In the End, Only Kindness Matters

Sunday, October 16, 2011 0 Comments A + a -

When I sat in last week's Rachel's Challenge parent presentation at Memorial Elementary School, it was the third time I had experienced to the multimedia presentation.  And for the third time, I witnessed many openly weeping at the emotionally-charged story of 17-year old Rachel Scott, the first victim of the April 20, 1999 Columbine High School shooting.  It is understandable, given the tremendous loss of Miss Scott, who by all accounts was an extraordinary young lady who treated all with acts of kindness and compassion.

That's the chief aim of Rachel's Challenge:  to perpetuate Rachel Scott's legacy to schoolchildren worldwide by presenting the story of her brief and prophetic life (she often told her family and friends that she felt that she would die young but would make a big difference in the world).  The presentation details Rachel's many acts of kindness and compassion- particularly to those who were different or disabled- and her thoughts from the six diaries she kept in her short life.  During the presentation students are invited to accept "Rachel's Challenge," five simple credos to live your life by.  They are:
  1. Look for the best in others.
  2. Dream big.
  3. Choose positive influences.
  4. Speak with kindness
  5. Start your own chain reaction of kindness.
Simple advice, no?  All of us- not just kids- sometimes need these reminders...

As I have been involved with this program for the past three years, I am often asked if it is an anti-bullying program. It isn't per se, as there is no formal curriculum that deals specifically with social skills and/or situations.  However, at the heart of bullying in schools is an examination of a school's climate and culture.  This program, with its emphasis on promoting prosocial behaviors between peers and students and staff and making explicit connections to kids and the community through community service, is undeniably beneficial to school climate. 

I look forward to seeing the Kindness and Compassion Clubs (the formal structure for promoting the five challenges) at Clough and Memorial begin their work.  In a society where there is often so division and lack of civility, it is great to see a program that stresses the basics in what we want in all of our kids:  kindness and compassion.

Many thanks to physical education teachers Chrissy Horn and Dan Hayes, Clough Principal Jan Gallagher, Memorial Principal Deb Swain, and the Mendon-Upton Education Foundation for bringing Rachel's Challenge to the elementary level.  Great work!