Accompanied by their teacher Amy Hathaway and senior Kennedy Adams, Plato kindergarteners head for a "friend's" house during a Kindness Konnection outing last Thursday.

Some people might say that kindness isn’t a characteristic as common to American society as it once was.

Nevertheless, it’s standard procedure for a group of young students in one little corner of Texas County, as Plato Elementary School kindergarten teacher Amy Hathaway leads her class in an ongoing project called the “Kindness Konnection.”

Execution of the idea is three-fold: Kids mail cheerful letters to people all over the U.S., take walks to visit elderly “friends” around the Plato community and pick up trash during their outings. The first two aspects allow the students an unusual opportunity to make peoples’ days better.

“We have heard from many people who said they were having a bad day and got a letter,” Hathaway said. “They ask, ‘why me?’ I say we just do it to be nice.”

The project began humbly last fall, with a few class visits to the homes of local elderly neighbors. 

“I was out in one of the neighborhoods talking with one of the ladies and thought it would be fun to get permission slips to walk around and get to know the community a little bit,” Hathaway said.

Hugging a friend

Plato Schools kindergartener Rowen Bressner hugs Jewell Groves during a class visit to a “friend’s” house.

Then, after observing some of the coloring work her students were doing, Hathaway thought it would make nice cards. That started the mailings, which began with Thanksgiving cards, followed by Christmas, winter and Valentine’s Day versions. 

The class sent out 68 letters at Valentine’s Day, and will continue with spring, Easter and end-of-the-school-year mailings.

“The postmaster is getting to know us pretty well,” Hathaway said.

Hathaway said Legacy Bank in Plato will help organize a year-ending “graduation” event with all the kids “friends” invited. So far, the class has amassed close to 90.

“The program has a life and breath of its own,” Hathaway said. “It’s growing so much I almost feel like I don’t have control over it.”

The project is even backed by funding from a $1,200 Good Idea Grant from the Federally Impacted Schools Educational Foundation (FISEF) that helps with the purchase of materials for mailings and gifts for the kids’ elderly “friends.” Hand-operated claw tools were even bought so kids didn’t have to use their hands to pick up trash.

The grant was obtained with help from a pair of local AmeriCorps VISTA volunteers, Morgan Elliott and Krystal Smith, who regularly help out in Hathaway’s classroom. Also assisting with a variety of Kindness Konnection tasks – including properly addressing letters – is Plato senior Kennedy Adams, Hathaway’s A-plus student helper.

The elderly friends’ reaction to the kids’ visits is overwhelmingly positive.

“The look on their faces tells the story,” Hathaway said. “Now a lot of them really look forward to when we visit.”

The mailings are sent to relatives, friends of relatives or anyone else with a connection to Hathaway’s students or their families who might need a pick-me-up. They have been met by an enthusiastic response in the form of dozens of thank-you letters. 

So far the class has received mail from 12 states, and Hathaway said the goal is to hear from all 50.

“We have a big U.S. map in the room and we color in the states we’ve gotten mail from,” Hathaway said. “It’s filling up pretty fast.”

The project teaches the young students many lessons above and beyond how to address an envelope.

“We talk about neat handwriting, pride, respect and a lot of other positive things,” Hathaway said. “They absolutely love doing this. They ask when we’ll be doing walks, about the men and ladies in the community, and it seems to help discipline in the room. We talk about how kindness starts right here and we go from there.”

Word about the Kindness Konnection has spread through all parts of the Plato community, and the result is a reciprocation of gratitude and goodness.

“You get lots of ‘thank-you’s’ wherever you go,” Hathaway said. “And people have started doing things for us, which we never expected. We can’t out-kind the kind community we live in.”

Kindness hug

Plato Schools kindergarten teacher Amy Hathaway gets a hug from Betty Barnes during a class visit to a “friend’s” house.

Hathaway said her class next year will likely continue what has quickly become a fixture (and even tradition) in Plato.

“I don’t know how not to any more,” she said. “It’s one of the most fantastic things I’ve ever done in my life. Instead of just teaching the kids to be nice, we’ve learned what friendship really is.

“We can all make a difference in this world; even a small child has the power to influence others. Kids are the greatest thing in the world, and I love sharing them with people.”

Kindness Konnection 1

Kindness Konnection 2

Kindness Konnection 3

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