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SOUCHERAY: Take time to be kind

Kindness is a disposition. It is a way of approaching the world. Someone might say that it is akin to viewing the glass as half full rather than half empty. When we engage the world, we do so from a personal standpoint. It is not ambiguous or vague. It is our way of viewing and believing how the world works.

If we view the world as a kind and benevolent place, we will probably walk more confidently amid the trials we face each day. However, if we view the world as unkind and cruel, our experience will be very different. It has been said that the way we throw the ball out is the way we will get it back and kindness seems to be a bit like that. If we are kind to others, we will most likely be treated kindly in return. Not always, but most often.

As a word, kindness may appear soft or feminine. It may bring to mind times when people have been caring or thoughtful toward us. Or it may cause us to remember a time that someone was harsh or insensitive. Whatever it may be, the word kindness usually does not leave us with an ambivalent feeling. We generally have some response to the word, whether it is positive or not.

Terry Green, formerly of Independent School District 197, is responsible for bringing a program to the schools in that district that focused on kindness. The attentiveness to the concept of kindness in one school encouraged the children to become more aware of their part in bringing about a kinder climate for all students in the building. Their awareness of the importance of kindness brought a greater sense of safety to all students, so much so, that bullying was significantly reduced in all classrooms.

Ms. Green, who is now retired from her position as an elementary school counselor, developed a program entitled "Take Time To Be Kind," affectionately abbreviated "TTTBK." The school's adherence to this altruistic endeavor has brought national attention to their efforts. The program will be highlighted in an upcoming national publication for school counselors, outlining the program's foundation and function, as well as its many benefits.

Initially, TTTBK started with less than a dozen upper elementary students who created signs which were posted around the school building, encouraging the younger students in the school to treat one another more kindly. These older students made personal visits to the classrooms of the younger children, speaking to them about "The Kindness Project," as it was originally called. As Ms Green explained, "It was kids teaching other kids to be kind."

The program received a national grant to help expand the kindness initiative to the schools throughout its district, in which it is now thoroughly embedded. Initially greeted with rolled eyes and the comments that it was cute and fluffy, TTTBK is seen as simple and incredibly powerful because it works. It has reduced negative behaviors and encourages sincere caring and concern from one student to another at an entire school level.

If kindness is truly a disposition, or a way of looking at the world, what if each one of us did something today to be kind to someone else? Such a mindset may promote an entire city, not just a school district, to bring about a change in its self-definition and approach to the world.

We could allow someone to go first at a four-way stop. We could hold the door for someone coming into a store or building after us. We could pick up something that the person in front of us dropped. There are dozens of opportunities every day for us to be kind to others. Imagine the impact we could have through our gestures of paying attention and reaching out to someone at a time of need through the simple act of kindness.