One of my favorite things to do during the holiday season is to scale back a bit from the daily rush of life and reflect on events of the past year. If you know me well, it is no surprise that my phone is filled with photos, capturing monumental memories as well as minuscule moments that make me smile.
Many times photos spark my writing, which is why I often include them on my blog and in social media posts I share. It was also a huge “must have” element when publishing A Passion for Kindness as each photo included in the book has an emotional connection to my heart.
Today, as I was scrolling through photos on my phone to print, I came across several pictures from Socktober. My goodness! What a grand time we had collecting socks to donate to those who needed them most!
Socktober is a yearly sock drive for the homeless created by Brad Montague in 2011. Two years later, Kid President (Robby Novak) joined his brother-in-law, Brad, as their efforts multiplied across all 50 states and included participants from all seven continents of the world!
In 2018, I wove Socktober into our kindness lessons at Mechanicsville Elementary School and shared our experiences on my website. It was such fun to see the students working together for a common cause to benefit those in need!
This year it was time to scatter seeds even farther.
As an instructional technology resource teacher, I serve two PK-5 schools in our local school district. Partnering with Mrs. Thurston at LMES and Mrs. Cross and Mrs. Burgess at MES, we put the Socktober mission into action by allowing our students to guide our steps along the way.
As we did in 2018, we began by reading and discussing Those Shoes by Maribeth Boelts, a book we received from our Hanover Education Foundation grant. This beautifully written book tackles several challenges children may face growing up: needs versus wants, generational family support systems, and conflicting emotions of jealousy, generosity, anger and grace.
Our discussions shift from story elements to personal connections to basic needs and students are always surprised to learn that socks are actually a much needed item for those who are homeless. This, in turn, sparks a desire to help.
Students brainstorm ideas on how to collect socks and how to communicate their mission with others. They create hand-drawn posters and write notes and letters to spread the word. They talk about Socktober with their families and bring in boxes for collections around the school. Then they wait for the day when we can count all the socks donated to their service project.
I’m always amazed at how much joy shines on students’ faces when they are given an opportunity to share kindness with others! The tone of their voices uplift, their excitement nearly tangible with each interaction.
“Mrs. Letter, look! We got more donations today!”
“How many socks do you think we have now?”
“Did you know that this is MY sign on the wall?”
The students take great pride in working together for a greater cause. It’s an incredible way to begin a school year as students quickly deepen their relationships with one another while keeping their purpose visible to all: “We are here to help one another.” Some students even include Socktober in their Kindness journals as they reflect about Kindness they see, receive, and do.
The cardboard boxes begin to fill. Estimations are made. Then the day finally arrives. Pairs and pairs of socks are pulled from the cardboard boxes and counted. The ooohs and ahhhs are met with gasps of surprise as final totals are shared.
“Look how many people will be blessed because of YOUR kindness!”
The students in Mrs. Thurston’s class at LMES collected 264 pairs of socks which were donated to Caritas. The students in Mrs. Cross and Mrs. Burgess’ classes at MES collected 569 pairs of socks which were donated to Homeward. In all, our students blessed 833 people with new socks! WOW!
When Mrs. Cross and I took socks to Homeward, we were told that they were sponsoring an event the next day so our donations would have a quick turnaround time. “This is perfect timing!” she exclaimed as we put the box of socks on her rolling cart. (We also donated several blankets and backpacks, too!)
Later that night, after grabbing a bite to eat at a local restaurant, Mrs. Cross and I discovered one of Gini Bonnell’s Be Kind signs painted on the restaurant’s outdoor shed. We couldn’t resist taking a photo with her sign – perfect timing indeed! (For those who have read A Passion for Kindness, you might remember seeing this sign on page 42!)
As we look towards a new year, my hope is that you will find unique and engaging ways to weave kindness in your world. Whether its a collaborative gesture of generosity or a small RAK you complete on your own, your empathy and compassion reminds people that they matter.
Keep scattering those seeds, my friends.
Your kindness makes a difference!