It's been two years since the heartbreaking events at Sandy Hook Elementary and on Dec. 14, we'll stand together to remember the lives lost. In honor of the anniversary, Newtown, Conn. residents are asking everyone to perform acts of kindness as a way to promote good in the world and honor the 26 victims of the school shooting.
Whether it's been a shoulder to lean on or a homemade meal, we all can remember a time someone extended generosity to us when we needed it the most. Research shows that altruistic acts can increase social connection, and can even be an asset during traumatic events. Studies suggest kindness also makes us happier and less stressed.
We asked our Twitter and Facebook communities to share some of the most thoughtful gestures they've received during times of trouble. Check out the beautiful acts of selflessness below, as well as other gestures you can do to honor Newtown's quest for kindness. Just a little bit of generosity can have a life-changing impact.
Give someone a thoughtful gift.
"[I was] waiting to get checked into my room for another chemo treatment at hospital and was making small talk with a woman and her daughter. [I] told them I had left in such a hurry that I forgot my slippers. Several hours later, the daughter knocked on my door with a brand new pair of slippers for me. She said her Mom didn't want me to be without slippers in the hospital. That was 20 years ago and it still makes me cry." -- Karen Nevins
Research shows we feel an increased sense of warmth and trust when we give something that's of value to others -- whether it's a surprise road trip or a small card. The size of the item doesn't matter, it's the emotion behind it that counts.
Make a delicious meal.
"One of my dearest friends was fighting breast cancer. I was making meals for her and her family frequently, [and a] friend of mine made dinner for our family. Caring for the caregivers. Just writing that is bringing me to tears." -- Jennifer Howald
A quick dinner is one less thing someone needs to worry about when they're navigating a tough time. If you can, offer to eat together. Research suggests sharing a meal with someone makes us feel calmer.
You don't have to know someone directly to make an impact. By volunteering for an organization, you can benefit your community -- and studies show you'll also improve your well-being in the process. Studies show giving back has a host of heath perks and one 2010 survey found that individuals who volunteer feel a greater sense of purpose.
Be someone's biggest cheerleader.
"When I came out as gay way back in the mid-'70s, a non-gay friend came by with a bottle of champagne to help me celebrate my new identity." -- Bob O'Neill
"Telling me they'd come to hospital with me if I needed to go for a psych assessment. They were a stranger, but didn't want me to fight the Depression Demon alone!" -- Toni White
Extend any financial contribution.
"When my daughter was having open heart surgery my entire block did a 'hugs for Hannah' potluck dinner. What we didn't know was there was a huge jar on the table that everyone put checks and cash into. When we got home from the hospital, they had arranged a nurse to spend the night at our house for two weeks. She was this amazing woman who made me and my husband sleep and we would wake up to fresh coffee and our daughter's hair was in a new kind of braid every morning. They gave us a gift of peace of mind, rest and love. I will never forget that, and I try to pay kindness forward every single day." -- Alli Hofstetter-Dafferner
"I needed to have surgery and didn't have the money for my $1,000 deductible. [The] hospital would not let me make payments, so all my fellow work colleagues pitched in and paid my deductible, without any expectation of being paid back. To this day I will never forget their generosity." -- Rochelle Gonzalez
It doesn't matter if it's a large donation or just simply paying for someone's coffee or handing them an extra dollar. The actual amount doesn't mean as much as the motivation behind it.
Offer a shoulder to lean on.
"My friends came and stood beside me at the funeral home so I wouldn't feel alone. They didn't need to speak or ask me how I was doing. They were just present for me. It is much more then what other friends were capable of." -- Teri LeBlanc
"[They] simply offered their time to hear my personal struggles and assured me that I will be okay. It made a huge difference." -- Vanessa Buenconsejo
When it comes down to it, sometimes all you need is to be around another person -- and offering your listening ear could be the kindest gift you could give someone. Research suggests that strong social bonds help lessen the pain of grief, Everyday Health reported. Human connection is a powerful thing.
Tell us in the comments: What's the nicest thing someone did for you during a hard time?