Inspiring Kindness

Despite the daily violence in the world, the Middle School continues to focus on a culture of kindness.


Photo by Bilgin S. Sasmaz/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

A demonstrator at the Charlottesville protests holds up a sign of peace amongst the cries of hate.

One minute there is a protest. The next there is a crowd of anti-demonstrators. In a flash, someone revs the engine of a car and slams on the gas pedal. There are suddenly people lying on the ground, struggling to get up, begging for help.

This is what happened on Saturday, August 12, in Charlottesville, Virginia. On that day, a “Unite the Right” rally was organized to protest the removal of a statue of General Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville, Virginia. General Robert E. Lee was one of the main generals for the South during the Civil War. The South wanted to continue slavery because they felt that it was necessary for their economy, namely harvesting crops and tobacco.

Recently, amidst the swirl of citizens all over the nation calling into question statues and memorials honoring slave owners and those who fought for the South in the Civil War, the Charlottesville City Council members discussed taking the statue down because of its symbolic tie to slavery. However, there were many people, including some white supremacists and Neo-Nazis, who thought that the statue should remain exactly where it was.

While they were protesting, a group of counter protesters emerged and started arguing that the statue should be removed. A 20-year-old white man, James Alex Fields, Jr., got into his car and ran into the group of counter protesters. Fields was demonstrating that day with Vanguard America, a group that, according to the Anti-Defamation League’s website, “is a white supremacist group that opposes multiculturalism and believes America is an exclusively white nation.” Upon ramming his car into several other parked cars, Fields injured 19 people and killed Heather Heyer, a 32-year-old paralegal.

The protesters were invoking their first amendment right of the freedom of speech. However, the scene quickly devolved into chaos and tragedy.  “Do we want to extend freedom of speech to people who are admittedly members of hate groups?” said middle school English teacher Mr. Nathan Ginnetty. “Do we want to give voices to people who today, in 2017, identify as the same people we fought in World War II?” Many people such as Ginnetty feel sympathy for the people involved in these attacks. President Trump also reached out to the victims involved in the Charlottesville attack as he tweeted, “We all must be united & condemn all that hate stands for. There is no place for this kind of violence in America. Let’s come together as one!”

Although Charlottesville was one of the main devastating attacks during this time period, there was another violent attack which took place in Barcelona, Spain.

Photos courtesy of
A police officer stands guard in Las Ramblas after the Barcelona attack.

During this past summer in Spain, there were a string of several terrorist attacks, none more violent than the one that took place on Thursday, August 16 when a white rental van driven by 18-year-old Moussa Oukabir purposely ran over more than 100 people in Barcelona.

ISIS, the Middle Eastern jihadist terrorist group, claimed responsibility for the attack. At least 13 people died, and more than 100 people were injured. The van sped over 50 mph in a popular area, Las Ramblas, that was engulfed with tourists. Spanish officials reported that it was the largest loss of life in a terrorist attack since more than 190 people were killed in the Madrid train bombings in March 2004.

“It’s terrible that ISIS would do [such a thing],” said seventh-grader Andrew Moffitt. “It’s sad to hear that people are being killed just out of nowhere.” According to reporter Melissa Rossi of Yahoo News, ISIS’s reason for the attack was to “take back Spain.” President Trump also sent his condolences to Spain: “The United States condemns the terror attack in Barcelona, Spain, and will do whatever is necessary to help. Be tough & strong, we love you!” Trump tweeted.

“I feel pity,” said eighth grader Camilo Saiz. “It’s truly sad what the world has come to. I feel like humans have lost their sense of compassion, and without compassion humans are just animals. The world is in a state of ruin and things need to change.”

Such hate and violence may seem unimaginable here at Benjamin, but the reality is that students are exposed to these headlines on an almost daily basis. That’s why Head of Middle School Mr. Charles Hagy has focused so much of his energy on creating a culture of kindness in the Middle School. “Good is always greater than evil,” Hagy said. “As long as we’re not indifferent, as long as we don’t ignore bias and hatred, as long as we’re kind and we confront hate with love, and work for justice and peace, I think we can overcome it,” he said.

Hagy’s ongoing efforts to create a culture of kindness in the Middle School go beyond inviting the Anti-Defamation League to speak to the students. For example, there’s the Random Acts of Kindness initiative next week. During advisory time, each advisory group in the Middle School will choose an individual or group of faculty or staff and plan ways they can show them gratitude and kindness. The idea is for the student body to practice kindness and other valuable character traits so they become second nature.

In addition, students are also participating in the Kindness Challenge through advisory. Each day during the month of September, every student in the middle school logs an act of kindness they have performed for someone else on a calendar given to them by their advisors. Again, the goal is for kindness to become a daily habit for the students.

“The culture of our school is changing this because [the faculty] are showing us how to be kind,” said Moffitt.

“Students at TBS can learn from these atrocities by being committed to our world so we can be the generation to stop these [violent acts],” added Saiz.

Positively impacting the students’ mindset is exactly what Hagy and the administration want to do.

“Any good you do in the world has a ripple effect,” said Hagy. “We train hard to make this the most loving, the most inclusive, bias-free community possible where there is a lot of love, compassion, and advocacy for others.”