Mijares: Community partners are key to reaching ‘One Billion Acts of Kindness’

One billion is a number that’s impossible for most of us to fathom. But if it can be measured in dollars, why not acts of kindness?

On May 5, we posed that question to approximately 500 educators and community leaders who gathered at the Hyatt Regency Orange County to take part in perhaps the most important event the Orange County Department of Education has sponsored — the kickoff of our One Billion Acts of Kindness campaign.

desk-of-al-smallThis ambitious initiative has the potential to amplify civility in a time of social fragmentation and political polarization. Moreover, kindness is a virtue that powerfully manifests character, and character defines who we are. In fact, character development is among the 21st-century learning skills we teach in our classrooms, and it is embedded in our state educational standards.

Is one billion feasible? I am certain it is, with the caveat that OCDE cannot do it alone.

To reach our target, we’ll need a broad coalition of individuals and organizations, all working together toward the same goal. To that end, we are encouraging our community partners to take ownership of the effort, and we’re hoping the schools and districts we serve will consider incorporating the One Billion Acts of Kindness campaign into activities and events planned for the 2016-17 school year.

Welcoming a new student to school, sending a card to a friend or relative, or picking up trash in your community are all examples of the kinds of actions we’re talking about, and you’re probably already doing these things. But we’re asking you to take the additional step of recording them on the website www.kindness1billion.org, or sharing them on social media using the hashtag #kindness1billion.

At our May 5 launch event, we played a video featuring a handful of prominent Orange County leaders advocating on behalf of kindness, including Sheriff-Coroner Sandra Hutchens, United Way CEO Max Gardner and Orange County Business Council President and CEO Lucy Dunn. We then brought out our featured speaker, Dr. James Doty, a prominent neurosurgeon and author of the book “Into the Magic Shop: A Neurosurgeon’s Quest to Discover the Mysteries of the Brain and the Secrets of the Heart.”

Dr. Doty’s story is a compelling one — and so is his message. Humans, he explained, are hardwired to care for others.

“When you do a kind act to another, it is a double-reward,” he said, “because when you do that, science has shown those regions in your brain that are associated with reward increase their metabolism.”

OCDE may have kicked off the One Billion Acts of Kindness effort, but now it’s up to all of us to realize that double-reward and build a movement that can extend beyond Orange County, into other parts of California and perhaps even across the country.

By banding together and playing to our shared values rather than our learned differences, we can become a nation of billionaires — in the truest and most meaningful sense.