Although February is our shortest month, it’s brimming with opportunities. Special observances invite us to expand our knowledge of American history, celebrate love and friendship, and commit ourselves to random acts of kindness, not only to others but also to birds. Leap year gives us a bonus day.
President’s Day always falls on the third Monday of the month. This year that’s February 15. What better time to dust off our history books and learn more about our two most prominent presidents, George Washington, the father of our country, and Abraham Lincoln, whose leadership kept the country together despite secession and the bloody Civil War?
The pivotal moment in his presidency came on January 1, 1863, the date the president issued the Emancipation Proclamation that granted freedom to slaves.
February is also Black History Month, and a perfect time to explore the role of the Underground Railroad that brought many slaves to freedom. For children, consider Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom, about Harriet Tubman who lead 19 trips that brought hundreds of slaves from the south to freedom in the north or Follow the Drinking Gourd, a tale about following the Big Dipper north to escape slavery. Both books are recommended for children ages five and up.
Henry’s Freedom Box: A True Story from the Underground Railroad, tells the story of Henry “Box” Brown, a slave who shipped himself to freedom in the north in a wooden crate. To learn how quilts helped slaves find their way to freedom, read Under the Quilt of Night.
Older readers, those 12 and up, can learn from Nightjohn of the bravery of a former slave who returned to the south to teach others to read, an act punishable by dismemberment.
Tracy Chevalier’s historical novel The Last Runaway provides a compelling account of the Underground Railroad and the people, both slaves and bounty hunters, abolitionists and ordinary citizens, whose lives were impacted by slavery.
February wouldn’t be February without Valentine’s Day. While thinking of ways to show affection, consider that Random Acts of Kindness Week begins on Valentine’s Day this year. The idea is that by expressing kindness we’ll inspire others to be kind. Random Acts of Kindness Foundation reports on research showing how “kindness breeds kindness” and acts of kindness reduce stress. I think they’re on to something. I appreciate the kindnesses of others and feel better when I’m being mindful about showing kindness.
Their website is bursting with information and ideas. One simple act of kindness is smiling at strangers. Plato is quoted as saying, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” My mother used to remind us that we needed to be kind because we have no way of knowing what struggles another person might be having. I’ve found that to be true.
In our city a homeless woman has staked out a street corner in the business district and stands with a placard that reads, “Even a smile helps.” And she herself smiles at everyone who passes by. Her spirit touches me deeply.
February is also National Bird Feeding Month. So here’s the deal for kiddos and adults alike. Embrace kindness. Practice random acts of kindness everyday. Feed the wild birds. Winter is long and food hard to find. Buying a feeder and keeping it filled is one way to go. Another, if time allows and you like crafting, is making birdseed ornaments or balls to hang in trees. Melissa Mayntz, a birding and wild bird expert, offers easy to follow, step-by-step illustrated instructions. I’m thinking this could be a lovely way to spend time on a cold, winter.
Another idea is crafting simple, easy-to-create glitter hearts for use as Valentines and extras to give away as acts of kindness. Think about the neighbors. Newcomers? Elders? Shut-ins? Someone who’s been ill? How about folks who make a difference in your life. Perhaps a crossing guard at school? Mail carrier? Cashier at the market? Everyone likes being appreciated. And making someone else’s day has a way of brightening our own.
Here’s an idea for making those sparkly hearts:
Cut hearts from card stock. One way is to trace around a heart-shaped cookie cutter.
Punch a hole in the top.
Lay hearts on wax paper.
Using slightly thinned white glue, cover hearts with glue.
Sprinkle with fine grain red glitter.
Let dry thoroughly.
Flip hearts over, apply glue and glitter, and let dry.
Thread a piece of ribbon through the hole and tie.
Finish by placing each heart in a cellophane box.
Either tie with ribbon or fold top of bag to the back and seal.
I like the clear round “mailing seals” available at office supply stores because that keeps the focus on the contents, but any tape or stickers should do the job.
If the hearts are to be Valentines, add a label to each bag.
PlayopolisToys – for the diverse needs of the citizens of play