The Kindness Campaign is a community-based, primary prevention oriented, anti-violence program that began in Colorado Springs, Colorado in the Spring of 1994, using the motto "Spread Kindness -- It's Contagious."
The goals of the Kindness Campaign are to help restore a sense of community and neighborliness that we seem to have forgotten, and prevent the spread of violence that has taken hold in many parts of our community, state and nation. Spreading kindness is up to everyone and it can be fun and rewarding. Anyone can participate in this Campaign to stop the spread of violence, hatred and unkindness. This Campaign reconfirms the important understanding that we are all interconnected. We all have a duty to act kindly towards ourselves as well as others. The attitude of kindness has to start with being kind to ourselves. It is difficult to be kind to others, if our heart is empty of kindness. True kindness comes from having a compassionate heart. It takes countless small daily acts of kindness to create an atmosphere of compassion necessary to transform a mass of separate individuals into a kind, caring community.
Youth and family violence seem to many people to be out of control. Everybody is scared and worried about the spread of violence. A recent survey by KKTV indicated that 40% of the respondents rated "gangs, crime and youth violence" as the number one problem in Colorado Springs, CO. This also represents a dramatic shift, because last year only 7.5% rated "crime" as the number one problem and "gangs and youth violence" were not even mentioned. The problem has also spread to families. Last year, over 29 million youths committed at least one act of violence against a sibling in the family. Finally, research has confirmed that the violent behaviors of an eight year old, if no intervention occurs, will predict perfectly the same behaviors in this person at age thirty eight. The problem of school-based youth violence also appears to be getting worse. A recent survey by the National League of Cities shows that serious school violence has increased by 41% in the last five years in cities with a population over 100,000. Schools are now the largest purchasers of metal detectors in this country and peer violence is an every day occurrence in schools.
While much attention is focused on visible forms of violence and on keeping guns and knives out of the school, there is a more hidden form of violence that is having pervasive destructive effects. That form is peer violence. Studies show that over 80% of all children enter school feeling good about themselves. By fifth grade, that percentage has dropped to 20% and by twelfth grade it is only 5%. It is the day to day peer violence in the form of "put-downs" and bullying behaviors in our schools and families that eventually erodes away the positive feelings of our young people. Child-to-child abuse and peer violence has never been viewed as a cause for great concern among adults. But escalating youth violence in our society, coupled with other social realities of our time, require us to rethink the potential impact of peer violence. Also, new research has provided us with a more complete picture of the impact of this form of violence. For example, recent studies show that---
Students receive an average of 213 put-downs per week or 30 per day.
Three out of four students report being bullied during their school career.
Over 90% of all students who were bullied report that being bullied caused lasting social, emotional or academic problems.
Over 50% of all so-called school yard bullies, if not helped, end up in prison as adults.
This somewhat hidden form of peer violence must be addressed and dealt with in our schools and families. Now, more than ever before, our young people need adult support in identifying and responding appropriately to abusive treatment from peers. We know that 80% of a student's behavior is directed toward recognition and approval. That is how they build and maintain a positive self-image. When asked the question, "Is it easier in this school to get recognized for doing something positive or something negative?", students almost unanimously say that it is easier to get recognized for doing something negative. Add to that the constant flow of "put-downs" and possible bullying behaviors and you have a formula that can easily lead to the development of aggressive and anti-social behavior patterns where young people will actually seek negative attention because there isn't enough positive attention to go around.
At its worst, this peer violence has led to murder and suicide. Take the case of a 7th grade boy in a Missouri community who had been called "Fatty" all of his elementary school years. The treatment continued in middle school, and one day he brought a gun to school, killed a classmate and then himself in front of his classmates. There was a recent case in Colorado Springs where a middle school student shot his classmate and then killed himself. The school where they attended is now involved in the Kindness Campaign to make sure that this doesn't happen to any other students at that school. Clearly, primary prevention and early intervention are the best ways to eliminate these destructive behaviors. These methods save lives and save tax-payers money now used to support expensive treatment programs and the building and maintaining of new prisons. We know that these primary prevention methods are effective at reducing criminal and aggressive behavior and cost less than 10% of the cost of treating and rehabilitating youth offenders.
The Kindness Campaign operates by creating ways of members of the community to recognize daily acts of kindness. Many acts of kindness go unrecognized, while acts of violence are quickly recognized and maybe even are over-recognized by the media. If you want to eliminate violence, you have to place your attention on its opposite: kindness. You can get a button that says, "Spread Kindness -- It's Contagious," and when you witness an act of kindness, give that person your button to and ask them to pass on the button when they witness another act of kindness. In this way, you can spread kindness and help build a kind, caring community.
The Campaign operates through area businesses, civic organizations, churches and in over 40 area schools. Schools with a combined enrollment of over 25,000 students, have developed Campaign activities. Some of these schools experienced an immediate 30% drop in discipline referrals after they started the Campaign. KKTV, the co-sponsor of the Campaign, has logged over 12,000 calls to it's Kindness Line (719) 630-1111 xKIND. They end the news each evening by playing one of these recorded calls. This serves to keep the "spread kindness" theme of the Campaign in front of viewers every day. Area Wendy's restaurants and a local Furniture store also distribute Campaign buttons to customers. Special "Kindness Awards" are given to any company, church or organization that enrolls 50% or more of its employees or members. Each spring, area school children nominate adults for Kindness Awards. The goal of the Campaign is to enroll 80,000 people in Southern Colorado. To date, over 43,000 people have been enrolled .
Following are some suggestions of how you might spread kindness in your family, neighborhood, workplace and school:
List things you can do to bring more kindness to yourself, your family, neighborhood, school, workplace or community.
Put your shopping cart back in its appointed space in the parking lot.
Pick up any trash on the sidewalk or gutter in your neighborhood.
Send a letter of appreciation to anyone who ever helped you letting them know what a difference their acts of kindness made in your life.
When someone new enrolls in your school, makes them feel welcome and offer to help them get oriented to the school.
Make an anonymous donation to a local charity that is actively helping young people or start a fund-raising drive in your office for such organizations.
Organize your friends or work mates to gather used clothing, or food, or toiletries, and give it to homeless shelters. Ask your children to go through their toys and donate some of them to children who are less fortunate.
Offer to baby-sit for a neighbor's children so they can take a break from parenting.
When someone new moves into your neighborhood, bake some cookies and go over and welcome them to the neighborhood.
This is an example of similar programs. The Kindness Campaign or The National Program, The C.U. Foundation, P. O. Box 7150, University of Colorado-Colorado Springs, CO 80933-7150.
Propaganda is written to 4 emotions: fear, hate, hope, and curiosity, and that is precisely the order, in sequence and decreasing amount, in which we find newspaper articles and TV news. According to Leo Buscaglia, a 6 year old entering school, on average, has witnessed 6,000 murders on television and in movies. Nazi Germany trained its concentration camp guards to bestial savagery with far less than this.
A healthy America would have healthy ways for teenagers, and others, to get respect. Some sort of formal mechanism to recognize and respect community service would help. Indigenous and aboriginal cultures understand this thirst for respect as well. They have initiation ceremonies, by which teenagers become recognized as adults. An American initiation ceremony based on the traditional Vision Quest, i.e. 4 days in the Wilderness seeking a vision about one’s purpose in life, and/or perhaps based on the Aborigine Walk About, a survival experience, could be a start. It is interesting to note that after initiation ceremonies were ended in New Guinea, in the 1970’s, gangs formed within 2 years. If teenagers can’t get respect through legitimate channels, they get it through illegitimate channels. How do you get respect in our culture? The media has a consistent answer: Inflict violence on others. Morris Dees has noted that about 80% of the young people in hate groups are there because “that was the only group that showed interest in me”, and I’ve heard similar numbers and reasons for gang membership. Gangs and hate groups have meaningful initiation ceremonies, and a clear path towards gaining respect. Where is the positive equivalent, for community service, to the spiderweb tattoo that Aryan Nations members get for killing a minority? Dakota [Sioux] Nation elders wore feather headdresses- and each feather was earned, by major service to the community.
How can we recognize major service to the community?