Proving that kindness and respect are two tenets Estrella Mountain Community College lives by, EMCC launched Dare to K.A.R.E. on Feb. 13.
Dare to K.A.R.E. (Kindness and Respect @ EMCC) is an initiative that aims to help employees and students be kinder and more respectful in their interactions with each other on and off campus. It accomplishes this with such simple tools as stickers that “help remind you to take a moment and show kindness and respect to your colleagues,” said Nikol Price, librarian and K.A.R.E. team member. It also accomplishes this through a partnership with Ben’s Bells, whose mission is to teach individuals and communities about the positive impacts of intentional kindness and to inspire people to practice kindness as a way of life.
Jeannette Maré founded Ben’s Bells 16 years ago after her son, Ben, died suddenly just before the age of 3 from the croup virus.
“We were thrown into this massive grief experience that honestly, I did not know what to do with,” Maré said. “I didn’t know how to carry around that pain, and honestly, I didn’t want to.”
But she knew she had to because she had another son who needed her.
“So I did everything I could to sort of keep moving, and the only reason I could do that was because there were a whole lot of people who were willing to brave the discomfort of this pain,” Maré said. “People were willing to come into it even if they didn’t know exactly what to do or what to say. People came in, and they offered us kindness after kindness after kindness. It was so obvious to me that kindness was powerful, it was courageous, it was strong and bold.”
She said she recognized that she not only needed kindness from the people who knew her, but she also needed it from complete strangers who had no idea of the pain she was going through. At the time, she was teaching at the University of Arizona in Tucson and a student showed her kindness with one of the simplest of gestures. He opened a door for her and smiled.
“In that moment of intentional kindness, it was like oxygen, in that moment, I was OK,” she said. “And if there were enough of those moments in a day, I would actually feel like there was foundation under me. I would feel like I might be able to survive this pain.”
It was that realization that prompted her to establish Ben’s Bells, which began in her garage and now has studios in Phoenix and Tucson, as well as in Connecticut. It is inside those studios where community members gather to volunteer their time to make ceramic wind chimes that are then hung randomly in public spaces for people to find and take home as a reminder to practice intentional kindness.
As Ben’s Bells has grown, it has expanded to offer Kindness Education Programs, which are based on the belief that everyone has the capacity to be kind, and that kindness can be cultivated through intentional practice. Kindness Education Programs are offered in schools, workplaces, neighborhoods, and communities. EMCC is participating in Ben’s Bells’ Kind Colleagues Program.
“If you already have a campus here that is kind, and I can feel it, then what would happen if people focused on it more?” Maré said. “What would happen if people talked about it more? What would happen if we all learned better self-kindness skills? What would happen? What does this level of kindness feel like? I think it’s something to aspire to. So that’s the goal of the work we do, to sort of churn up this conversation.”
The Kind Colleagues Program is a year-long commitment. The curriculum will be rolled out through the Center for Teaching and Learning; a website with resources to share between departments; and various activities; as well as a Kindness Tree mural.
“We’re really excited about this opportunity to work together and have some unique experiences here at Estrella,” said Dr. Heather Weber, Vice President, Administrative Services.
The Kindness Tree mural will be on the wall of Komatke A between the Career & Transfer Center and Plaza Gallery.
“This will be a great place for the mural that will beautify our campus and serve as a visual reminder to be kind,” K.A.R.E. Committee members said.
EMCC faculty, staff, and students, as well as the public in general will be invited to volunteer in the construction and installment of the mural, which will take place at the end of March and mid-April. Watch our website and follow us on Facebook and Twitter to learn how you can be involved in this endeavor.
“I truly believe that kindness has a way of being contagious; the more we give, the more we receive,” Weber said. “The K.A.R.E. initiative at EMCC is an effort to remind us all to spend a little more time practicing kindness. Kindness will not only benefit us all individually, but it will also have a positive effect on our work environment and the students we serve.”
To learn more about EMCC’s Dare to K.A.R.E. initiative, visit www.estrellamountain.edu/kare.