Homework assignment: Do some good

MT. COMFORT — The idea came to him when munching dinner at Steak ‘n’ Shake.

Fourth-grader Gavin Gritter had been given a homework assignment to do something nice for someone else. He was among the 522 Mt. Comfort Elementary School students told to “Pass It Forward” on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

A family of four — a mother with three young kids — sitting nearby caught Gavin’s eye. He reached into his pocket and handed them $10 of his own money plus a tiny card, encouraging them to also pass forward a good deed.

“I love to help people,” Gavin said afterward. “I think it’s fun, (and) she was really happy.”

It’s stories like Gavin’s that make Mt. Comfort Elementary Principal Heather Whitaker beam. Whitaker had the idea for an inaugural program in honor of Martin Luther King. Students attended school on the holiday to make up for a snow day, so Whitaker decided each student’s only homework assignment that day would be to do a good deed for someone else.

“We do it in the school (for Random Acts of Kindness Week) but I also wanted to do something outside, into the community,” Whitaker said.

There were chores done around the house, meals made for grieving families, and cookies — lots of cookies — for neighbors or friends.

Siblings Brynn and Corbin Elliott surprised their mother with a hot cup of coffee when she came home from walking the dog.

Kaleb Lovell took out the trash for his father, who is busy studying to become a principal.

“He was really surprised,” the fifth-grader said.

Colin Smith took a few pennies from his bank to Meijer, to give to children to ride Sandy the horse.

“I got to ride, my little sister got to ride, and then we handed out pennies,” the first-grader said. “Some of them were babies, so I gave them to their parents, and they said, ‘Thank you.’”

Colin’s teacher, Amy McCleery, said she loved hearing all of her students’ stories of giving.

“It encouraged them to think about others instead of just thinking about themselves,” she said.

Fourth-grade teacher Alison Moore said her students really took to the project — so much so that they’re now finger-knitting scarves together to give to a homeless shelter in Indianapolis. She said that was one of dozens of ideas they came up with as a class.

Children often want to help others, Moore added, but don’t know where to begin.

“They really understand compassion, so this just gives them an outlet for it,” Moore said.