The Kindness Factor

It’s Bigger Than We Think

Caren: As we write this arti­cle, we are in the mid­dle of a world-wide pan­dem­ic and a con­se­quen­tial elec­tion sea­son. Both events ask us to address big, core ques­tions: What kind of peo­ple do we want to be? How do we resolve our con­flicts? How do we uphold jus­tice? What prin­ci­ples do we want to teach our chil­dren? How will we heal our divid­ed nation?

The kind­ness fac­tor is part of the heal­ing our soci­ety needs. Kind­ness may sound small, but it’s big­ger than we think. Kind­ness is not a nice­ty done when con­ve­nient. In a sin­gle act of kind­ness lies acknowl­edge­ment, respect, com­pas­sion, empa­thy, and for­give­ness. When accept­ed, an act of kind­ness is a two-way gift. Dis­guised as a sin­gu­lar act, it can send rip­ples of change beyond the peo­ple direct­ly involved, affect­ing unknow­able oth­ers. By cul­ti­vat­ing kind­ness to our homes, schools and com­mu­ni­ty lives, we have the pow­er change our very culture.

pho­to: Matt Col­lamer | Unsplash

Three things in human life are impor­tant. The first is to be kind. The sec­ond is to be kind. The third is to be kind.”

William James

A sin­gle act of kind­ness throws out roots in all direc­tions and the roots spring up and make new trees.”

Amelia Earhart

If I can­not do great things, I can do small things in a great way. Even the small­est act of kind­ness can make a big dif­fer­ence in the world.”

Mar­tin Luther King

Nev­er wor­ry about num­bers. Help one per­son at a time and always start with the per­son near­est you.”

Moth­er Teresa

Each Kindness by Jacqueline WoodsonAward-win­ning author Jacque­line Wood­son uplifts the pow­er of kind­ness in her pic­ture book Each Kind­ness, illus­trat­ed by E.B. Lewis. The sto­ry begins as Chloe watch­es the school prin­ci­pal intro­duce Maya, a new girl to the school. “We all stared at her. Her coat was open and the clothes beneath it looked old and ragged. Her shoes were spring shoes, not meant for the snow. A strap on one of them had bro­ken.” Maya takes a seat next to Chloe and smiles. Chloe scoots her desk a few inch­es away and turns to look out the window.

Chloe, her friends, and the rest of the class show lit­tle kind­ness toward Maya. The day Maya’s desk sits emp­ty, Chloe’s teacher brings in a bowl filled with water. As the chil­dren watch, Ms. Albert drops a peb­ble into the bowl. “This is what kind­ness does,” Ms. Albert said. “Each lit­tle thing we do goes out, like a rip­ple into the world.” Chloe is left with an empti­ness in her stom­ach. How many oppor­tu­ni­ties had she missed to offer kind­ness to Maya? Read­ers are left with the invi­ta­tion to send kind­ness rip­pling out into the world.

Jacqueline Woodson
Jacque­line Woodson

On her web­site, Jacque­line Wood­son writes:

At some point in our lives, we are all unkind. At some point, we are all treat­ed unkind­ly. I want­ed to under­stand this more. I think too often we believe we’ll have a sec­ond chance at kind­ness – and some­times we don’t. I do believe, as Chloe’s teacher, Ms. Albert, says, that every­thing we do goes out, like a rip­ple into the world. I wrote this because I believe in kindness.”

Going Deeper, Teaching Kindness: Caren and Ellie

Dr. Daniel Goleman
Dr. Daniel Goleman

Research in neu­ro­science and neu­ro­plas­tic­i­ty is show­ing us new ways to think about learn­ing and schools. Help­ing stu­dents social­ly and emo­tion­al­ly enhances their aca­d­e­m­ic learn­ing. When stu­dents feel safe and enjoy their school envi­ron­ment, their brain state is more attuned to learn­ing. Dr. Daniel Gole­man, author of the inter­na­tion­al best­seller, Emo­tion­al Intel­li­gence writes:

The cen­ters of the brain are intri­cate­ly inter­wo­ven with the neu­ro­cor­ti­cal areas involved in cog­ni­tive learn­ing … When a child try­ing to learn is caught up in a dis­tress­ing emo­tion, the cen­ters for learn­ing are tem­porar­i­ly ham­pered. The child’s atten­tion becomes pre­oc­cu­pied with what­ev­er may be the source of the trou­ble. Because atten­tion is itself a lim­it­ed capac­i­ty, the child has that much less abil­i­ty to hear, under­stand, or remem­ber what a teacher or a book is say­ing. In short, there is a direct link between emo­tions and learning.

Dr. Gole­man argues that prac­tic­ing kind­ness devel­ops hard­wiring in our brains, mak­ing com­pas­sion and kind­ness more nat­ur­al and our rela­tion­ships more pos­i­tive. In his webi­nar, “Why Com­pas­sion Mat­ters Today and Tomor­row,” he claims that the more we prac­tice kind­ness, the more we change our behav­ior, mak­ing our homes and schools more pos­i­tive, kind, and com­pas­sion­ate places to be. (Watch Dr. Goleman’s lec­ture.)

Kindness Pals

Peace of MindLin­da Ryden intro­duces the idea of “Kind­ness Pals” in Peace of Mind, her cur­ricu­lum for Grades 3 – 5. Each week, chil­dren are paired with a new per­son in their class­room with the invi­ta­tion to do some­thing kind for their part­ner. At the end of the week, chil­dren share their kind­ness expe­ri­ence. She asks, “How does your body feel when you are kind? How have your thoughts changed towards your Kind­ness Pal? How did you feel when your kind­ness pal was kind to you?” If Chloe and Maya had been Kind­ness Pals, their sto­ry might have been quite different.

Kind­ness rip­ples, ensur­ing that a lit­tle goes a long way. If we believe in, teach and prac­tice dai­ly kind­ness, imag­ine how can we change our homes, class­rooms, neigh­bor­hoods and our country.


Daniel Goleman’s lec­ture was host­ed by Emory University’s Cen­ter for Con­tem­pla­tive Sci­ence and Com­pas­sion Based Ethics. For more infor­ma­tion about Emory University’s SEE Learn­ing (Social, Emo­tion­al, Eth­i­cal) inno­v­a­tive K‑12 devel­op­men­tal edu­ca­tion pro­gram, go to

Peace of Mind: Effec­tive­ly Inte­grat­ing Mind­ful­ness, Social and Emo­tion­al Learn­ing, and Con­flict Res­o­lu­tion to Cre­ate a Kinder and More Pos­i­tive School Cli­mate, Peace of Mind, LLC Wash­ing­ton D.C. 20015,


For each Peace-olo­gy post, Caren and Ellie part­ner to learn and explore the mean­ing of peace by talk­ing and lis­ten­ing with each oth­er. If you’d like to share your ideas about peace, books, and chil­dren, please share your com­ments here, or vis­it our websites.

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David LaRochelle
David LaRochelle
3 years ago

Such an impor­tant mes­sage, now more than ever.