A few weeks back in all-school meeting, I decided, quite on the spur of the moment, that we would spend a few minutes celebrating World Kindness Day, which, as outlined by the World Kindness Movement, is designed “to highlight good deeds in the community focusing on the positive power and the common thread of kindness which binds us.” My exercise of choice was simple: I had my assistant Ms. Walters randomly select one faculty member and one student from each grade and then I publicly presented to each of them one of my “You’re Awesome” cards.
It probably won’t surprise you to know that “You’re Awesome” cards have, on the outside, that very two-word phrase and contain on the inside quotations from famous people about kindness and gratitude—about being your best you. That morning, with great pomp and circumstance, Ms. Walters announced a name. I then presented the card to the student and shouted, “You’re Awesome!” The recipient opened the card and read the quotation aloud.
Sounds goofy, right? But I wish you could have heard the joyful noise, seen the spontaneous smiles, that filled Morse Hall that morning. No one particularly concerned themselves with who received a card—this was no award you thought you should have won; there wasn’t any transactional value to the card. It was just a lovely moment in which we recognized that each recipient had very likely been, in some way, to someone, at some time, truly awesome.
Adam and Allison Grant recently published an essay in the Atlantic Monthly that has gone a bit viral, at least within the Twitterverse I tend to reside. Titled, Stop Trying to Raise Successful Kids...and Start Raising Kind Ones,” they suggest that we, parents and educators, even as we extol the virtue of sharing and helping, tend to send very different messages to our children. They cite a survey of American parents about “what they want for their kids,” wherein more than 90 percent say “one of their top priorities is that their children be caring.” They then juxtapose that with how children respond to the same question: when asked what their parents want for them, 81 percent say, “their parents value personal achievement and happiness over caring.”
The Grants go on to present evidence that children who help others realize all sorts of unexpected benefits, including better grades and test scores in school and higher incomes and performance reviews in the workplace, down the road. More compellingly, “students who care about others also tend to see education as preparation for contributing to society—an outlook that inspires them to persist even when studying is dull.” Perhaps this is why a quick scan of the fields of choice of Falmouth Academy alumni turns up so many servant-leaders: people involved in public policy, political activism, environmental stewardship, medicine, education and other professions that constitute not only careers but callings.
Here at Falmouth Academy, we are knee-deep in the season of giving. Last month we collected $2,205 and 400 food items to support local food banks; last week, I spent the afternoon working at the Falmouth Service Center with 13 terrific kids, and this week, we will be “decorating” the Hat-and-Mitten Tree with new mittens, gloves, hats, and scarfs that will be donated to families in need.
Whether it is our choice of profession, widespread student participation in our various community service efforts, or the ongoing generosity of our many friends and benefactors, a philanthropic heart beats loudly at Falmouth Academy.
These days, your kids and I have been signing a ton of thank you cards addressed to the kind people who have made gifts in support of our school. Many of these friends do not have—and in some cases never did have—children at Falmouth Academy. Rather, for any number of reasons, they believe in what we are doing, think we are on the right track and agree that the world just needs more Falmouth Academy graduates.
To these people and so many more, I have but two words to offer: