National Random Acts of Kindness Day falls on Saturday, but educational advocates in Calaveras County say kindness can be practiced all year long.
Jim Bergantz, of Murphys, has been practicing a mantra of “people caring about people” for 24 years as the founder of his advocacy organization, “Seeds of Kindness,” and the distribution of thousands of blue ribbons to the residents of Calaveras County.
But in the volatile social climate of 2018, he said, promoting kindness should begin with the very specific vision of impacting one person at a time.
“I think what's really important, especially these days, is people need to start a conversation about kindness. Make it real in their home and make it real in their daily lives,” he said. “We always can use some kindness and love, right?”
Through years, Bergantz’s kindness crusade has culminated in the distribution of roses throughout Angels Camp, photo-op airplane flybys above Michelson Elementary School in Murphys, and the establishment of “kindness zones” throughout the county.
And this year, by a random act of circumstance, the final day of Kindness Week falls on the date of the national holiday.
“Is it different? No. But encouraging others to take actions, yes. Hope, yes,” he said. “I'm on a mission to make the world a kinder, gentler, more loving place. I think there's so much room for improvement in our world.”
Even in Calaveras County schools, the 2018 Kindness week has been a year of transformation for long-standing educational traditions.
Mark Twain Elementary School first grade teacher Tamsen Lenior explained that the student kindness hero essay, which has been taught for over 10 years, was augmented to include a Kindness Variety Show that will be held at the school on Feb. 23.
“We kind of made it a variety so everyone could shine in their own way. Not everyone's an essay writer,” she said.
During the presentation, students will be presenting, singing, dancing, raps and other performance art to promote the theme of kindness, she said.
Throughout the week, it becomes clear that the lessons are making an impact, she said.
As the students coalesced together for an aerial photo of “hashtag be kind,” she realized that that the lesson in kindness had promoted cooperation.
“It's a choice in your life,” she said. “We need to choose everyday to be kind.”
Though it was not associated with the Calaveras County kindness week, acts of social philanthropy have also taken place in Tuolumne County, with a one-day Life Hope Clinic at the Seventh-Day Adventist Church providing free medical services for more than 340 financially disadvantaged residents on Feb. 11.
Sonora Area Foundation Executive Director Darrell Slocum said a $1,500 grant was issued to the church to partially cover costs for the event, and because it was such a resounding success, plans were developing to “bring another version of that next year.”
“Can we have too much of that kind of thing? I think there's always a need for more acts of kindness, and I think every community benefits from it,” he said. “They matched their kindness with a specific need in the community.”
Many of the guests appeared to be homeless or significantly disadvantaged, he said. Those who attended received free dental, vision and medical services.
Slocum said he hoped the event would provide an inspiration to the community to envision their own acts of kindness and provide support to the charitable efforts of others. A fund had been established, he added, to raise money for the free medical event planned to be held next year.
“I think this type of event is extremely beneficial, and the Sonora Area Foundation is open to any ideas that would bring benefit to the community,” he said.