Minnesota Mamaleh: Random Acts of Kindness

The best ever May Day baskets! Thanks for loving our kiddos-- you know who you are!

I was going to title this, “Minnesota Mamaleh: May Day, Mother’s Day and Mitzvot.” Why? Because that’s what it’s about silly! I’ll also admit that the former teacher, totally dorky side of me just loves the alliteration. Did you see how many M-words there would have been?! But that would have been a little lengthy and while I do have two extremely fun holidays on my mind today, I’m mostly just filled-to-the-brim happy thinking about kindness and how my kids do it oh-so-very-well.

Before you get all “heathen” and “pagan” on me I would like to point out that May Day is a lovely, earthy, crunchy, spring-y celebration of fun, flowers, spring and doorbell-ringing-and-running-away-ing. It’s just a whole lot of goodness rolled up into a holiday that sneaks in right at the beginning of May. You know, when everyone else is going to the beach and us Minnesotans are wondering if we’ll need to pull out our heavy coats…again. While it’s not on my list of must-celebrates, it does bring out the San Franciscan, “Go Mother Nature!” part of me. And being a now-Minnesotan, it also brings out the, “Heck yeah! Come May I am so ready for some flowers and sunshine!” part of me as well.

So when Kayli came home from school on Friday with a basket in hand and a plan in mind, I was ready to jump on board. And when Chloe woke up at the shudder-worthy hour of 6:00 on Saturday wanting to do a project, I stumbled out of bed, put on the coffee and pulled out the construction paper. I also got out the glue, the glitter and the ribbons. Because we meant business. We cut. We glued. And we made a general mess with a lovely end-product. Some might even say, we conquered.

"Conquered exactly what?!" you might be asking yourself right about now.

Serious business

Seriously serious business

What *is* the right caption here?! Sigh...

I would like to point out that Jason slept through this merriment and I think that in itself could very well qualify as the mitzvah portion of this story. Wouldn’t you say?

Well, at the very least it made for a nice transition.

Many of us have defined mitzvot as good deeds for our whole lives. And then we went to a class, or heard a speaker or just simply engaged someone way, way smarter than us in a spiritually meaningful conversation and were told (enlightened!) that, “Aha! You’ve been wrong all this time!A mitzvah is not a good deed. It’s a must-do. A commandment and a way to connect with God. As in God says it’s so. And there’s a million-bajillion of ’em. So get crackin’. Mitzvah away. Well, there’s actually 620 of them. Which is not quite a million-bajillion, but it’s a lot nonetheless.

But I like my old definition, too. A good deed. A kind deed. Being a thoughtful person just for the sake of being that way. And nothing more. That kindness seems like the fundamental essence and heart of being your best, of living your religion. I just love that! Perhaps surprisingly, enter: May Day baskets.

What I love about the tradition (besides the chocolate. And the doorbells) is that you’re not supposed to know who gave you a May Day basket. In other words: Who rang your doorbell, woke up your baby and then ran away. But that’s really just a matter of perspective, isn’t it?

There’s no recognition, expectation of reciprocity or even a thank you necessary, expected or even wanted. It’s all for the sake of fun. And for putting a smile on someone else’s face. And for doing good just because…it’s good. And that’s what we talked to the girls about as we went May Day basket delivering this weekend.

Did they ask if anyone would surprise them with a May Day basket? Of course they did! They’re four and six after all. But that just opened up the conversation about doing good for the sake of good. And how amazing it feels in your heart to make someone else happy. And how we believe in that. It’s who we are in our core and in our hearts. So it’s just what we do. And sometimes, that’s all there is to kindness. No strings. No kickbacks. No nothing. You go in. You do your thing. You ring the doorbell. And then you run. Fast.

SO sneaky

AND stealthy

and SAD to be seen by a basket-receiver.

While I now realize that there’s more, oh-so-very- much more, to religion, to mitzvot, than simply being kind, damn if I don’t believe that kindness is at the heart of it all. We want to be good, do good and teach good to our children. And when we see them doing what’s right, just and kind we know that we’ve done something (anything!) right.

And just in time for Mother’s Day, just a few days after May Day smiles (and tears), my kids showed me just how very kind they are. Right down-deep in their hearts. I went to bed way-too-late last night. And the girls got up way-too-early this morning. So when I heard some banging and clanging around in the kitchen this morning, I will admit that I rolled over and tried to go back to sleep. I know! What kind of a mom am I anyway?! A few short moments later my sweeties were by my side. With breakfast. In bed. For me! That they had made all by themselves. I know! Chloe handed me my glasses so I could actually see my little ones’ random act of kindness. And then we all piled onto the big bed and shared a bowl of cheerios, a cheese stick, an apple and a Hershey kiss. Something right indeed.

Not to be over-the-top cheesy here, but they are seriously the BEST

Calling daddy to tell him all about the totally delish breakfast in bed for mommy planned and executed all on their own

So I hope that someone rang your doorbell on May Day, that your Mother’s Day is wonderful (and perhaps brunch-full as well! Yum!) and that on one of the two, or just somewhere in between, your day was filled with kindness.


About Galit Breen

Galit Breen was a classroom and reading teacher for ten years. She has a master's degree in education and a bachelor's degree in human development. In 2009, she launched a career as a freelance writer entrenched in social media. Since then, her work has been featured in various online magazines including Brain, Child, The Huffington Post, TIME, and xoJane. Breen lives in Minnesota with her husband, three children, and a ridiculously spoiled miniature golden doodle. Her book, Kindness Wins, is a simple no-nonsense guide to teaching our kids how to be kind online. You can learn more about Galit by visiting TheseLittleWaves.com.

Comments. Add Yours!


  1. WHat I most love about this essay is the reminder that kindness is a must & that it actually must be taught. Nothing wrong with needing to be taught. I wonder why we respond in so many ways against that from cynicism to denial that it requires nurturance.

  2. I loved this post! The photo crying over being seen by a basket-receiver had me crying. I can’t believe you craft with your kids, making me look bad. Roll over and go back to sleep like the rest of us terrible moms. Geez…

  3. Nice! I like the photos and the words and sentiment and and and. Crafts with your kids – amazing! Teaching kindness – priceless.

  4. Aww! I don’t believe I ever got out of bed @ 6 a.m. on a Saturday, to craft. Ever.
    Mother’s Day will be fantastic this year. I just found out that my better half ♥ is actually off, so we’ll have breakfast with his Mom and then just hang for the rest of the day w/fam. Good times:)
    Happy Mother’s Day!

  5. I can’t say that my boys have ever woken up at 6 AM to do crafts, but they have done many other things to deprive me of sleep! The kind of kindness I’m hoping for from my guys (ages 8, 13 and 15) is just a little peace and quiet on Mother’s Day. Perhaps a lot to ask for…but they are well aware of the mitzvah to respect one’s parents, so let’s hope that Mother’s Day is Mitzvah Day in our household!

  6. Poor Chloe–but how sweet of her. I love that you captured that moment. You have kind and wonderful children who want to give May Day baskets in anonymity because you model kindness to them every day! Children reflect the treatment they receive 🙂

  7. thank you ladies!

    sarah– for sure, a must-teach. as we’ve talked about before, paving the path of being a good person is more proactive than “anti-bullying.”

    erica– it *was* sad! and i’m sleepin, i’m sleepin.’ 🙂

    schmutzie– i’m honored, thank you! 🙂

    neil– priceless, indeed!

    christine– so much fun to hear from you! happy mother’s day and i couldn’t be more excited that you just showed me how to heart on here! <3 <3 <3 (bet you're not going to disagree with me on the dorky bit!! :))

    renee– great to hear from you here! my fingers are crossed that your day is mitzvah *and* sleep-full!!

    lisa– thank you, lady! right back at you!!! <3

  8. Great post and story and pictures. And fantastic lesson for the kids.

  9. This is my third try! I pray this goes through…!
    I am unfamiliar with the May Day tradition of leaving things at peoples doors—a lovely sweet idea!
    Hope your Mothers Day was a lovely one, and I thank you for coming by my blog!

    All of that “tweet” stuff coming first before blog comments really comfused me—I almost did not see that I could actually leave a comment on your blog…!
    Glad I persevered!

  10. You actually got out glitter at that hour? You really ARE supermom! Love the stealthy basket delivery, what a fun idea.

  11. Batya, hello! Great to hear from you and thanks so much! And, indeed, it all comes back to what we’re passing onto our kids, doesn’t it?

    OLoftheH, I am glad that you persevered, too & thank you for the comment. It *is* a sweet and fun tradition! *sigh* Happy Mother’s Day to you, too!

    & Robin, Supermom? Not so much. Secret glitter-lover? For sure! 🙂 Thanks for the comment!

  12. What great lessons you are teaching your children! They are so cute and I love the photos, but it was the MESSAGE in your article that really made me feel warm and fuzzy inside. There’s something special about random acts of kindness. Sometimes these things get lost in the day-to-day grind, and you’ve reminded me that sometimes randomness really needs to be planned.

  13. debbie, hi! great to hear from you! that’s such a good point– planned & purposeful *can* make everyday (more impromptu) kindness seem like the norm. warm and fuzzy all around for everyone! 🙂

  14. I’m learning so much from your blog. I never knew such a May Day tradition existed in the States. I always associated May Day with socialism (that’s the connection in Israel).

    Love the basket giving idea. It almost reminds me of mishloach manot on Purim, only that’s not supposed to be anonymous. Sounds like a lot of fun!

    I can’t empathize with the crafting though – I’d rather clean the house than do crafts – and I’d certainly rather sleep!
    Happy belated May Day!

  15. shira, hi! i *just* came across an israeli post explaining that may day connection and thought it was fascinating– i had no idea! agreed on the similarity to mishloach manot, i love *all* things like that– even if they are crafty! lol. 🙂

  16. I love the photographs you share!

  17. thanks so much, chris! i’m honored that you’re looking at them! 🙂