Choir rehearsals, swim practices, and jiu jitsu classes, along with school, came to a halt in mid-March due to the COVID pandemic. Leaning on the side of caution, I stopped taking my daughter and son to their classes earlier in the month before the government started issuing lockdown orders. When it became official, my kids were already prepared for an altered daily life. But what I didn’t know is how my daughter would learn so much from being at home and helping others.
It all started when I saw a post from one of my former colleagues, now at CBS News, for a Kindness 101 course from correspondent Steve Hartman. I decided that this would be something that my daughter and I could do together. She was excited to learn more about the topics which included character, empathy, friendship, and altruism. Each of the four classes included stories that ranged from the four-year-old who donated all of his allowances to buy Burger King for anyone who wanted food to the group of New Jersey teenagers who befriended a five-year-old with autism who was playing alone in a skatepark in South Brunswick. Every story he showed had one thing in common: kids can be heroes too and that a small act can make a big impact. Steve even assigned homework—come up with safe ways to thank essential workers during this current health crisis.
We began to think about what we could do. The first task came when a friend posted a request on Facebook for baby monitors so that nurses could communicate with other people in the hospital. We still had a video baby monitor, and my daughter helped me wrap it and send it out. She asked why we were mailing her old monitor. I explained why and she immediately wanted to search the house for more. Donating that monitor was much more efficient than just explaining the meaning of the word ‘altruism’ with words.
A few days later, she understood empathy, as she helped me load up our beach cart with 310 food containers that we bought and donated to Tree House Cares, a neighborhood group delivering meals to shut-in seniors in Newark. She and her brother rode their bikes two blocks to our neighborhood community center while I lugged the cart next to them. They stayed outside with their dad while I delivered the containers. My daughter asked why we were giving away so many containers. I explained that there were that many older people who couldn’t safely leave their house and have food like us. She asked if we could buy more to donate.
In the course, Steve talks a lot about friendship and being kind to friends. I grew concerned my daughter was missing her friends, so we downloaded Messenger Kids to keep in touch with them. The first thing she asked them is if they were okay and if they needed anything. It was another lesson she learned from the course, on how being a good friend means supporting a friend during good times and bad times.
For the homework assignment, I asked my daughter how we can thank the postal and sanitation workers who pass the house regularly. A few weeks later, we came up with a safe way to do it. My daughter placed a small basket of juices, tea bags, cookies, and candy on our porch with a sign: “Thank You, Postal, + Amazon Delivery People!!! Please Take a Snack.” Helping the helpers was exactly what Steve was talking about in his assignment.
When the course ended, I gave my daughter a quiz on what she learned. She said kindness can change somebody’s life. You can do just about anything to make your community better—you just need kindness. I couldn’t agree more. That answer gives me confidence that she gleaned something from the character topic as well. Kindness may just be the best class both of us will ever take.
For more information about Steve Hartman’s Kindness 101 Class, click here.