Fed up with violence, Chuck Wall calls for an outbreak of random kindness
by Susan Reed and Doris Bacon
One morning last spring, Professor Chuck Wall was pondering his next assignment for the students in his human relations class at
"I just took out the word violence and stuck in the word kindness," says Wall, 52. "All of a sudden I had a great phrase that turned a negative into a positive."
When he walked into his classroom later that morning, Wall told his 18 students, ranging in age from 18 to 67, to pick up their pens. Then he directed them to take down the weeks assignment: "Today I will commit one random act of senseless kindness."
Hands shot up in confusion. "I dont know what Im supposed to do," complained one student. Says Wall: "They wanted me to tell them what kindness was about. I insisted they figure it out for themselves."
At the classs next meeting, a week later, Walls students were more animated than he had ever seen them. They all had stores to tell. Shane Gautreaux, 20, had distributed blankets hed bought from the Salvation Army to a group of homeless people who lived under
"What was important to me," says Wall, "was the impact the assignment had on them personally." The students, in fact, were inspired to kick off their own continuing campaign for kindness. They had bumper stickers printed that read, "Today, I will commit one random act of senseless KINDNESS . . . Will you?"
Though certainly an act of kindness, the students selection of the
Walls disability - he can only distinguish light and dark and gets around with a cane - hardly seems to limit him. Last year he ran for mayor of
Now that his kindness campaign has unexpectedly caught fire, he has even more to do. He regularly receives letters asking for help in starting similar drives. In response, he has copyrighted his "kindness" phrase and is licensing it at minimal charge to nonprofit groups.
His students are beginning to see an impact too. Jessica Fredericksen arrived home recently to find that her three teenage sons had unexpectedly cleaned the house. "Just a random act of senseless kindness," explained one.
People, December 13, 1993