Monday, January 27, 2014

Reminders on Kindness

By Michele Corbat
"I have this theory that if one person can go out of their way to show compassion, then it will start a chain reaction of the same. People will never know how far a little kindness can go."
Rachel Joy Scott (1981-1999)
Student, First Victim Of The Columbine High School Massacre

Do you know about Rachel's Challenge?  If you don't, stop reading this RIGHT NOW and check it out.  I've written about this before when people in my life have reminded me about the impact of kindness.  I've been reminded of this in two very powerful ways once again.

The first way breaks my heart into a million pieces.  The first way is how heart-breaking it is to others when we are intentionally unkind.  Maybe you haven't heard yet, but there's a new fad going around where high school and middle school Confessions accounts are popping up all over Twitter.  Or maybe it has been going on for a while and I am just finding out.  These accounts are places for students of these schools to send anonymous tweets that are supposed "confessions" along with their grade level.  These accounts are nothing more than horrible examples of keyboard courage.  According to, keyboard courage is:

Keyboard Courage
Function: noun
descriptive quality: 1: A quality or characteristic displayed by a person through the written word that this person would not ordinarily possess. 2: The confrontational attitude exhibited by someone via an anonymous entry to an internet web-page or posting. 3: An attitude demonstrated by someone when they realize that actions taken by them or words written by them across a computer connection will have little, if any, personal repercussions. 4: A false bravery possessed by an individual who does not possess the true quality in person.

Sadly, some of these accounts have shown up in my school district.  I have read the tweets.  Some are terribly hurtful and I wonder what the person named in the tweet is feeling.  Is she wondering what everyone will think when they see her at school?  Is he thinking that people will laugh at him and make fun of him?  Does he want to seek revenge for the anger he is feeling from his hurt?  Words are POWERFUL and unkind words can kill us!

But then, I was also reminded of the power of kindness; how small acts of kindness can cause someone to feel loved, to make someone's day, to heal and to inspire.  My colleague, Chris Carney, is battling the fight of his life.  One month ago, he was diagnosed with cancer.  He has been feeling excruciating pain for more than a year with the sources not found until recently.  Chris is a popular teacher, one who children love.  It's not uncommon to walk past Chris' classroom and see him playing his guitar and singing to or with his children.  Or to see him dress up as Superman to remind children how they are heroes for their acts of kindness.  Chris' wife, Christy, is also a teacher in my school.  She is one of the sweetest and kindest people you could ever know.  It's not uncommon to find a note from Christy letting you know she is thinking about you and praying for you when she knows you are facing struggles.  It's no surprise that she's taking unpaid time off from school to care for Chris.  

When Chris was diagnosed, just days before Christmas, teachers, parents, and community members stepped up immediately to show the Carney's just how much we love them.  Within days, a benefit was organized with information shared on Facebook and Twitter accounts.  People jumped in to lead committees, businesses donated gift cards and merchandise, students made cards and wrote letters, and teachers donated sick days.  One act of kindness led to another act of kindness and so on and so on. 

After only a few weeks of organizing, an amazing benefit took place yesterday.  The roads were ice-covered and temperatures were barely above 0, however HUNDREDS of people came.  People volunteered their time to work the various areas of the benefit.  Many donated more than the minimum amounts for admission or bake sale items. It was the top story on our local news.  Check it out here. At this point, more than $17,000 has been collected and this amount continues to grow as donations are still rolling in.  Acts of kindness filled the entire room!

However, Chris and Christy were not able to come to the benefit as Chris has only recently been released from the hospital and cannot compromise his immune system.  But the power of technology did not stop us from bringing them there.  The best part of the day for me, were the times we spent connected with Chris and Christy through our Skype visits.   To see their students, past and present, come to the iPad and tell them "I love you" or "We miss you", made my heart smile.  To see Chris and Christy smile from ear to ear as people talked with them was the best feeling in the world.  When we told them that $12,000 had been raised by 5:00 with still two hours to go, the expressions on their faces said it all!

Photo courtesy Kirsten Lovely
We all need to remember that what we say and what we do matters.  Life is short.  Rachel Scott said, "Tomorrow is not a promise, but a chance."   Will our actions and words help others feel hope or feel despair?  It's our choice.  I choose kindness.  I choose acts of love.  It feels so much better!


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