A Daily Dose of Kindness
Empowering Students to Do Good
A Proposal for a
I. The Need
The purpose of this project is to inspire
young people to have dreams for the future and to give them the
confidence and the skills they need to pursue those dreams.
While the curriculum will benefit all
students, it will make a crucial difference in the lives of
students who live in communities where poverty and violence are
common. Jacqueline Jordan Irvine illustrates this point in the
address she presented on the campus of Howard University on
November 3, 1999 which was reprinted in The Journal of Negro
Several years ago, I had a brief
conversation with a nine-year-old African American boy that I
want to share with you. I was sitting on the steps of my church
in a working-class Atlanta neighborhood, waiting for the
locksmith to open my car, when an inquisitive little boy spotted
me and jumped on his bike to get a closer look. After persuading
him that he did not have to break into my car to retrieve my
keys, I asked my new friend, Darius, to sit down and talk. I
asked him the usual boring questions that adults ask children:
"What's your name? How old are you? Where do you go to school?
What's your teacher's name?" Finally, I asked, "What do you want
to be when you grow up?" After responding quickly to the other
questions, he stalled on the last, and said, "I don't wanna be
nothing." "Oh, come on," I said. "There are so many wonderful
and exciting things to dream about-being a teacher, an
astronaut, a businessman, a mechanic, a policeman. Just close
your eyes and let me know what you see yourself doing when you
get to be all grown up."
Darius hesitantly followed my
directions. He closed his eyes, folded his arms over his chest,
and lifted his head toward the sky as if he needed divine
inspiration for such a difficult task. After 15 seconds of what
appeared to be a very painful exercise, I interrupted Darius's
concentration. "What do you see?" I asked impatiently. "Tell me
about your dreams." The young boy mumbled, "Lady, I don't see
nothing, and I don't have no dreams." Stunned by his remark, I
sat speechless as Darius jumped on his bike and rode away.
Darius, this bright, energetic, handsome
young man, is not likely to end up at Howard University. In
fact, statistical data predict that Darius has a better chance
of ending up in a jail, where African American men now represent
41% of the prison population. By the way, if Darius ends up in
prison, taxpayers will spend more than $25,000 a year for his
upkeep. For that amount of money, we could pay his college
tuition at almost any institution of higher education.
Sometimes we forget that a large number
of children, like Darius, "don't see nothing and don't have no
dreams" when we ask them to envision the future. These are the
children whose nightmares occur both night and day (Hughes,
1999). At night, the villains are creatures in horror movies and
in books like Goosebumps. Like all other children who have bad
dreams, Darius is rescued by daylight. But Darius, unlike other
children, has "daymares," if you will. Ghosts and demons haunt
and chase him as part of his daily life, and daylight offers no
reprieve from fear. Ironically these daytime horrors are scarier
than nightmares. The duress does not end when Darius opens his
eyes. Daymares have no scary faces, just scary effects: poverty,
violence, hunger, poor health, drug addiction, poor school
performance, insensitive policies, and privileged people who
sigh in collective hopelessness and hostility wondering where
Darius's absent father is and blaming Darius's young mother for
apparently having a baby she can neither raise nor afford.
I have spent my entire career at Emory
University researching and writing about the school experiences
of African American children like Darius, their schools, and
The … challenge that each of us faces is
that we will not and cannot achieve our personal or collective
vision by ignoring children who have none. It is not enough to
think of Darius as a research subject, a service project, a sick
or jailed client, a paper topic, or just another child in your
class who is doomed to fail. Somehow we must start to think of
him and our future as inextricably linked. Like the teachers I
described, we must become dream keepers for children who talk
about dying instead of living, and who actually plan their
funerals and not their futures.
kids to have dreams for their future.
- Show them
that dreams are obtainable.
- Show them
that every person can make a difference.
- Show them
that our biggest challenges are sometimes what lead us to
greatness and that challenges in life can lead to good.
their understanding of diversity. By showing them other
cultures it helps them to appreciate their own.
- Give them
hope for peace.
them the skills to transform dreams into reality:
III. Skills Taught
IV. Time Requirements
from a few days to a few weeks or even a few months. Writing
assignments, presentations and projects can vary greatly in
length depending on what the teacher chooses. All activities
A. The Power of Kindness - View the
with Robin Williams
Essays and class discussion about the power
of kindness to change a person’s personality
B. A Chain Reaction of Kindness -
Read a free excerpt from the book
Forward by adapted for students (http://www.payitforwardfoundation.org/exerpt.html).
Essays and class discussion about the power of one person to
change the world and the possibility of spreading kindness in a
C. Responding to Tragedy with Kindness
- Read free excerpts from the book A Daily Dose of
Kindness by Shmuel Greenbaum which will be
available online. After Shmuel Greenbaum’s wife was killed by a
suicide bomber in a Jerusalem restaurant, he responded to his
tragedy not with hatred and anger, but by teaching the world
kindness through the personal stories of every day people. His
Partners in Kindness website sends thousands of kindness
e-mails to subscribers directly which are reprinted in hundreds
of publications reaching millions of readers.
D. Seeing Kindness in our Lives - Writing assignment –
two classes will write short essays (between 1 and 3 paragraphs)
about an inspiring act of kindness they saw, heard or read
about. The students’ names will not be written on the essays,
only an id number. Each day students from each class will read
essays out loud from the other class and the students will
either discuss or write a few sentences about the effect the
story had on them. This feedback will be sent back to the
author in the other class. After all the essays are read and
the students receive feedback from the other class, the class
discusses what they gained from this exercise.
E. Putting All the Pieces Together -
Speaking engagement with Shmuel Greenbaum – “Seeing the Good
in a World that Focuses on the Bad.” Questions with Shmuel,
discussions and essays.
F. Social Networking and YouTube -
The greatest learning experience is one where the children
themselves are so excited about what they are learning that they
use it to teach others. The curriculum will teach skills in
YouTube and other social networking websites. Students will use
these tools to share their excitement for the curriculum and
encourage other schools to join.
G. Law – At the very beginning of
the class, students will be taught about the legal issues and
other dangers involving YouTube, Social Networking and Press
Conferences. Students will be taught about legal issues
involving events taking place in the school and what can be done
to avoid legal problems.
H. Press conference -A public
relations expert from a large public relations firm will teach
the students how to organize a press conference. The students
will organize a press conference during which they will explain
how the curriculum helped them and encourage other schools to
teach it. The plan is to have several schools studying the
curriculum in different cities around the world at the same time
and to have a simultaneous international press conference
uniting all the students.
For further information please
Shmuel Greenbaum at