by Justin Clarke, Co-Founder of The Honey Foundation
Webster's definition of Kindness is incorrect. (Or, I misunderstand the word)
The way I see it? Kindness is a Verb. It's an action. You've got to act out to start any form of Kindness in this world. Open a door. A friendly wave. A smile. Someone has to start.
kind·ness ˈkīn(d)nəs / noun
- the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate.
- a kind act. plural noun: kindnesses"it is a kindness I shall never forget"
Notice: The definition doesn't say; "Sit back and be quiet".
In my eyes, Kindness is more than a noun. Kindness is more than a quality. Kindness, like love, is a noun & a verb. The word carries more meaning and purpose than most would originally think. Ex. "Kindness opened her heart."
What do 3rd Graders think about Kindness?
Not long ago, an Arizona charter school invited several Valley Leaders (including me) to meet their students for their annual Read-A-Thon event. Since I had recently co-founded a new charitable organization dedicated to Kindness (www.honeyfoundation.org), I thought I would focus my time with the kids around one particular subject, Random Acts of Kindness.
My class was filled with over Sixty 3rd Graders, and they were excited to be there. After introducing the students to The Honey Foundation, our HoneyBee Mascot, and a little about Bees & Kindness, I asked the students if they could give me some examples of simple random acts of kindness they can perform at school or at home.
I was excited to see several hands rise, so I called on one boy first. His response...
"Don't hit anyone."
All the kids seemed to nod in agreement.
I was caught off-guard, because I certainly didn't see 'not' performing a bad act as a performing good one; as I don't see value in someone choosing not to be bad. In my mind, you have to choose to be good. But, I thanked the boy for his answer anyways.
Next, I called on a young girl, and certainly was hoping for something closer to what I considered to be a kind act or a good deed. And she replied...
"Don't YELL at anyone."
And, there it was again. Another behavior to remember NOT to act out. But, all the kids seemed to agree about her answer, too! The students certainly understood what behaviors they shouldn't perform. But, did the kids understand what it meant to be kind? Did they understand what they can do to show kindness to each other? After the first two responses, it didn't seem so.
Nearly every response I received was about something you shouldn't do. Don't litter! Never talk back. Don't cut in line! Don't steal!
Stunned. I moved forward. Thanking the children for their responses, I began reading an excerpt from the book, Pay It Forward, by Catherine Ryan Hyde. In it, I feel truly explains the meaning of kindness, and how one small act can start a ripple of kindness that keeps spreading on and on, to many others, near and far away.
I explained what kindness meant to me. I talked about things you can do every day to be kind to your family, friends, or neighbors in the community. Open doors. A helping hand. A friendly Call. A Gesture. A Smile. In my mind, the simplest acts of kindness help us all remember one primary importance of this life - learning how to love others as much as we love ourselves.
Afterward, I asked the children if they had other random acts of kindness they thought they could do at home or at school- after hearing more about the importance of kindness and the stories we shared?
- Sharpen pencils for our teacher!
- Pick up trash around school!
- Open the door for my friends.
- Share my snacks with my brother.
- Call my grandma to say hello!
On and on they went. It seemed, Kindness was spreading before our eyes. With each new answer came another. And another. The kids were so excited, they seemed ready to start practicing kindness right away!
In the weeks after, I received dozens of letters from those 3rd graders. Each one had a special story to tell, and I was really happy to see the kids not only learned the importance of kindness, they were beginning to practice the new behaviors every day! The kids were acting on their desire to spread kindness everywhere they went. And, the habit of kindness was born. In their letters, the students shared:
- I shared the last cookies with my siblings, even though I didn't get any.
- I took out the garbage and cleaned my room without being asked.
- I let my brother play my video games on a long car ride.
- I promise not to bully anyone at school anymore.
Here was this 3rd Grader, "Billy", who just said he wasn't going to BULLY any other kids anymore. He went on to describe that he understood the importance of kindness, and how his actions were the opposite and he wanted to change. He promised to start practicing Kindness from now on.
Whoa. I never expected that. The letter stopped me in my tracks. I always imagined that talking about kindness could start to rid our world of violence and negative behavior towards others; but I didn't know it would happen that quick. In 1 Hour, we changed the life of one young boy. We also changed the lives of any other student who was being bullied by this one. I'm also sure these positive behaviors might also extend now into his home life, affecting how he treats his entire family. Filled with joy myself, I am proud of what kindness can do, and promise to keep up our quest for kindness in the world.
At home or at work. At school or in your church. You can start a culture of kindness, too. Just start practicing selfless acts of kindness, and start watching the world around you change before your eyes. No longer blinded by the shaded lenses we live when we only think of ourselves.
Open your heart to the willingness to act with friendly, generous, and considerate behaviors and Kindness will follow you everywhere you go.
Interested in learning more about Kindness? www.honeyfoundation.org
The Honey Foundation, a 501c3 charitable organization, provides Kindness Education Programs to K-12 Students & Schools. Statistics and New Data shares the importance of Kindness in creating an atmosphere for learning where all students feel safe and ready to learn.
"We beelieve the World receives Hope, through Kindness."