After Lodi Kids Donate Coffee to Soldiers, What's Next? A Lot!

I wrote this story on Friday. When I got home that night I told my husband that one of the best things about starting Lodi Live is that it gives me so much faith in our kids’ future. Every parent does their best to raise great kids, but we can’t control everything. Stories like this demonstrate that parents have a ton of support from Lodi schools in raising great kids. Seriously, there are so many great teachers, administrators, and kids in our small town. This story starts at Borchardt Elementary School. The Vice Principal, Mrs. Sotelo, didn’t like the negative focus of anti-bullying campaigns, so she decided instead to hire the Think Kindness team. Think Kindness is an organization dedicated to inspiring a movement of kindness in schools. Instead of focusing on the negative, bullying, it focuses on the positive, being kind. Since she hired this team a few years ago, the program has taken off in a way she never could have imagined. In the upcoming Spring Publication of Lodi Live there’s an in depth article about this program. Today though, we’re focusing on what happened Friday. Through Think Kindness, the kids at Borchardt school donated 340 pounds of coffee to soldiers overseas. They also had a special assembly with Gary Xavier, a Think Kindness speaker, just for the 4th, 5th and 6th graders. Whenever I’m writing a story I ask myself, why is this good? Why should people care? I came up with these two answers: 1) kids in Lodi donated 340 pounds of coffee to soldiers overseas, and 2) over a hundred kids in Lodi were engaged in an assembly on Friday that taught them how to be kind humans.

The halls at Borchard school were filled with boxes of coffee last Friday. The kids have been collecting coffee for months. That day, there was a special assembly and at the end of that assembly two soldiers from Travis Air Force Base came to pick up the coffee. The kids loaded the coffee into the car (it was a tight squeeze) and the Air Force men took it back to Travis Air Force Base. That coffee that was collected in Lodi and that is now sitting in Fairfield at the base, will soon be sent to places like Afghanistan. American soldiers in Afghanistan will receive a care package from the U.S. and open it up to find some good ol’ coffee from home. Starbucks, Pete’s Dunkin’ Donuts, Folgers… all the good stuff that we Americans are accustomed to. The kids understood how special this coffee donation was. Gary, from Think Kindness, did a great job explaining to the kids, in a way they could understand, why it’s kind to send that coffee overseas. They understand soldiers are homesick and receiving care packages not only reminds them of home, it makes them feel loved. Gary was actually a sniper for the Marines in Afghanistan, so he doesn’t have to guess how it feels to receive these care packages. He knows because he’s been on the receiving end. Being able to share his experience is what helped these kids understand the importance. “There’s nothing like opening a package and seeing something from home,” Gary told the kids. “And adults like coffee.” These kids did an awesome thing collecting all this coffee. It wasn’t just an assignment from a speaker at an assembly, this was an empowering project for the kid. So what’s next? This story doesn’t stop at coffee. What’s next after you’ve done something great like this?

The assembly on Friday wasn’t a typical Think Kindness assembly. This was a special assembly to follow up that huge coffee donation. When the kids got to the assembly they were feeling proud and empowered (rightfully so) after their huge act of kindness. Sending coffee isn’t the first big act of kindness the kids have completed. The kids at Borchardt have sent shoes to kids in Africa so those kids could go to school. They’ve created beautification projects to keep their school in tip top shape. They’ve sent money to victims of California wildfires and now they’ve sent coffee to soldiers serving around the world. On top of that, they’ve done thousands of small acts of kindness. So what’s next? “I’m not satisfied with just one act of kindness. What’s next?” asked Gary, speaking to a sea of 4th, 5th, and 6th graders. “Guys, the biggest fear we all have is that we’re not good enough and we don’t belong. This is my my challenge to you. How do we make everyone in this school not feel alone? How do we do that?” Before the assembly Mrs. Sotelo told me Gary would be talking to the kids about how they can be kind everyday, but I didn’t expect the assembly so be so profound. I thought Gary was going to talk to kids about being kind by like picking up after themselves. Nope. This assembly was going deep and focusing on a huge fear we all have: being alone. Kids deal with this too. Who reading this remembers being a kid and feeling anxious before finding a seat at lunch or going to recess? What if kids at this school never had to feel that fear? This was Gary’s challenge to the students. He spent the assembly talking to the kids about how we’re all unique, we all have a different set of experiences, and we’re all powerful. Plus, he actually gave the kids the tools and training on how to reach out to meet new people, like a new student who might not have any friends yet, and how to have a meaningful conversation with that new person.

First, he had two kids and two teachers describe their morning. His point was that part of what makes you you is that no one else is going through life the way you are. He wanted this community to see that yes, everyone woke up and got to school, but that looked different for every single person. How the kids woke up was different, how they chose their outfits were different, and what they were thinking about as they headed off to school was different. One little girl woke up after being slapped by a little brother who thought he was funny. Another girl woke up after hitting snooze a few too many times on her alarm. One teacher dragged himself to the gym even though he didn’t want to because he knew he was going to have Burger King for lunch. Another teacher jumped out of bed because she had a special coffee date with her son before starting her school day. Everyone got to school, but this activity demonstrated everyone’s morning was different.

The next thing Gary had the kids do was learn how to ask questions about someone else. He had two boys stand up, a 5th grade student and a 6th grade student. He made sure they didn’t know each other well. He instructed them to ask a few questions to get to know one another. “Do you like to play video games?” the 6th grade boy asked. “Not really,” said the 5th grader. The 6th grader stood there for a minute. He wasn’t sure how to move forward.  “What video games do you like to play?” said the 6th grader. Gary intervened (nicely) and pointed out that by asking more questions about video games, this conversation wasn’t helping us learn anything about the 5th grader who was being interviewed. We were just learning that the 6th grader really liked video games. He gave pointers on how to ask better questions to learn more about the other person we’re talking to. He taught kids how to have nice conversations. How many adults do we all know who could benefit from going to this assembly? Here a few hundred kids in Lodi are learning skills many adults don’t comprehend!

Gary wrapped up by issuing the kids a challenge: talk to people. Especially kids you see sitting by themselves. He helped the kids understand we’re all different, then gave the kids the training about how to ask questions to learn about someone else. Then he issued the challenge that if kids see someone else who looks lonely, go talk to them. Make them feel welcome. “Even adults look at you like, ‘You’ve got no problems. You’re a kid.’ That’s not true! And some of you look at teachers like, ‘You get paid to do this so deal with it. That’s your problem.’ Woah!” said Gary. “You guys learned that everyone has a unique story. You have to learn that story.  If you guys are going to consider what the greatest fear is for everybody is that they’re lonely or they’re afraid of being lonely, then we have to start talking to people we would never talk to. If you guys wanna see how powerful you are, go and talk to someone that’s brand new in the school and sitting all by themselves. You want to see how powerful you are, go and talk to somebody that’s being mean. You pull them aside and you tell them, that’s not how we treat people here. You do it by yourself alone, just you and that person... Start talking to the people you would never talk to, at lunch and at recess.” I think that’s a good note to wrap this article up on. How can you be more kind? How can we all be more kind? Talk to people. If you see someone who looks lonely, talk to them. Gary’s closing line was this: “What’s next? Keep asking that question, what else can I do for someone? You’ll build a great life guys.” So what’s next for you?