A large, handmade poster adorned the wall right inside St. Peter Interparish School in Jefferson City.
It contained the letters K, N and D.
Students stopped to stand between the K and the N, reminding themselves that they can’t have “KIND” without “I.”
The students and staff were observing Random Acts of Kindness Week, one deliberate act of kindness at a time.
“I think we could all use some more kindness in our life,” stated seventh-grader Caroline Hayes.
“It makes other people happy, and it makes you happy, too,” seventh-grader Maddie Schrimpf added.
Students made posters promoting kindness and posted them throughout the school.
At lunchtime, Student Council members sold “Candied Compliment Cards,” with the proceeds benefiting student philanthropies.
Each card was pre-printed with the words, “What I like about you is ...” Students, teachers and parents filled out the cards. Student Council members presented the cards to their recipients on Friday afternoon, along with a Tootsie Pop at the end of school.
Also on Friday, third- through eighth-graders took part in “Mix It Up At Lunch,” an activity designed to help them get to know different people better.
Teachers in the cafeteria handed out randomly colored pieces of candy to students while they stood in line. The colors determined where each student would sit for lunch that day.
To jump-start fun conversations, each student also received a list of unusual questions such as “Would you rather give up TV or music?” “Would you rather have a giant hamster or a tiny rhinoceros?” or “Would you rather dive into a swimming pool full of marshmallows or Jell-O?”
They were also encouraged to ruminate on favorite books, favorite pizza toppings, favorite board games and other bits of offbeat minutia.
Aside from having fun, the goal was “to make a new friend, get to know a little bit more about your classmates,” stated Sara Garner, St. Peter Interparish School’s counselor.
The school has more than 500 students.
“Some of our eighth-graders have been together since kindergarten, but in a school this size, it’s possible not to have one real conversation with this person or that person in all of those years,” Mrs. Garner noted. “So it’s nice for some of those kids to wind up spending a little time together at random and maybe even rekindle some old friendships.”
She said the Candied Compliment Cards are another great vehicle for choosing kindness over indifference.
“It’s important for kids to recognize good things about each other and to express their appreciation, whether it be for doing something kind or being cheerful or friendly or offering a smile,” she said.
Seventh-grader Lydia Gassen agreed that it’s important to notice when other people are being kind and to thank them.
Goodness and kindness
“I think it’s working out pretty good!” third-grader Hadlie Hubble said of the “Mix It Up At Lunch.”
Third-grader Nolan Vassos said it’s a nice part of Random Acts of Kindness Week.
“We’re learning how if you do random acts of kindness, then everybody might be nicer,” he said. “It’s fun that we’re sitting here at different tables and asking different questions about what people like and how we’re different from each other, to find out interesting stuff about them.”
Fifth-grader Kingston Forck said mixing up table mates at lunch could help people expand their circle of friends.
“We usually sit by our friends and don’t sit by different people,” he said. “But when you sit by new people, you might find something in common that you didn’t realize, and might become friends.”
“I like it,” said seventh-grader Mazie Patek. “We get to talk to other people we enjoy talking to. It’s really fun.”
She said kindness is important “because without kindness, there wouldn’t be friendship. There wouldn’t be love.”
Kingston said kindness makes the world better.
“Villains are usually made by people being mean to them,” he asserted. “If there’s no kindness in the world, we would probably see more villains, because there would be no one being kind to them.”
“He wants us to know”
Mrs. Garner said the goal for Random Acts of Kindness Week was to help create a more positive, affirming environment at school and ideally have that spill over into students’ interactions with friends and family.
“Hopefully, we’re all becoming a bit more friendly, a bit more forgiving and a bit more understanding,” she said.
That, Mrs. Garner insisted, is exactly what God wants.
“He wants us to know what’s special about ourselves, which all comes from Him,” she said. “And it’s our responsibility to tell each other, to give each other those compliments.”
Mrs. Garner is a St. Peter Interparish School graduate. This is her second year as the school counselor.
“There are teachers who have been here since I was a student,” she noted. “It’s kind of fun to work with the teachers who taught me!”
While she spends some one-on-one time with students, she mostly spends time visiting classrooms to offer guidance on navigating the world of academics, extracurricular activities, family life and friendships.
Each month, the school focuses on a positive character trait and pairs it with one of the theological virtues.
“We’re always trying to make those connections so the kids are aware of what those words mean and how they can live them out every day,” she said.
In the meantime, Kingston thinks the school should have “Mix It Up At Lunch” more than once a year.
“Maybe like four times,” he said. “Everyone likes being around different people, but we don’t usually do it because we also like being around our friends.”