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With the holiday season upon us, it's easy to feel pressure that you aren't spending enough, doing enough or otherwise keeping up with everyone else around you.
If that’s the case, log out of Pinterest, take some deep breaths and remind yourself that true holiday spirit can't be bought — no matter how good the bargains get.
For a refreshing antidote to the consumer hoopla, check out the ad-free, volunteer-run website Kindspring.org, which is "dedicated to fostering and celebrating small acts of kindness around the world." The site, part of the nonprofit Service Space, lists hundreds of ways to show compassion for others, which are organized by theme, as well as real-life kindness stories from users.
"Kindness in giving creates love," the Chinese philosopher Lao-Tzu once wrote. With that as inspiration, TODAY asked Kindspring story editor Audrey Lin to suggest a few quick, creative gestures guaranteed to leave a sweet impression on friends and family members.
1. Leave a little gift near your child's bed for him or her to find in the morning. "A surprise can disarm someone in a really loving way, and when you wake up to something like that, it's like falling into a hug," says Lin, who also says small gestures are good ways to make kids feel "seen and appreciated." And she stresses that because children "soak in everything," they're likely to repeat these kinds of actions as they grow and forge their own relationships.
2. Before a loved one goes away, slip several surprise handwritten Post-It notes in their bags and pockets. "Finding one of these unexpectedly in your bag can make your heart melt—in that moment when you're frazzled and running late or just tired from a long trip," Lin says. If you're the traveler, you can still riff on this idea, especially if you're staying with a close friend or family member. In this moving story, a Kindspring user describes hiding notes for her sister, who she was visiting, in random places throughout her home right before she left. "Every now and then, she would call me to tell me she found another one and that it seemed like it was when she needed to hear from me," she writes.
3. Give someone your favorite book inscribed with a note about why you love it. Whether you hand it over in person or leave it as a surprise on their doorstep, a book is one of Lin's favorite gift ideas. "A good book is like a little lighthouse on a journey. It's a place of refuge, so you're giving that when you give a book," she says. And don't feel restricted to novels: Lin also suggests unexpected choices like a picture book with a universal theme or a collection of fun comic-strip stories.
4. Send someone an unexpected email on a Monday morning, wishing them a great week. Lin says she is especially moved to do this if she knows a friend is going through a rough time or has a challenging day ahead of them. "Sometimes I'll also add a quote, a link to an inspiring story or a short video," she says.
5. When someone borrows an item from you or pays you a compliment about it, offer to let them keep it. Notes and purchased gifts are one thing, but unless they're making a trip to Goodwill, many people are uncomfortable with the idea of simply handing over their own possessions. But Lin explains that it's about "putting yourself in the mindset of, 'how can I contribute?'"—and the stuff, whether it's a shirt that fits your sister perfectly or a serving platter you lent a neighbor, is secondary. "The key thing here is the art of noticing what brings someone joy, and what they might need. It's like discovering a gap that you could easily fill, and over time, all your belongings will be a long string of gifts from loved ones, and you find yourself in a constant space of giving," she says. It's certainly a noble goal, and what better time than the holidays to start working towards it?