Again we are bombarded with the news of a horrible tragedy. As a natural reaction, people quickly start to express their beliefs about what will "solve" this problem and where those beliefs conflict debate ensues. I'm not going to even pretend to have a clue about "The Answer." If I did, I'd bottle it up and give it away. Having no grasp of The Answer, I sit here and contemplate the darkness.
A few months ago, I had the good fortune to spend time with a very wise group of people. One evening, during a group discussion I alluded to the despair that I had felt when realizing just how much darkness is in the world, and I talked about how important I thought it was to surround myself with people who were about spreading light. I also mentioned that it helped me feel better to realize that a little bit of light could wash away a lot of darkness.
One particularly wise man in the group responded to what I said. He acknowledged that there was a lot of darkness in the world, but his message was not to despair. He reminded me that light is only light in contrast to darkness. Without one, you can't have the other - Yin and Yang.
That made me relize that I couldn't, and indeed shouldn't, ever try and think of eliminating darkness. Instead what I needed to do was just focus on spreading as much light as I can.
Which brings me to the story of a boy named Josh ...
I have never met Josh Stevens, but I know him well. You see, I've met Josh's father, Drew, and when you hear Drew talk about Josh, well it's like Josh is right there in the room with you. You learn about Josh's amazing athletic abilities, you feel Josh's love for his family, and you see his dazzling smile. Mostly though, you are welcomed into the presence of Josh's amazingly kind spirit. Drew loves to tell stories (and there are many) of Josh's kind acts. My favorite story is about the time Josh "ditched" Drew during a father son lunch at school to go sit with a boy he didn't know after Josh saw him getting picked on by other kids. The boys cut lunch short so Josh could take his new friend out to the playground and show him how to shoot hoops.
Sadly, I will never get to meet Josh in person. Josh died a little over four years ago, just days before his 13th birthday. I've heard Drew relive the accident that took Josh in front of a room full of people and it is simply gut wrenching. Josh died coming home from a golf cart ride through the neighborhood with his dad. Drew was driving the cart, Josh fell as the cart swerved to avoid an obstacle, he struck his neck on something sharp enough to sever his carotid artery and he quickly bled to death. Drew literally held his dying son in him arms.
I sit here and type those words and a weight passes through me. I feel the utter and complete darkness that enveloped Drew following Josh's death. Drew could easily, justifiably, have given in to the darkness at that point. Drew and the rest of Josh's family though chose another way. They chose to spread the light of Josh's spirit. They started the Josh Stevens Foundation.
The message of the Josh Stevens Foundation is simple - Be Kind. Specifically, they work with children in schools to encourage them to be kind to other people. The Foundation helps indvidual schools design t-shirts that on the front say, "Be Kind ..." and on the back have a slogan that is of some special meaning to the school. Faculty and staff of the school look to "catch" kids in the act of being kind and when they do, the child receives a kindness card that talks about Josh and the simple virtue of kindness. Wrapped around the kindness card is one of those rubber "Livestrong" style bracelets with one of several "Be Kind" slogans. Mine says, "Be Kind ... It's the New Cool!"
The Foundation started it's programs in the schools about three years ago. They started in Las Vegas, Nevada and have spread now to several hundred schools across the country. I've talked to the principal of one of the original Be Kind schools and he has told me that since initiating this program his disciplne problems have dropped dramatically. In my opinion one of the reasons this program is so effective is because rather than being all about telling kids what not to do, it gives the kids encouragement and direction on what to do. Being told "No" leaves a kid with with the question, "if not this, then what?" Being told "Yes" gives a kid clear guidance and I think most, not all but most, kids really are inclined to follow that kind of guidance.
So yes, we really can never eliminate darkness. What we need to do is just focus on spreading light, like Drew Stevens and his family. Will you help spread some light here?
There are so many things we can do to spread this light. For starters, just take the Foundation's message to heart and work to incorporate it into your everyday life. Consciously, intentionally, be kind to people, even those people who most spark your desire to be unkind ... especially to those people.
Want to go further and spread more light? Get the word out about the Foundation and its message:
- Link to their home page at http://joshstevensfoundation.org/;
- Like and Share their Facebook Page. They recently had a push to get over 5,000 Likes. Wouldn' it be cool if they zoomed over 10,000 in a few days;
- Follow them on Twitter;
- Check out their YouTube channel.
Basically, use your networks to spread this message of kindness. We have this wonderful gift of connectedness through technology and let's face it, we don't always use that gift wisely. Spreading this message though is a way to make the best use of that connectedness. Please join in that effort.
Finally, I feel like I should say something on the subject of finances. As a non-profit organization the Foundation solicits donations and sells merchandise to fund its efforts. I will say that I have supported the Foundation. I did so solely on the basis of wanting to help spread this message. I did not undertake any type of investigation into the Foundation's finances or issues such as their administrative and overhead costs. Those things were frankly, unimportant to me and I can't make any representations on such subjects. If you have some interest in supporting the Foundation, you should make sure to investigate for yourself whatever issues impact your decisions on how to spend your charitable dollars.
Thank You for Your Attention and Remember to Be Kind!