GREENFIELD — They’ve shoveled snow for neighbors, baked cookies for friends, even donated the contents of their piggy banks to local charities.
Students and staff at one local elementary school are continuing the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy of embracing their neighbors with acts of kindness.
This week, Mt. Comfort Elementary School officials sent home “Pass it Forward” cards with students, who are tasked with doing a good deed with no expectation of anything in return. The event, in its second year at the school, is held in conjunction with the National Day of Service, which is celebrated on King’s birthday, which was Friday.
The National Day of Service was established by Congress in 1994 based on King’s vision of the “Beloved Community,” his vision of a brotherly, equal, nonviolent society, according to the Corporation for National and Community Service.
First-grade students in Amy McCleery’s class had a brainstorming session the week before the cards were sent home.
Rowan Startzman said she would make bookmarks for friends and family, while Andre Holt said he wanted to take the trash out before his parents asked.
The cards were sent home with students along with the encouragement to find a way to spread joy. The cards read, “You have received a ‘Pass it Forward’ Card. This means that someone has completed a good deed for you, and they wish nothing in return. All they want is that you pass on this card, along with a good deed, to someone else in need.”
The card adds that the recipient is not obligated to continue the chain of good deeds, simply that students and staff hope their day was made a little brighter by the gesture.
Mt. Comfort Elementary School principal Heather Whitaker said the “Pass it Forward” cards are part of the school’s efforts at character building and emphasizing serving others.
Whitaker said last year, her expectations for students’ good deeds were surpassed. Each year, she has parents send photos or video of their children’s deeds, and she creates a video compiling the “Pass it Forward” deeds.
One student, she remembered, took his piggy bank and gave pennies to children wanting to ride the mechanical horse at a local Meijer store, she said; another paid for a family’s order at Steak & Shake.
One particularly gratifying moment came last year, when a recipient of one of the “Pass it Forward” cards emailed Whitaker, saying how nice it was and that they would continue the good deeds.
She said the project teaches Mt. Comfort students the benefits of helping others and that kindness can be its own reward.
This year, a fourth-grade class took on the challenge with a group project, learning a “finger-knitting” technique and making scarves for people in need.
The efforts at teaching the value of kindness won’t end with the “Pass it Forward” cards, though — in February, Kind Kids Club will begin, Whitaker said. Students who participate will receive challenges each week, such as smiling at others or making the choice to play with a different friend than usual.
- In 1983, Congress creates a federal holiday marking the birthday of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
- In 1994, Congress makes the third Monday in January a National Day of Service, tasking the Corporation for National and Community Service with leading this effort to encourage volunteerism across the country.
- The National Day of Service is based on King’s vision of the “Beloved Community,” in which society would be brotherly, equal and non-violent.