This goes back awhile, but I use the memory now every day to remind me. I was the oldest of 7 kids, and we were raised as Catholics. On the first day of December, my mom would set up the nativity scene (without the baby!) and next to it she would put a bowl of straw. She told us that our task for the month was to do kind things that no one else knew about --- it wasn't for recognition!- and before we went to bed, we could put one piece of straw in for each kindness. We were to be building a soft place for the baby. Now, I no longer go to church, but this idea is central to my life. There are a thousand opportunities every day to do something - if it's just smiling at someone while you hold a door open, or giving a cashier some money for the little kid's slurpee who is counting his pennies, giving a kind look to a mom whose little one is melting down, offering to take someone's shopping cart to the corral along with your own. The practice just made me aware of all the ways we can make life just a little better, or inspire someone, or just console them on some level. Life is tough sometimes, we could all use a little encouragement, a soft place to land.

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