My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness. The Dalai Lama
(for privacy reasons, the names of all children in this essay have been changed)
When I was very young, my mother read to me every evening at bed-time. One of my favorites was Charles Kingsley’s “The Water Babies”. The two sub-aqua spinsters Miss Do-As-You-Would-Be-Done-By and Miss Be-Done-By-As-You-Did saw to it that the water-babies grew up into decent water-adults. Unlimited love and sweets combined with stern and unbending.
When I was eight years old, my parents sent me to boarding school in England hoping I would become a proper young lady. Unlimited love on their part? Always. Rationed sweets? Definitely. Stern and unbending educators? Oh yes. My new school in Farnborough was enchanting, the last home of Empress Eugenie, wife of Napoleon III, set in 26 acres of magnificent trees and massive rhododendrons which flowered gloriously every Spring. It was run by a motley collection of nuns, many from Ireland. They taught us the art of kindness through their own profound thoughtfulness, their humility, generosity, and gentle approach to life.
West Sedona School is also in a magical, majestical location. Thunder Mountain rises protectively above, Brins Mesa beckons intriguingly from the North, and the variety of trees spread generously around campus all encourage an idle visitor to step inside and stay a while. Perhaps like me, volunteering with the Sedona Literacy Center, at The Library or with Kindness in Schools “KIS”.
Angelo Dos Santos was eight years old when he arrived in Room 906, home of the Sedona Literacy Center, at the far end of the school campus. He was a joy to teach. Every time I asked him a question about the assigned book we were reading, he would slouch down slowly on his chair, tilt his head back with a cherubic look on his face, and answer “maaaybeee” in a slow pondering way. Within six months, with one-on-one tutoring, Angelo had caught up to his required reading level. Miguel Contrario was another student of mine. Once, halfway through our lesson, he rummaged around in his backpack, and gave me his own cartoon book about a dog involved in a lot of poop jokes. “You are too kind” I told myself, as I decided to let Miguelito read it to me.
One of my favorite authors, Mark Twain, wrote “Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.” Pam Hollenbach, Director of Kindness in Schools and our fearless leader, must have felt very much like the blind leading the blind, as we began this school year at West Sedona trying to navigate through new, new everything: new Principle, some new Teachers, a new KIS Schedule and brand new Security Requirements. Who knew how difficult it is to get finger-printed! Eventually, by November, there were enough of us to form teams of two and make monthly visits to every class from Kindergarten thru Third. By January, our Puppet Team was also cleared and ready to entertain every grade.
It is my first year working with KIS which was founded in 2016 under the SedonaKind umbrella whose mission is to Encourage Acts of Kindness, Large and Small, Locally and Around the World. Through KIS, our most hoped for intended consequence is to prevent bullying, now and in the future.
How do we do this?
Let’s talk about a particular book “The Kindness Quilt”. My teammate Peg Schlichtemeier and I had selected it to read aloud to our kindergarten class in January. We had a lively discussion with the children drawing on themes in the book like sharing and supporting. We considered the consequences of being nasty and mean. Our lessons always end with an activity inspired by the book we have just read. We helped the kids create a huge paper quilt with squares they designed showing what kindness means to them. At this age, a lot of them drew colorful stick pictures of their parents and wrote “I love Mom Dad” or a house with lots of squiggly lines which means they help out at home.
Looking back at the past school year, I have to smile as I remember the sheer fun we have had. The simple joy of teaching the children, appreciating their innocence and their boundless curiosity. They put their trust in us and in return we share our love of learning. Perhaps the greatest reward we receive is when the kids rush up to greet us, envelop us in the scrummiest of hugs, and happily yell “It’s The Kindness Ladies, It’s The Kindness Ladies!”
To learn more about KIS, Click HERE Or contact Pam Hollenbach, firstname.lastname@example.org