It wasn’t just a long weekend. It wasn’t just a Monday with no classes to teach or lessons to learn. It was a day for giving, for showing kindness.
Of all things. Kindness.
St. Joseph’s Academy’s Sister Adele Lambert celebrated her 75th birthday last December, and at the nun’s request, the school declared March 19, the Feast of St. Joseph, a “Day of Kindness” to celebrate.
“If you open your heart in gratitude for what you have, what you’ve received, then your heart is open to other people,” Lambert says. “That’s how kindness is the result of love and gratitude. If you feel you’re loved, you’re grateful. Then, you want to give back.”
What could have been another routine spring-semester Monday saw the school’s students visiting nursing homes and the local food bank, bonding with younger siblings and paying for strangers’ coffees. Teachers visited lonely hospital patients, made special treats for their students and took an older staff member with “nothing to wear” dress shopping.
Sydney Johnson and Mikayla Vicknair, both ninth-graders, began visiting Landmark nursing home on March 3 to meet their 10 required service hours in elder care. For Johnson and Vicknair, the Day of Kindness started before March 19 and has extended beyond.
When the announcement came for students and faculty to perform simple acts of kindness instead of lesson plans and quizzes, Vicknair knew immediately where to spend her day without classes.
“When they said it, I knew what I was going to do,” she says. “I was going to come [to Landmark of Baton Rouge]. I really didn’t think about it; I just knew.”
The students baked cupcakes and delivered them to residents of the nursing home, played bingo and painted fingernails. They listened to old stories and shared some of their own. They began to develop strong relationships there. Now, they visit every weekend, even though their service-hour requirements have long since been met.
“I think that it’s fun, and I just like helping people,” Vicknair says. “It inspires me.”
Lambert describes the Day of Kindness as a way to encourage her students to be what she calls “persons of great-hearted love.”
The best way to do so, she says, is by example.
Lambert spent May 19 visiting her beloved second-grade teacher, who is now more than 100 years old.
An alumna of SJA herself, Lambert joined the Congregation of St. Joseph when she received her habit on March 19, 1955.
A longtime educator, Lambert joined SJA as president in 2004, charged with overseeing the school’s finances and development and the maintenance and supervision of campus buildings.
But one of her key missions is to show students that putting others first is good for the soul.
“No matter who you talk to that is in a service-oriented position—a nurse, a physician, a social worker—people get strength and energy from their service,” Lambert says.
Though March 19 was dedicated to giving back, Lambert believes the spirit the occasion should never end with the close of the day.
Kindness means making a personal commitment to building community, she says.
“There’s so much abuse in the world that there has to be some of us that are kind.”
Originally published in 225 magazine.