By Andrew Redlund, AmeriCorps member serving on the Bakersville Elementary School Team.
Mass media and the rapid spread of information can make the world seem to be a scary place. Often on the news, stories of tragedy and pain are given the most attention, while the best of humanity is pushed off to the side. In response to this growing trend, organizations all over the world came together to promote the good going on in the world by recognizing acts of kindness. The first World Kindness Day was held on November 13th, 1998, and it has been recognized every year since. The mission to spread positivity and kindness throughout the world is one that I find vital. Human beings are social by nature. We are dependent on one another for survival and working in teams is one of the things that allowed humans to become the dominant species on this planet. Kindness towards one another is the basis of trust that allows groups of humans to come together and solve our biggest problems.
At an individual level, kindness and belief in our fellow humans helps to keep us going. We’ve all had hard days at work, school, and handling the pressures of daily life. On those hard days, it’s the small victories that keep us going; small acts of kindness from others go a long way. An act of kindness also does more than just help the recipient; it can be a positive force for everyone nearby.
In my work with City Year, I am always amazed by what my students do for one another. One day, one of my students found out that he did not make the basketball team and he was devastated by it. He immediately shut down, and I went over to console him. However, I only took two steps before three other students were around him giving him hugs and building him up. In a matter of seconds, they had him laughing again. Their kindness and compassion towards a fellow student raised his spirits and let him have a normal day.
On Halloween, I was walking with two students that I work with. Most kids at the school had dressed up in their Halloween costumes, ready for a night of trick-or-treating. One of the students began to break down and cry because he had no costume and would not be trick-or-treating that night. Without hesitation, the other student began coming up with ways that he could make his own costume and offered to share the candy she would collect that night with him the next day. He was so appreciative of his friend’s offer and didn’t feel bad about not having a costume for the rest of the day.
In both cases, these acts of kindness had a huge impact on the person who received the kindness, and they also had a positive effect on everyone else present during the act. When my class got together to console one student, the whole class had a better day too. There was a stronger sense of calm for the rest of the day and the normal drama of a 5th grade classroom disappeared for an afternoon. For the rest of the day, everyone got along. The student who offered to share her Halloween candy often struggles to be considerate to others and gets frustrated easily, but she had her best day with her class and was all smiles every time I saw her for the rest of the day. One act of kindness lead to another with her all day long.
On World Kindness Day I think it is important to look at the impact that kindness can have on an individual, and what a beautiful world this can be. I can say without doubt that watching a whole class of kids come together to support one student, whether or not they were friends, was one of the most heart-warming experiences I have had. This November 13th I hope you will all remember how acts of kindness have affected you and your loved ones, and how something as simple as a smile or a hug can mean the world to someone else.
If you or someone you know is interested in serving a year with City Year, check out our application homepage! Our next application deadlines are November 16th and January 25th.