Kindness and the three R’s, O’Connor style
Rachel Cano is my neighbor.
She is 6. As 6- year- olds go, she is a pretty cool kid.
And she and her older sister, Madison, 8, seem to think I’m OK.
They yell, “Hi, Mike!” when they see me. They yell it with gusto, by the way, not just to meet the minimum requirement on the polite neighbor meter. Even their younger brother William, 2, yells to me.
Last winter, Rachel and Madison trudged over with their pint- sized snow shovels one day to join me on my front walk and pitch in with the six inches that had fallen overnight. As I move ever further into my dotage, this is a practice I will figure out a way to encourage.
So when Rachel, through her mother, Jillian, asked me to go to her school because she had something she wanted me to see, I remembered her wielding that shovel in February and I was all in.
So off I went Friday morning, to Stratfield School in Fairfield, signed in at the principal’s office and went down the corridor with all the Batman, Yankees, Red Sox, pink, black, backpacks hung along the walls and into the firstgrade classroom of 30- year- old Meghan O’Connor.
Seventeen little first- graders sat down on a rug out of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” each on his or her assigned color square. Many of these kids are Bus 25 occupants, the bus whose arrival in our neighborhood signals the start of a new season for students and parents alike.
They wanted to talk about their project.
They have been collecting everything from paper towels, to blankets, to water bottles, popcorn, cereal and other nonperishable food items to send to a school in North Carolina for their contemporaries whose families, homes and school were damaged by Hurricane Florence.
Bags and boxes were stacked up in the hall outside O’Connor’s room.
It is Miss O’Connor’s practice to do a project involving kindness at the start of every school year.
This year, she talked with her class about the devastation caused last month in North and South Carolina.
So the parents and kids like George, Nick, Rachel, Jack, Camilla and the others went to work gathering the items that were stacked up in the hall.
O’Connor got these kids mobilized early, getting the seed planted early that we all have to watch our for each other, and particularly watch out for people who have been hurt somehow, and may not have the wherewithal to get back on their feet.
“Their school got wrecked!” one of the boys said, “and we have lots of stuff here at Stratfield, so we should help.”
George said, “It wouldn’t be fair to not help them.”
I asked them where they heard about Hurricane Florence — other than from Miss O’Connor.
“On the internet,” one of the boys yelled exuberantly. I pulled from my back pocket an artifact from the early 21st century: a printed newspaper.
Yes, they said. They were familiar with what it was and some of them had even seen a printed newspaper in their house!!
Next week, Fred and Diane Galster, Rachel’s grandparents, are going to drive the goods from the Miss O’Connor Kindness Act Project 2018, to Southport Elementary School in Southport, N. C., a coastal community of about 3,600 people that was hit hard by the hurricane.
O’Connor, like a lot of teachers do, is living up to that tough responsibility that we often just assume teachers are meeting: planting the seed of kindness in their young charges’ minds and spurring them to action.