After going with my 5th graders on a field trip yesterday, I have decided to take a short pause from my posts dealing with eternity and talk a little bit about kindness….
The Power of Kindness
I teach 5th grade in Canton, Ohio. And each year all of the 5th grade students at my school make the two hour trek down I-71 to Columbus to participate in a program called BizTown. It is a simulation put on by Junior Achievement where students are adults for the day. An old school has been re-created to resemble a town. While there, students have jobs, go shopping, pay taxes, make deposits and withdraws at the bank and even purchase insurance. Needless to say, it is the highlight of the year for most students.
In the weeks leading up to the trip, there are several things we have to do with students to prepare. There are lessons to teach on economics, using a checkbook and entrepreneurship. Students also go through the process of applying and interviewing for jobs. All of the jobs at BizTown are selected in this way, except one, the position of BizTown mayor.
In order to be considered for the position of mayor, you must first come to school with a speech prepared on why you are the best candidate for the job. You then give your speech to your homeroom and students vote. This is a sort of “primary” and narrows the field down to four. The four classroom winners then go and give speeches in each of the four fifth grade classrooms and another vote is held. The person with the most votes is then BizTown Mayor.
This year Tiana* was elected by a wide margin. After winning the “primary” round inner homeroom by running uncontested, Tiana went on get the most votes in each and every 5th grade classroom, capturing 50% of the total vote. This surprised me, as I expected (that like in years past) each candidate would get a majority of their homeroom’s votes and the victory would be narrow. When Tiana dominated the election, it made me stop and reflect on why.
You see, Tiana is bright, but definitely not the most intelligent student in the 5th grade. She is a pretty girl, but not one of the girls already being sought after by the boys. Tiana gets along with others, but is not in the self proclaimed “popular crowd.” She does not come from a financially well-off family and therefore is not able to have the newest and nicest fashions. So what was it that caused the landslide victory for Tiana?
I came to the conclusion it was very simple, Tiana is nice. She genuinely has a kind heart. She has the rare ability as a 5th grader to treat all of her classmates the same, regardless of their rung on the social ladder. Tiana shows concern for her classmates when they are upset. She does not join in when children get teased. She speaks to everyone with kind words and appropriate language.
We are in an election year that has divided our country and pushed them to extreme sides on the right and left like never before. There were two candidates who focused a majority of their energy on why the other candidate was inept and finding all of the negative dirt they could on the other. And I asked myself, yes probably with far too much idealism and not enough reality, but yet I dared to ask it anyways, could future American presidential candidates learn something from the 5th grade Mayor of BizTown?
Could it be that a future presidential candidate could run on a campaign of kindness? Could a person truly just care about others and want the best for everyone? And in doing this capture the hearts and minds of a majority of Americans? Could they focus on all the good they want to do for all citizens as opposed to finding every fault, both true and created, about their opponent?
I know, I know, this is way too simplistic. There is much more to it than that. But, it sure is a nice thought, isn’t it? And while it may not be a reality for the country, I am going to feel hopeful that the next generation might be the one to see things differently, to see people differently, to want someone who is genuinely kind and good to lead them. Because at least in my little corner of Canton, the 5th graders have spoken loud and clear and proved they prefer a leader who will choose nice over nasty, and that their is power in kindness.
* name has been changed