by Shari Kline
|Many of you may be familiar with the Kindness Matters shirts that are sold to support the Kindness Matters 365 Foundation. I have several and wear them often. Not long ago I was wearing my kindness matters tank top as I was shopping for groceries. The gentleman bagging my groceries noticed my shirt and said, “Kindness Matters, huh?” I replied, “Everyday.” He said, “Well, not all the time.” I thought for a moment and then responded to him that I am not kind for how it makes other people feel. I’m kind because I like the way it makes me feel. At that moment his face changed and I saw a spark of something in him. He got it. His whole demeanor changed and we had a nice conversation. That’s what the Kindness Matters 365 program is for me. It’s creating that spark in our children. Letting the children know that they can make a difference in the world around them. And that it feels good to do so.
|Parents know and researchers confirm that generosity benefits the giver as much as the recipient. The benefits of fostering children’s charitable impulses are enormous. It gives kids a powerful boost in self-esteem to realize they can make a difference in someone’s life. Not all children are good at the other things that can hike self-esteem like getting good grades, being a skilled athlete or a gifted artist. But, EVERYONE can help others and make a worthwhile contribution in our world.
According to a study conducted by the Corporation of National Community Service, kids who participate in service to others, do better in school and are less likely to try drugs. Also, people who regularly lend a hand tend to be healthier and these wellness benefits increase if they start charitable work earlier in their life.
|Research demonstrates doing volunteer work that involves personal contact makes people feel physically better. There’s a literal endorphin rush for the giver, the givee and anyone watching. In preparing this article, I was trying to think of a way to describe the feeling that I get from leading our Kindness Matters 365 programs and seeing the children act in service to others. I thought of a line from the book, How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Near the end of the story when the Grinch has an epiphany witnessing the love and community of the residents in Whoville, the story reads, “The Grinch’s small heart grew three sizes that day.” That’s how it feels. My heart swells. Not only because I have witnessed the children doing good deeds, but because I know that these experiences will have a lasting effect on who these children grow up to be.
|Our after-school Kindness Matters 365 programs typically meet once per month with special guest speakers who represent a variety of charitable organizations. In the weeks prior to each meeting, we have a school-wide donation drive to support the speaker’s charity. Then, at the meeting, the students present our guests with the items collected from the donation drive. The children sit in rapt attention. They ask intelligent, thoughtful questions. And they get to experience an altruistic joy that will stick with them for a lifetime. By presenting the club with such a variety of guest speakers, students see that giving back can come in many different ways.
Probably our student-favorite and most moving meeting is the Florence Fuller Holiday Party. Florence Fuller is a child care center for children of low-income families. Our KM365 students host a holiday party with treats and gifts for the kids. Each host student has a Florence Fuller “buddy”. The buddy pairs hang out for the afternoon getting to know each other. It is beautiful to see our club members opening their hearts and catering to these children to give them an extra special day.
|This event never ceases to move me to tears. Quiet moments caught with the kids sharing laughs, playing games together and, of course, the excitement of giving the kids their several presents.
After my first Florence fuller holiday party, I was discussing with a friend that I was pleasantly surprised. Before the party, I was a little concerned that our KM365 students may have a hard time with the fact that we were giving gifts for the Florence Fuller kids but not the KM365 kids. I think it is hard for a child to do that sometimes. But I was wrong. Not once did any of our club members ask for or expect anything. At this point in my conversation, my oldest son (the first Kindness Matters 365 program member in our family) piped in. He said, “But mom, it’s like we got an imaginary gift, when those kids smiled, that was our gift.”
|Something very special is happening because of the Kindness Matters 365 programs, giving children and teens the opportunity to be in service to others. Whether we are making hope bags for the homeless, care packages for the overseas soldiers or encouraging the rescue of animals, service to others sets off a cycle a happiness…giving makes people happy and happiness promotes giving.