Every winter, thousands of schools across the globe celebrate Kindness Week, empowering students to create a culture of kindness. Started by the nonprofit Kids for Peace in 2011, the Great Kindness Challenge was designed to give students the opportunity to repeat kind act after kind act, turning actions into good habits. This year was the second year that the National Junior Honor Society at Hamilton Middle School participated by using The Great Kindness Challenge as a way to inspire students to go above and beyond in showing kindness to one another.

The checklist, which asks students to do things like “Smile at 25 people,” “Pick up 10 pieces of trash on campus,” and “Bring a flower to office staff,” is a great way for students to get creative with the ways they participate. Every student is encouraged to complete as many kind deeds as possible throughout the week and to have a teacher or parent confirm checked items. The completed checklists are then turned in and participating students and teachers will have a chance to win a prize at the end of the week.

Keegan Barnette and Leena Davis

Keegan Barnette and Leena Davis

“We wanted to start Kindness Week here at Hamilton Middle School to highlight what the National Junior Honor Society is all about, and to spread joy and happiness throughout the school,” said Keegan Barnette, Chair of the Kindness Committee. “Last year, the majority of the school participated, including students, teachers and staff.”

In addition to the checklist, students get into the spirit by dressing up for special days, such as Twin Day (Twice as Nice) or Mix-Matched Shoes (Step Into Kindness). Last year, the NJHS Kindness Committee also wrote personal notes for each and every student at the school, placing the notes on lockers.

Leena Davis, President of the NJHS at Hamilton, hopes that the spirit of kindness will continue long after this week is over. “Our hope is that those participating will pay more attention to the items on the checklist, and start to do these things more throughout their every day routines.”

Inspired by the students’ initiative, Hamilton Middle School’s Partner in Education, Pickering Associates, created a Great Kindness Challenge of their own for employees. Instead of “Saying ‘Thank You’ to a crossing guard,” the list encourages employees to complete deeds such as “Pay for someone else’s coffee,” “Think before you speak,” and “Offer to fix something for someone else.”

“Kindness tends to be simpler than most realize,” said Nick Arnold, Architectural Designer at Pickering Associates. “Usually it’s just an opportunity to listen and understand, even if you don’t share the same perspective. Kindess can be just a pause – a pause from our busy lives to connect with those around us, be it a close friend or a total stranger. To reassure others that we’re on this planet together and we both want to see it shine even brighter tomorrow.”

The great thing about kindness is that it is not limited to a single week – the suggested deeds on The Great Kindness Challenge can be completed at any time, and are only a few of the millions of ways that we can make a difference in others’ lives. How can you pay it forward this week and spread a little extra kindness around the Mid-Ohio Valley?