Minden Press-Herald

Sunday
Jul 13th

The kindness of strangers

Local kids learn it’s better to give than receive

Christmas may seem a little brighter this year as students attempt to brighten the mood of strangers with random acts of kindness, which is the focus of the "Light it Up" project.

Bethany Seals, who teaches English at Mt. Olive Christian School, saw the idea of doing random acts of kindness during the holiday season while browsing one of her favorite Web sites.

"I think most of my students are happy to participate," said Seals, who lives in Sibley. "They get very animated when we discuss their projects. The kids are really excited about this opportunity to do for others.

"Too often during Christmas time, students and adults a-like get focused on what they want," she continued. "This project reminds students to appreciate what they have and to think of others rather than being on the receiving end."

Participating in the "Light it Up" project will not earn a grade or bonus points for students.

"Their only accountability is to be honest," Seals said. "My students know how fortunate and blessed they are, so I did not hear any grumbling or disappointment when I asked them to participate."

While some projects are discussed between Seals and individual students, others become classroom discussion.

"They don't have to tell anyone what they did, but often we like to discuss it as a class," Seals said. "We like to discuss how a project made the student feel or the reaction of the person who was on the receiving end."

Some of Seals students have benefited in additional areas.

"I have a few students who are shy and this project has made them move outside their comfort level," Seals said.

On Saturday two of Seals' students took cookies to Pafford Emergency Medical Services workers in Minden.

"I was really happy about this project," said Natalie Jumper, who is in the sixth grade. "Mrs. Seals wanted us to make sure we were celebrating Christmas in a good way. It felt really cool to bless someone else."

The "Light it Up" project has changed the way Natalie looks at people and situations around her.

"It started by doing the project the first time, then I did another 'Light it Up' because it feels good," she said. "I picked up toys in my neighbor's yard and other things to be kind. 'Light it Up' has been a really cool project."

Elizabeth Stone, who is also in the sixth grade, shares Natalie's sentiments.

"I chose to thank Pafford because I was thankful for their service to the community," Elizabeth said. "I think what they do, saving lives, is important. It's really nice of them. It felt good to take them cookies. It's cool to see their smiles and hear them say thank you."

Elizabeth said she has an appreciation for the "Light it Up" project.

"It was really fun and I'm glad Mrs. Seals gave us this project," she said. "She thought it would be good for people to know the real feeling of Christmas not just the presents but the giving back.

"Christmas is about being thankful for what God gave you," Elizabeth continued. "Showing that to others by giving blessings to other people, as we have been given blessings, is important. I plan on making this a family tradition and doing it every year."

Seals said some of the students' projects have not gone as intended, but students were able to find a way to find a way to bless others.

"My student Abby Lechner babysat for someone at her church," Seals said. "She meant to sit for free, but the mother insisted on paying her. So Abby gave all her baby sitting money to the manger offering at the church."

While on a field trip, Seals students placed money in vending machines in a public place.

"So that who ever came along next, had an extra snack or saved some change," Seals said. "It's little thank yous or the unexpected things that can really brighten a person's day."

Other projects have included making and delivering Christmas cards to nursing home residents and a "thank you" note in the bathroom of an area discount store.

"Who really wants to clean the bathroom? A thank you note might make that employee's day," Seals said. "They may be feeling very under appreciated at home or work. Most everybody can use a thank you to brighten their day. For students to be able to recognize areas where they can be appreciative and share that with others is what this project is all about."

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