the world, she said. When it became too much for the Mariners
Elementary School sixth-grade teacher to bear, she felt she had to
So, she turned to her students.
Garfinkel said she broke down in tears as she retold the incident
to her class last month. Fifty-two young eyes were focused squarely
on her, and even some of her shyest students, who had never spoken in
class before, meekly tried to comfort her, she said. "I didn't know
where to draw the line between keeping it personal and seeing if they
could benefit somehow from me talking to them about it," she said. "I
thought maybe I could make a difference in their lives by telling
And then everything fell into place.
Garfinkel sat down at home to watch "Oprah" on TV later that day,
as the daytime talk-show host asked people to mobilize for her
"Kindness Revolution." Oprah asked viewers to send letters and
videotapes describing their kind actions. Garfinkel returned to class
the following day and challenged her students to make a difference.
The 11- and 12-year-olds responded by creating their own movement
called "CHANGE" or "Children Hoping to Abolish Negativity and Promote
"We've been thinking about her story a lot, and we've been trying
to go the extra length of doing nice things for our parents and
friends," Gigi Joseph, 12, said.
CHANGE's mission, Garfinkel said, is to empower the students to
perform random acts of kindness on their own, without being told to
and without expecting anything in return.
"We see so much violence in the world, and they, as children, have
the power to make a difference," she said. "I'm trying to teach,
through the program, that if you can be kind to others, you can truly
make a difference in the world."
The students each provided ways they could positively affect
others. Garfinkel said she took ideas from each student and compiled
them into a mission statement.
Students wrote essays about the importance of spreading kindness,
what they did to perpetuate the movement and how they felt about it.
And they created T-shirts with positive messages.