by Moira Cullings
LEAWOOD — There is no such thing as a random act of kindness, said St. Michael the Archangel School principal Mike Cullinan.
“I think God sent his son to die for us for our salvation — and that was deliberate,” he said.
“What we’re trying to get the kids to understand is that it’s deliberate kindness [that Christ calls us to],” he said. “It’s part of your life. It’s not random.”
The week of Nov. 9-17 marked the school’s second annual Kindness Week, organized by the school’s virtue committee and spearheaded by the sixth-grade class.
The virtue committee was started years ago as a way to address any issues with students at the school, said Cullinan.
“We did a survey of parents about bullying and unkind behaviors and what they thought was going on inside the school and community,” he said.
“What came out of it wasn’t so much [about] bullying, but a real hunger and thirst for Catholic virtues and kindness being a fruit of the Holy Spirit.”
Kindness Week is a way to satisfy that thirst.
The week includes a variety of activities and service projects that help students learn what it means to be kind.
A special part of this year’s event was its connection to the new movie “Wonder,” which tells the story of a boy with facial differences who enters school for the first time in fifth grade.
Each year, the third-grade class at St. Michael reads the book that inspired the movie. At the end of this year’s Kindness Week, students and their families were invited to see “Wonder” in theaters as a parish community.
One of the students’ favorite parts of the week, though, was working on a checklist that contained 50 acts of kindness they strove to complete by the week’s end.
Some items on the list included “smiling at people, saying thanks, pushing in someone’s chair,” said sixth-grader Frank Robinson.
“I think checking off the list was fun,” said Frank’s third-grade brother Sam.
Sixth-grader Miranda Mayer enjoyed discovering that “simple things on the checklist — like saying ‘Good morning’ to people — can make someone’s day.”
Forming those small habits helps the students continue their positive actions beyond the classroom, Miranda said.
“It’s not just this week of [practicing] kindness,” she said. “It’s throughout your life.”
Fourth-grader Chase Oddo found that the project helped him and his classmates grow closer.
“If you’re kind to others, they’ll be kind to you back,” said Chase.
Students carried kindness over into the parish community by decorating bookmarks, which they handed out to parishioners after weekend Masses.
And to put what they learned into action in an even deeper way, students and their families spent the Saturday of Kindness Week at a service project at the school cafeteria.
There, they organized and packaged materials benefiting Catholic Charities’ Refugee and Immigration Program, ScrapsKC, the parish’s Catechesis of the Good Shepherd program, and 37 Days of Kindness.
“There’s another community out there that needs help — especially the refugees that are coming here, leaving their home thinking they’ll never get back,” said Cullinan.
Cullinan hopes his students learned to provide “a helping hand in a time where there seems like there’s a lack of kindness.”
His hopes aren’t lost on the youth at St. Michael.
“Simple kindness actions can continue through people,” said Frank.
“If you are kind to others, they can be kind, [too], and tell other people about it,” he said.
“Pretty soon, the whole city’s going to be kind,” he added.