FARMINGTON — Students from one Farmington middle school are trying to make the world a better place one small act of kindness at a time.
Celeste Murray, an eighth-grade English teacher at Tibbetts Middle School, challenged her students to perform acts of kindness during Random Acts of Kindness Week, which started Monday and wraps up today. It is organized by the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation.
"I believe the world is changed by little things," she said.
Murray said her involvement with random acts of kindness started with her mother, who spent her life serving the community as a counselor, helping victims of drug and alcohol abuse, domestic violence counselor and rape.
Simple, everyday acts of kindness
Not all random acts of kindness need a lot of planning. Some acts of kindness are simple and can be done any time or day.
Hand out compliments: Many of the Tibbetts Middle School students found complimenting others was an easy way to be kind. Eighth grader Jordin Marshall said it makes a person's day.
Leave positive notes: Eighth grader Haley Echols left an encouraging note in the hallway at her school. This can also be done at the office. Echols said she put the note in a high traffic area of the school so it would be noticed and help more people.
Make new friends: Marshall complimented people she didn't normally talk to. However, kindness doesn't have to stop there. Go out of your way to talk with someone you might not normally interact with.
Spend time listening: Do you know someone who is having a bad day? Spend a little time listening to them and let them know you're there.
Donate your hair
Cancer patients sometimes feel self-conscious as chemotherapy causes them to loose their hair. Donate your hair through Locks of Love to be a wig for these patients.
More info: www.locksoflove.org
Visit a senior home
Stop by a senior home in the area and visit with the residents. Many of these residents have fascinating stories to share with visitors. This can brighten someone's day.
More info: www.beehivehomes.com
Pick up trash
Do you know a place that needs to be cleaned? Stop by and pick up some trash, or volunteer with a local organization such as Farmington Clean and Beautiful to pick up trash in the community.
More info: www.fmtn.org
Help out the community
The City of Farmington has many options for volunteers. You can help children at Sycamore Park Community Center, walk dogs at the animal shelter or deliver meals to seniors.
More info: www.fmtn.org
For more Random acts of kindness, visit randomactsofkindness.org.
"When she passed away, it made me realize I wanted to continue what she started," Murray said.
She donated a bench to the trail alongside the Animas River in Farmington in her mother's honor. Then, while looking at Pinterest, she discovered The Birthday Project, a challenge to perform random acts of kindness on your birthday to correspond with your age.
"That year, I did 41 acts of kindness on my birthday," Murray said.
Some of these acts included returning shopping carts, cleaning up trash along the river and taping quarters to washing machines at laundromats.
This year, Murray decided to get her students involved.
"I really believe that kindness is an innate trait," she said.
She said, over time, life hardens people and makes them less kind. She wanted her students to see her perform acts of kindness. She hopes this will encourage them to be more kind.
Over the course of the week, Murray said she has seen changes in her class.
Previously, she asked her students to push in chairs. Now, the students do it automatically and, when they see another student picking up trash after projects, they remember to thank that student.
"The teachers have a lot of work," said Elisea Castaneda, one of Murray's eighth graders.
She said sometimes teachers don't have time to push in chairs. Over the course of the week, Castaneda has tried to push in chairs not only in Murray's class, but also in her other classes.
She said she also likes to give people compliments if they look nice.
"It helps people feel better about themselves," she said.
Jordin Marshall, another eighth-grader, has also given out compliments. She said she tries to compliment her friends as well as people she don't normally talk to.
"It makes that person's day," Marshall said.
Each day at the beginning of class, Murray has had her students watch short videos about kindness. She said when they watched the first video, they were laughing, but, toward the end of the week, they started to get more serious. She said she even watched some of them come close to tears.
Murray said her proudest moment during the week was when a student came up to her after a class project of writing thank-you notes. The student told Murray she nearly cried while writing the note. Murray hung all of those notes outside of her classroom.
In addition to helping others, random acts of kindness are also important because of how they make students feel, Murray said.
"To give them the hope that they can make a difference is really powerful," she said.
Eighth-grader Haley Echols spent the week holding doors open, pushing in chairs and thanking people. She even left a note in the hallway. When flipped over, the note provided a positive message: "You keep going. I know school isn't as fun as we'd like it, but that's OK. Keep working and I promise it will be fine."
Echols said she hopes these little acts start a chain reaction.
"Just by knocking over one domino, a ton more might fall over," she said.
Her classmate, Jasmine Wright, added that once the chain reaction is started, "the people who need help get help."
Murray and her students plan on continuing random acts of kindness. She said her goal is to challenge them to do a random act of kindness every week.
Echols said she plans to smile at people having a bad day and try to make them laugh.
"I don't like it when people are sad," she said.