Mijares: Join OCDE’s efforts to register one billion acts of kindness in Orange County and beyond

It’s been said that a single act of kindness can grow roots in all directions. If that’s true, what would happen if we pledged to commit a million acts of kindness? Or even a billion?

We intend to find out. Beginning in May, the Orange County Department of Education will launch a new initiative encouraging students, educators and community members to help reach the goal of registering one billion acts of kindness.

desk-of-al-smallThis is admittedly an ambitious undertaking, perhaps even audacious in its scope. But the current climate of divisiveness, social fragmentation and political polarization calls for something big, and between our local school districts and community partners, we believe we have the resources and the drive to make it happen.

What constitutes an act of kindness? Well, that’s somewhat subjective. It could be as simple as picking up a discarded cup along the sidewalk or allowing a car to merge in front of you on a busy interchange. Or it could be more involved, like visiting a home for senior citizens, joining a beach clean-up or volunteering at a local animal shelter. No matter the size, it’s about doing something kind with no expectations of reciprocity.

In 2013, the Anaheim Elementary School District joined a citywide effort to carry out a “Million Acts of Kindness,” and the results were remarkable. The students of Anaheim were inspired by the challenge, which resulted in higher attendance rates and a decrease in suspensions. And they continued to embrace the premise even after their goal was met.

By scaling up to include a county of more than 3 million residents, we have the potential to build a positive social and cultural infrastructure that connects our shared values and enhances our relationships with one another. There are critical lessons for our students as well. Beyond the emphasis on the “the four Cs” of communication, collaboration, critical thinking and creativity, we have an extraordinary opportunity to promote the fifth C — character.

Starting with a special kickoff event on May 5, participants will be encouraged to register their good deeds in one of two ways: They can visit the website www.kindness1billion.org and click on the designated button, or they can post to Facebook, Twitter or Instagram using the hashtag #kindness1billion. Each entry will be counted toward our total.

Once again, the “how” is entirely up to you. But the benefits will extend to all of us.