Meredith C. Carroll: Post-election, non-election good news | AspenTimes.com

Meredith C. Carroll: Post-election, non-election good news

Meredith C. Carroll
Muck Off

If you're searching some good (or different) news on this post-election Wednesday, look no further than Kate Korn's fourth-grade class at Aspen Elementary School. For the third year in a row, Korn's students are hand-writing thank-you notes in class nearly every week as part of yearlong gratitude project. And they're not hastily written or poorly scribbled notes, either.

"I don't let them just say 'thanks,'" she said. "It's about reflecting in the 'thank you.'"

Inspired by a friend doing something similar in Indiana, Korn initially envisioned her kids sending letters via snail mail as a special opportunity, in part because she recognizes the simple value in knowing how to address an envelope. Yet an even deeper purpose has inevitably emerged as evidenced by a recent note authored by one little girl to the veterinarian who administered end-of-life care to her dog.

"Just wanted to write a quick note to say thank you. I'm very thankful of you trying to help my dog Buster. It was very sad when it happened. I did not even get to say goodbye. I was at school. I am very greateful for the paw print it reminds me of him so much. I think the note was so beuatifull and when I see a rainbow it reminds me of him. I think that you tried your hardest to keep him alive. Lastly I loved all the support you have gave to (my family). Thank you for all you have done."

The stationery, envelopes and stamps were paid for by two AES families who donated to Korn's classroom-need project as part of the Aspen Education Foundation's annual Flamingo fundraiser. Since The Gratitude Project's inception she has happily found herself overhearing kids talk about whom they plan to write next — including grandparents, department stores, friends and teachers — and some have even received letters in return.

"This has been a most positive project for my class," Korn said.

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Even better news is that she isn't the only teacher at AES proactively demonstrating appreciation. Down the hall in Becky Oliver's second-grade class, roughly $20,000 has been raised to provide holiday gifts to approximately 200 economically challenged people over the past 14 years. Instead of just asking her kids (and since last year, Katie Fox's fourth-graders, too) to bring in unwrapped presents, Oliver endeavors for her 7- and 8-year-olds to "have more ownership and a sense of sacrificing their time to help others." Students reach out to family, friends and neighbors to assist with chores in exchange for money. Oliver's Adopt-a-Family program will culminate in a bake sale at the end of this month followed by a student-led gift-wrapping session in time for Christmas delivery.

"We feel that this is a wonderful opportunity to bless others and teach our children the spirit of giving, and to have empathy for others less fortunate than themselves," she said. "We have found this to be an incredibly rewarding and joyful experience for our students and ourselves in the past."

Other than the heartwarming acts of kindness themselves, what's perhaps one of the more striking elements of Korn, Oliver and Fox establishing compassionate and considerate traditions for their students is how none of it is in reaction to a lost election, bad day or tragic event. They're not checking a box but rather thinking outside of it in order to lay a foundation of character built on community, humanity and enterprise.

It's an approach familiar to anyone who's seen the documentaries released this year on Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg ("RBG") and Fred Rogers ("Won't You Be My Neighbor?"). The portraits of both are marked by their commitment to leveling the playing field for people of different genders, races, physical abilities and socioeconomic backgrounds. Even when in the minority on a Supreme Court decision, Ginsburg memorably ensures her voice and message are thoughtfully and unambiguously articulated. Throughout her career she's never abandoned her purpose to pursue justice for the underserved, neither has she buckled under pressure nor opposition. Rogers, too, dedicated his life to remaining steadfast in his mission to ensure every child felt seen, heard, wanted and loved.

Regardless of how your candidate or party fared last night or over the past two years, it's time to step back and ease up on any expectation that elected officials will or should identify and fix what's wrong. With an abundance of intelligence, patience, warmth and persistence, there are already so many people taking a cue from Mr. Rogers by looking for the helpers while also facilitating a new generation of them. Doing good for goodness sake should be more sacred and rote than just a casting a ballot on Election Day.

Follow Meredith Carroll on Twitter @MCCarroll. More at MeredithCarroll.com.

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