After meeting Toan Lam of Go Inspire Go in March 2012, I was inspired to start the Community Heroes club at my son’s school Sun Valley Elementary in San Rafael, Calif. The club is a forum for kids to learn about community issues they care about (as identified by them — hunger, homelessness, animals, foster kids and affordable medicine), where we explore and implement actions to help others and where kids can express and grow their abundant concern and compassion for others. My previous post includes the GIG Spark Lesson on Compassion presentation Toan and I made to 500 students to kick off the club in September 2012.
On Mondays when I host the Community Heroes lunch club, I usually get a tad nervous. As I open the library door and await the lunch bell, I hold my breath. Will anyone actually show up? If they do, can I really continue to keep these kids interested? Am I indeed sowing the seeds of compassion or is this all just going in one ear and out the other? Toan and I produced a year end video that encapsulates all the hard work and life lessons learned in this club. It’s funny how sometimes while you’re trudging along your journey you don’t realize the impact until the end of the journey. This video will inspire you to hope, dream and take action:
To this point — keeping fingers crossed this will continue — my fears have been laid to rest when I see waves of adorable little people tearing across the school yard, clutching their lunch boxes, clamoring for the best seat in the room. Their smiles and enthusiasm melt my anxieties, give me courage and boost my energy. And the 45 minutes seem to fly by. Imagine having 25-45 kids sit on the floor in a crowded room, eat lunch, ask questions and have meaningful discussions and activities about serious community issues (and yes, while the parent facilitator concurrently helps open yogurt and tight Tupperware lids, directs crumb and spill clean-up, grants permission to go to the bathroom and breaks up little skirmishes over who gets to sit on the coveted Panda pillow/chair.)
We met every one to two weeks for the entire school year. Here are some of the things we did:
1. Organized a fall coat drive for a local non-profit named Canal Alliance, which serves more than 3,000 immigrants annually, collecting more than 80 coats for San Rafael residents in need.
2. Built our skills, such as how to make an elevator pitch to a millionaire and making video presentations to inspire others to act
3. Had a lot of fun doing skits, making posters, writing notes to military personnel and an inspiring sick kid, performing random acts of kindness and dreaming big (like writing to Ellen DeGeneres).
4. Held a family Community Heroes event in the park to raise awareness about childhood hunger. The kids organized a bake sale and lemonade stand and performed a skit, raising more than $260 to benefit Canal Alliance to benefit their weekly food distribution pantry.
We discuss big issues, but we also talk about small acts that can make an impact. One of my favorite sessions was themed “Random Acts of Kindness.” We talked about small ways in which we can help others that don’t take much effort, but go a long way in making others and ourselves feel good and appreciated. I stopped by our local Trader Joe’s and talked to the manager about what I was planning to do and was surprised when she offered to donate more than 30 bouquets to help my experiment. The kids were delighted to walk into the library to a huge mound of fragrant blooms, and we discussed how doing something unexpected and nice for someone else is a simple gift we could all give. The kids then raced around the school yard handing flowers to unsuspecting teachers and students. They experienced the joy in giving and of course felt so much joy in return. We should all try to do a little something kind and spontaneous more often! It’s so easy and you never know what you may inspire in others.
In our last wrap-up session of the year, the kids enthusiastically planned for how they would look for ways to help others over the summer. To my surprise, many of them said they are very excited to keep Community Heroes going next year and I honestly can’t wait to see my Heroes again in the fall. Some even wanted to take this idea to their next journey in education, to junior high school! Observing these kids’ sincerity and watching their big hearts grow even bigger this year has been the greatest gift for me. Please take this blog and video as a gift and pass it along to someone in your life that needs a little inspiration. It doesn’t have to be a kid, it could be a grown up who wants to reconnect with their inner child who wants to dream again.
Ideas for your own Community Heroes club? Here are some great resources:
1. Calling all parents/guardians/schools groups: Start your own Community Heroes Club! Contact us: firstname.lastname@example.org
2. Make a GIG Spark Lesson on Compassion