Giving hearts, generosity, and the willingness to give to others is something we do not measure or grade in school. Yes, the children receive a behavior grade but that’s more about how compliant and respectful they are. One very important life skill is the willingness and desire to give to others, without wanting anything back in return. Children who care about others and take time for kindness goes a long way in the climate of the school, and the long-term success of a society.
Yes, I do know many, many kind kids doing kind things every day. From letting someone go first on the swing, to helping the new Chinese girl who doesn’t speak English, to inviting the new kid to play, I do witness and know this happens every day. And, I have even started a ‘Kindness Club’ at one of my schools, with the plan to do this at both schools all the time. The goal is instead of kids looking for and pointing out what their peers are doing wrong, let’s change our lenses and be looking for classmates doing something right! Peer pressure is powerful so I am asking kids to recognize their peers and give them a ‘brag tag’ when they notice them doing something kind.
They don’t have to wait for some monumental act. I want them to notice little things that go a long way. We meet every Friday, them choosing to give up their recess, so that we can read their kindness reports and pass out the ‘brag tags’. They are proud and I call them my ‘Kindness Ambassadors’! During this time together, they cannot say anything negative so it’s really a break for me as the Counselor. I need this too! Basically, I do believe kids and people are good. And, I want children to have this positive outlook too.
But, many times kids just do this (and more!) on their own. In fact, I recently had a group of popular 5th grade girls come to me about an idea they have. A group of 5 girls came to me with the idea to raise money to get clothing and food for kids in Africa. One of the girls learned about doing something like this through her church. They enthusiastically told me about their plan, which they had already discussed and written out. They already had a monetary goal of $500 and a plan to raise the money selling candy bars and making t-shirts.
What’s so neat about this group is although they aren’t all necessarily poor, some of their families are struggling too. Several of the girls’ families are receiving a Thanksgiving basket. And while these students may not even know this, these kind students have the desire to help others and give back when they themselves don’t live an extravagant lifestyle. They live in subsidized apartments and go to our after-school program for free. And, they initiated this service project on their own!
And while I really love my own children’s school and their friends who are growing up in a much more comfortable lifestyle, I have only had one boy at my children’s school initiate something like this within in the last 5 years that I’ve been there. At my Title-1 school, where these families are struggling to get basic needs met, this is the third time that I have had a student or students come to me with their own idea for a service project! The first time, a solo girl collected clothing for homeless people (because her own mother was homeless, and she was living with grandmother). And last year, I had two spectacular girls come up with the idea to collect change to buy clothing to donate to local shelters. So far, both projects have been successful! You may have even read about them in the West Shopper News because I think these little but big things deserve some recognition.
So, this year, I am again excited to help them organize their ideas. Starting on Thanksgiving, we will begin collecting money for Heifer International, an international organization that brings animals that promote sustainability and create food and products into remote, poor places all over the world. When I worked in Anderson County schools, we raised money for Heifer and I found that the kids loved the idea of buying an animal. It’s a reputable way to reach remote villages in need, like these girls want to do. And, like my experience now, my poorest schools (Briceville El.) gave the most!
I am just amazed and so proud when kids who have the least want to give back. That is a quality that’s not measured or graded in school but is SO important, and will take them far in life. It will take our society far. You don’t have to have the most to give the most. So, be looking for an article about these outstanding, generous girls this December and to find out what animal(s) we end up donating!