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Cultivating Kindness

11/02/2016 06:29AM ● Published by Nancy Babin

Gallery: Cultivating Kindness [5 Images] Click any image to expand.


When we first bring our babies home, there are so many things to learn and fret about. By the time they are toddlers, we begin to realize that the beginning was the easy part. As we look at the crazed pre-schooler running naked through the house brandishing a permanent marker, we begin to ask, “How will I ever turn this wild thing into a productive, caring adult human who is more likely to help people than hurt them?” 

When Tovah Locke, a stay-at-home mom to four-year-old Brooks, found out she was pregnant, her mother had a wise piece of advice for her. “She told me, ‘You don’t have to raise the smartest kid or the best athlete. Raise him to be a good human – kind, giving thoughtful.’ I’ve tried to follow that advice ever since.”

Tovah didn’t have a formal plan in the beginning. Like most two-year-old boys, Brooks was fascinated by big trucks. “He would listen out for the garbage truck and get so excited to see the men load the trash into it,” explains Tovah. “One particularly hot day, Brooks had the idea to take some water out to give them. He’s been doing that for two years now. He sets up a chair and umbrella every trash day and gives them water or Gatorade and a granola bar. At Christmas, he sets up a table with cookies and hot chocolate. Mr. Glen is his favorite.”

The Lockes educate Brooks to be aware of his community and to appreciate everyone it takes to make it great. Tovah says, “He knows when he sees fire fighters, police and garbage men that those are all our helpers that make our community run.

Everyone these days is trying to help kids learn how to be kind in the world. It was my goal for him to be able to show kindness on his own.” And that is just what Brooks is doing. In the past year, Brooks opted to spend his spring break making sack lunches for his beloved garbage men, some neighbors and construction workers who were building a house in his neighborhood. They were the same people who had built his house, and he wanted to express his thanks. Brooks pulled his wagon full of lunches up to the site and made everyone’s day. He then spent part of his summer vacation hand-painting 60 suncatchers which he asked his mom to help him deliver to a local nursing home. Brooks delivered the suncatchers along with Hershey’s kisses and stayed all afternoon to play games with the residents.

Nine-year-old Marlee Green thought up another way one child can make a difference in the world. At her recent birthday party, she asked her friends to bring donations or gift cards in lieu of presents and toys for her. Marlee used those donations to purchase bicycles for the young people living at Children in Crisis.

“When Marlee said that she wanted to donate bikes to the children living at the CIC Neighborhood, it made me very happy! This is the second year she has donated her birthday presents to CIC and I know this is something she will look forward to next year,” said Ken Hair, president and CEO of Children in Crisis.

In addition to collecting from her party guests, Marlee organized a gift card drive in her neighborhood. She collected more than $300 to purchase bikes.

“I just wanted to help the children at the Children’s Neighborhood.  Some children don’t have as many things as I do,” explained Marlee.

While young children are somewhat limited in formal volunteer opportunities with charities, older kids have many options, according to Madison Cope, a senior at Seacoast Collegiate High School and sophomore at Northwest Florida State College. “Once I started driving and gaining my independence, I decided that’s how I wanted to spend my time.” 

Madison started at Emerald Coast Children’s Advocacy Center volunteering for fundraising events and decorating the office for the holidays. “Seeing other kids in the waiting room was heartbreaking,” explains Madison. “I wanted to get more involved. I talked to the volunteer coordinator and set up a drive for Christmas toys at my school. Donation drives are easy because they are not hard to get approved to do at school and they get more people engaged. Not everyone wants to give their time, but they can bring in a toy or some food.” 

Madison went on to serve with Project Respect, a community action team that works to end bullying and teen dating violence, that meets at Shelter House. She played a key role in organizing last year’s Walk 4 Respect and is currently planning an event for February 2017 in observance of Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month.

“My advice for kids is to talk to everyone you can find and ask questions,” Madison says. “To parents, I would say expose your kids to more. It is important for kids to know what is out there and to be able to talk about their feelings. You don’t have to shelter them so much.”

Here are a few easy tips for cultivating kindness and helping your child become more generous:

  1. Lead by example. If you exhibit kindness and generosity in your everyday life, your children are likely to emulate you.
  2. Talk about what life is like outside the bubble in which you live. Even young children can begin to understand that not everyone has adequate food and shelter or good health.
  3. Look for volunteer opportunities where you can include your child.  
  4. Many folks in this area attend at least one charity event per week. If you are heading out to a fundraiser, explain to your kids what the cause is and why you support it.

 These books will help children learn more about generosity and giving.

The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
Through this classic, children will learn about giving and self-sacrifice.

The Berenstain Bears Think of Those in Need by Jan and Stan Berenstain
Our favorite bear family teaches their children about giving as they clean out their closets.

Beatrice’s Goat by Page McBrier and Lori Lohstoeter
This book tells the story of how the gift of a goat from an anonymous stranger, via Heifer International, transforms the lives of an African family. It is perfect for teaching children about international giving. 

The Giving Book by Ellen Sabin
This book gives children a broader perspective of their world and how they can give back in big and small ways.

A Kid’s Guide to Giving by Freddi Zeiler
Written by a teenager, this book offers young people practical information on selecting charities and how to give back.

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Parenting, Today, Today, Community Children in Crisis Emerald Coast Children's Advocacy Center Ken Hair Madison Cope Project Respect Walk 4 Respect Teen Dating Violence Month Marlee Green Brooks Lockes Tovah Locke

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