“Can I buy you a coffee?”
The words are spoken quietly by young Anna Halliday, a Grade 3 Watson elementary student, as she approaches a woman heading into Waves Coffee House in Garrison Village.
The woman, Margaret MacBeth, appears a bit puzzled and initially declines the offer until teacher Kyla Stradling pipes up.
“We’re doing a kindness project,” Stradling said, explaining to MacBeth that the children are in the neighbourhood offering up small acts of kindness to the community.
A big smile comes across MacBeth’s face.
“Oh, how nice,” MacBeth said. “Yes, thank you.”
Waves was one of three coffee shops the 40 Watson students were at buying drinks for people on Thursday. They were also outside Starbucks in Garrison Village and Amble Coffee, a beverage truck located in Vedder Park. Additionally, they handed out flowers and doughnuts, plus dog treats at the off-leash park.
The idea for Watson’s Kindness Project came three years ago on a day in February during kindness month.
Stradling was sitting in her living room with fellow Grade 3 teacher Jennifer Thiessen. They both wanted the kids to go out into the community and actually do something nice for people.
So for the past three years, that’s what they’ve been doing – offering kind gestures to strangers in their neighbourhood.
“It’s powerful. A lot of people will buy us gift cards [to use for the project] or they’ll buy something for the kids. The kids see it go full circle. It’s pretty cool,” Stradling said.
What is the initial reaction when a child comes up to a stranger and offers to buy them something? It’s pretty much exactly like MacBeth’s reaction.
“Confusion… because the kids do all the talking. They are very confused and apprehensive – they don’t want to take money from a child,” Stradling said.
Then they explain that the kids raised the money themselves to do the Kindness Project through cupcake sales and doughnut sales.
For the coffee shops, the students used gift cards or pre-paid Visas to purchase the drinks. After getting a “yes” from the recipient, the student would walk into the coffee shop with them and pay for the drink.
Each drink, doughnut or flower also came with a hand-decorated card with a message by author Kevin Heath written on one side: “No act of kindness is too small. The gift of kindness may start as a small ripple that over time can turn into a tidal wave affecting the lives of many.”
Judging by the smiles on the faces of the folks leaving Waves Coffee House clutching one of those handmade cards, Watson’s Kindness Project is doing just that.