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Maria Shriver’s Sunday Paper: The Spirit of the Season

“Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.” — Mark Twain

And so it begins…

The holiday madness. The holiday rush. Everywhere you look, you see ads for this and that. Must buys. Must haves. Must gets.

I, for one, find it all to be overwhelming. That’s why this holiday season, I’ve decided that I want to try and stay present and focused on what the holiday spirit really means to me.

For me, the holiday season is about joy. It’s about my faith. It’s about generosity of spirit (not generosity of my wallet). It’s about kindness to my fellow human beings.

To that end, I’m going to embark on the 30-day Kindness Challenge that my colleague Lindsay recently brought to my attention. The challenge (which you can read about below in The Sunday Paper) encourages each of us to perform one small, random act of kindness every day. As the article says, performing acts of kindness can lead us to feel increased happiness in our lives. It can lead to enhanced creativity and more inner joy. These acts also help us shift our focus from ourselves to those who we are trying to help.

I believe that every day is an opportunity to pay it forward with kindness. I also believe that if I commit to doing one small act every day between now and New Year’s, I will feel more present and centered throughout this season. I’m sure I’ll get frazzled, emotional and/or anxious along the way, but I want to view this as a challenge and an opportunity to do things differently this year.

So on this glorious day, turn up the Christmas music in your house. Set your intention for this season. Get centered and get focused on what the spirit means to you.

Then, think about what 30 days of kindness could look life in your own life. Think about how it might change your life. If you’re a Sunday Paper reader, I have no doubt that this will be a challenge you can embark on with ease. And, if you do, I hope you’ll write to us and share your experience and how it makes you feel.


Dear God, thank you for the gift of this holiday season. Please help me remember the true spirit of this season and allow me to make someone else’s life just a little bit brighter in the days ahead. Amen.

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Writer Cecilia Meis Reflects on How ’30 Days of Kindness’ Can Enhance Our Sense of Well-Being

As I wrote above, I think this is a wonderful concept that we should all challenge ourselves to try. In this essay written by Cecilia Meis, a content editor for Success magazine, Meis documents what happened when she challenged herself to perform random acts of kindness for one whole month. Doing so, she says, allows for a “suppression of our ego, an analysis of our motives and a reflection on how these acts alter our perception of the world.” 

Author John O’Donohue Tells Us Why Our Differences Might Actually Unite Us

I’ve always loved the philosophy of the late bestselling author John O’Donohue. In this excerpt from his recently released book, “Walking in Wonder: Eternal Wisdom for a Modern World,” O’Donohue explores how opposites and differences are crucial to bringing us together.

Author Rebecca Schaper Reveals the Spiritual Gifts She Received From Her Brother, Who Suffered From Mental Illness

This is a very moving story of love and redemption. Twenty years after he went missing, Rebecca Schaper‘s brother Call returned broken and suffering from paranoid schizophrenia. The Light in His Soul: Lessons from My Brother’s Schizophrenia is Rebecca’s intimate memoir of helping Call, while also learning that his extraordinary gifts helped heal her family. 

Sr. Joan Chittister Reminds Us to Appreciate the Gift of the Full Harvest in Our Daily Lives

I love this short and thoughtful essay by Sunday Paper columnist Joan Chittister. Insightful as always, Sr. Chittister reminds us that life itself is a never-ending series of harvests, a different fruit for every time. 

Life Coach Nicola Salter Explains How to Open Our Hearts Through Acts of Gratitude

In this time of Thanksgiving and taking stock of our lives, Architect of Change Nicola Salter reminds us that it’s important to open the door to our hearts through acts of gratitude and appreciation to ourselves, first and foremost, before running to “put out fires” for others.


1. Toms Shoes Founder Blake Mycoskie Announces $5 Million Corporate Donation to End Gun Violence: I have long respected Blake Mycoskie and this latest act reminds me why he is the very definition of Architect of Change. On The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon this week,  Mycoskie, who is the founder of the philanthropic shoe company Toms, announced his new campaign to end gun violence. As part of it, he made a record-breaking donation and committed his company to evolve its model of giving to help further advance the cause. WATCH VIDEO ABOVE

2. Five-Minute Neck Scan Could Help Detect Cognitive Decline: According to a study by scientists at University College London (UCL), a five-minute neck scan that analyzes the pulse of blood vessels in the neck could become part of routine testing for cognitive decline. 

3. The Surprising Health Benefits of Gratitude: This is the time of year many of us take stock of what we’re grateful for. The good news is that there are both mental and physical health benefits to this practice. 

4. Your Brain Has A “Delete” Button. Here’s How To Use It: This interesting piece from Fast Company reveals how your brain makes space to build new and stronger connections so you can learn more.

5. Mystery Man Pays Off All Layaway Items at a Vermont Walmart: This is a wonderful example of a generous soul paying it forward. Burlington, VT, CBS affiliate WCAX reports that a mystery shopper paid off customers’ layaway items at a local Walmart just days before Thanksgiving, when the store’s storage room was already filled with gifts.

6. 400 Students Serenade Teacher With Cancer: This is such a heartwarming story of students’ love for their teacher. Hundreds of Tennessee students serenaded Ben Ellis, a Christ Presbyterian Academy teacher, who suffers from cancer, and this video went viral. WATCH THE VIDEO BELOW


“Food For Thought: Recipes For Ultimate Mind and Body Health” by Cristina Ferrare: NY Times bestselling author, chef, TV personality, and entrepreneur Cristina Ferrare shares delicious and brain-healthy recipes from the meals she makes for her family and friends. 


“The Light in His Soul: Lessons From My Brother’s Schizophrenia” by Rebecca Schaper: Rebecca Schaper’s intimate memoir tells the story of Call, her brother who was diagnosed with schizophrenia and his extraordinary gifts that helped heal Schaper and her family. Both Call and Rebecca bring light to the dark shadows of their past in this book. 


“Maverick and Me” Board Book Edition by Katherine Schwarzenegger: As a proud mom, I’m excited to announce that my daughter Katherine’s children’s book “Maverick and Me” was released this week in a board book edition. It makes the perfect gift for any child (and animal lover) in your life. I love this book, I love its message and, of course, I love her. Get it on  and 


This Cranberry Fruit Nut Holiday Sauce is healthy for your mind and body and perfect for the holidays and your Sunday Dinner. It was created by my friend Dr. Nancy Emerson Lombardo, founder and president of HealthCare Insights LLC and the Brain Health and Wellness Center. 

We hope you’ll keep sending along photos of your family dinners inspired by The Sunday Paper. E-mail us here and we’ll share them in upcoming editions of The Sunday Paper.


I love the work of renowned poet Naomi Shihab Nye and thought this poem of hers would be perfect to share this morning. It reminds us of the process of discovering and appreciating kindness in our lives.


We educate, engage and empower you to learn more about your cognitive health and care for your mind so that it can last you a lifetime. 

Broken Beauty: Piecing Together Lives Shattered by Early-Onset Alzheimer’s”

“As I’ve walked beside Mom through her incurable disease, I’ve begun to see love with a clearer, deeper understanding.” Read this beautiful and powerful excerpt from Sarah Bearden Smith, Beauty in Alzheimer’s, in her book, ‘Broken Beauty: Piecing Together Lives Shattered by Early-Onset Alzheimer’s.’ 


And finally…if you love what we’re doing here at The Sunday Paper … join us! Become a Sunday Paper Ambassador and help spread the word!