2016-11-13

By Jared Burris, City Year AmeriCorps member on the Northwest Elementary School Team sponsored by Comcast NBCUniversal

“The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow. Do good anyway.” – Mother Teresa

Happy World Kindness Day!

World Kindness Day began in 1998, and has since been celebrated in many different ways around the world. One of the main ways that proponents of this day encourage people to celebrate is by performing random acts of kindness. This will show people how simple and yet impactful it is to be kind to others. Think of someone who you would define as being a kind person. Is this person kind because they give all their money to a charity and call it a day? Or does this person practice kindness throughout the day? Do they instead go about their everyday lives with a kind demeanor, always lending a hand when needed and being genuine with others, regardless of any differences?

While a bulk of our focus has to do with coursework and specific academic tasks, a year with City Year entails a great deal more than simply tutoring students. If I had to hone in on the one specific aspect of our service that I find most important or pressing, I would likely choose the socioemotional/behavior coaching and modeling that we provide. The main thing that I want to impart on the students I work with and interact with is the belief that everyone deserves our kindness, even if they have not necessarily been kind to us. This is a very tough concept for children, who will fight hard for things to always be “fair.” This desire for fairness typically leads to them going back and forth with each other in hurtful ways, often starting with something small and ending much larger. Some of this progress, namely, the growth of empathy, will certainly come with time spent in the world and interacting with others. It has been eye opening to hear about the encouragement some students have gotten from home when it comes to fighting. This makes my task seem quite daunting, although I have already seen some progress when it comes to thinking before acting. I know we can help our students grow up to be very thoughtful and kind adults.

I have often heard the idea of “modeling” positive behavior and social interactions for children, but I was always skeptical of how big of an impact it would actually make. Then one day, while my class was heading out to be dismissed for the day, I passed by a fellow corps member, and greeted her kindly and with a high-five. I saw one particular student of mine watching us very closely. He even continued to watch me after the other corps member had left. It really clicked with me at that point. This student has had some behavioral issues, more often than not involving members of the opposite sex. He might just need me to show him positive ways that a man and a woman can interact. I can’t help but feel like this is a very simple but important way that we are making a difference.

I encourage you, today and every day, to pay attention to how your actions impact others. Go out of your way to do small things for others, because it could make all the difference in their lives. Maybe you can’t put kindness on your resume but the world will be a better place because of you, even if it goes unnoticed.

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