A small and seemingly insignificant article caught my eye recently. Amid the bickering, impolite outbursts, and near-violent protests that have filled our news, sports, and entertainment stories over the past several months, I noticed a puzzling headline: “Up to $15,000 to middle schools and junior high schools who encourage kindness.”
The Red Robin Foundation is sponsoring the U-ACT program (for Unbridled Acts, or random acts of kindness), a character-building initiative designed to teach 6th through 8th grade students about the value of being kind to others. The goal of the program is “to help foster and create a sense of neighborliness inside and outside of the school.” The foundation is awarding grants from $1,200 to $15,000 to schools that submit program binders outlining their efforts.
While I applaud the folks at Red Robin for this effort, I’m somewhat concerned and saddened that we’ve come to the point when we have to “teach” kindness. That sense of “neighborliness” has been fading for some time as we face political, social, and even climate changes. Let’s hope initiatives like U-ACT and other values education programs will help the next generation understand that we needn’t look at change as a threat, but rather as an opportunity.