It’s not every day a group of elementary students receives a personal letter from the Premier of Ontario.
“I think they were a little shocked, to be honest,” said Emily Fortney-Blunt, who leads a group of Lakeroad School kids who have been doubling as “Secret Kindness Agents” by performing good deeds for their peers and community.
“We’ve been exploring what it means to be a good leader, and wanted to reach outside of our little group, so we came up with a list of ‘missions’ for our local and national leaders.”
The group of Grade 6, 7 and 8 students drafted letters to 30 leaders — from Aamjiwnaang Chief Joanne Rogers and Education Director Jim Costello, to Premier Kathleen Wynne and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau — each personalized with suggested kindness missions.
“Little things that can be done for free, without acknowledgement,” said Fortney-Blunt, pointing to examples like giving an apology, holding the door and smiling for others, composting, recycling, and taking a ‘mindful minute’ or calming walk.
Soon the responses began trickling in. The first was from Rogers, who, along with a hand-written letter, paid a visit to the group, which meets in a traditional Indigenous Restorative Circle each week along with teachers Mike Cordingley and Charity Murphy.
“She helped us to connect this with Indigenous culture. These acts of kindness are really part of the traditional Seven Grandfather Teachings (wisdom, love, respect, bravery, honesty, humility and truth.)”
More letters started arriving, with many leaders detailing how and when they carried out their missions, which the students appreciated, Fortney-Blunt noted.
“The more personal they got, the more positive the students responded,” she said, noting Costello’s mission of ‘one full day of home-cooked meals without technology’ as well as charity volunteering.
Wynne was invited to give ‘high fives’ and smiles to her colleagues.
“I thought the high five mission sounded pretty fun, but I don’t know if that sort of behaviour is allowed in the legislature,” she wrote in her letter. “I usually try to smile at everyone — especially those people who might disagree with me — I know that everyone can benefit from a little extra kindness.”
Other responses came from school board superintendents, like Taf Lounsbury, who, along with coming up with her own Secret Kindness Agent nickname, completed her mission of five-days of smiles, greetings, and high-fives.
Fellow Lambton Kent District School Board superintendent Angie Barrese completed a similar mission and told the students what she observed.
“This small gesture of kindness caused others to smile… offered others the opportunity to respond and return a greeting. This small gesture made me feel better and made my heart smile.”
City Councillor Brian White completed his mission — admit a mistake and apologize for it — and responded via Twitter.
“I attended a meeting last week without reading the material beforehand,” he wrote. “I apologized for being unprepared, as peoples’ time is valuable.”
Fortney-Blunt said they’ve received responses from about two-thirds of the recipients, and look forward to more.
“We’ve got our fingers crossed to hear back from the Prime Minister.”