The Character Movement

Practice Compassion and Kindness this Valentine’s Day

Recently, on a Youth Frontiers Courage Retreat, our Retreat Staff met a sixth-grader named Alex. As kids entered the gym for their retreat and congregated with their small groups of friends, you could tell that Alex was a bit of an outsider. Alex has special needs – some of which are apparent simply by looking at him – but that didn’t stop Alex from being fully invested in the Courage Retreat. During breaks in the day, Alex would often seek out our staff and strike up a conversation. He was charming and sweet. And he seemed to be encouraged by the message of the day. On the Courage Retreat, we challenge kids to be themselves and to follow their hearts, rather than follow the crowd. We also ask kids to make a change and stand up for others – even when it is hard.

Student at a Youth Frontiers Courage Retreat

As we packed up our equipment that afternoon, Alex and another kid from the class, Michael, came up to say goodbye. We’d seen Michael chat with Alex throughout the day, but we also recognized that Michael was probably one of the more popular kids. He had a large group of friends and gave off an easy-going, self-confident vibe. Ryan, a Youth Frontiers Retreat Staff, talked with the two boys and told them to take care of each other.
Michael listened and replied, “I already take care of Alex. At our old school, some of the other kids weren’t nice to him.”

Alex didn’t even let him finish before he jumped in, “But Michael stood up for me and now we’re great friends.”

On our retreats, we partner with schools to build positive communities where students thrive socially, emotionally and academically. As a whole, we encourage students to reflect on how they treat one another and we challenge them to act with respect and kindness. For many schools and for many students, this is a new concept. But for other students, like Michael, this is already a way of life.

Michael understood that Alex mattered. And Michael understood that how he treated Alex mattered.

On our retreats, we remind students that they don’t have to be best friends with everyone, but they should respect everyone. As Valentine’s Day approaches, let’s take this message a step further. What if we did more than respect one another? What if we went out of our way to make someone’s life better? What if we started showing a little more compassion toward one another?

What Michael did for Alex was simple and small, but it made all the difference. Happy Valentine’s Day! We hope your day is filled with love, compassion and kindness.

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