My quest for a kinder world stemmed from a Rotary Youth Leadership Award conference that I attended the summer before my senior year of high school. It was there that I first learned of The Smile Project, a nonprofit organization that spreads kindness every day. The coolest part was that the founder was one of my counselors at RYLA, and she started it all back in her senior year at my high school. The founder's name is Elizabeth Buechele, and she has become one of my greatest inspirations.
For over 2,900 days now, she has found something new that makes her happy. Each day she posts a "Happiness is…" post. The daily post is always different, and it always reminds me of how important the little things in life can be. But not only has she done this, but she has also spread acts of kindness all over the nation and inspires people every single day.
When she introduced The Smile Project to those of us at RYLA, she also introduced us to SPARK. SPARK stands for Strengthening Positivity And Reinforcing Kindness, and it is the student-run branch of The Smile Project. There were a few in place at surrounding high schools and colleges, but it seemed absurd to me that there was not one at my high school, the high school that she graduated from.
And so, with the help of some friends, I went on to be one of four founders and president of our high school's SPARK club. It was a huge impact point of my senior year and put a lot of things into perspective for me. We did many small projects and a fundraiser throughout the year. But our biggest project really opened my eyes. We made posters that had every single member of the senior class's name, and each name was followed by a compliment. There were roughly 600 students. But every student's name made it on that wall, and every student got to see something great another student saw in them.
It was amazing because it took weeks and a lot of teamwork. Because nice words were the only words that flew around the room for weeks. Because I realized that despite going to the same school my whole life, there were so many students I did not know. I now make more of an effort to get to know people, and not just their names and faces, but the person that they truly are.
After graduating, I was stuck. How was I going to continue my quest for a better world? It was then that I found the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation and learned that I could become a RAKtivist. A RAKtivist is a "random acts of kindness activist." And there is a whole RAKtivist community that I am proud to be a part of. My favorite part about this is that anyone can join. You just have to genuinely answer a few questions about kindness. My other favorite part about being a RAKtivist is the Facebook group, where every day I can go and find my feed filled with kindness. There are ideas about random acts of kindness, stories, quotes, and so much more. It is a safe space for people to inspire and lift one another up.
My quest for a kinder world is far from over. But I have found that if each day I lift my head, put on a smile, and ask someone how their day was, I am one step closer to making the world a better place.