Does this commercial ring a bell? One of the most famous Super Bowl commercials ever made for Volkswagon with little Darth Vader?
Meet Max Page. Not only is he an actor, but he and his brother, Els, are quite the philanthropists. I was introduced to Max’s Mom, Jennifer, through Erik Rees, founder of the Jessie Rees Foundation or “NEGU”. I was incredibly impressed with all she was doing in the world of charity and how she has integrated a life of service in her young children. I feel blessed to have met her as her ideals on a life of kindness for our kids mirror mine. A busy Mom who splits her time between Hollywood and giving back, I asked her if she would do a blog post on some of the things she has learned and passed onto her young sons. Her gratitude for others during a time of strife is a familiar story to me, but kindness doesn’t have to come from grief. Please grab a cup of coffee this morning, meet this incredible family, and hear their amazing story.
By Jennifer Page, Max’s Mom.
I think of myself as a pretty friendly and outgoing person. Occasionally I do nice things for others and appreciate the same in return from friends. Watch kids in a pinch, pick up the coffee tab – the simple ways to help a bit.
Oct. 7, 2004, I began to learn the difference between being friendly and being kind. My son was unexpectedly born with a severe heart problem. Our life became consumed with hospital stays, round the clock medications, and navigating the foreign land of childhood disease.
Sometimes I was swallowed by the fear and emotion of parenting a child who teetered on the edge of life and death. How do I do this? I am not equipped. Then I looked around and realized how many perfect strangers where helping me figure out this new life.
I am buoyed on life’s journey by the kindness of others. Simple ways like when I am in the cold hospital wrapped in warmth by a donated blanket and fuzzy socks or larger ways like the kindness of strangers whose donation make it possible to have world-class care in my backyard. Or powerful ways like the rooms of support groups where they just listen – truly listen – and don’t try to fix me.
Giving back became an intentional pursuit when my oldest turned one. How do I repay all this kindness? Just start! We began with Charity Birthdays. Each year we pick a cause or need and have our network pour into that instead of gifts. It’s been a wonderful way to share books, supplies, Build-a-Bears and joy with those in need. The boys see the power of their day and the difference it can make!
Two years ago my youngest said he wanted to have his birthday be Kindness Day. He wanted everyone to do a random act of kindness and text or email us about it. It was such a hit, he repeated it the following year! It was heartwarming to read messages throughout the day about siblings playing peacefully, larger tips being left for hardworking people, and paying if forward in the coffee line. My favorite was our friends who saw a homeless family and invited them to lunch. They let the family order whatever they wanted and then fellowshipped with them for over an hour, while the kids all played. That’s kindness.
Friendly is a quick smile and a pleasant disposition. Kindness is showing love to everyone. It’s finding ways to support and care for friends and strangers alike. Kindness is cultivated over time and takes root in the fabric of who you are. I am raising two sons in a culture where kindness is deemed weak or feminine. I believe it takes more strength and courage to be kind in all situations and to give of yourself.
Kindness is learned from our example as parents. It needs to radiate in all parts of our life. On the freeway, in the slow check out line, and interactions with others. Our children’s eyes are on us at all times and they will live by our example. So buy a lunch for a hungry person, take old towels to the animal shelter and write notes of encouragement to friends and family. Do it together and discuss why it’s important to you. Soon your children will be bringing the ideas to you and or you will watch them in action with their playmates.
The legacy I hope my boys carry on in life is kindness. It’s the highest compliment, because it means they see the hurting and left out, they bring solutions and aid to those in need, and they are impacting their sphere of influence in a meaningful way. Right now that is on the playground at school and soon it will be in hallways of life. We can all make a difference if we just start. Begin today and let kindness shine bright in your life!
The Infinite Smile Project is launching our Birthday Campaigns in 2015 where kids or adults can donate their birthday to charity for others. Stay tuned for the launch of our web app to dedicate your birthday in the name of kindness like Max & Els.
Why? Because it feels good when #kindisthenewcool