Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Baking and School Revolution - The Power of One Small Step

I just stumbled upon this story on Southern Illinois' Asset Coalition website.  I thought you would enjoy reading it too!

Search Institute trainers tell a story about a retired lady who had heard people talk about building assets for years but doubted she could do much since she was older and not always in the best of health. Oh, but she loved to bake.

It occurred to her one day that there was bus stop right outside her house and every day for the past several years a half dozen or so kids would stand outside her house and wait for their bus. It also occurred to her that she didn’t know a single one of their names. But she loved to bake.

So, one day she bakes a batch of cookies, and after almost talking herself out of it several times, she meekly steps out her front door and offers a plate of cookies to the kids waiting for the bus. It was a little weird and awkward, but the kids took the cookies and exchanged timid smiles and a mumbled "thank you" or two. So the next day she was unsure what to do. She didn't know what she should have expected yesterday, but realized it was probably just as weird and awkward for the kids as it was for her. So she made brownies and went out the front door again. This time the smiles were a little bigger and some kids asked her name. In the ten minutes she spent that morning she began to feel that maybe this could turn into something good.

The days and weeks came and went and she continued making treats and soon she knew everybody's name, a little about their families and what they liked and didn't like about school. But one morning her arthritis was hurting bad, so bad she couldn't bake and she really didn't even want to leave the house. So she stayed inside and went back to bed. At the end of the school day after the kids were dropped off, the lady heard some shuffling of feet on her porch. Later, as she opened the front door to check her mail she found a note stuck in the door from the kids letting her know that they hoped she was okay and that they missed seeing her.

After that, she tried to never miss again. It only took a couple more weeks before one of the students asked her if she would ride the bus with them. She asked the bus driver and he said it would be okay and he would bring her home as he finished his route. Within weeks she was also riding on the pick-up route every day and she would help kids with homework and listen to them tell about their school day. One day the bus driver told her that he had not written a single disciplinary slip since she began riding.

She was excited about the connection she had made with her neighborhood kids. Every week at her bridge club and Sunday school class she would telling the other retired ladies about her experiences on the bus. Within months there were over a half dozen other retirees riding busses in other sections of town! Each month another bus stop or two were adopted by a neighborhood retiree. Word spread from the teachers to the Superintendent who took note that since these volunteer bus riders started, school attendance was dramatically improved, grades went up and it was very rare to see a detention or suspension among kids who rode the bus.

A school was revolutionized by a simple act of courage and kindness by a retired lady who saw an opportunity and loved to bake.

PS - If you live near Illinois, contact their Asset Coalition to see how you can get involved - they're doing great work!