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Awakin Calls » Andy Smallman on Aug 19, 2017

Kindness as an Avenue to Awe
This week's guest, Andy Smallman, is excited by awe. "I'm drawn to cultivating awe in my life, by which I mean noticing little things that evoke in me a sense of wonder or delight. It's when my soul opens up and I realize on the deepest level that there is no separation among anything, that we are at once fully connected AND individual representations of the divine. Kindness is both an avenue in to recognizing awe, and is the result of experiencing awe." How has kindness been an avenue to awe for you?  Share Your Reflection »
Call with Andy Smallman
Aug 19, 2017, 9:00AM PST

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What would happen if schools focused on kindness and gratitude before achievement and academics? This is a question that Andy Smallman not only entertained, but also acted upon. In 1994, Andy with a group of dedicated parents and their children started Puget Sound Community School [PSCS] “founded upon the belief that people are intrinsically compelled by their own curiosity and desires to learn, and when provided a positive and supportive environment…will enthusiastically pursue meaningful and challenging tasks.”  At PSCS, kindness was not just a concept, it was part of the curriculum—a class. The kindness class became so successful, that Smallman offered an online version open to the general public. 250 “students” from around the world joined See full.
What would happen if schools focused on kindness and gratitude before achievement and academics? This is a question that Andy Smallman not only entertained, but also acted upon. In 1994, Andy with a group of dedicated parents and their children started Puget Sound Community School [PSCS] “founded upon the belief that people are intrinsically compelled by their own curiosity and desires to learn, and when provided a positive and supportive environment…will enthusiastically pursue meaningful and challenging tasks.” 

At PSCS, kindness was not just a concept, it was part of the curriculum—a class. The kindness class became so successful, that Smallman offered an online version open to the general public. 250 “students” from around the world joined the class and practiced random acts of kindness that rippled out in their communities. In 2011, Andy created a website called Kind Living which offers self-paced kindness classes.

But Smallman didn’t stop there. In 2012, Andy was asked to adapt the kindness class for The Compassion Games, an annual event in September in which cities all over the world compete cooperatively to determine which is the most compassionate. So Andy developed The Secret Agent of Compassion, a “coopetition” (cooperative competition) between cities based on compassionate acts.

Smallman, who is excited about how awe “has become a secular, or generally acceptable, way to refer to the divine,” sees kindness as “both an avenue in to recognizing awe, and is the result of experiencing awe.” 

Don’t miss this awesome conversation with kindness educator, inventor, and warrior Andy Smallman.   


Five Questions for Andy

What Makes You Come Alive?
What excites me right now is the idea that awe has become a secular, or generally acceptable, way to refer to the divine (or what many refer to as God). When walking my dog recently, I came across what I think is a magical strip of land, no more than 10 square feet total, with a sign written in what I think is a child's hand proclaiming the space to be "The Give and Take Garden." Small toys and trinkets have been placed in various spots in the garden. I return to the space regularly and both "give" things (meaningful trinkets of my own) and "take" things (once finding a plastic Wonder Woman ring). The garden has become the manifestation of the giving and receiving concept I explain above. I'm working on writing a children's story about the experience.

Your Greatest Inspiration?
I was an undergraduate student at The Evergreen State College in 1986 and on the path to become a 3rd grade teacher. I attended a school presentation in which the value of internships, especially relevant at Evergreen, was shared. The presenter told about a dad with whom she had just met who, along with his wife, was looking for a student to assist with a home-based program they had been implementing for their brain-injured son. In that moment, without explanation or need for protocol, I knew that intern was going to be me. I followed the presenter out of the room to talk with her, and that night I was having dinner in the family's home. My thought-out plan to become a 3rd grade teacher was immediately changed and without any hesitation on my part. I can trace just about everything I've done to this moment and use the experience to help my students understand the real purpose of having a goal.

An Act of Kindness You'll Never Forget?
Honestly, every act of kindness is one I'll never forget as each one irrevocably changes me for the better, those I perform, those I witness, and those I am lucky enough to hear about. One that stands out for me, however, I found via YouTube. It took place in Copenhagen and is how a group of people provided a happy birthday wish to a city bus driver. It's so well-coordinated and so genuinely sweet that I can be touched by it again and again and again. There are over 5 million views of it at https://youtu.be/xgOyTNtsWyY.

One Thing On Your Bucket List?
This is simple yet outside of my control. The one ambition I truly have is to become a grandfather. Feel free to ask me what I want my grandchildren to call me, should I be fortunate enough to ever have any.

One-line Message for the World?
Stop what you are doing right now and use your imagination (if you need to) to find one thing within your daily routine that fills you with a sense of awe.


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