The students of Roy Gomm Elementary School begin filing in to the multipurpose room; hopping, skipping and bouncing with wide eyes and energetic chuckles. The bright tangerine, Big Bird yellow, and key lime green walls slowly begin to reverberate the roar of children’s laughter as a crowd of cross-legged kids forms on the ground in a sea of red and navy blue polo shirts and khakis. Each student accessorizes their own uniform with whatever they please, like hot pink tennis shoes and polka dot tights, or a sequin scarf and a flower crown.
Although each student may dress to show their own style, they all have one thing in common- wide-eyes looking straight ahead, curious to discover why there is a makeshift castle made of Home Depot boxes and a pile of bricks in front of them.
Founder Brian Williams takes the stage and greets the students by engaging them with a story about his own experiences as a child.
“I started martial arts when I was still pooping in my pants,” Williams jokes.
“I used to pretend that I could turn my hands into swords, I’d try to give myself a hair cut and run around like, “SHA-SHING-SHING-SHING”, he says while waving his hands in karate chopping motions. “My mom would make me sandwiches and I would slap it like SHA-SHING! HA! BOOM!”
Williams then explains how he told his mom his dream of becoming a ninja turtle. Naturally, the only way this can be achieved is through enrolling in martial arts.
“My mom told me that if I could keep my bathroom clean for an entire month, I could do martial arts. After that month my mom opened the bathroom doors, it looked something out of a Mr.Clean commercial, like “AAAAH!!” Williams reminisced.
Williams then explained his first martial arts lesson and the valuable lesson he learned from it that he’s since carried with him throughout his life.
“ ‘Attention’ shows concentration, and in the three rules of concentration, you focus your eyes, focus your mind, and focus your body.”
But besides this, the most important day of Williams’ martial arts career was the promise he made when receiving his black belt. Williams’ instructor reminded him that the reason he was receiving this black belt was not because of his kicks and punches, but because of the person he was on you are inside.
“We had to make a promise to be nice to every single person we knew, and that if we were nice to everyone, we would never have to use your martial arts.
He then discovered that kindness ultimate form of self-defense. From there, Williams explains how he would like to create “kindness black belts” all around the country, and eventually find the kindest school in the United States.
Laurel Kerr, parent of a 2nd grade student at Roy Gomm, explained how excited she was to see the students so motivated to participate. “It’s nice to see the students being more excited that expected. Brian really knows how to connect with the students to get them motivated.”
As with every assembly, Williams presented the students with two challenges that eventually lead to the “15 Days of Kindness” challenge. The first challenge: do as many acts of kindness as possible. “Your school is going to have a kindness explosion. Do as many nice things as you can. Write a nice note, help open a door for someone, carry a book, anything!” Williams reminds the kids. The second challenge: a shoe drive.
Williams explains how he just returned from a trip to Kenya, Africa a few months ago, and his experiences at an orphanage there. “These kids all live in one big house together and have one thing in common. Do you know what that is? None of them have parents”, Williams explains.
“Some of the kids went to school during the day while I was visiting, and I noticed that a lot of kids were still running around and playing. When I asked a lady who worked there why not everyone was in school, she explained that if the kids didn’t have the proper necessities, they couldn’t attend,” says Williams.
One of those proper necessities was shoes. The students looked at Williams with awe as he explained that kids their age in Kenya could not go to school, like they do, simply because they cannot afford to buy shoes.
“The kids really take a step outside of themselves, and realize that it’s a big world,” Kerr says.
From there, each classroom is given their own box to decorate and fill with as many shoes as possible for the shoe drive. To kick-off the “15 days of kindness” challenge and shoe drive, the kids finally get to see what the pile of bricks in front of them will be used for.
Williams approaches the pile of 4 bricks with unbreakable focus. A random shout from the crowd, “JUST DO IT ALREADY!”, creates a distraction for him. After regaining focus, Williams successfully breaks the bricks with his elbow, resulting in an ear-piercing roar from the students.
“I’m confident that the students will keep this excitement throughout the whole program, and that the kindness will really be infectious throughout the whole community”, Kerr says.
Roy Gomm rose to the occasion and has exceeded their expectation by collecting 2,400 pairs shoes within just 15 Days!
~ Written By: Christina Romeo, Think Kindness Intern