We are in the middle of our birthday food drive. Here is a collection of food that our visitor, “Flat Isabella” helped collect. (Isabella is the flat girl with blonde hair doning her first Superhero of Kindness cape. I think we will have to send it back with her when she returns to Illinois.)
The children have been busy bringing food from home, visiting the neighborhood grocery store to choose foods they would love for someone to have in their home, and delivering bags/notes to neighbors to see if they would like to help us again this year make the drive a community event. Delivery is next Tuesday and we will be eager to report how much or collection totalled!
(If you happen to be in Missoula and want to contribute, drop off food at the Missoula Community School and we will make sure it gets delivered to the Food Bank 🙂 ).
The Superheroes of Kindness have been ready to get moving ever since the new school year started. So boy howdy, we did not start small. We were going to take that ready and raring energy and put it to use. Through word of mouth we discovered that an organization known as WORD was holding a necessity drive. The drive was to collect goods (toiletries, baby diapers/wipes, cleaning supplies) to help families who are unable to or need help purchasing those items. Now, although the ability to show kindness to others, and to help families, was definitely a driving factor, we definitely took note that the collection was happening just down the street from our school. This had Superhero of Kindness written all over it. To make the drive seem even more perfect, we had received a donation last spring. A friend of the heroes, Jolene, had received a gift card to use as she saw fit as part of a Pay It Forward program put on by the Washington Corporation. Well, loving the Superheroes, she bestowed us with the gift and we were waiting to use it on just the right mission. And here one fell right into our laps.
Some of the classes took a field trip down to our neighborhood grocery store, and helped the children each pick out one toiletry or baby item to donate. The discussion before hand was quite fun – I never realized how funny the word toiletry can be! I did find out the word itself is funny and distracting, but the word said in a very proper voice makes the word funny while not distracting. Anyway, it was quite the learning experience for myself and the children to figure out what this word was and what we were really getting. It was easy for us to figure out the why of our giving, after all it goes along with our annual food drive so well. And of course, we took the opportunity to practice flying. I mean, a superhero needs to hone up their skills once in a while.
Finally, the day came. Delivery day. Many children from the school were eagerly awaiting the ceremonious putting on of the capes. Some children brought their very own superhero capes from home, proudly announcing that fact. Smiles were found everywhere. And the parents. Oh boy, the parents. As excited as their children, so many parents jumped on the chance to join our end of the day mission. Watching this group, a true community in every sense of the word, gather just for the sake of showing kindness. Well, my heart was overwhelmed with joy. And I haven’t even mentioned all that we were bringing along! These families, in a very quiet but deliberate way, provided enough supplies that we filled five wagons(!), and had two big boxes to try to put on top of the wagons. It was unbelievable!
We all can feel a wide range of emotions, and at times they can feel quite large. Sometimes, big emotions can even make us feel scared. This could be due to responses we have, for example throwing something down when mad. This could be do to how it makes our body change, for example our heart rate going up or our body feeling like a stiff, uncooked piece of spaghetti. This could be due to our not feeling in control of our body or our actions. There are so many reasons big emotions can make us feel scared. It could even be a happy emotion like excitement!
As we are learning and teaching how to regulate ourselves and our reactions, it is important to learn that we do not have to be scared of our emotions. They are are flowing through us. In that moment they are our reality, but they are not who we are and do not define us. As we learn and experience this, we can learn we do not need to feel scared of big emotions. We can create a space to give a thoughtful, intentional response. We can learn to hold the emotion, and take care of ourselves.
For children, anger is an easy emotion to learn this through. No matter what a child is feeling, it can manifest as anger. Fear, frustration, actual anger, sadness, they all can turn into anger. If a child is describing any of these emotions, they describe anger. Positive emotions manifest in anger at times as well. Think of the child who has had something very fun happen and becomes very excited or eager. Then, sometimes without a moments notice, they hit a plateau and crash. That crash comes out often as anger. Children, particularly young children, most often have a smaller base of experience to work from than us adults, and a smaller vocabulary to describe their experiences. But they all are familiar with anger, making it a great talking point.
Along with talking about breath, the weekly mindfulness lessons are talking about anger. Soon this talk will move to other emotions and feelings. But right now it is anger. Children read one or two books about children (well, one child was a cow child, but still a child) who were angry. In these books the children were introduced to the idea of taking care of their anger and settling their minds. The breath is of course is our way of helping take care of our anger, and helping us settle our minds. We will be talking more about this idea in the coming weeks, and will be making a book to help others know how to take care of their big emotion.
Well, friends, the Superheroes of Kindness did not start the 2012-2013 school year small by any means. Over the last week the superheroes ran a drive to collect items to donate to WORD’s necessity drive. Children took field trips at school to help select items, and families brought in items from home. We have five wagons, and two big boxes! It is going to take two trips! We’ll share the whole story soon (we are about to deliver these goodies in just moments). But for now, we wanted to let everyone know how excited we are to be back!
The Superheroes of Kindness are very lucky in that we receive a lot of support and encouragement, from our first mission to our current one. This encouragement comes in many forms, and at times is local while other times more larger spread. One of the fun things I have been able to do is invite specific people who provide such encouragement on missions, watch them while the mission overflows their emotions, and then talk with them as they process the experience. I am always reminded the impact being with these petite sized superheroes has on the grown up community. The summer mission provides a great opportunity to provide a mission that our regular heroes can partake in, but others with a heart embracing the Superheroes of Kindness can also join and it was very exciting to see so many people embrace this opportunity.
Our mission started well before the day of the Missoula 5K. We needed to make flowers. By make, I don’t mean make as many as we can but I mean mass produce. There was a potential of 500 people we would need to give flowers! So, on the day of the flower growing, we set up a few different options for making flowers and sent out invitations to anyone and everyone who may want to see what it is like to be a Superhero of Kindness for the day. (We of course also sent and invite out to the children who took on this challenge the last year and a half.)
That day we were joined by a few children, parents, a grandma, a couple teachers and a couple friends. Luckily, one of the attendees had recently made a lot of tissue paper flowers for a wedding and was well practiced and skilled! The flowers started popping up everywhere. The children, who had been away from school on summer and who were excited to see familiar friends and toys, quickly got distracted, but the adults pulled through not only growing flowers, but using their magnetic personalities to pull over a couple children to help. As we gathered our first wagon full, a brother and sister started making groups of ten, looking to make ten groups to put in a bag. Man, I cannot tell you how thankful I am not only for these dedicated flower makers, but for their positive personalities! Well, after two hours of hard work, everyone went home to dinner and awaited the big day (which was one and a half weeks away!
On the day of we gathered nice and early, not wanting to miss a single runner. While the children waited, they ran up the hill at the finish line of the 5K to look for runners coming to the finish, and very excited to see them across the river completing part of their run! They of course had to listen to me remind them that we only give one flower per person (sometimes we get excited and bombard one person, particularly when an adult says, “There’s someone who needs a flower.”). We even had the race director come say hi. One thing that is fantastic about summer missions is that there was a child from each room, each age, and some siblings. Well, the runners started to cross the finish line. The children started handing out their flowers, and I don’t think they really ever lost their excitement. A couple took breaks, but came back in full swing!)
At first some didn’t speak up to loud and just kind of followed the runners holding up a homemade flower. Needless to say, the runners didn’t quite see that. As they learned to speak up they became a little more of a force to be reckoned with. At points, it seemed like they made a barrier, and as runners tried to go around, they shifted until a flower was taken. They were not going to take no thank you for an answer! One child ran up to me every time he handed out a flower to tell me he gave another person one and then would run back to hand out another. He was so excited! Another child ended up right at the timing line a couple of times wanting to not miss a person. And can you imagine their surprise when Santa crossed the finish line! Wow. Santa told the Superheroes they were definitely on the good list.
Several runners came up to tell me how much they appreciated the flower. It was a surprise to the runners, of course, and after they figured out why a child in a cape was chasing them down, many couldn’t help but smile. A couple people took pictures with the children, some on their own with their flower, and some, well, some graciously accepted the flower that a child was so excited to give them and gave it back to be reused for someone else.
One thing I didn’t expect was how fun it would be to do a mission for people who don’t necessarily know us. In town people often have heard of us, or, when we call to set up a mission ask about us. But here, there were people from all over the country, well other countries too, and they did not realize they may run into kids in capes handing them flowers on a Saturday morning just because. One person asked, “What are you?” (the ‘you’ gesturing to us all). Asked friendly, though. (And hey, I am a grown women wearing a cape with a bunch of children wearing capes, it had to be asked at some point!) I had to laugh.
We had so much fun this morning handing out flowers at the Missoula 5K. We saw lots of smiles, learned how to detect who the runners were (thank goodness for running numbers), and even saw Santa cross the finish line. In true form we heard the direction of ‘stand to the side and give each runner only one flower’ as ‘blockade and make sure no runner goes flowerless’. We will update the blog with the whole story, from getting the ok to flower making to handing them out, later this weekend. But for now, here is a very sweet picture from our adventure.
Another class had began monthly visits to Clark Fork Riverside Manor, a senior community. This place is located down the river trail and over the bridge, perfect for morning walks. During these visits the children drew with the residents, made flowers, and performed the classic story, “The Bear Snores On”. During these visits the children and the residents would socialize while they worked, and each visit ended with high fives or hugs (and of course lots of smiles!)
The children did not let anything stop them. They braved rain, walked the river trail, crossed the bridge over the roaring Clark Fork River, down some stairs, and finally arrived at their destination. I ran in first so as not to totally startle them as not only were kids coming unexpectedly, but twice as many as usual! The heads up was given just in the knick of time. In came all of the children with the card that was as big, if not bigger, than some of them. We thanked Rose, who was the person who helped coordinate these visits, and presented her with our card. This time we brought out the song we sing at closing circle each day, “Love Grows”. When we left, Rose had a smile on her face and promised to share the card with our friends. And of course she said we could come back in the fall!
First, I must apologize for the lack of superhero updates the last couple of months. The Superheroes have definitely been out and about, and in fact have even made regular visits (and friends) with residents at Clark Fork Manor. We are finally ready to get back on track reporting our kindness-based shenanigans!
The mission I write about today is one that was quite special to me and is one I know will keep my bucket full for a long time. It was the much anticipated and highly awaited Cottey mission. For this act of kindness, I gave my Missoula Superheroes big hugs and then crossed a few state borders to join our friends, the Superhereos of Kindness stationed in Nevada, Missouri, for a mission on their turf. Superheroes of all ages started helping a couple days in advance of the actual mission. Friends of the heroes at Missoula Community School baked away to hold a bake sale to help fund the cost of my plane ticket to join our Nevada heroes. I have never seen anything like this bake sale! The most beautiful (and delicious) pies I have ever seen! Lemon bars that still make my mouth water. It was decadent, to say the least. And the support, my goodness, I still don’t know what to say about the support. I left knowing my friends at home not only helped me make my travels, but also wanted this to happen as much as I did.
The following day, the morning came in which I was going to meet our fellow Superheroes of Kindness that I have come to love but have never met. After giving my family a gentle kiss on the forehead while they slept, I stepped out my door, donned my cape, and took to the skies. (Ok, really, I hopped a plane, but as I sat by the window on my flight I envisioned myself flying in the sky, cape flapping in the wind and I’ve decided to stick with that vision.) When my feet finally touched ground again and my cape settled, it was time to meet the person not only in charge of planning the superheroes missions but also in charge of keeping the heart of the heroes pure, Phil Bures. Let’s just say it was like two little kids in a tree house, recounting their favorite superhero moments and truly believing they, too, had superpowers. Before I began to get to know the town of Nevada, I checked into my hotel, which I have to thank the optimist club of Nevada for sponsoring!
I arrived two days before the actual mission so that I could soak up the atmosphere of the town. After all, the superheroes program exists in part to model that no one is too small to make a difference in their community. I needed to get acquainted with the town in order to see the impact they make with each mission. My fabulous hosts led me on a tour of Nevada and I was able to sit down in the evening and chat with some of the folks who have helped get the superheroes up and running as well as helped make some of the details of this mission possible. It was a unique moment where I got to hear why the superheroes were important to each and every person there. They all had some similarities, but some different aspects that hit them as well. It was fascinating seeing how both our groups have the same heart, but can hit different people and communities in different ways.
Then the day arrived to put on our capes and hit this town like never before. I have to admit it was a bit weird putting on a cape and not being the person running the show or the person in charge of the children. But I was excited to get the opportunity to let go; get caught up with the overwhelmingly happy feeling that these trips bring without having to pay attention to the details. I had kind of met the children and their teachers before as we had Skyped for the Missoula heroes’ first birthday. It didn’t take long for the children to inform me I came from Montana or to return high fives. I knew instantly that friends surrounded me. In fact, two of these friends stayed by my side every time we walked, seeking me out and of course making me smile. The mission started with meeting the pink fire truck from KC Chapter of the Guardians of the Ribbon. This truck has the important mission to raise awareness for cancer and all who are affected by it. The truck was brought in special for this mission. The children were focused on the fact the fireman was wearing pink but I was focused on the number of adults (not just at this moment but throughout the mission) who were touched by the opportunity to sign the bus in honor of someone they knew who had battled cancer. It was deeply impacting to see how clear it was that this group knew exactly what their town needed.
This is a unique mission in that you can get different viewpoints (ahhh, perspective). If you would like to read this mission from the perspective of the Missouri heroes, click here.
Smiles and warm hearts were definitely in abundance here in Missoula during Random Acts of Kindness Week. Each school day at least one group performed a mission. The superheroes embraced the opportunity to spread kindness through different means, bearing gifts at times and just doing for at others. More than a dozen missions were completed!
The week started with the Mayor of Missoula, John Engen, reading a proclamation during the city council meeting proclaiming the week Superhero of Kindness Week in the city of Missoula. As he read, it was interesting watching a few heads turn up, smiles come on the faces of people sitting, and even a few “Hmmm”‘. Of course there were three superheroes present, two current students and one alumni. Each child had a handful of flowers, giving one to each city council member and thanking them for their service. They also left a card. Mission complete, the young heroes went home to get a good night’s rest before more superhero shenanigans the days following.
The Silly Dragonfly group took it upon themselves to help out our wonderful school custodian. At the end of each day, they doned their capes and emptied the garbage cans throughout the school. It was wonderful watching the proud smiles on the children, seeing them take turns so everyone plays a role each day, and even trying to be quiet so they do not disturb others while doing their hard work. They received a beautiful thank you card. They also planned another mission in which they baked treats. Well, maybe not baked as the treat was a no bake cookie. But they made a ball of delicious chocolatey/oatmealy goodness and took it over to the senior citizen center. This day they were able to take flowers donated by Bitterroot Floral as well. They gave our friends the flowers and treats, and sang a couple of school songs, of course including Love Grows.
The Dancing Elephant group made treat bags to take with them on their bus ride to gymnastics. We use the city bus system frequently, and the drivers have become friends. Children took turns handing out a bag to each driver along the way. The drivers smiled big. During another adventure, the children took flowers donated by Bitterroot Floral to local businesses and establishments. They were even recognized on the street. I have to admit, it was a special smile that graced my face the next day when I picked up a morning cup of coffee finding a flower on my favorite coffee joint’s counter with a note from the superheroes.
The Caring Ospreys and the Wacky Wolves revisited Flor Haven, a local assisted living home we have visited before. They had sent a note out asking for a few supplies needed by our friends. They loaded up a wagon and walked the supplies over the few blocks. With them, they brought heart shape cookies for a cookie party. The residents shared cookies with the children, both enjoying them thoroughly! A beautiful encounter occurred while the children got ready to depart. The children do try their best, but need some assistance putting on some of their outdoor gear. One child was trying to put her gloves on, finding it difficult. She approached one of the residents and asked for help. The women helped this child, working to slowly, carefully and deliberately control her shaking hands to show kindness to this little girl who had spent the morning showing kindness herself. The memory of it still brings tears to the teacher’s eyes as she shares this priceless moment. On their walk, the children were spotted by a person in her car who recognized them as the Superheroes of Kindness. She stopped her car, ran out, and thanked our heroes for all they do! She even gave each of them a sticker.
For another adventure, the Ospreys and Wolves took to the neighborhood streets. Throughout the year we have worked to build a relationship with our neighbors, bringing them sunflowers we grew and asking for help with our food drive. It just so happened that the school celebrated our hundredth day of school during RAK week, so in preparation for this mission they cut out 100 hearts. Trust me, this was a fun but very lofty feat! On the day of delivery, they took their 100 hearts along with flowers donated by Bitterroot Floral and went door to door. But this was the kind of door to door that people hope for. The children left a heart and sometimes a flower on doorsteps. I can tell you we are making some good friends with some of these neighbors. The next day, one man came by the school to bring a couple of flowers for the heroes, wanting to say thank you and show them some kindness. We also received a nice card from one of our neighbors, letting us know the flower brought a grin to her face and that she was going to take it upon herself to pay it forward. (Hmmm, we might have to see if any of these neighbors want to join an actual mission. Now that would be fantastic!)
The week before RAK week, children throughout the school decorated brown grocery bags from a neighborhood grocery store as well as the Good Food Store. The idea was that we could share a smile by brightening up a day. And what better way to brighten a day than to brighten grocery bags. The bags were going to be given out during RAK week. On Monday, the Girraffe Family and the Rockin’ Raccoons walked down to Orange Street Food Farm with two goals. First, get ingredients to bake a surprise for a mission. Second, have the ingredients bagged in one of our beautifully decorated bags. Well, all I can say was mission accomplished. The next day we used our ingredients to make little pizzas. The children spread sauce onto pita bread, they took turns shredding cheese on top, and the delicious concoctions were baked in a handy toaster oven. Each child stood tall as a cape was placed on them, and they happily made the couple block walk to the Food Farm. We wanted to thank the Food Farm for all they do for our school. Of course, they let us decorate the bags to distribute during Random Acts of Kindness Week. But they also are always so friendly to us when we randomly show up with large groups of children wishing to purchase some groceries for a project. And I have to be honest, we do that a lot. During our last trip, the bakery lady came out and gave us all a cookie – all 17 of us. We took the pizzas straight back to the bakery, and boy were they surprised and very excited to see we were not only thanking them, but bringing them lunch! We also brought a card to thank all of the employees for helping our children embrace being part of our community.
Our last mission of the week was a fun one. When someone asked what we were planning, we replied that we were hopping on a bus, each child with a flower in hand from the bundle donated by Bitterroot, and we were going to see what happens. And we were serious. We had a few ideas of who we wanted to hit, and knew there was City Hall, the police station, the bus transfer center, and the Courthouse at the bus stop, so we were going to see where the mood struck. We of course gave a flower to the driver as well as fellow passengers. Getting off the bus, we decided it felt right to walk into the courthouse and give flowers to the people at the Motor Vehicle Devision. Yep, the DMV. The children handed flowers to the employees as well as the the couple of patrons. I can tell you, having sat there waiting to renew my insurance and plates on a few occasions, I have never seen so many smiles in that room before! Definitely worth the adventure. We were able to add a bonus adventure as we waited for our bus home – we wiped down a couple of the bus stop benches. Boy howdy, did they need it, too! On our walks we received several honks, some from parents at the school who saw us and some by people we don’t know but who either just liked the capes or knew who we were.
Hi! We are a grade 1 and 2 class from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada and we’ve been looking at your blog!
I like your capes and the hearts on them and the colours. -Taylor
Your capes look awesome! -Cameron
I think your teacher is awesome because she lets you go do nice things for people. -Jadyn
It’s nice to give something to people and that’s very nice. -Nick
I like what you are doing because it is very sweet and very, very nice for others. -Rylee