Be Kind to Animals Week began this week. I originally thought it ran through Sunday, May 10, which happens to be Mother’s Day; however, within a week, I found a new website that says it runs until Saturday, May 9th. Either way, this special week overlaps the weekend we celebrate the special women in our lives, mostly our mothers and grandmothers (or those women who were like Mom and Grandma to us).
This year marks 100 years since Be Kind to Animals Week started being observed by organizations such as the American Humane Association, and this year marks the 99th year of Mother’s Day being officially recognized. During this special week, we can encourage kids, other adults, as well as ourselves to be kinder to others.
Teaching children kindness toward people and pets offers great rewards for those kids, including opportunity to do good in a community and the opportunity to make new friends. In fact, according to a research study called Kindness Counts, “When kids performed acts of kindness or took notice of the pleasant places they visited, their happiness quotient increased … (and) … they gained an average of 1.5 friends during the month-long period” (see related article at http://www.rootsofaction.com/art-kindness-teaching-children-care/).
What are some ways we can be kind to pets and people, including our mothers, and how can we more greatly instill kindness in others, including children? The list of ideas is endless, but here are some suggestions:
- Take care of your own pets. Ensure the animals under your care have clean water, plenty of food, shelter, and attention. Just like young children, our pets thrive from our caring, concern, devotion, and responsibility toward them. Children helping to care for the family pet learn responsibility as well as kindness.
- Help pets in need. Volunteer at and/or donate to local and regional animal rescue and welfare organizations. These non-profits need the help and support of their community to do their job, and who is the community? All of us!
- Another way to help animals in need is to create toys and other things for shelter pets. Items such as fleece blanket beds and cat toys can help shelter animals while they are waiting for their forever homes. You and your family or classroom can make these items and/or conduct a pet food and supply drive and then donate the items to the animal shelter and rescue groups in your area.
- Similarly, conduct a supply drive for the homeless and less fortunate people in your community. These can be canned food items, toiletries (such as toothpaste/brushes, shampoo, soap, hair brushes/combs, etc). Collect these items from neighbors, faith-based group studies, school, or service organizations to which you belong and then donate to your local rescue mission, food pantry, or similar entity.
- Serve a few meals each month at the local soup kitchen or be a delivery driver for Meals on Wheels – and include the kids in these service projects!
- Mow a neighbor’s lawn, especially an elderly or invalid neighbor.
- Caretake a friend’s pet for a weekend so the family/couple can get away for a few days.
- Don’t let children tease or torment any pet. Teasing animals makes them afraid and potentially aggressive, and it’s against the law to abuse and neglect pets. If you witness animal abuse or neglect, report it to authorities. There are laws to protect animals against abuse and neglect. Many people who start off being abusive and violent to animals end up treating humans the same way. Be a humane hero and help end animal abuse and talk to your kids about this important topic.
- The same applies to elder abuse and child abuse. If you see it or suspect it, report it.
- Call your mother. Be a positive part of her life if she is still living. Thank her for the good things she’s done, the encouragement and blessing she’s given. Forgive her if she wasn’t a great mom (we’re all imperfect after all). And, if your mother is no longer living, find a special way to honor her … by helping another mom or an elderly lady in some way. You can also give a memorial to a charity as a way to honor your mother, living or departed.
There’s a wonderful song sung by Glen Campbell, who I adored when I was young. There’s a YouTube video of a performance he gave in South Dakota more than 10 years ago reminding all to “Try a Little Kindness!” So appropriate for this special week of being kind to animals … and to people:
Let’s flood the world (at least our communities) with kindness toward pets and people this week, teaching children empathy and compassion, and thereby impacting their lives, another’s life, and even your own life, for the better.
Gayle M. Irwin is writer, author and speaker. She is the author of several inspiring dog books for children and adults, including Sage’s Big Adventure, Walking in Trust: Lessons Learned with My Blind Dog, and two dog devotion books: Devotions for Dog Lovers: Paws-ing for Time with God and Devotions for Dog Lovers 2: Sage Advice. She is also a contributing writer to five editions of Chicken Soup for the Soul, including The Dog Did What?. She’s also authored a guidebook for owners of blind dogs, available on Kindle. She has a passion for pets and volunteers for and donates a percentage of her writing revenues to several animal welfare organizations. Her speaking engagements include presentations for children and adults about the lessons people can learn from pets. Visit her website at www.gaylemirwin.com.