‘It’s Up to Us’: More Ways We Can Help Our Community

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Santa-Clara-County-Assessment-Carole-Leigh-Hutton-United-Way-Silicon-ValleyYesterday I shared the list from last fall’s Santa Clara County Assessment Project. It has excellent suggestions for how we can all improve our neighborhoods. Today’s list casts the net a little wider to the community.

I love the very first suggestion to “experience our rich cultural diversity”. That’s the reason I feature cultural festivals in my “Five Ways to be a Good Neighbor” column at the start of each month. The more we know about our neighbors and their backgrounds, the more appreciative of each other and closer-knit we become.

Another favorite of mine suggests attending a school board meeting or city council meeting. This I think everyone should do at least once, and maybe even once a year minimum. Not only is it a good education for you as a citizen, giving you a better understanding how your local government works, but it also serves to keep public officials in check. [Read more…]

‘It’s Up to Us’: How We Can All Make a Difference

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Santa-Clara-County-Assessment-Carole-Leigh-Hutton-United-Way-Silicon-ValleyIf real and lasting change is going to happen for Silicon Valley residents, it’s going to have to come from them. That was one of the conclusions drawn from the 2012 Santa Clara County Assessment Project.

One of the phrases interviewers heard from residents surveyed last fall was, “It’s up to us.” The residents knew that in order to create a more cohesive community where those who are struggling are helped, the residents themselves were going to have to be more involved. They are no longer looking to government and institutions to do the job for them.

Yesterday I applauded United Way Silicon Valley President and CEO Carole Leigh Hutton for outlining in the Mercury News how her organization is going to change its focus toward fostering more community involvement.

Today I’m sharing the first part of the excellent action list that was included in the executive summary of the assessment. Tomorrow I’ll share the second part. To see the full list, including what institutions and policy makers can do, go to the United Way website page about the project, and click on the picture of the report.

What You Can Do
Around Your Home

  • Interact with your neighbors. Share fruits, vegetables or baked goods from your home. Make a point to welcome new residents. Invite your neighbors to join you in a walking group.
  • Say “hello” to young people in your neighborhood. Get to know them by name. Ask them for help with yard work or bringing in trash cans when you’re away. For very young children, keep chalk handy near your front yard and offer it for sidewalk art.
  •  Keep your front yard tidy. A clean appearance is inviting to neighbors and promotes community pride. [Read more…]

‘Random Acts of Kindness’ Has Bay Area Roots

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As we celebrate Day 2 of Random Acts of Kindness Week, it’s interesting to note that the term ‘random acts of kindness’, which is now so firmly planted in our collective cultural mind, was born right here in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Writer and peace activist Anne Herbert is widely recognized as the person who coined the phrase, “Practice random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty.” She reportedly wrote the phrase on a Sausalito restaurant place mat in 1982 or 1983. Because it turned the well-used terms “random acts of violence” and “senseless acts of violence” on their heads, many people found it instantly inspiring. Before Internet memes, it became a popular saying on bumper stickers, posters, and more.

Thirty years later Random Acts of Kindness Week and Day are gaining popularity, with more and more people and organizations wanting to promote awareness of how important spreading kindness for kindness’ sake.

Yesterday’s assignment from the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation was to smile at 10 strangers. Today’s assignment: buy something for the person in line behind you. The above video will serve as the perfect inspiration. If you try it, let me know how it goes!

For more inspiration, see our Be Kind: Kindness Ideas Page.

 

Show a Little Kindness During Random Acts of Kindness Week 2013

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It’s time for Random Acts of Kindness Week, which is celebrated today through next Sunday, Feb. 17. Consider focusing a little time on showing kindness to others in either small or big ways, and join in on a national wave of spreading cheer.

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If you’re looking for some prompts to get you started, we have an entire page dedicated to kindness called Be Kind: Kindness Ideas. The page includes links to past articles I’ve posted on the topic, as well as links to organizations that feature hundreds of ideas. [Read more…]

Five Ways to be a Good Neighbor in February

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Courtesy of the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation

Ready to show some loving kindness this month? February is the month for both love and kindness. We show our love for those near and dear to us on Valentine’s Day. That same week is Random Acts of Kindness Week, when we’re encouraged to engage in acts of kindness to others in the community.

Here are five ways you can show some kindness to others in the San Francisco Bay Area, or get to know your neighbors a little better by expanding your cultural awareness. Have any more suggestions to add? Share them in the comments section!

1) Celebrate Lunar New Year: The Lunar New Year is Sunday, Feb. 10, ushering in the Year of the Snake. Cultural events are taking place all over the San Francisco Bay Area from Feb. 2 to Feb. 24, with the popular Chinese New Year Parade rolling through downtown San Francisco on Saturday, Feb. 23. A complete calendar for the Chinese New Year Festival and Parade is available online. The Stanford-Pan Asian Music Festival is welcoming the new year Feb. 8-10, at the university’s new Bing Concert Hall. Look for other events, including many family-friendly happenings, at local libraries, community centers, and cultural centers. Los Altos Patch has a great list.

2) Check Out a Festival That’s for the Birds: The 17th annual San Francisco Bay Flyway Festival is happening Feb. 8-10 at Mare Island, a former Naval base on a peninsula located near Vallejo. More than 60 walks and guided tours are available to see all the birds and wildlife found there; an art exhibit, silent auction, and other events are also scheduled. This is a unique opportunity to see this important nature preserve up close. See the festival website for more information. [Read more…]

How to be a Good Neighbor at Election Time, Online and Off

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In my last post I looked at why being a good neighbor/citizen means exercising the right to vote. Today I list ways to be kind to others during the election season, when emotions may run high.

There’s that old admonishment to “never talk about religion or politics,” but during a highly contested election it can be difficult to sidestep the topic of politics altogether. Especially with how interconnected many of us are on social media, we now find our news feeds filled with well-meaning (or not) family and friends expressing themselves with frequent clicks.

Here’s my list of  ways to be a good and kind neighbor in the public space (in person and online) during the election. It’s not always easy; I admit it’s challenging for me to follow my own advice, and I’ve stumbled a number of times. Here’s to all of us elevating civility and focusing on the greater good at election time.

During an election a good neighbor:

Smiling Student Receives Award for Kindness

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Gerardo Ochoa and Brianna Mercado

CUPERTINO—A nice guy finished first at Homestead High School at the end of the 2011-12 year, as senior Gerardo Ochoa received the school’s first Sandlot Award.

The award was created specifically to shine a light on students who display kindness to their peers and the community at large. Ochoa, described as someone who always has a smile on his face, was nominated by teachers who told the selection committee that he always sought to make himself and those around him better.

Although this is the first year for the award at Homestead, it started four years ago as the Justin Perkins Sandlot Award primarily at Monta Vista High School, named after the inspirational Monta Vista student who died from cancer in 2008. It was created by Justin’s father, Albert Perkins, and two friends, Steven Young and John Loiacano, a Monta Vista alumnus. Young is one of the founders of a nonprofit website, Sandlot Hero, dedicated to sharing inspirational stories of people making a difference. The site includes stories about past award winners. [Read more…]

Fourth FUHSD School Adds Kindness Award

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CUPERTINO — A fourth school in the Fremont Union High School District (FUHSD) is offering the Sandlot Award, a unique award that recognizes graduating seniors for their kindness and altruism.

“I personally love this award because it recognizes our students who wouldn’t normally be recognized,” said Homestead High School College Advisor Kellee Markos.

She said the Sandlot Award, “embodies a lot of what Homestead prides itself on,” things like the “kindness factor” and an “appreciation for diverse backgrounds.”

Some of the school’s high achieving students in academics, athletics, and extracurricular activities, tend to get recognized over and over again, because so many awards have similar criteria, Markos said. The Sandlot Award, however, is for the students who often go unnoticed for their acts of kindness toward their peers and the community.

Homestead now joins Monta Vista, Cupertino and Lynbrook high schools in offering the Sandlot Award. The deadline for Homestead students to apply is April 25. [Read more…]

High School Kindness Award Deadline Approaching

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CUPERTINO — The deadline for Fremont Union High School District (FUHSD) seniors to apply for a special award recognizing kindness and altruism is this Sunday, April 15.

The Sandlot Award recognizes students at Monta Vista, Cupertino and Lynbrook high schools who display kindness to others. It was originally launched in 2009 at Monta Vista as the Justin Perkins Sandlot Award in memory of former student Justin Perkins, who died of cancer in 2008.  An effort is ongoing to bring the award to all five FUHSD schools.

Award coordinators say that while other school awards measure academic, athletic, and extracurricular successes, the Sandlot Award measures altruism that is not necessarily well known.

The award shines the light on “invisible students” who don’t always get recognized for their efforts, said Lynbrook Associated Student Body President Kevin Tu. It’s about students who are, “doing something good, not just for the title and recognition; it’s people serving for the heart of serving,” he said.

“It’s what’s unique about this award, and something Lynbrook needs a little bit more of,” Tu said. “I really support what this award encourages and fosters. And I believe that if everyone would be more like a sandlot hero our school would be a better place.” [Read more…]

Random Acts of Kindness Day: What Kindness Will You Show Someone?

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“Imagine what our real neighborhoods would be like if each of us offered, as a matter of course, just one kind word to another person.” Fred Rogers

Today is Random Acts of Kindness Day, the culmination of Random Acts of Kindness Week. My hope is that our world was a little nicer this week, as people reached out to one another in kindness. I think of it as that well known ripple effect, when you toss a pebble into a pool of water, and the circles reach out far and wide. Hopefully the random acts performed here and there are rippling all over our neighborhoods and world.

Did you perform an act of kindness? Did someone do something nice for you? Share with us in the comments.

If you haven’t tried showing kindness to someone this week, there’s still today (and tomorrow, and the next day….). Below are several suggestions. Check out our entries on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday for more.

  • If someone you know lost a loved one in the past year, send then a note or some flowers to let them know you are thinking about him or her as they mourn the loss
  • Take a container of homemade soup to a sick friend (see my easy recipe below)
  • Plant a few flowers where others can enjoy them
  • Shop at a locally-owned business and find something encouraging to say to the owner
  • Write a few inspirational sayings on cards and leave them in public places for others to find [Read more…]