Promoting Kindness

Paula (Jessep) Horwitz

Paula (Jessep) Horwitz

Credit: Penn State

“No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.” ~ Aesop

The next time you are in heavy traffic and someone wants to merge, let them in. Pay attention to what happens next. It’s likely that the other driver will give you a wave of thanks, and you’ll both feel good. Then, watch the drivers behind you. Chances are they'll start taking turns letting people merge, too.

“Research shows that a random act of kindness positively affects not just the person performing it and the person receiving it, but also any witnesses who see it happen,” said Paula (Jessep) Horwitz ’03, director of education at the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation in Denver. “All three immediately experience decreased stress, lower blood pressure, a spike in serotonin, and an inherent inspiration to do more kindness.”

In short: There’s a positive ripple effect to kindness.

That’s good news in an age when civility and empathy are sorely needed. It seems that the current political climate, social media, and reality TV have conspired to bring out the worst in humanity—intolerance, impatience, selfishness, and judgment.

“My work is more important today than ever,” Horwitz said. “One of the core reasons the world is so unstable right now is distrust and an inability to communicate, listen, and empathize with others. Random acts of kindness (RAKs) provide a little light of hope and happiness in the world. Kindness breeds kindness.”

Horwitz, who majored in English at Penn State Behrend, was a middleschool English teacher before moving on to higher education. There she managed instructional design, revising curriculum for programs at Colorado State University - Global Campus. She was productive and successful in that position, but something was lacking.

“In a heart-to-heart with my husband one night, I realized that I missed that connection to students,” she said. “But teaching in a classroom didn’t give me as big an impact as I wanted to make. It was about that time that a good friend of mine told me about an opening at the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation here in Denver.”

The position was perfect for Horwitz. Her job is to develop, revise, and manage the foundation’s K-12 Kindness in the Classroom curriculum and to work with schools around the world that use it.

“With all the cuts to health and physical education, there’s a real need for this sort of social and emotional learning that can be incorporated into the core classes to meet state health and wellness standards,” she said.

“We try to connect our curriculum to core classes and find ways to integrate kindness into reading, writing, science, and math so students can see and practice RAKs in all facets of life.”

The foundation is funded by a private endowment and does not charge for any of its programs or curriculum, which can all be downloaded from The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation website.