Lessons in random acts of kindness

Grades 6 and 7 students from Maywood elementary perform a flash mob dance at Metropolis at Metrotown following a project performing random acts of kindness at the mall last Tuesday. - Wanda Chow/NewsLeader
Grades 6 and 7 students from Maywood elementary perform a flash mob dance at Metropolis at Metrotown following a project performing random acts of kindness at the mall last Tuesday.
— image credit: Wanda Chow/NewsLeader

Smiling is contagious.

That's among the lessons a group of Maywood elementary students took away from a morning spent doing random acts of kindness at Metropolis at Metrotown mall recently.

The project is tied to a contest the mall is running on  Facebook until Feb. 26, Pink Shirt Day. In it, people suggest how they could "pay it forward" with no more than $10.

This year, the mall decided to turn its annual anti-bullying campaign around to promote acts of kindness, said its marketing director, Judy Black.

"We decided this is a positive way to get people to think about this whole issue … The idea is that every little bit [of kindness] helps."

The Facebook suggestions prompted Black and her staff to hand out cupcakes and boxes of TimBits to customers. From there they contacted Maywood school to take it a step further and use it as a learning experience.

"Generally, we hope the whole idea of paying it forward and doing something kind will overshadow acts of bullying," Black said. "Kindness prevails and kindness is what we should be striving for."

Last Tuesday morning, 42 grades 6 and 7 students descended on the mall. Metropolis armed each with $10 mall gift cards and official Pink Shirt Day t-shirts.

The kids from the school's leadership group learned it can be tough to give food away to strangers, but not so with rocks.

Grade 7 student Uriel Silayen, 12, was part of a small group that gave out cookies and sang for customers at McDonald's.

In hindsight, Silayen said she understood why strangers didn't want their baked goods.

"I think they kind of got weirded out," she said with a laugh.

Others bought rocks carved with words like "passion" and "joy" at a dollar store, which got a much better response, said Grade 7 student Nickole Villamin, 12.

Recipients found the gesture "touching," she said. "We ended up with smiles and I smiled back because smiling is contagious."

The group that 12-year-old Bless Quindo worked with handed out helium balloons to little children.

"One kid when we were giving it to him, he was pretty shocked," Quindo said. She added some parents didn't want their kids to accept gifts from strangers.

"Spreading kindness can happen anywhere to any people," Quindo said. "So maybe everyone should do it because it really makes other people happy."

Random acts of kindness are simply not a regular thing. So the students had to step out of their comfort zones to do it, said Pat Bathurst, the students' sponsor teacher.

"It doesn't mean that we're not kind people, but unless the opportunity's really obvious we don't often do it," Bathurst said.

"There was a couple of times that I was teary because something beautiful happened with the receiver and the giver, it became very natural."

In one case, a woman placed her order at a food vendor and Villamin stepped up to pay for it.

"Nickole hugged her, she felt so attached to that person because there was a connection made." The woman almost cried.

"It's magic," Bathurst said.

"I'm really proud of them. They come from a school that has lots and lots of needs and they are really being 'we' people. These kids make you know the world's in good hands."

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