Kind­ness and the three R’s, O’Con­nor style

Connecticut Post (Sunday) - - Opinion - Michael J. Daly is ed­i­tor of the ed­i­to­rial page of the Con­necti­cut Post. Email: mdaly@ct­post.com.

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.

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