As darkness descended upon us, we made a last-minute decision on the Fourth to take in the Sounds of Freedom Fireworks Extravaganza. So we threw our chairs into the back of the truck and headed down the road to the celebration. We parked and walked a few blocks to a prime spot on a hill just outside the venue, only to find that the mosquitoes had anticipated our arrival and were waiting there for us. As I was slapping and scratching, I heard the sweetest little voice from the chairs to my right ask, “Do you want to use our spray?” A random act of kindness to the rescue! I could not thank that little bug-spray hero enough. As I enjoyed the fireworks bite-free, I couldn’t stop reflecting on how he saw a need and jumped in to help out. And since he was kindergarten-aged, it made me think about school.
This past spring, I had the good fortune of serving as a National Schools of Character (NSOC) site visitor for the Character Education Partnership and, in that capacity, I was able to read the NSOC applications of some of our exemplar Character Schools. Mockingbird Elementary in Coppell ISD, one of the schools I had the pleasure of visiting, has a vision statement that goes something like this: If it’s important to you, it matters to me. Think about that statement through a kindness lens and imagine the empathy that this sort of vision promotes; it’s no longer all about me, but all about you. Like the little boy who saw that bug spray would be important to me and did something about it, kindness works from the inside out.
So, what can you do to promote a culture of kindness in your character building? Start with the students. Find out what they’d like to do. Ask them; they’ll know and they’ll be happy to tell you! Research ways they can help. Maybe they’d like to start a Do One Nice Thing Club or an Acts of Random Kindness Club. Maybe it’ll involve animals, the elderly, or the military. If they need help with specific ideas, turn to the literature. Read a book like Ordinary Mary’s Extraordinary Deed by Emily Pearson or One Smile by Cindy McKinley. In both of those gems, it’s a child who starts a chain reaction of kindness and good will.
Or perhaps use a book like KiKi’s Hats by Warren Hanson. This colorful jewel is special to me because it was sent to me out of the blue by a teacher who attended my workshop in Wisconsin. She knew that I would connect with this book and wanted me to have a copy. Another act of kindness, though quite purposeful and intentional. Anyway, in this story, KiKi sits and knits and then shares her handiwork. But when people want to buy her colorful creations, they quickly find that they’re not for sale. Nope, they’re for giveaway. She even gives two hats to the recipients of her kindness, one to keep and another to give away. And, in true Covey fashion, KiKi creates a win-win situation because, if the children she’s passing the kindness along to continue this simple sharing strategy, she will literally have had a hand in millions of kind acts through her generous gift giving. And guess what? KiKi’s heart gets bigger, too, with every piece of it that she gives away.
For more articles from Barbara Gruener, check out her blog here.