Saturday, February 8, 2014

Atlanta, Kindness and Ron Clark Academy

The laughter around the country may be dying down about how Atlanta copes with snow, but I’m guessing that locally the conversations about “snow-mageddon” will continue for years to come. (Did you see The Daily Show?)  The day the ice and snow hit the city, most of us were at work or school and suddenly during the lunch hour the metro Atlanta area was scrambling for home.  Unfortunately for thousands getting home took time, a lot of time.

I was lucky.  Instead of driving that day I took the train but even that was a challenge the day of the winter storm.  There was a fire on the platform at one of the main stations so train lines were single-tracking which created a severe back up.  My normal 20 minute ride turned into an overcrowded, one and a half hour ride, which was not bad compared to the many horror stories I’ve heard.
So during the storm something incredible happened.  Stories of incredible acts of kindness began surfacing in the news, on Facebook and in local neighborhood email discussion groups.  Given that people were stranded – on roads, in cars, at work, in schools, etc., people everywhere in the city began to extend a helping hand to those who needed it.   At our house we took in a young mother with a two-year-old.  These two headed out of the city trying to make a 27 mile ride south.  After SEVEN MILES AND SEVEN HOURS in the car, my friend had to stop and bed down for the night.  With no diapers or provisions for a little one in our house, we sent out an email to our neighborhood.  Within minutes several neighbors called with suggestions and offers and one neighbor brought us diapers, wipes, toys and more.  One of my colleagues was featured on national news.  She and her family loaded up their son’s wagon, filling it with water, food and blankets and hauled everything to a freeway near their house offering relief and refuge to stranded motorists.  We quickly learned of a website that was set up to help people stranded with individuals willing to help located in the same area.  It was amazing.  When I first signed up there were a few thousand people online.  Within hours 29,000 people had joined in the group and by the end of the first 24 hours of need, 54,000 people had joined the Facebook group and were helping connect needs with help.  
On Friday as I got back on the train to head back to work my mind kept wandering back to all the wonderful stories of kindness and helpfulness that I’d heard over the past few days.  But suddenly it was as if everyone had shed the cloak of kindness and put back on their old uniform of apathy.  What if we could extend the spirit of kindness all the time, every day?

One of the events that was scheduled to take place at my workplace the week of the storm was the Ron Clark Academy’s, Amazing Shake.  The event was rescheduled for this week and I almost skipped it because of meeting conflicts but WOW, was I glad that I participated.   It is almost impossible to describe how impressive, confident, engaged, enthusiastic, interesting, effervescent and eager these young people are.  I’ve worked with kids my entire life and never have I seen 30 kids with such attitudes and spirit.   The Amazing Shake is an all-day networking competition for Ron Clark Academy kids in grades 5-8.   Watching these kids easily walk into a room filled with business leaders, making introductions, shaking hands and getting to know the participants was a jaw-dropping experience.  Our role was to serve as judges but I felt like I spent more time observing and learning.  It was a powerful sight to see.  
So what does this have to do with kindness?   The Amazing Shake is a competition and throughout the day business leaders judge the kids, selecting the best and eventually naming one champion and one runner up.  As the day continued we continued to get updates on the kids, keeping up with those in the lead.  The night the event ended we got an email that was an affirmation that kindness and goodness continues.  The next generation is already passing it on.  Here is the email we received from one of our attorneys who leads volunteer work for youth:

Here is the reason that I fell in love with the kids at RCA and I'm such an advocate for the school.  Ron Clark, faculty and staff are not only creating geniuses and making incredible people out of those kids.

After Mariah won the Amazing Shake, her competitor Jacob was heartbroken.  She went through her gift basket and found an iPad Mini.  She turned around and gave the iPad Mini to Jacob for being such a valiant competitor.  What an incredible gesture.  See the attached picture.

I'm confident in our future with kids like those are RCA in the next generation.

What would the world be like if we all went out of our way to share a kindness or do something to help someone in need every day?   Today, I'm joining The Tablescaper for Seasonal Sundays.  


  1. Three things I need to comment on and you know me I am not shy about what I say....first what that little girl did gives hope for the future generation to turn out caring and thoughtful people...she's adorable...Second the person who set up the Facebook site which helped who know how many thousands of people should be applauded for doing so BUT on the other hand she also runs a Facebook site for the funding of Cobb COunty schools and is a big promoter with doing away with the senior property tax exemption. She makes some pretty awful comments on her site about elderly people and how they don't pay their fair share for her children to go to school. It stunned us when we came across this controversy with the young against the old. It's disgraceful. She in my opinion is doing all this to set herself up to run of office in the county. Anybody who does not respect the older generation does not need to put on a big show.....
    And third....I was amazed by all the kindness during the storm...I sat up all night reading all the comments on Facebook and why am I not surprised that you took in someone with her child...You are a wonderful caring person....The next day I was equally shocked when I read comments from people telling people from the North to go back where they came from....and if you don't like it here then why did you come.....lot's and lot's of negative and hateful remarks....very surprised after the out pouring of kindness to then see all this hate.....and that's all I have to say on the subject :)

    1. Sue, I had no idea about lobbying against tax exemptions for the aging population!!!! So not right!!

  2. Being out of town during this storm, I was glued to the internet and found the FB helping others amazing and so wonderful. Cheryl, I am also not surprised you took someone into your home. I wish we could all care about each other like that everyday. Human nature is confusing sometimes. Love what the little girl did!

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  4. I am not going to get into the "stuff" above . . . Just let me say, I applaud kindness . . . I applaud you and belief in a wonderful world can make it so. And you do just that! The little girls gesture was wonderfully kind.

  5. I second what Lynne said. Kindness is such a rare gift these days and that is so very sad. I would love to imagine a world where kindness came first all the time...wouldn't that be wonderful. You are awesome, I am sure that mom was so grateful for your help.

  6. Kindness is such a welcome and often rare commodity in our world. It warms my heart when people act with kindness as they did in Atlanta. Oh, if only such deeds could carry on. Love the story of the little girl who graciously thought of someone else in the midst of her joy.

  7. I love hearing your perspective on the storm. Like the rest of nation, I was touched by the stories of how the people of Atlanta pulled together and survived this storm through kindness and generosity.

  8. An emergency like the grid locked highways in your area is no less an emergency with two inches or two feet of snow! It was so good that so many helped those stranded. I think most Americans would react the same--I have great faith in our country as whole of being made up of helpful people. I saw in in NYC and I see it here in Colorado. Glad you were OK in the storm! Loved this story about the generous winner--she has a good heart!

  9. For all of the horrors of the storm, it is wonderful to hear of the good.

    Thankful to have you be a part of Seasonal Sundays.

    - Alma, The Tablescaper

  10. What a trial for the people of Atlanta, but how good you must all feel about the way that people helped one another. Heart-warming!