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Council encourages kindness

Liz O'Donnell | Thursday, February 25, 2010

 The idea is simple, three big favors for three other people. That’s it.

The Sophomore Class Council (SCC) kicked off a community service week emphasizing doing small acts of kindness for others, based on premise of the 2000 movie “Pay it Forward” starring Haley Joel Osment and Kevin Spacey.
“Our hope is with the events we have scheduled people are being educated and it will start to have a similar effect at Notre Dame,” sophomore Erin Pankiw said.
Pankiw is a member of the Hands-On Community Service Committee, which is the group from the SCC sponsoring the event. She and six others are members of the committee, which organized the week’s events.
She said the committee came up with the idea for the week as a way to encourage students to participate in a different form of community service.
“We were trying to think of out of the box ways to bring service to Notre Dame,” she said. “Sometimes its hard to get students off campus to do service.”
The idea of the service effort originates from a Starbucks in Chicago were people took turns paying for the person behind them.
“While discussing ideas for service events at one of our meetings, someone brought up a news story in which over 100 people paid for the customer behind them in a Starbucks drive-through,” sophomore Annie Boyle, a member of the committee, said. “We found several similar stories and agreed that there were many opportunities for students to be a part of the ‘pay it forward’ idea.” 
Boyle said the mission of the week is to encourage the rest of campus to adopt the idea of doing acts of kindness for others.
“The idea of ‘paying it forward’ is for someone who has received an act of kindness to do something for another person, asking not for gratitude in return but for him or her to do the same,” she said. “As a result, a sort of chain of good deeds develops. We wanted to bring the positive spirit of this idea to our campus.”
Greg Woods, also a member of the committee, said it has participated in bigger community service projects this year, but wanted to shift gears to focus on something smaller and simpler. 
“All year we’ve been focused on more of the bigger type events, like having a kids youth jamboree and visiting the Catholic Worker,” he said. “We’ve done a lot of hands-on service, but we thought that maybe what we could add to this was a focus on the smaller things.”
Pakinaw said the week’s events started on Monday morning and will continue throughout the week.
“We started the week passing out hot chocolate on Monday morning in front of DeBartolo and then showed the movie ‘Pay it Forward’ in Andrews Auditorium of Geddes Hall,” she said. “We have more events scheduled for the rest of the week.”
Yesterday the committee sponsored a panel lecture with different members of the community, including two students, members of The Catholic Worker and two members of the South Dining Hall staff.
“Each person is to speak about how they’ve paid it forward in their own lives or how its helped people in their own lives,” she said.
Woods said the committee coordinated an afternoon at the Boys and Girls Club in South Bend for an alternative type of community service that focuses more on social justice.
“Basically we are going to spend three hours hanging out with the kids, doing tutoring type things and kind of preparing for child abuse awareness month, which is in April,” he said. “Best Buy donated a few video cameras so we’re probably going to do small public service announcements talking about the month and what it is and how to tell signs of abuse.”
The week’s events were summed up Wednesday evening with a prayer service in Geddes Hall following the service trip to the Boys and Girls Club. Woods said he hopes after this the idea will take off and students will continue to perform acts of kindness.
“This week is something we hope to see grow, but then again its something that should become more of an everyday thing,” he said. “Hopefully people take the message and move forward and make it part of their everyday lives.”
Pankiw said she believes the week will encourage students to continue the effort.
“We’re optimistic,” she said. “We’re giving students service events to educate them and show them little acts of kindness can make a difference in the lives of others.”