From a distance, the orange envelope on cars parked in metered spots in downtown Wilson appeared sinister, eliciting an audible groan from drivers at the thought of a parking ticket.
The envelope bore altruistic motives, though, as part of a recent Random Acts of Kindness project from one of the classes of 2016.
The eight graduates from Eastern North Carolina School for the Deaf recently set out to bring smiles to people’s faces by performing a series of random acts of kindness for strangers with money taped to parking meters as just one example. Each student picked a gesture — including money taped to Redbox movie kiosks for rentals, food donated to Wilson Fire/Rescue Services and the animal shelter and paying the bills of strangers at Starbucks and McDonald’s — then followed the act up with a hand-written card with messages such as, “Keep shining and keep smiling! The world needs it! Have a good day!”
“The main goal was encouraging people to be nicer to each other, to be friendly,” class president 20-year-old Taylor Cox said via American Sign Language. “My mom went to Starbucks before and someone had already paid when we’d pulled up. It starts a chain reaction.”
Jennifer Hawley, speech and language pathologist at the school and senior sponsor for the class of 2016, said not all of the members of the class were able to go on the class trip to Tennessee, so officials wanted the group to come together for a project before they all headed to their respective homes after graduation.
“It was fun,” she said. “We receive a lot of support from various organizations and the community like BB&T, so we wanted to do something to give back.”
Elijah Jones, 20, said the experience of paying for a McDonald’s meal for a lady with a mother in the hospital was memorable.
“She was about to cry,” Jones said. “I noticed and gave her a hug to make her feel better. She said, ‘thank you.’”
Those who were present during the students’ gestures expressed gratitude, but many of the efforts were left for folks to discover after the students moved on to the next location.
“We’ll never know the impact we had on some of the recipients, but we hope it was positive,” Hawley said. “Every day you can be kind and give back to others.
“Random acts can be simple. They don’t have to be elaborate or anything to brighten someone’s day.”
While the class project was a first for ENCSD, officials said it is likely to continue with future senior classes.
“We’ve been given so much by the community and this is one way to give back and work together as a team,” Hawley said. “Each of the senior picked a random act of kindness to do, but I wish we’d picked more because it was fun and rewarding.”
For more information on the Eastern North Carolina School for the Deaf, visit www.encsd.net/.
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