U promotes a month of ‘Minnesota nice’

by Jens Krogstad

Following another school’s lead, the University has deemed November its official Month of Kindness.

More than 60 student groups are involved in planning activities they hope will help make kindness a habit.

The kickoff event was a Dinkytown neighborhood cleanup Sunday. The closing event will be a winter clothing drive. Other events include a blood drive, food drive and mitten drive.

Amy Olson, director of the University’s Hillel Jewish student center, said she came with the idea for a University kindness month after hearing of a similar project organized at the University of Connecticut in 2001.

“The event brings the campus’ attention to the fact that kind acts are being done and should be done on a regular basis,” Olson said.

Debbie Rubenstein of Connecticut’s Hillel Foundation is the originator of the Month of Kindness concept. She said she came up with the idea at a breast cancer fund-raiser after seeing her college rated among the most “intolerant” by a major magazine.

Rubenstein said people tell her they think of practicing kind acts more often during the month, but that it is hard to determine year-round effects the event might have.

This year’s Connecticut kickoff event will feature a speech from Dr. Hunter “Patch” Adams, a hospital founder known for his work with children.

Today at Coffman Union, Goldy Gopher will hand out free maroon and gold buttons that read, “Be Kind, Pass It On.”

Olson said she hopes the University’s Month of Kindness will someday be as successful as Connecticut’s. But with only enough money to make buttons, Olson said she is focusing on making the event a success through grass-roots efforts.

University students and employees anticipating the month shared varying definitions of kindness last week.

Bruce Harpel, co-founder of the University’s Maranatha Christian Fellowship, said it is important to always be kind, but not at the expense of one’s beliefs and convictions.

“I think it is pretty impossible to be considered ‘kind’ by everybody if you want your life to mean something,” he said.

Gerry Rinehart, associate vice provost for student affairs, said the event is needed now more than ever considering the latest cultural trends.

“Look at what we laugh at on TV. The in-your-face, what used to be considered antisocial behavior, has become a form of humor that is setting some bad expectations,” he said.

Colleen Hennen, executive secretary for the American studies program, said she finds the timing of the event strange and thinks postponing the event should be considered. She is the only one left in her office because of the clerical workers’ strike.

Olson said many groups involved in Month of Kindness events have made space available for off-campus classes, while others bring cookies and coffee to striking workers.

“There’s always a need for kindness, especially with a strike,” Olson said.