"How beautiful a day can be when kindness touches it." (George Elliston)

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

We're Back!! With Gargantuan Amounts of Kindness to Spread :)

Hello there, friends!!

Well, it has been way too long since the Superheroes of Kindness officially reported to duty via their blog.  For that, I apologize.  Have no fear, the Superheroes have been very active, bringing smiles and modelling that you are never too young to make a difference in your community.  From fulfilling a service learning project that painted the turtles at a neighborhood water deck to chalking up the sidewalk to say hi to parents, the Superheroes have been going strong. 

Except for the occasional blurb, the Superhero blog is used to report the activities of our young superheroes and the community they impact.  The rare occasion has led to a personal story, and this is just that case.  Part of the Superhero philosophy is understanding that everyone comes from their own set of experiences, this providing a base for understanding.  Today’s story is to explain our absence and get you excited for regular blog reports again. 

This story starts on World Kindness Day, 2012.  This particular day was extra special to this Superhero.  For the first time, I was moving beyond our school walls to a classroom of kindergartners that housed 5 Superhero alumni to perform an act of kindness.  Not just any classroom, this was my daughter’s classroom.  They were known to be somewhat extra squirmy, but full of heart.  It felt
weird to leave the MCS Superheroes as they found themselves in a fun music circle thanks to a local family of fun musicians, but it was exhilarating to visit so many alum and bringing kindness to another sector of our community.  The day was amazing.  We read a kindness story and made flowers.  Some children made multiple flowers, some added extreme detail to a single one.  All children wore capes, and all children wore an expression showing great pride.  The Superhero alumni were proud to share that this was part of who they were, and folks new to Superheroes of Kindness showed great pride in performing their act of kindness.  They were so excited; many started their mission planning to take their flowers home to their families or neighbors but changed their minds realizing they just wanted to give their handful of kindness away immediately!  Many gave flowers to their PE teacher, principal, secretary, you name it.  In fact, to this day I still have a bouquet on my desk of flowers given to me during this mission.

The experience was extraordinary, and I knew my child was in a school that valued kindness and random acts of kindness.  I went home feeling invigorated.  In true form, as I cooked dinner I started drafting the blog entry for this mission in my mind.  This was the life – still wearing my superhero glow, making the whole cooking dinner with a tired and hungry child seem so much smoother than normal.  Then it came.  The text that let me know my mom was on her way to the hospital in cardiac arrest.  The next several weeks were surreal.  I arrived at the hospital only to have it be abundantly clear I was walking into a room to find my mom had passed away.  We live in the same town, so my daughter had a very close relationship with my mom.  I found myself having to deal with personal emotions, sharing the news and feelings with friends and family, and of course, suddenly working through this with my daughter, a kindergartner.  Not to mention the next morning, yes morning, my brother’s car (right in front of the elementary school) was hit by a drunk driver.  During these few weeks I also had to muster up the ability to finish grad school and totally flop the final round interviews for an award I had worked towards for a couple of months.  This Superhero of Kindness’ heart became drained.  Beyond drained. 

Over what has now become almost two years, I found missions with the Superheroes continued to provide invigoration, happiness, and solid footing in what was now a different world.  Performing
acts of kindness just makes the heart strong and missions helped me experience again what it felt like not to feel totally drained, at first for moments and then for longer periods.  It sounds cheesy, but it’s true.  Kindness adds strength one does not think they have.  Everyone around us has a story, a story that helps define them.  Everyone also contains a heart that is open to realizing the difference compassion has in this world.  My cape is always handy, you never know when you may need it.  Although missions continued, and continued in force, the difference these last couple years was we didn’t report it.  Every time I sat down to write I froze, feeling paralyzed,  coming back to that moment when I was drafting the blog to write that evening only to find my world change forever. 

Finally, the fear that would overcome me as I would sit to write an entry has started  loosened up.  It’s time for us to inspire each other with how transformative a genuine act of kindness can be.  Over
the next couple weeks we will share some of the Superhero stories that have transpired over the course of what appeared to be their absence.  These Superheroes spread kindness all over the town and filled many buckets while doing so, and boy howdy do they have some stories to tell. 
Thank you for listening to this hero’s experience, and giving the Superheroes of Kindness another chance to show you are never too young to make a difference in your community.
Here is to a great year filled with kindness!!


(Aka Superhero of Kindness Shenanigan Bringer)

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

A Birthday Food Drive

Well, friends, it is that time of year.  The point in the year in which the Superheroes of Kindness celebrate their birthday, and one of those times in the year the city of Missoula really sees that no one is ever too small to make a difference in their community.  The Missoula Superheroes of Kindness celebrated their second birthday the only way they know how, by rocking the annual school food drive.  The food drive was the first act of kindness that the Superheroes took on, with only seven children doning capes (although there were 19 children delivering food).  This fine celebration saw 50 children, ranging in ages from 3-5. doning capes and walking seven wagons of food to their local food bank.  And trust me, we could have used more wagons as they were very full and very heavy to pull!

The food drive started two weeks ago.  The oldest and some of the youngest children in the school made signs saying, 'Food Drive', to mark the boxes that were going to wait to be filled and to put on tables and in a display to help children and parents see what we were doing.  I wish very much I had a picture of one of these signs.  I will have to bop into the school tomorrow to take a picture of one as so much hard work and care went into making these fantastic signs.  Once the signs were made, boxes were disbursed throughout the school to collect donations.

Last spring the Superheroes of Kindness were the recipients of a donation from a fan of the Superheroes.  Our friend, Jolene, won a drawing in which she was given a debit card to donate to a cause of her choosing, a Pay it Forward even Washington Corporation was engaging its employees in.  Jolene's name was drawn, and she chose the Superheroes of Kindness to 'pay it back' to.  This donation has helped us do a few good deeds.  But this time around, it helped us truly help the children see the possibilities presented when giving to someone.  Many of the children at school were able to participate in a field trip to the neighborhood grocery store.  The Orange Street Food Farm has gotten to know us, and as children piled through the grocery store over a course of a few different days, the employees greeted the children with a smile.  Teachers talked to the children about intentional giving; taking a moment to think about why we are giving food and how we want to give things we love and want to share with others.  The children were given a ticket rarely given to a young child- free reign in a grocery store!  The children were very excited to think about foods they want to share with others, and foods that would keep healthy eating in mind.  One child was set on lasagna.  Yep, lasagna.  We gathered what materials we could.  Each child had a reason for choosing the food they did.  And no child asked about the food at the end of the day, wondering if it was theirs to take home.  They were ready to share!

The children followed their own example from last year, and asked their neighbors for help.  One of the most special things that has come from the Superhero program has been both children and adults using each other as models, as well as using each other to inspire the other and work together.  Children decorated a note and/or grocery bags.  The note asked neighbors to help again this year by leaving food out on a designated date.  The goal was not just to help the Superheroes food drive, but to work as a neighborhood to support the Food Drive which is itself one of our neighbors.  More children hit the streets this year, and the neighbors responded.  Tears were brought to my eyes as I watched one neighbor walk his overflowing, heavy bag out to the children's wagon.

Many children also participated with their parents choosing to bring food from their cupboards or to choose food together at their own grocery shopping adventure.  Parents helped keep their child's important role by letting them help put the food from the box/bag they brought in to the school into their classroom's box.  Some classes sorted food.  Some classes talked about what kinds of food we were gathering.  Others tracked if the food was canned or other.  Children were not just looking at a collection of food, but working to understand what the food meant.

On December 18th came the day of the delivery.  It was a couple days after our official birthday, but hey, parties often fall on different days :).  Seven wagons were filled with food, I mean at their max capacity.  Luckily we had two extra wagons arrive that morning!  First thing in the morning, all of the children in the school caped up.  We are talking about 50 children and a dozen adults!  Each group was responsible for a wagon, and for sharing turns in pulling the wagon.  Not an easy feat.  The entire group walked the two and a half blocks, then down the ally, to the back door of the Food Bank.  A former MCS parent opened the garage, and helped us begin unloading.  Each child was in charge of emptying the wagon they brought to the Food Bank.  They had to be so very careful when putting the food in the collection box.  We are not the tallest of donators, and we had to work very hard not to throw the food into the box but carefully drop it, at least until the pile grew enough for us to start placing it in.  Groups took turns, waited patiently before and after, and the pile continued to grow.

When all was said and done, we had collected 600 pounds of food!  Now, this is no easy feat for anyone.  But to give it some perspective, our first year we collected about 360 pounds, last year about 500 pounds.  These young Superheroes of Kindness not only beat their previous collections, but engaged the community and their own parents while doing so!  This year we also had a guest visitor, Flat Isabella.  She came all the way from Illinois to participate in her first Superhero Food Drive, and she doned a smile along with her cape the whole way.  She is definitely going to have many stories to share when she returns home!

The Superheroes are very thankful to find their home in their neighborhood.  To be able to be part of their community, to make a difference, and to find support in their neighbors, well, who could ask for more!  It has been a very good two years, and we expect to have a fantastic upcoming year!  Thank you for your continued support!

The Superheroes of Kindness

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Annual Birthday Food Drive

We are in the middle of our birthday food drive. Here is a collection of food that our visitor, "Flat Isabella" helped collect. (Isabella is the flat girl with blonde hair doning her first Superhero of Kindness cape. I think we will have to send it back with her when she returns to Illinois.)

The children have been busy bringing food from home, visiting the neighborhood grocery store to choose foods they would love for someone to have in their home, and delivering bags/notes to neighbors to see if they would like to help us again this year make the drive a community event.  Delivery is next Tuesday and we will be eager to report how much or collection totalled!

(If you happen to be in Missoula and want to contribute, drop off food at the Missoula Community School and we will make sure it gets delivered to the Food Bank :) ).

Friday, October 5, 2012

Our Necessity Drive

The Superheroes of Kindness have been ready to get moving ever since the new school year started.  So boy howdy, we did not start small.  We were going to take that ready and raring energy and put it to use.  Through word of mouth we discovered that an organization known as WORD was holding a necessity drive.  The drive was to collect goods (toiletries, baby diapers/wipes, cleaning supplies) to help families who are unable to or need help purchasing those items.  Now, although the ability to show kindness to others, and to help families, was definitely a driving factor, we definitely took note that the collection was happening just down the street from our school.  This had Superhero of Kindness written all over it.  To make the drive seem even more perfect, we had received a donation last spring.  A friend of the heroes, Jolene, had received a gift card to use as she saw fit as part of a Pay It Forward program put on by the Washington Corporation.  Well, loving the Superheroes, she bestowed us with the gift and we were waiting to use it on just the right mission.  And here one fell right into our laps.

Some of the classes took a field trip down to our neighborhood grocery store, and helped the children each pick out one toiletry or baby item to donate.  The discussion before hand was quite fun - I never realized how funny the word toiletry can be!  I did find out the word itself is funny and distracting, but the word said in a very proper voice makes the word funny while not distracting.  Anyway, it was quite the learning experience for myself and the children to figure out what this word was and what we were really getting.  It was easy for us to figure out the why of our giving, after all it goes along with our annual food drive so well.  And of course, we took the opportunity to practice flying.  I mean, a superhero needs to hone up their skills once in a while.

During the week, we also put a note out to all of the families in the school.  For some, this would be a fun return to superhero work.  For others, families who are new to the school, this would be a warm welcome to the rank of superhero.  For all, it was a reminder of why intentionally teaching our children compassion and intentionally experience moments in which we share compassion alongside our children is so very important.  Throughout the week, items trickled in either from families or small group field trips to the store.

Finally, the day came.  Delivery day.  Many children from the school were eagerly awaiting the ceremonious putting on of the capes.  Some children brought their very own superhero capes from home, proudly announcing that fact.  Smiles were found everywhere.  And the parents.  Oh boy, the parents.  As excited as their children, so many parents jumped on the chance to join our end of the day mission.  Watching this group, a true community in every sense of the word, gather just for the sake of showing kindness.  Well, my heart was overwhelmed with joy.  And I haven't even mentioned all that we were bringing along!  These families, in a very quiet but deliberate way, provided enough supplies that we filled five wagons(!), and had two big boxes to try to put on top of the wagons.  It was unbelievable!

As the Superheroes of Kindness took to the streets, there was a sea of smiles.  Some coming from us, some from our friends throughout the town that never fail to share a big smile or friendly wave.  We did  have to split into to groups to cross the busiest road, using the red light to tell us when to break.  Safety first!  When we finally arrived at the Food Farm, we towed our wagons to the tables and started unloading.  Each child took turns with a different wagon.  During the week the children sorted the items trying to go that kindess extra mile.  They did not want their work to come undone.  The friendly drive runners were willing to let us show up a little earlier than they had advertised their start so that we could make sure the children had a chance to follow through and finish their act of kindness.  In the end, you could feel the energy transfer onto the drive runners, leaving them with a little extra luck to go along with the goods.

Throughout the last week many people have come up to me when out in the town to tell me they 'sneaked a glimpse' at some capes and let us know they were so happy to see the superheroes geared up for another year of kindness spreading.  We are so happy to be called into action, and so happy to call this fine town our home

Goooooo kindness!!

Friday, September 21, 2012

First Mission of the School Year

Well, friends, the Superheroes of Kindness did not start the 2012-2013 school year small by any means.  Over the last week the superheroes ran a drive to collect items to donate to WORD's necessity drive.  Children took field trips at school to help select items, and families brought in items from home.  We have five wagons, and two big boxes!  It is going to take two trips!  We'll share the whole story soon (we are about to deliver these goodies in just moments).  But for now, we wanted to let everyone know how excited we are to be back!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Summer 2012 - The Missoula 5K

The Superheroes of Kindness are very lucky in that we receive a lot of support and encouragement, from our first mission to our current one.  This encouragement comes in many forms, and at times is local while other times more larger spread.  One of the fun things I have been able to do is invite specific people who provide such encouragement on missions, watch them while the mission overflows their emotions, and then talk with them as they process the experience.  I am always reminded the impact being with these petite sized superheroes has on the grown up community.  The summer mission provides a great opportunity to provide a mission that our regular heroes can partake in, but others with a heart embracing the Superheroes of Kindness can also join and it was very exciting to see so many people embrace this opportunity.

Our mission started well before the day of the Missoula 5K.  We needed to make flowers.  By make, I don't mean make as many as we can but I mean mass produce.  There was a potential of 500 people we would need to give flowers!  So, on the day of the flower growing, we set up a few different options for making flowers and sent out invitations to anyone and everyone who may want to see what it is like to be a Superhero of Kindness for the day.  (We of course also sent and invite out to the children who took on this challenge the last year and a half.)  

That day we were joined by a few children, parents, a grandma, a couple teachers and a couple friends.  Luckily, one of the attendees had recently made a lot of tissue paper flowers for a wedding and was well practiced and skilled!  The flowers started popping up everywhere.  The children, who had been away from school on summer and who were excited to see familiar friends and toys, quickly got distracted, but the adults pulled through not only growing flowers, but using their magnetic personalities to pull over a couple children to help.  As we gathered our first wagon full, a brother and sister started making groups of ten, looking to make ten groups to put in a bag.  Man, I cannot tell you how thankful I am not only for these dedicated flower makers, but for their positive personalities!  Well, after two hours of hard work, everyone went home to dinner and awaited the big day (which was one and a half weeks away!

On the day of we gathered nice and early, not wanting to miss a single runner.  While the children waited, they ran up the hill at the finish line of the 5K to look for runners coming to the finish, and very excited to see them across the river completing part of their run!  They of course had to listen to me remind them that we only give one flower per person (sometimes we get excited and bombard one person, particularly when an adult says, "There's someone who needs a flower.").  We even had the race director come say hi.  One thing that is fantastic about summer missions is that there was a child from each room, each age, and some siblings.  Well, the runners started to cross the finish line.  The children started handing out their flowers, and I don't think they really ever lost their excitement.  A couple took breaks, but came back in full swing!)

At first some didn't speak up to loud and just kind of followed the runners holding up a homemade flower.  Needless to say, the runners didn't quite see that.  As they learned to speak up they became a little more of a force to be reckoned with.  At points, it seemed like they made a barrier, and as runners tried to go around, they shifted until a flower was taken.  They were not going to take no thank you for an answer!  One child ran up to me every time he handed out a flower to tell me he gave another person one and then would run back to hand out another.  He was so excited!  Another child ended up right at the timing line a couple of times wanting to not miss a person.  And can you imagine their surprise when Santa crossed the finish line!  Wow.  Santa told the Superheroes they were definitely on the good list.

Several runners came up to tell me how much they appreciated the flower.  It was a surprise to the runners, of course, and after they figured out why a child in a cape was chasing them down, many couldn't help but smile.  A couple people took pictures with the children, some on their own with their flower, and some, well, some graciously accepted the flower that a child was so excited to give them and gave it back to be reused for someone else.

One thing I didn't expect was how fun it would be to do a mission for people who don't necessarily know us.  In town people often have heard of us, or, when we call to set up a mission ask about us.  But here, there were people from all over the country, well other countries too, and they did not realize they may run into kids in capes handing them flowers on a Saturday morning just because.  One person asked, "What are you?"  (the 'you' gesturing to us all).  Asked friendly, though.  (And hey, I am a grown women wearing a cape with a bunch of children wearing capes, it had to be asked at some point!)   I had to laugh.

All in all it was a great experience for all.  I have run into a few people who have talked to the children since performing the mission, and have been told they were glowing as they shared their experience.  In fact, when my dad asked my daughter what we had done Saturday morning (as we usually get together but I had to delay this round), she stated quite frankly, "We had a superhero mission to do."

I hope the runners and organizers had as much fun as we did!  With luck, we will be back next year.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Missoula 5K Mission

We had so much fun this morning handing out flowers at the Missoula 5K.  We saw lots of smiles, learned how to detect who the runners were (thank goodness for running numbers), and even saw Santa cross the finish line.  In true form we heard the direction of 'stand to the side and give each runner only one flower' as 'blockade and make sure no runner goes flowerless'.  We will update the blog with the whole story, from getting the ok to flower making to handing them out, later this weekend.  But for now, here is a very sweet picture from our adventure.