(Non) Random Acts of Kindness / by Alan Strathman

Writers are supposed to grab the reader's attention in the first sentence and draw them in. Before I can do that I need to give you a little background. Bear with me, this post improves as you read on.

I am in the second group of Eastern Caribbean volunteers working on English literacy. All volunteers in this literacy project work toward 3+1 goals. The main three goals are to increase student success, improve the teaching skills of EC teachers, and improve school, family, and community connections.

In addition to these three main goals, each volunteer is supposed to develop a secondary project targeting some aspect of youth development. My secondary project will be youth employability. I talked with many people in Laborie and asked everyone what the youth of Laborie need. Almost unanimously people responded by saying, "jobs."  I can't get them jobs but I can help them make themselves more employable.  It's a big task but a useful one.

I am working toward all of these goals and each will take every bit of two years to accomplish. Perhaps more. And yet, in the last week or so, I think I have discovered what my real contribution may end up being: simply being kind to as many children and dogs as possible.  This may strike you as a significantly less ambitious goal, but I don't think so.

Two examples today illustrate my point. Example 1: There are two old dogs who live next door. They are both skin and bones and scared to death of anyone approaching them.  A while ago, I started carrying around dog bones and every day when I leave for school I drop a few bones for them.  They watch me do this from a safe distance and wait until I am out of sight to eat the bones. I sneak back and hide behind a car to watch them eat. No one has ever shown these (or any of the other stray dogs all over town) the slightest bit of kindness.  Dropping a few bones here and there is not enough to feed them sufficiently; I only hope it feels to them like someone is being kind to them.

Example 2: The students had exams earlier this week so for the rest of this week and all of next week there are no real classes.  Students mostly play all day.  One of the students in my Grade 2 class wandered into the Grade 1 classroom, which was empty.  He just wandered in and was going to just wander out, when one of the other teachers saw him in there.  I did not see the child go in to the room but I saw the teacher see him, get immediately angry, and race into the room. I heard her yell and the boy come out of the room with tears in his eyes.  He was walking in that way kids walk when they are trying not to cry.  It turns out the boy was Derwren, one of the twins in my Grade 2 class, that I want to bring home with me every day.  They have a very challenging home life.  They are very small and far behind in their cognitive abilities.

He walked into the Grade 2 classroom and walked to the back of the room and just stopped and stared at the wall. I could tell he was trying not to cry and also that he was hurt.  I went up to him gently, sat down, and pulled him up on my lap. I said soothing things to him, asked him where she had hit him, and started to rub his shoulder.  I think she must have hit him really hard. After a minute he started sobbing. I sat with him for about 20 minutes, while all the other students were racing around the room and school.  After a few minutes his brother Derrell came up and gently wiped away his tears.  We looked through a book for a while and he was able to go off and run around some more.

Derwren, and many of the other boys in school, and all of the dogs in town,  just don't have anyone showing them any kindness at all.  I have high hopes for achieving the Peace Corps' 3+1 goals. But more and more I recognize the importance of performing acts of loving kindness, especially to those who need it the most. And, basically, they all need it the most.