Love Is an Open Door

Students let their love shine for an entire week of gratitude, appreciation, and fun.

Love was certainly in the air this week. It kicked off with Valentine’s Day—though not the kind of saccharine day the greeting-card companies package up and sell. Instead of focusing on romantic love, the entire Sidwell Friends community banded together to emphasize kindness, gratitude, and appreciation for one another.

The Parents Association honored faculty and staff in all divisions by packaging up treats and thank-you cards. Some parents even worked together outdoors in 20-degree weather to safely pack up homemade cookies—it was one of the first events in which parents could gather on campus again since the start of the pandemic.

“It was so exciting to welcome parents in person again,” says Kathi Webb ’76, the director of parent relations. “I’m looking forward to meeting parents in person at the Lower School soon.”

 Sidwell Friends students also stepped up to celebrate those School community members whose contributions often go unrecognized, such as the people who work in Dining Services and the School’s security guards. Meanwhile, members of the Upper School’s Random Acts of Fun and Kindness Club arrived at the Middle School early on Valentine’s Day to hand out candy to their younger schoolmates. The club then teamed up with the Middle School to make sure positivity continued throughout the entire week.

“They were having kind of a spirit week where they were working on showing appreciation for teachers and for each other, so we helped them come up with a few ideas,” says Anya Capoor ’24, co-head of the club. “We had been hoping to work with them for a while, so now was a good time. I know when I was in Middle School I would feel really cool when a high schooler was talking to me or a high schooler knew who I was.”

Ava Song ’24, the club’s other co-head, agrees. “Knowing that someone is hoping you’re going to have a great day can be really comforting,” she says. “Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to be romantic. I know in Middle School I would think, ‘Oh, I can’t send a Valentine to someone—it’s going to be weird.’ But it can be just an appreciation for someone else.”

In the Lower School, appreciating someone else was the key for classroom 2Z, who set a noble goal: Spot 100 acts of kindness by February 18, the 100th day of School. Teacher Joyce Bidi-Olagunju, inspired by Orion Jean, an “ambassador for kindness” who was named Time magazine’s 2021 Kid of the Year, challenged the entire community to complete a “Race to Kindness”: 100 blank paper hearts were ready for the kids to write sweet messages on before stapling the hearts to a Lower School wall.

“You can’t put something you did,” explains Yona ’32. “You have to thank someone else, or put down something someone else did.” The messages include gratitude for lending a pencil, for opening doors, or for simply asking if someone was OK. “There’s a difference between not being mean, and being kind,” Yona says. “It’s like, when someone is hurt, check on them. When someone is playing alone, play with them. Being kind is much bigger.”

With one day to go, the class was 20 hearts short of 100. The students weren’t too worried about reaching that magic number, though. “We tried our best,” says Surina ’32. “At least we did some acts, and at least we were being kind.” Yona was more decisive: “I want us to keep on going until we get 100. I don’t care if there’s a deadline.” In the end, they surpassed their goal, racking up 111 individual acts of kindness.

While Valentine’s Day gave students a special chance to show kindness and gratitude, limiting the celebration to one day isn’t an option. The Random Acts of Fun and Kindness Club has future plans (Song and Capoor decline to go into specifics, as many are surprises) to keep the spirit of appreciation going. It’s particularly important now, Capoor says. “Over the pandemic a lot of people drifted apart, and a lot of people felt isolated,” she says. “This makes people realize they’re not alone, and that people really care.”

Roses and chocolates are one way to show love. So is showing up to School early to let younger students know they are cared for; shivering while packing cookies for teachers; writing a small note to thank someone for their work; and creating a paper heart scrawled with appreciation for an act of kindness.

“Kindness is important because it could change the world,” Alexandra ’32 says. “We can make a big impact with kindness, no matter how small we are.”

 

 

 

 

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