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GETTING BEHIND #BEKIND: The story of Omaha’s collective movement toward kindness

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“A few weeks after my mom died, I opened a drawer in her room, and I found a sticky note with two words that changed my life: ‘help people’.”

On Fri., Aug. 24, Hunter Radenslaben uttered these words, and it seemed as if time stood still in the MN gym. His words resonated passion. A passion for being kind.

Recently, Aug. 24 was proclaimed by Omaha mayor Jean Stothert as city-wide #BeKind Day. This was done in an effort to bring the community and the youth together with one common goal: being kind.

“In a world where you can choose to be anything, choose to be kind,” Stothert said.

But the entire campaign is not based on just one day. It is based on something that MPS superintendent Jim Sutfin had witnessed at a gathering with some of the best high school districts in the country in Nashville. The campaign there was named ‘Be Nice’.

“We flew to this meeting, and found that there had been a district that had a long history of suicides in their students. They decided to adopt a ‘Be Nice’ initiative, and spread it around their schools,” Sutfin said. “But it didn’t stop there. It became integrated into the daily lives of student. It even saved lives.”

Soon after, #BeKind was born. Sutfin teamed up with Ralston’s superintendent Mark Adler to make a plan to advocate for #BeKind in their schools.

“I know that kids spend their whole life hearing don’t do this, don’t do that,” Sutfin said. “But what happens when we take the conversation from don’t, and change it to do, when we spread this ideology of positive reinforcement and kindness?”

Recently, Adler lost his son due to an incident on social media. His son took his life to escape cyber bullying. #BeKind is a way for students to think of positivity, a way to give and receive something priceless: kindness.

“Sometimes, it might feel like it’s marketing. We have these big flags, window clings, and t-shirts being made,” Sutfin said. “But there is actually a purpose behind this. I always like to compare it like it’s the wood behind the arrow. And the wood behind the arrow is opening up a conversation about what it means to be kind. It is making kindness a habit.”

Throughout the year, MPS plans to host a collection of events relating to students and the community. MN assistant principal Susan Marlatt is the head of #BeKind events throughout the school.

“Being kind is not just something we’ll do for part of this year, and forget. It is something that I hope will become a part of our culture, something that becomes a part of who we are,” Marlatt said.

Still, there are instances where the message is mocked.

“I know that there’s people out there that are mocking it, and I want to say that, in a way, it’s amazing because it means they’re talking about it. In the end, that’s all you need,” Sutfin said.

Ultimately, #BeKind’s future rests in our hands. To integrate the culture into our communities, we must integrate it into our lives first.

“Kindness is simple. It takes a little tweak of human interaction, that’s it,” Sutfin said. “The moral of the story is that we are all fighting a battle. It is called being human. We all have different lives that affect us all. Giving kindness makes it all easier.”

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GETTING BEHIND #BEKIND: The story of Omaha’s collective movement toward kindness