Saving the world with kindness — it may sound overly optimistic, but a small group of Eugene residents are trying to do so. Their first step? Establishing Eugene and Springfield as official “Cities of Kindness.”
“We just think that kindness in our community will be a beneficial thing in terms of dealing with any kinds of things: toxic dialogue, divisions of any sort or hate crimes,” says Steve Christiansen, one of the members of the campaign’s steering committee.
Christiansen and his fellow Kindness Campaigners cite drops in rates of crime, school bullying and gang membership as some of the benefits of the campaign seen in other cities. They also say that police programs that refer drug users to treatment before arresting them are another benefit of this designation.
To achieve this, the campaign has met with schools, city officials and nonprofits, such as the University of Oregon College of Education, St. Vincent de Paul and Looking Glass, according to its website.
“We’re working on an individual level, organizational level and community level in terms of promoting kindness,” says Doug Carnine, a retired professor at the University of Oregon College of Education and another steering committee member.
David Funk, one of the Spreading Kindness Campaign’s advisors, says that his wife seemed to almost be insulted when he told her about the campaign.
“Her first reaction was: ‘Well, we’re kind all the time! That’s what we do,’” says Funk, who added that she later came to understand the campaign’s goals in relation to civic discourse.
In response to those reluctant to see the immediate benefits of the campaign, Christiansen says he wouldn’t be sure how to respond.
“It’s hard to imagine people being anti-kindness,” Christiansen says. “But I agree it’s kind of a soft issue. It’s not like homelessness or other things that the city has to deal with, but it just seems like a layer that can be added to our civic discourse that would help and not hurt.”
Eugene’s Spreading Kindness Campaign started in May 2018, when 150 Centennial Elementary schoolers read a peace pledge that was written by fifth-graders a few days after the 20th anniversary of the 1998 Thurston High School shooting that left two students dead and around two dozen injured.
Anaheim, California, is one other City of Kindness, along with Culver City, California; Albuquerque, New Mexico; and Miami Beach, Florida. Anaheim has had over one million reported acts of kindness, according to the official Anaheim city website. The local Kindness Campaign hopes to record 100,000 acts of kindness in 2019.
But what about being more kind in your personal life? Some tips that the campaign cites are listening mindfully, volunteering with a nonprofit or even by sharing acts of kindness you’ve witnessed.
“We’re looking at the landscape both nationally and locally and saying, ‘What can we do to reduce the hostility, the conflict, the angry dialogue and the dysfunction?’” Christiansen says.
Find out more at spreadingkindnesscampaign.org.