Partners in kind

Johnson,-Billie

Commentary by Billie Johnson

I was delighted to see the July 26 front page of the ISJ. The headline just below the fold read, “Moms work to reach sixth-grade girls.“ I had a feeling this story would be coming, and I knew it would be good. As I read along I kept thinking, “I know them! I know them!”

I first met Courtney Fisher and Rainbow Maldonado when we were sophomores at Poky High. We played junior varsity basketball together, and by “played,” I mean we sat the bench and cheered. Although, I got to go in sometimes to set a screen because I was one of the big girls, but for the most part, we didn’t see much playing time. Apart from basketball, we ran in different, albeit friendly circles and didn’t get to know each other until 20 years later while planning our high school reunion.

I was in charge of the July event, and a few months before, I suffered a head injury when I boarded a bus to take my middle school math club to Boise. I played rugby for nine years without incident, but one fateful day with the mathletes and I incur 11 nights in the hospital, miss nine-and-a-half weeks of work and accrue $50,000 in hospital bills. Thank God for insurance. And thank God for Rainbow and Courtney.

On Facebook, they could see from my status updates and hospital gown pictures that I wasn’t making any progress on our reunion. Courtney messaged me offering to take over the main dinner planning. Not only did she want to help, but she also had ideas to make our dinner better, and with Rainbow’s assistance, they did just that. That’s one of the things I love about these women. They are geared up to contribute. They aren’t passengers in the boat but rather crewmates wielding a paddle with a passion and fueled for forward motion.

I don’t see Courtney and Rainbow as often as they see each other, but we keep in touch and meet for an occasional lunch or cup of coffee. During one such get-together with Rainbow last winter, we realized our mutual feelings of “kids these days need more from us” and “what can we do?” That’s when she told me about the Finding Kind documentary and accompanying Kind Campaign program aimed at middle school girls. A family in town had just lost a daughter to suicide and another had lost one the year before. Do you see this Pocatello? Chubbuck? Southeast Idaho? Our community has lost two girls under the age of 16 in the last 18 months to suicide. TWO.

So when people wonder why this program is so specific and why these moms pursued it, I imagine that’s partly why. In addition to watching their own daughters navigate pre-teen challenges and social circles, they’ve seen what’s happened in our community. Data and experience suggest that this demographic could use extra guidance in dealing with exactly what the Finding Kind documentary and accompanying Kind Campaign curriculum addresses: “physical fighting, name-calling, threats, power struggles, competition, manipulation, secrets, rumors, and ostracizing other girls.” How do we stop these behaviors, and how to we help girls cope with them when they occur?

As Courtney and Rainbow approached the mayor’s office and the school district for support and collaboration with the Kind Campaign, they learned of other initiatives in the community also centered around kindness and how we treat each other. A few stakeholders convened, and Kind Community was born.

Becoming a part of the Kind Community collaborative isn’t a pledge toward perfection. It’s a commitment to celebrate each of our diverse efforts to uphold and bolster a shared vision for creating and ensuring just that — a Kind Community. We — that’s right — we seek to promote and connect one another working toward similar goals. I’m thrilled to be a part of this collective even though I also feel a great vulnerability every time I publicly advocate kindness.

What my pup decides to chew in the morning, new shoe or dog bone, may affect my capacity for kindness on any given day. I succumb all the time to the humanistic dangers of ego, pride and a personal investment in being right. It’s important for engineers to get things right, and I forget (or ignore) that sometimes there is no right when feelings are involved. Like any campaign, there will be missteps and interpersonal struggles, but believe me. The heart and soul behind Kind Community love Southeast Idaho and want to proactively engage groups and individuals to share resources and leverage relationships for the greater good.

Is a Kind Community important to you? If so, please consider becoming one of the many partners in kind. For more information, email kindcommunity2015@gmail.com or like Kind Community on Facebook.

Billie Johnson of Pocatello holds a bachelor’s degree in engineering and a master’s degree from Idaho State University. She works as an engineer, is an avid community volunteer, and maintains a blog about her adventures in a cow suit at www.CowSuit
Saturday.com.

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