Good (& Guilt Free) Deeds During Family Dinner

There is one common complaint we hear all too often from our big-hearted families: they – we – feel guilty for not doing more.

I’m right with you. Some days, all the kindness my family and I meant to do breaks my heart. Some days, weeks, months, there just isn’t time enough.

We are busy people, for better or worse. Balancing work and family obligations alone leaves our days overflowing. Add in a hobby or two per family member, and perhaps (gasp!) some downtime to recharge, and suddenly crossing the basics off the to-do list seems impossible.

What's worse, some days that anvil of guilt gets heavy enough to make me consider crossing the category of "good" off my to do list all together. Maybe there will be more time later.

While I can’t magically manufacture more time for us – though when I crack that code, you’ll be the first to know – I have good news for you. A recent study out of the University of Zurich found that workers who volunteer reported a more satisfying work/life balance.

People who volunteer truly feel like their non-work time is more expansive.   

How inspiring is that!?

So for all of you - us - who are feeling overwhelmed by the rising tide of to-do’s but want to do good when and how you can, start by adding an act of kindness to something you already do anyway.

Here are 5 of our favorite, simple ways to do good during family dinner.

1. Table Talk:

Print these simple placemats and use them to inspire big-hearted dinner conversations, perfect for inspiring thoughtful conversations about important issues. Consider laminating them for reuse.

2. Adopt a Food Shelf:

This project has made a huge difference in my own family. Simply pick up a few extra groceries (especially good staples when they go on sale) each time you go to the grocery store. Decorate a dedicated box, and add to it whenever you can. Once a month, take time as a family to deliver your box of donations and start a conversation with your kids about who you are helping… and why.

If you're ready to do more, pick a monthly shift at the food shelf and spend time as a family organizing and restocking goods.

3. Double & Deliver:

Double your batch (yes, even - or especially - if you're just picking up a pizza) and deliver extras to an ailing or lonely neighbor.

4. Make Room for the Hungry:

Make Room for the Hungry: This one is truly unique! Set an extra place setting at your family table, possibly with extra information about hunger in your community. Then set aside 5 minutes each day for the next week – or month – to count something of abundance in your home (shoes, drawers, forks, items in the pantry). Commit to adding that number of coins to your empty bowl, and donate the funds you raise to the local food shelf or other hunger relief organization.

5. Read Together While Dinner Simmers:

Choose a big-hearted story to read - or have your child read to you - while dinner simmers. Reading together is the simplest way to incorporate kindness in an otherwise hectic day. When you reach the table, you'll have something interesting to discuss, especially if you pick one of the conversation starters that accompany each of our big-hearted book lists.

These simple, at home habits of kindness will empower our kids to become lifelong volunteers and will impact our communities for generations to come. Plus, they just might magically manufacture time, or at least make us feel that way.

Let’s give it a try!