The inspiration came simply, and now an idea by few James Lewis Elementary has filtered through the Blue Springs school.
The students have been passing out small cards fronted with the words “You Matter” and “James Lewis Elementary,” with an encouraging message on the back composed by the students. They handed them out to strangers around the Blue Springs community on Dec. 9, and now they're making cards to give later to people of their choosing.
“The things kids wrote were incredible,” said Stevy Dougherty, mother of a James Lewis first grader. “They want to keep writing.”
“They were just so involved,” added Lori Zeller, mother of third and first graders. “You could see them alive when people were receiving them.”
The idea, created by mothers like Dougherty, Zeller and Amanda Yount, started over coffee at Starbucks, they said.
They had seen that James Lewis' principal Lori Reynolds posted her gratitude on social media after she received a rose and “Have a beautiful day” message, courtesy of the non-profit Honor58. Reynolds had made a quick convenience store coffee stop on a busy morning when she received the random but pleasant surprise.
“Watching her reaction, I loved the simplicity of what she received,” Zeller said. “We wanted to do something driven through the classrooms, so that it would have the most impact.”
They pitched the idea to Reynolds, who immediately got on board. Then, they wanted to get the school staff behind the project.
To do that, the mothers printed out “You Matter” cards which on the flip side told recipients “Just in case you have forgotten today” they are loved, worthy and magical, with an invitation to pass on the kindness. The cards, attached with roses, were distributed during a clandestine trip to the school one evening – left for all staff members to find in the morning.
“At that time, we were anonymous,” Yount said.
“We know there are the random acts of kindness, but we wanted it to be more intentional,” Reynolds said.
When it was the students' turn, they gave the uplifting messages with little candy canes to police, firefighters, librarians, bell ringers and workers at Walmart, among others.
Reynolds said she hopes others had a feeling similar to what she had receiving her rose.
“It was just what I needed that day,” she said. “It paused me and made me think, 'Hey, what does matter?''”
Yount said many students, including her son, dropped some of their social awkwardness when giving out the cards.
“It was great to see them get out of their shell,” she said.
The mothers say they plan to do another community push on Feb. 17 – Random Acts of Kindness Day – and students have also been making cards for people they know.
Third graders Jordan Garrett and Sarah Carrender say they have teachers in mind, while classmate Rowan Axton said he has plans for three cards.
“The one I did today was for my neighbors,” Axton said. “They're special to me. They let me visit when their grandchildren are there.”
Yount said they also want to have a small tree inside the school's main entrance where students can write and hang up examples of their kindness.
“We want it to be a lasting thing; we want it to be a legacy for James Lewis,” Zeller said. “It's about being a part of something so much bigger than yourself.”