We cannot tell the precise moment when a friendship is formed. As in filling a vessel drop by drop, there is at last a drop which makes it run over; so in a series of kindnesses there is at last one which makes the heart run over.
Dr. Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)
We selected Choose Kindness as our 2022 Summer Theme because growing our campers’ “kindness muscles” aligns with our mission of equipping campers to thrive despite life’s challenges. Focusing on kindness also helps us meet our goals of building our campers’ friendship skills (Make Friends) and growing their positive character traits (Grow). Learn more about our vision, mission, and goals on our Why GAC? page.
Our kids are growing up in a challenging and divisive time. They are, unfortunately, witnessing a lot of disrespectful and mean behavior. In my book, I wrote about the importance of modeling and growing the trait of kindness in our kids. Here’s an excerpt from the kindness chapter:
The example and messages kids get from the media (and their school hallways) often do not promote kindness. Many kids learn that the quickest route to popularity is putting others down or leaving other kids out. In the perceived zero-sum social worlds of middle and high school, one person being put down means you get on a higher rung of the social ladder. Social media posts, political discourse, and cultural norms often promote name-calling and being mean, gossiping, and telling jokes at the expense of others. That’s what our kids are seeing and hearing every day, and that’s also why many kids start to consider it cool to perpetrate mean behaviors. It’s no wonder that while adults are sending hateful messages through tweets, our kids are practicing a similar level of meanness on their own media. Why are adults so shocked to hear about horrendous stories of cyber and in-person bullying when we as adults are modeling that very same behavior? But there is hope for our world, because kids intuitively understand the benefits of kindness and can be taught to be kinder when we take the time to model, talk about, and practice kindness with them.
Camp Secret #8: Make it Cool to Be Kind (Happy Campers: 9 Summer Camp Secrets for Raising Kids Who Become Thriving Adults)
This summer at GAC, we’re putting the spotlight on what it looks and feels like to choose kindness in our interactions with and response to others.
We’ll be growing our campers’ kindness muscles by:
From the moment campers arrive, counselors will be modeling for and encouraging them to incorporate kindness into their daily words, actions, and routines. “GACs of Kindness” will be recognized and praised by counselors, announced at our daily Morning Assemblies, posted on our WOW board, and talked about throughout the session.
Helping others makes people happy. It feels good to share, to give, and to be kind to others. Sometimes in secret, and sometimes in front of others, we’ll be doing kind things for our fellow campers, counselors, support staff, and those outside our camp community this summer.
One of the great things about Gold Arrow Camp is that so many people feel happy when they’re here. We’re committed to equipping our campers with habits and skills that they can practice long after their session at camp.
This summer, we’re focusing on how – regardless of our circumstances and others’ behavior – we can always choose kindness.
Hi Camp Families & Staff,
Since we have more time to spend together (virtually) and with our families at home this month due to all of our extracurricular activities being cancelled, we thought we could work on a challenge together. We’re calling it 30 Days of Kindness. We’ll be talking about kindness in our Afternoon Assemblies and Virtual Campfires throughout April.
All you need to do is commit to doing 30 kind acts during the month of April. You can participate as an individual or as a family!
Here are ideas of what you can do:
• Commit to doing at least ONE daily kindness (DK) each day in April. These can be small acts of kindness or big ones – an encouraging sticky note to a parent or sibling or a bigger project. You can do the same thing every day – like writing one thank you note or text each day – or you can pick any combo of different kindness acts.
• Consider doing (alone or with your family) a bigger Weekend Kindness Challenge (WKC). We’ve included suggestions on the April Kindness Calendar.
Here is a printable version of our April Kindness Calendar! In addition to the Kindness Calendar, you can find ideas of people to write notes of appreciation to on our printable Kindness “BINGO” board! Keep track of how you’re spreading kindness using our printable Kindness Tracker! Also, here are some printable GACspirations to keep you inspired to spread kindness!
Follow along on our April Kindness Calendar for some ideas, or create your own kindness ideas you can do from home.
How many acts of kindness can you do this month? There are 30 days in April, so if you do one kind thing each day, that’s 30 ways to make yourself and others happier this month! If you miss a day, you can always do two acts of kindness on another day to catch up. And, if you go over 30 acts, all that means is that you’re spreading even more kindness to the world, which is a good thing.
Since on weekends we tend to have more time, we’ve saved some more time-intensive kindness ideas for the weekends in April. These are just suggestions. You can come up with your own kindness ideas, too!
The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation has free printable, “Hello, Let me know if you need help” cards. Distribute them to neighbors who may need assistance and offer to get them supplies when you get your family’s.
Order essentials to be delivered to someone who may be in need during this time. This may be someone you know personally, or a place that you know thrives off of donations. Another option is to create a care package for someone who you know is working extra hard these days like a medical professional–again, this could be someone close to home (maybe your own family member!) or someone across the country.
With your extra time this month, you can celebrate Earth Day indoors by going through your belongings and donating any clothes or toys in good condition. Keeping these items out of landfills is a great way to celebrate this year! Other options that you can do throughout the month include washing dishes by hand, have a zero-waste lunch day, and sort trash and recyclables. There are additional ideas at Let Grow.
There are many important events that are coming up in your friends’ and family members’ lives that we don’t want to forget just because we can’t celebrate how we usually would. Pick an upcoming event such as someone’s birthday, an anniversary, or a surprise thank you celebration and start planning! One thing that you can do is contact all of the person’s loved ones and ask them to send you a video, a message, or a physical note that you can collect and give to the person all at once on their special day. You can give them guidelines such as “tell them what you love about them” or “tell them a funny memory you have with them” or you can leave it open to the sender of the message. You could also organize all of the person’s loved ones to call them at different times throughout the day and deliver their messages personally. If you had enough time to receive physical letters, you could organize them into a book or a nice box for them to keep. Alternatively, you could plan a “surprise” virtual event (via Zoom or something similar) where all of the guests knew that it was a party for the special person. You can still “theme” the event even with everyone at home. It could be fancy or a fun costume theme, the possibilities are endless! Your special person will feel so loved that their day did not get overlooked just because everyone is inside. If this feels overwhelming to you, pick another friend or family member to help you brainstorm and plan what would be best for your special person!
Being considerate of others will take your children further in life than any college degree.
Marian Wright Edelman
Being a considerate, kind person who thinks about others is a character trait that helps children form good relationships and leads to a happier life as an adult.
What does this mean for super competitive parents who want their children to succeed at all costs, even if it means cheating and being mean to others? It could be helpful for parents to know that research has clearly shown that kind people are happier people, and happier people, in turn, are more successful in life. In jobs and in future relationships, kindness will take our children “further in life than any college degree.”
In our cut-throat, competitive culture, where assertiveness and achievement are glorified and valued, focusing on developing kindness is often overlooked.
There are anti-bullying posters and speakers at most schools, but where is the message about the powerfully positive impact of kindness?
Parents and youth development professionals, including teachers, coaches, and camp staff, know that wording things positively and telling kids what we DO want them to do is far more effective than a list of “don’ts” and “nos.” So, why hasn’t this message translated into how we teach children to treat one another?
We’re talking with children a lot about not bullying each other, but we’re not talking with them enough about what we want them to be doing instead — which is, of course, to treat each other with respect and kindness. I propose that as parents and youth development professionals we flip the “anti-bullying” message into a “pro-kindness” one.
Get kids to focus on kindnesses that they have seen by asking them to point out kind acts they have witnessed or done.
Brainstorm with kids kind things they can do for others and help them follow through. Focus on small, easy kindnesses rather than huge things.
Talk with kids about how they feel after someone has done something kind for them or after they’ve done something kind for another person.
• Share something kind they’ve seen someone else do this past week.
• What’s the kindest thing someone has ever done for you?
• What are kind things we can do for our friends? Siblings? Parents? People we don’t know?
• How do you want to be remembered by your classmates and friends?
“You can’t live a perfect day without doing something for someone who will never be able to repay you.”
— John Wooden
This topic is so important to Gold Arrow Camp and to Sunshine that she dedicated an entire chapter of her book, Happy Campers, to it: Camp Secret #8: Make it Cool to be Kind. Each chapter of Happy Campers ends with five different “Bringing Camp Home” activities to consider trying in your family.
One of GAC counselors’ favorite read-aloud books is R.J. Palacio’s Wonder. Consider reading (or listening – Audible version is free right now if you sign up for a free Audible trial) to Wonder individually or as a family read-aloud. Get some popcorn and have a family movie night to watch the movie version after you finish reading.
Do you like Pinterest? Check out Sunshine’s Kindness board.
Five Ways to Raise Kind Children, Greater Good Science Center
Being Kind Makes Kids Happy, Greater Good Science Center
The Power of Kindness, American Camp Association
Happiness Tip: Commit to Kindness (Christine Carter, Raising Happiness)