Middle school and intermediate school’s recent ‘Cultivate Kindness’ assemblies reinforce the power that kindness can offer

students at assemblyRich Specht told Minisink Valley Middle School and Minisink Valley Intermediate School students that a random act of kindness can make the biggest difference to someone — particularly in the face of tragedy — and he encouraged them to be mindful of the power kindness can possess.

His comments were part of “Cultivate Kindness” assemblies recently held at both schools. So, if you find a student handing you a card saying “Cultivate cultivate kindness cardKindness” and which has artwork of a little boy riding a red tractor or wearing a Superman suit, know that Mr. Specht’s message hit home.

Kindness does matter

Mr. Specht can vouch for the power of kindness firsthand, after losing his soon Rees (a nickname for his full name Richard Edwin-Ehmer Specht) in a drowning accident at the family’s home following Super Storm Sandy in 2012. That catastrophic storm destroyed his family’s home at the same time.

The family’s painful loss was obviously overwhelming and profoundly sad, but a random act of kindness by a landscaper was the impetus for the start of the Specht family’s long road of healing.

Kelly Brothers Landscaping was working in the area and contacted the students at assemblySpechts after learning of the tragedy. The landscaping company heard about what happened and wanted to do something for the Spechts.

Kind deeds make a difference

The company’s kind deed was removing the pond in the family’s yard, which was a constant reminder of the drowning accident.  Landscapers planted thousands of plants in the entire yard in its place, and wouldn’t accept anything from the Spechts for their work.

Additionally, the family was given meals, movie tickets and gift certificates by well-meaning friends and strangers.

The Spechts, who were touched by the community’s unbelievable kindness, wanted to find a way to let people know how meaningful and impactful their gestures were.

‘Paying it forward’

In the spirit of “paying it forward,” the Specht family decided to commit to 500 random acts of kindness for the year and founded ReesSpecht Life in their son’s memory.

Two men standing in front of a powerpoint displayOn the organization’s website, www.reesspechtlife.com, the Spechts noted:  “Our little boy’s life was brief, but we hope to make his legacy eternal. We all possess the ability to do something super: Respect each other, respect ourselves: ReesSpecht life.”

The website added that the group’s primary goal is to remind people about the importance of community, compassion and respect.

“We will strive to promote these ideals through a memorial scholarship and an awareness campaign featuring our logo (Rees riding on his favorite thing: tractors),” according to the website. “The primary way of accomplishing this is through ‘ReesSpecht Life Cards.’   We hand out the cards every time we perform an act of kindness.  The hope is that each person, in turn, will then also carry out an act of kindness and a chain reaction will ensue.”

To date over 240,000 ReesSpecht Life cards have been distributed.

“In a country that counts its population in the hundred millions, 240,000 acts of kindness is only a start,” according to the website, “but we believe we can make this world a better place, one ‘Rees’ Piece’ at a time.”

Cards to reinforce kindness

Mr. Specht handed out cards to students so they could use them for their own personal and perhaps random acts of kindness.

Powerpoint display of little boy with candies“The idea is to commit a random act of kindness, give the card, and pay the good deed forward to someone else,” said Principal Michael Larsen.  “This message taught us about the power of kindness and gratitude in the wake of a tragedy.  Mr. Specht noted that a stranger’s choice to be kind helped to bring meaning back to his life and started a chain reaction of kindness. All those who pass along the card become one of ‘Rees’ Pieces.’”

The assemblies were tied to the schools’ ongoing commitment to reinforce the importance of choosing kindness in everyday actions. Mr. Larsen felt it was an important message for the recent Thanksgiving season.