For most people, their first exposure to the “Spreading Kindness” campaign was yard signs that sprouted up around town with a message that said “Choose Kindness.” Soon both visitors to Eugene and residents may see more concrete manifestations of kindness throughout the community, such as seeking customer service from a company or simply doing their everyday banking.
Author and University of Oregon Professor Emeritus Doug Carnine is spearheading the Spreading Kindness campaign. Carnine and the Spreading Kindness steering committee were inspired by similar efforts in the city of Anaheim, California, where then-City Councilman Tom Tait won his mayoral campaign on a platform of kindness. That journey was itself inspired by the rainbow drawings of a little girl named Natasha Jaievsky, who died in a car accident in 2002 at age 6. After Natasha’s death, her father found her colorful drawings of rainbows with messages of kindness along each arc. He began hanging her art around the city, where Tait encountered them.
“Once Anaheim became a City of Kindness, they began to report a real change in the community,” said Carnine. “Along with the reports of over one million acts of kindness in eight years are documented reductions in school violence and gang membership, kinder businesses, improved relations between police and the community, and more.”
Carnine, who is retired from the Department of Education Studies and studied teaching methods, believes that people don’t need to be told or taught about kindness. What needs to happen instead is developing a framework in the community that supports acts of kindness.
To that end, he and the steering committee have reached out to business groups, churches, and government leaders to work together and create such a framework. Ideas include a training packet for kindness initiatives in the workplace, encouraging volunteering, integrating kindness-related activities in the classroom, and involving neighborhood associations to help create connections among neighbors.
Vicki Gray, a member of the steering committee and Relationship Banking team leader for Oregon Pacific Bank, is participating in the workplace aspect with such activities as performing self-assessments of where the business is on the “kindness spectrum” and brainstorming ways to improve.
“Businesses are often driven by the bottom line. A kinder environment can help to improve that as well as introduce a multitude of other positive aspects,” says Gray. “In a kind environment, employees feel more engaged and happier. Turnover decreases, and less turnover is less cost. People are at work more when the culture of the office is kind. Our intention is to develop a purposeful way of creating a kind culture for your business.”
Celeste Peterson, director of people development at Palo Alto Software in Eugene, is also implementing the campaign’s workplace training materials, which include suggestions such as adding a kindness section in employee evaluations in addition to personal growth and professional development.
“You can see people thriving when they’re in a positive environment,” says Peterson. “And what makes that environment positive is trust between people, respect, and empowerment, which are all rooted in kindness.”
Palo Alto Software intentionally creates a values-based office culture, and Peterson says kindness is an aspect in every one of those values.
“The campaign is just developing as a grassroots effort and I enjoy being involved in the process of figuring out how to grow it and put it to use,” Peterson says, “because I think the more we model good behavior in the workplace the more that will spread into the entire community and vice versa.”
The campaign is currently offering free Choose Kindness yard signs, bumper stickers, and business-size cards. Back in November, the campaign organized a free community event to celebrate reaching the goal of a million local acts of kindness. In one of the break-out groups at the event, facilitated by the Chamber’s Brittany Quick-Warner, business leaders described the importance and value of kindness in their workplaces. Many community leaders have signed on with support, including Eugene’s Mayor Vinis, who signed the proclamation before the November event that made Eugene an official City of Kindness, former mayors Kitty Piercy and Jim Torrey, spiritual leaders, and businesses such as Kendall Auto Group in Eugene.
Gray believes in the effort because, as she says, kindness is the great equalizer.
“You don’t have to be rich to be kind, you don’t have to be in a certain job to be kind. We all have the same potential to be kind,” she says. “We all come to the table and we all have an endless potential to be kind. It costs nothing and it can benefit so much.”
Learn more about Spreading Kindness and sign-up to receive updates by visiting: spreadingkindnesscampaign.org.
Signs and materials available for creating a city of kindness: spreadingkindnesscampaign.org/about/resources-to-create-a-city-of-kindness.
Doug Carnine’s books on kindness, including a mindfulness-kindness partnership with imprisoned convicted murderers and 12 steps to become more mindfully kind are available on his website: feedkindness.com.