“Can I buy you a coffee?”
“Would you like some flowers?”
Those are not the words one would expect to hear from a Grade 3 student as they look up at a stranger, but they were said over and over again in Chilliwack on Wednesday.
Watson Elementary’s 2023 Kindness Project warmed hearts throughout Chilliwack on March 15 as kids handed out free items to complete strangers.
“This is the first time they’ve been so outgoing. They were really quick to jump in and want to do it,” said Grade 3 teacher Jen Thiessen. “They’ve just been so positive about all of it.”
The project first started back in 2017 when Thiessen and fellow teacher Kyla Stradling came up with the idea.
“The idea with the project, when we first started it, was being that spark of kindness and it would make that wave of people who want to continue doing it,” Thiessen said.
Over the years, either one or two Grade 3 classes from Watson would take it on. But, this year five classes took part (all the Grade 3 students, plus some kids in Grades 2 and 4), making it the biggest one to date.
The kids raise money to buy items, and then give the items away to others. This year, they raised an impressive $1,400 from five cupcake sales over five weeks in February and March.
“That’s a lot of cupcakes, and all the cupcakes were made by parents and staff,” Thiessen said.
After the cupcake sales, the kids and teachers got to work making cards and buying things to hand out on the big day.
Flowers, dog treats, miniature chocolate bars and more were passed from their little hands to people they had just met at Vedder Park and Peach Park.
Groups of kids were buying coffee at four locations: Amble Coffee in Vedder Park, Mylk and Honey coffee truck at Peach Park, Waves Coffee House in Garrison Village and Starbucks at Keith Wilson and Vedder roads.
Other kids were at Watson Elementary putting together 48 care packages for homeless people, which will later be delivered to Cyrus Centre, and assembling baskets of treats for fellow teachers at Tyson Elementary, plus staff at their own school.
“The kids have wonderful ideas. The homeless packages came from their ideas… and the teacher appreciation basket was on their list,” Thiessen said. “I’ve been telling (the kids) how it’s my favourite day of the year.”
She said that people are still reluctant to take things for free from a child, and many will initially say “no” or ask if a donation of money is required. When the recipient realizes it’s an act of kindness, a big smile sweeps across their face.
“It’s nice to be that presence,” Thiessen said.
Each of the goodies given out that day came with a hand-decorated card featuring a quote on one side, penned by Kevin Heath: “No act of kindness is too small. The gift of kindness may start as a small ripple that over time can turn into a tidal wave affecting the lives of many.”
And it worked.
“Kindness coffee is always the best,” one woman said, adding that she was going to buy someone else a cup of coffee.
Not 10 minutes later, a man came up to Thiessen and handed her a $20 bill.
“This is for next year’s project,” he said.
The kids at Watson might not see it firsthand, but their wave of kindness definitely got bigger that day.