One recent morning my wife and I drove to an appointment in Eminence, Ky., just outside of Louisville. It was a gorgeous start to a new day with the east ablaze with “sky blue pink” (as my wife calls it) behind a single bank of fluffy clouds. As we wound through the countryside we passed a colorful hand-made sign that read, “Be Kind.”
Smiling to ourselves, we reflected upon that message for a moment—and then we saw another sign. It was decorated differently, but the message was the same: “Be Kind.”
By the time we had arrived at our destination, we had seen six “Be Kind” signs, each uniquely decorated and bold in meaning.
We had only a week before seen the tender movie of the children’s TV icon Mr. Rogers, the gentle man in the red sweater. So the “Be Kind” signs brought back for us a particularly compelling conversation from that movie that Mr. Rogers had with the writer who was interviewing him for what became a famous story shared in Esquire magazine in November of 1998.
In his very Mr. Rogers voice, actor Tom Hanks had asked the author if he knew the three ways to ultimate success. After a thoughtful moment, Mr. Rogers said simply that those three are: Rule 1- Be Kind; Rule 2- Be Kind; and Rule 3- Be kind!
There in the waiting room, I took a moment to search the Internet for “Be Kind Signs” and found a link entitled Be Kind Signs in Oldham County, the county through which we drove. The signs were the work of two elementary school-age sisters wanted to spread a kindness message and had quickly found themselves in the sign business. They created each unique sign in response to charitable contributions to organizations and received orders for more than 800 “Be Kind” signs.
Now this blog is always about literacy, so my extension of their sweet work lies in my hope to ignite teachers and parents to explore with their children ways that they can make a difference with a creative use of words.
In school children practice creatively using words to compose stories and reports and speeches, of course. What if they could also use words to brighten their classmates’ day or boost their self esteem? One way would be to create a cardboard set of mailboxes, one for each member of the class, including their teacher(s). They could then write a note saying something sweet, lovely or funny to share with particular individuals, and invite their classmates to write back. Or parents could provide their children with writing and decorating materials so they could write notes or poems for their neighbors. Or maybe they could start a neighborhood newsletter or web page filled with kind messages and instances of when neighbors help one another.
What better way to teach children the power that words offer them to make a simple difference in the lives of others, their communities and the world?
Offer your ideas in “Reply” here, please!