower pot at a grave site.
#195. Sent a thank you note for a most awesome RAK that someone gave to me.
#194. Delivered Blessing Bag to a homeless man.
#193. Delivered Blessing Bag, water and ice cooler to homeless woman and her friends.
#192. Bought water and ice to accompany “Blessing Bags”.

#191. Bought supplies and started packing “Blessing Bags.

#190. Let lifeguard at pool borrow sweatshirt because it got really cold when sun went down (and she is on shift until 10pm)!

#189. Complimented someone’s hairdo.

#188. Rolled cart in middle of parking lot back to cart “garage”.

church lady.

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I am sitting in the middle of the cold hard pew minding my own business when the soloist begins singing the offertory song.

She sounds like an angel, and this particular song brings back so many memories of my childhood in this church, in this very same pew.

I look around me, a few of my friends’ parents and former choir member friends are here. It is all so familiar, yet different too. I look up to the front of the church, notice “AMDG” over the altar, and suddenly I cannot prevent the tears from springing into my eyes.

I don’t want to start crying in church.

I don’t want people to think there’s something wrong with me.

This feeling…it is difficult to put into words. There is sadness, but there is also joy…I guess some would call it a feeling of nostalgia.

I look up to prevent the tears from spilling onto my cheeks and I see this…

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Although there isn’t a caption underneath the image, I think it is the story of the woman who washed Jesus’ feet. I just had a “moment” with this profound story of forgiveness last month: a different kind of sunday school.

How can it be that I’ve been coming to this church for over forty-five years (45 years!) and I somehow never made the connection to this stained glass window? I smile because I feel my friend, Carrie’s presence behind the thin veil.

It’s interesting that this week’s lesson for my Positive Psychology class is also focused on religion, spirituality and its impact on well-being. The researchers have hypothesized that religion impacts mental and physical health because of the following:

  1. Religion provides social support.
  2. Religion supports healthy lifestyles.
  3. Religion promotes personality integration.
  4. Religion promotes generativity and altruism.
  5. Religion provides unique coping strategies.
  6. Religion provides a sense of meaning and purpose.                                                                              ~Compton & Hoffman, Positive Psychology, pg. 233

In addition they note, “Religion can provide hope, offer reasons for unexpected and unwanted stressors, help people place their lives in a larger framework, and create renewed purpose and meaning.” (pg. 233)

I guess I never thought of my religion or spirituality in terms of my well-being, but this morning I understand it. I feel hopeful and grateful.

I am also smiling…my mom and grandma would LOVE that I have become a church lady. :o)


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#187. Bought a Streetwise from a gentleman in the neighborhood.

#186. Cleaned up bathroom (picked up paper towels, wiped down counter) at movie theater bathroom.

#185. My friend, Kim, and I helped turned over a pot that had flipped over on Central Street.
#184. Dropped off goodie bags at the 24th police district
#183. Helped a lady get a straw wrapper off her shoe.
#182.Kite mission (left a kite and kindness note in a bike basket).
#181. Kite mission (left a kite and kindness note at a newspaper stand).
#180. Spread bubble joy at park (left a bubble wand with a kindness note at the park).
#179. Spread bubble joy at park (left a bubble wand with a kindness note at the park).

 

*AMDG means “For the Greater Glory of God” and was one of my mom’s favorite expressions.

the winning ticket

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We are sitting on a bench waiting for the next race, when a bunch of little papers blow past us. Kate looks at me and says, “Should we go and catch them?”

Before I can answer, she and her little brother scurry off after the old racing tickets that have been cast away. The wind is particularly strong this afternoon. There is no way they’ll catch them, is all I think while I watch them sprinting and laughing at the silliness of these fast moving tickets. They run so fast and so far we cannot see them anymore.

I lean over to try to catch a glimpse of them. As I do, I see them skipping back with the tickets in their hands. They don’t even look to see if they were winning or losing tickets. They are just happy that they somehow caught this trash. Kate looks at me and throws them in the garbage can. Her little brother follows her example.

They both come running up to us with big smiles on their faces.

I tell them that I’m proud of them for picking up the trash, for their act of kindness. I then tell them that I need to do some RAKs myself because I’ve really slacked on my own kindness project this week.

Kate looks up at me and says, “Just add ours to your list.”

I respond, “Well, I didn’t do it, so that wouldn’t be fair.”

Without missing a beat, she replies, “Yeah, well, the only reason I thought to pick up that garbage is because of your project, so it’s sorta like you did it, right?”

I like the way this girl thinks. :o)


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#178. Wrote a positive message/review for the nicest Uber driver. We took a very late car and he put on a movie for the kids and was just a very careful and consciousness driver.
#177. “Inspired” kids to pick up trash at Arlington Race Track. : )
#176. Helped a woman get back into workout room to get her keys she left behind.

the rest stop

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My favorite Act of Kindness this week took place at a rest stop (of all places!).

Emma, Kate and I walked into a busy Ohio restroom and the two of them headed for the only two empty stalls. I walked over to the sinks to wait.

A half a second later, Kate walked out and said she wasn’t going because the door wouldn’t lock. I told her I’d hold the door for her. As we walked over to the stall a woman in a BIG hurry rushed into the restroom. She made a beeline for the stall and then quickly realized it wouldn’t lock. I noticed (recognized) the look of panic in her eyes (we have ALL been there!) and asked her, “Would you like me to hold the door for you?” She responded, “Oh my God, yes, thank you!”

So, I stood outside the door holding onto it like we had to do in our grammar school bathrooms when the locks were broken. She called out, “Okay, I’m all done!” And we both giggled like grammar school girls and I opened the door. She thanked me over and over again for holding the door for her.

She had no idea I was grateful that a complete stranger would place her trust in me and that my daughters could witness that kind of trust between two strangers – a free and simple act of kindness.

When it was my turn, Emma held the door for me. :o)


weekly rak up

#175. Cleaned up some trash in workout room.

#174. Bought ice cream treats for police officers.

#173. Held the bathroom door (lock was broken) for a stranger at a rest stop. (RAK of the Week)

#172. Left a “You Are Beautiful” sticker at a rest stop.

#171. Donated dog food to animal shelter.

#170. Hauled a bunch of carts into Target when they were all out (it’s a lot harder than it looks!).