My friend was telling me a story about her son who is a freshman in college. He noticed a peer consistently walking to class without a coat. So he gave him his own.
No fanfare. No conversation or touching exchange of words as the coat was quietly laid on his desk. Just an offering that says, “I see you and I care.”
I have to believe the young man receiving the coat will remember that act of kindness for the rest of his life. Maybe it will be just the nod of confidence he needs to keep on going to create a life different than he had known.
But what about my friend’s son? How does that happen? How do we create kids who are not only willing to do the right thing, but actually notice the need in the first place?
I think we have to teach them to see.
That is exactly what Sheri Jordan is doing at Bennett Elementary School in Fargo.
She’s been taking her class of fifth graders to the Great Plains Food Bank every December for the last 10 years. Parents have always stepped up in abundance as volunteer drivers. Sheri says the experience is so impactful that many of those same parents and children go back and volunteer again with their entire families.
Our world being what it is, rules are often put in place to protect our children. One of those new rules states that teachers can no longer use parents as drivers to transport the kids to the food bank.
No ride means no field trip.
But perhaps that rule is exactly what paved the way for extraordinary kindness.
Every year, a group of women from Fargo are invited to a holiday gathering where they party for a purpose. Each woman brings canned goods or cash donations to fill the food bank pantry.
It was at this event that Sheri ran into Tracy Green, a high school classmate and Fargo area realtor.
When Tracy heard that Sheri wasn’t going to be able to take her class to the food bank this year, she offered to talk to her friend, John McLaughlin, from Valley Bus company.
John offered the bus, Tracy’s realty company paid for the driver and before you know it, Sheri, 27 fifth graders and a few parent volunteers were on their way to the food bank to spread some holiday cheer.
In just one hour, those students had packed 326 backpacks for kids in North Dakota schools.
Sheri says each one of her kids left there feeling like Santa Claus:
“My students, for the most part, are from homes where their basic needs are met or exceeded. We do have some students at Bennett Elementary who receive them, but not as many as most Fargo Elementary Schools. The 326 backpacks that the students created are distributed on a weekly basis to students who may not have food in their homes to eat over the weekend.
It is so powerful for my students to learn that some children are living in homes with that depth of need. Children inherently want to be helpers. I witness such empowerment in them when they are given the opportunity to make a difference in another child’s life.
They come back to the classroom more excited and pleased with themselves than with any other experience I have witnessed. They truly experience the joy of giving.
I think when kids can experience this feeling at a young age it plants the seed of joy in them that continues to grow throughout a lifetime.
If my students can leave my classroom having experienced kindness and the joy of giving, then I have made a difference that extends far beyond elementary school.”
Thanks to some kind adults who have learned to see a need and fill it, Sheri is able to continue creating a whole new generation of givers whose kindness will ripple for years to come.
You can learn more about the Great Plains Food Bank or make a donation at www.greatplainsfoodbank.org.
Please continue to share your stories of kindness with me at email@example.com. Or send a letter to Kindness is Contagious c/o Nicole J. Phillips, The Forum, 101 5th St. N., Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107.
Nicole J. Phillips is a former television anchor for Fox News in Fargo. She is a writer, speaker and mother of three kids. Nicole is married to Ohio University’s men’s head basketball coach Saul Phillips. Her column runs every Saturday. You can visit Nicole at nicolejphillips.com.