Challenge Yourself to Kindness

There is a woman in California who may love kindness even more than I do.

I know, it’s shocking. Her name is Marla and I’m thinking of road-tripping to sunny California to see if it’s true. I may even be able to write off the trip off on my taxes next year under the heading “research.”

Anyway, when Marla emailed me about something cool happening at her daughter’s school, I had assumed the school was in the Fargo-Moorhead area. It wasn’t until I followed up that I found out the school is in Tustin, Calif. Very confused, I wrote her again asking, “How does a woman in Orange County, Calif. find out about a kindness column in Fargo, N.D.?”

She said she gets Google alerts about kindness-related articles. Wow! I didn’t even know that was possible. That is a whole new level of Internet savvy.

Marla’s story tugged on my heartstrings. Her daughter had to switch schools in the middle of the year because of bullying. Her daughter is in elementary school. Kindergarten through fifth grade. It’s hard to believe that unkindness can start so young.

Marla’s daughter is having a much better year since making the switch. In fact, her new school, Red Hill Elementary, not only prohibits bullying, but it actively promotes a culture of kindness.

There are so many schools in the F-M area that operate this way I had assumed that’s just how elementary schools work. Not so. It turns out that creating an environment of kindness is something both people and educational institutions need to purposefully pursue.

Marla’s daughter’s school is part of a worldwide movement called The Great Kindness Challenge.

More than 4,100 schools in 47 countries agree to dedicate a week to “catching” kids in the act of kindness. More than 2 million students have participated in 2015. That’s a lot of kindness.

Each school gets a checklist of 50 ideas which include, “draw a picture and give it to someone,” “pick up five pieces of trash on campus,” and “sit with a new group of kids at lunch.”

Kids are kids. They are still learning and they like prizes, so the students earn rewards along the way for their kind behavior.

Marla said she and her daughter have continued to use the checklist, even though the challenge is over, because they love it so much.

This month, the Tustin City Council will honor the students and the teachers for their efforts, and the principal is already looking forward to participating in The Great Kindness Challenge again next year.

You may not be able to partner up with a school or business to make kindness a team effort, but you can partner up with a bunch of strangers who all agree that doing good is a good thing to do! For the week of May 11-17, a group called “Do All the Good You Can” is promoting a week of kindness. Basically, you do as many random acts of kindness as you can and then post them on Facebook.

If social media isn’t your thing, then perhaps you can use this next week to just quietly do something you wouldn’t have otherwise done. Consider it your own Great Kindness Challenge. But watch out, because kindness is contagious.

Please continue to share your stories of kindness with me at info@nicolejphillips.com. Or send a letter to Kindness is Contagious c/o Nicole J. Phillips, The Forum, 101 5th St. N., Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107.

Nicole J. Phillips is a former television anchor for Fox News in Fargo. She is a writer, speaker and mother of three kids. Nicole is married to Ohio University’s Men’s Head Basketball Coach Saul Phillips. Her columns run every Saturday.

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