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Can Crofton Change the World?

by: Laura Jahn 

I’ll give you the short answer first: Yes. Absolutely!

The long answer…

When I think about how the global community has changed just within my lifetime, I’m astounded. Infinite information is at our fingertips. Curiosity can be satisfied in seconds. People who are continents apart can talk face to face in real time. It’s amazing!

But let’s be real. It’s overwhelming.

Every positive aspect of life on a world-wide, real-time scale has its daunting counterpart. Whether it’s political turmoil, natural disasters, violence, or social injustice, we have an unprecedented awareness of global crisis.

It can seem impossible to know how to begin to resolve these big issues. And too often our good intentions are derailed by the thought that no matter what we do, it will never be enough.

In moments of doubt like this, I try to remember these words from St. Teresa of Calcutta:

“What can you do to promote world peace? Go home and love your family.”

Mother Teresa

This simple instruction has re-centered me many times. It’s a reminder that if you don’t know how to improve the world on a global scale, start where you are with what you have. Teach love at home. Never lose hope. Never doubt that you can effect change.

That’s why I was so excited when a neighbor introduced me to Crofton is Kind – a group dedicated to teaching kindness to children through community engagement right here in Crofton! One of their first projects was creating Kindness Rocks – colorful stones with inspirational and encouraging messages.

It started with a few rocks placed randomly throughout Crofton, which brightened people’s day with an unexpected dose of positivity. The rocks changed hands and were paid forward. Then more and more stones were added to the mix.  All of a sudden Crofton’s Kindness Rocks start showing up in Bowie, Annapolis, and even New York!

Rocks

As the rocks made their way throughout our community and well beyond, I realized they illustrate how kindness works – how a single act of kindness becomes contagious and spreads. It reminded me of St. Teresa’s reflection that the love we foster at home is the foundation for world peace.

That’s why I genuinely believe Crofton can change the world. We lay the foundation for peace at home. When we teach children kindness at home and within our community, they will spread that kindness well beyond!

And there’s no better way to practice kindness and show children the powerful, positive impact of their actions than volunteering your time and talents within your community.

Crofton is Kind inspired me to take action! I knew I wanted to volunteer, but I had no idea where to start. So, I created a directory of volunteer opportunities available right here in Crofton and in the surrounding areas for people like me who have good intentions, but not a lot of direction.

I hope you’ll take a moment to check it out, and see what opportunities are a good fit for you and your family! Just a few hours spent in service can brighten someone’s day, or inspire someone else to get involved.

Never doubt that you have the power to change the world starting right here and right now. Just check out the directory below to see how!

Organization Volunteer Opportunities Contract Information
Arundel Volunteer Fire Department Become a first responder fire fighter or EMT. Learn CPR, first aid, or fire prevention. www.arundelfire.com

Phone: 301-261-0060

Bowie Elks Lodge Invest in your community through programs that help children grow up healthy and drug-free, meet the needs of today’s veterans, and improve the quality of life. www.elks.org/who/

Phone: 301-261-3260

Build Crofton High School Help advocate for building a high school in Crofton through letter writing campaigns to legislation and community outreach. www.buildcroftonhighschool.com

Phone: Not Available

Crofton Elementary PTA Become a classroom volunteer, assist with community events, or become a tutor. www.ces-pta.com

Phone: 410-222-5800

Changing Focus Networking and therapeutic education for individuals experiencing separation and divorce, widowed, or wanting their relationships to grow. www.changingfocus.org

Phone: 410-721-0992

Connor Cares Foundation Assist in furthering the education and training of lifesaving personnel, set safety standard, and introduce legislation to help prevent drownings. www.connorcares.org

Phone: 443-875-2867

Crofton Care & Rehabilitation Center Become a letter/email writer, escort, reader, friendly visitor, or activity leader for residents. www.croftoncrc.com/volunteer.html

Phone: 410-721-1000

Crofton Christian Caring Council (CCCC) Volunteer to assist with CCCC’s food pantry, baby supply pantry, clothes closet, and soup kitchen. www.croftonccc.org

Phone: Not Available

Crofton Civic Association Participate in the planning and development of the Crofton Community. Volunteer and participate in family friendly community events and improvements. www.croftoncommunity.org

Phone: 410-721-2301

Crofton is Kind Foster kindness in children through outreach events such playground cleanups, painting kindness rocks, and anti-bullying campaigns. www.croftoniskind.org

Phone: Not Available

Crofton Kiwanis Serve the needs of families in Crofton and participate in the Annual 10K Race, “Rebuilding Together” efforts, Salvation Army bell ringing and quarterly blood drives. www.croftonkiwanis.org

Phone: 410-451-3930

Crofton Rotary Club Become a member and participate in local service events and community improvement projects. www.croftonrotary.org

Phone: Not Available

Chrysalis House Help support the lives of women and children with comprehensive recovery programs and services by becoming a daycare assistant, board member, admin assistant or group facilitator. www.chrysalishouses.org

Phone: 410-974-6829

Gabriel Network Provide services and goods to local women and families challenged with a crisis pregnancy by becoming a counselor, helpline or office volunteer, or organize a fundraiser. www.gabrielnetwork.org

Phone: 800-264-3565

 **Crofton is Kind would like this directory to be as comprehensive as possible. If you’d like to add an organization to this list, please submit the organization name, contact information and outline of volunteer opportunities. We’ll update the directory regularly, so check back for new opportunities!**

NOTE: Thank you so much to our guest writer, Laura Jahn who not only took the time to write this amazing post, but also put together this directory. Thank you, Laura! We are inspired by your words and your dedication to this community! 

 

How I Know Crofton Is Kind

Please welcome Thomas Krepps, our guest contributor to the Crofton is Kind blog. Tom is a longtime resident of Crofton and the Pastor of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church on Defense Highway. 

How I know Crofton is kind

 The first time I heard about this group, was after an incident at Crofton Middle School. Devon Hale Smith, asked for prayers, and let us know that people would be at the Middle School to write messages of encouragement on the sidewalks. I showed up, and though I couldn’t write anything (bad knee,  and the fact that since I work on the computer: I’m not sure I know how to write anymore) I was amazed to see the turnout, the love, and the community spirit that night. I was also blessed to have met many people from our community, as well as staff from the school.

     But even before this night, I believed Crofton is Kind. 5 years ago our house burned to the ground, there was very little left. But as we sorted through the debris, people came to help, people who didn’t even know us, but who had seen the reports. People from our faith communities showed up and helped in ways I cannot even begin to describe. Our church set up a fund, and donations came from many in Crofton. See! Crofton is Kind!

     Is Crofton perfect? No! Do we face challenges that are both unique and reflect what is happening in our society? Yes. I am a mid-level Baby Boomer. I have often said: “I think my generation owes this present one an apology.” Why: we thought we were going to change the world, turn hate to love, and bring in a new age. Now that I am old enough to be a grandfather to most of the parents who have kids in our Middle School, I realize the fight still goes on: racism, sexism, religious and sexual differences still divide us.

   I could say more: but here is my hope: that we can use this group to move forward, that we can learn to be kind to, and accept one another. That begins with being able to listen, to talk to one another, to move past labels. I believe we each have to answer that in our own way, and be willing to realize maybe we still have some area’s we struggle with. The struggle is OK, if we are willing to admit it to ourselves and then to each other. Then, we reach out, we make friends, we begin with the words, “I am Kind,” and then we say, “Crofton is kind,” because we are all willing to try kindness. And if Crofton is kind, then Gambrills is kind, and Odenton is kind, and it could go on and on. It starts with each of us.

-Thomas Krepps, C. 2017

We Chalked the Walk to Show Love Always Wins!

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Sherlin Larson, Mother of a Crofton Middle 7th grader and the woman who came up with the idea to Chalk the Walk, works on her beautiful work of art that was the centerpiece of this event.

On Thursday May 11, 2017 a noose was found hanging in the courtyard of Crofton Middle School. The community was shocked, angry, and fearful. Personally, I was saddened as I know that such an act does not represent the Crofton I know. I know Crofton to be an accepting, kind, welcoming, and diverse community. And I know with certainty that we are a better community because of our diversity! That anyone would attempt to say otherwise infuriated me and I knew that we had to counter this hateful message in some way. 2017-05-14 19.08.13

Having started Crofton is Kind in November I already had a group of people I could quickly reach out to. I didn’t have any idea of how to respond, but I knew we had to, and I posted my thoughts on our Facebook page. Anytime an act of hate occurs the challenge is to reject the act, while not amplifying the hate. I knew we needed to amplify KINDNESS, to show the students of Crofton Middle School and the Crofton community that there is no place for hate here, and that kindness and love will always win. But, how?

Kind

And then, a member of Crofton is Kind, Sherlin Larson, reached out to me and said, “What if a bunch of us came over on Sunday evening and chalk art-ed the sidewalks? All the side walks. All pavement. With positivity, challenges for kindness, and images of love hope and peace?” And that my friends, is how “Chalk the Walk” was born.

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I then reached out to a contact at the school (thanks, Lauren Sales!) to get permission from the principal, Lauren got back to me early Friday morning with the go ahead, and I started getting the word out immediately.

With the help of another Crofton is Kind member, Karla Mandell, who has experience in the PR field, we drafted a press release and reached out to every media outlet in the area. I sent a specific message to those outlets that had already covered the noose incident and explained that if they’re going to cover the negative, then the have a responsibility to cover the positive. And cover it they did! Thank you to WJZ 13, Fox 5 (Washington), WBAL, WJLA, NBC4 (Washington), WTOP (Radio), and the Capital Gazette who all came out to the event. (Links to all stories can be found in our “In The News” section).

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Principal Nuria Williams is interviewed by the press.

But it wasn’t just the media who came out. When Sherlin had suggested a “bunch of us” chalk the walk, I don’t think she was expecting 300 parents, children, grandparents, teachers, administrators, elected officials, and community members, but that’s who came. People in Crofton, and from the surrounding area came out to show that ALL people are welcome here. And so, as a result, in less than 1 hour over 100 yards of sidewalk was chalked with gorgeous, positive, inspirational messages that celebrated diversity, love, and the kind spirit of Crofton.

I know a lot of people were worried that we would have a poor showing because it was Mother’s Day. But, quite the opposite occurred. So many mother’s embraced this event and chose to celebrate Mother’s Day with their families by spreading kindness and denouncing hate. On the Anne Arundel County Public Schools Facebook page one mother, Nicole Vandoren said, ” I think I can speak for most of the mothers in attendance, myself included, we did not view this event as giving up part of our Mother’s Day. Rather it was an opportunity to teach our children the best way to react to such a hateful act.” I will be forever grateful that so many mothers viewed this event in this way.

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Having played some small part in rallying the community together to say loud and clear “Your hate will not be tolerated here. Love will be louder, kindness will be stronger, and ALL are welcome here!!” was an honor and a privilege. The fact that Crofton Is Kind now has over 380 members is humbling and inspiring.

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As the founder of Crofton Is Kind I want to personally thank every single one of you that supported this event by attending, by spreading the word, or by donating chalk or food (thank you to the Dunkin Donuts in Staples Corner for the donuts). This event was bigger than me and Sherlin. It was bigger than Crofton Is Kind, it was about a community coming together in a positive way to do something spectacular. I would like to especially thank Ms. Nuria Williams, Principal of Crofton Middle for being an exceptional leader for this community. Principal Williams leads with transparency, love, and enthusiasm for her students, school, and community, and we are grateful she was such a strong supporter of this event.

 

So, Crofton, thank you for making my Mother’s Day the best yet! I look forward to continuing to spread kindness with you in new and creative ways! Please reach out anytime with suggestions for events or collaboration: CroftonIsKind@gmail.com.

And never forget, love always wins!

We’re All In This Together: Finding ways to show kindness towards other parents.

As parents we know firsthand that parenting is one of the hardest things we will ever do. It’s wonderful, and fulfilling, and full of love and laughter, and lots of snuggles and giggles, but it’s also full of crying, tantrums, picky eaters, nose picking, defiant toddlers, moody teenagers, and yeah, it’s really damn hard sometimes.

As parents we sometimes have a tendency to make this whole shared experience harder on our fellow moms and dads. We sometimes judge, stare too long at bad behavior, make “suggestions” for how it should be done, or worst of all openly criticize the parenting choices that others make.

Except in rare, extreme cases, I think it’s safe to assume that we are all doing the best we can.

I recently had a wonderful experience when I was out by myself with my three boys (ages 7, 4, and 2 years) and my niece (8 months) and my nephew (3 years). We went to feed the ducks and then I decided to go out to lunch with all of them (this may have been a brief lapse in judgment but, it turned out OK!!)  As luck would have it, they were super well-behaved and I could not have been prouder of or more grateful for these 5 little people I adore. But, what made it even better was that another woman not only noticed this, but also told me. She said, “You’re amazing! Your kids are so well behaved and you have such a gentle way with them.” I’m sure I beamed from ear to ear. She made my day…no, she made my month. I nearly hugged her.

This got me thinking about creating a list of ways we as parents can actively seek to spread kindness towards other parents. I sought the help of some amazing moms who offered their input and suggestions.

A lot of the suggestions centered around helping out strangers we see struggling or succeeding at this parenting gig out in public.

We_re all in this together...

Lauren said it means so much to her when people compliment her kids’ behavior unprompted. Julie said that hearing, “your kids are so well behaved!” is the best compliment she has ever been given. She remembers it meaning so much as a child herself, and now even more as a mom. “Yes,” she said, it means a lot “even if it’s only in the moment and your kids end up having a meltdown in the car immediately after (this may or may not have happened tonight with my 8 month old). It’s so nice to hear in the moment.”

Ronni explained how awful it can feel to be shamed for our parenting choices and she encouraged parents who see a struggling parent at a store to “stop and tell them they are doing a great job. Then hand them a coffee!” Who couldn’t use a free, unexpected coffee? Susie’s more of a chocolate person and she suggested giving chocolate. Either way, I don’t think you can go wrong.

Tricia, a mom of two young boys who are very close in age reminded us how much a simple reassuring comment can mean. “If I see a Mom with a tantrum-y child in public, ‘Oh I’ve been there! Hang in there! You’re doing great!’ A  Sleepy mom with a newborn? ‘You’re doing great and trust me it gets easier and more fun!’ It’s so easy to do and I can always tell how appreciated it is.”

Some parents talked about how difficult it is to discipline a child in public. Shannon J acknowledged this and said that anytime she sees a parent being brave and disciplining in public she makes a point to commend them for doing a great job. Shannon’s right! We should thank these people! They are making sure their children grow up to be good people and that makes that world a better place for all of us!

Jennifer S, a mom of two amazing teenagers (she’s proof that all this hard work does pay off and result in awesome (almost) grown-ups!) reminded us that not only is it important to offer those encouraging words but to also offer to help when we are able. Jennifer S, Shannon K, and Elizabeth talked about how valuable a helping, and understanding hand can be in the airport when traveling with kids.

I mean, if you’ve ever been on a plane, with or without kids, you can practically feel the stress emanating from the parents traveling with kids. How great would it be if we all banded together to make traveling with kids less stressful?

Shannon K was recently at the airport traveling without her kids (cue the Alleluia chorus!!!!) and a mom with a 2 year old and a 2 month old was in front of her. She said, “How can I help you, Mama? Please let me help?” Shannon pointed out that so often we as parents are determined to do things on our own. We’re fiercely independent. And yet, Shannon said, as parents, “there is almost never a time when I couldn’t use an extra hand…Being a mom has forced me to accept help, and even ask for it!” But we’re not all good at accepting help. So, instead of asking a struggling parent “Do you need help?” Try to make it a point of saying, “How can I help?”

Elizabeth flew with her 2 year old while she was pregnant with her second. She said, “All the women who sat next to and around me on the plane helped me in a ton of ways ranging from picking up dropped items to letting me put my drink on their trays. When I was exiting the plane a dad came up to me and said I was doing a great job. Such a sweet thumbs up from the travel universe.”

I rarely travel these days, but my husband does a lot for work. I’ll be sure to make sure he reads this so that he can keep an eye out for those struggling parents while traveling for business. We always need to keep our eyes open for ways to spread kindness! And clearly, it’s IMMENSELY important, for the sanity of traveling parents everywhere, to have our eyes especially peeled for ways to help when in an airport or on a plane.

But we must keep our eyes peeled everyday at home for other opportunities to commit random acts of kindness for parents we know and those we don’t. Here are some additional simple suggestions:

Aimee S:  “I love when other parents do little things like just give a knowing glance or smile. I have had a mom notice that I was struggling while in a store and get me a cart; I also had a mom tell me about the free fruit in target while my daughter was whining about wanting a banana. Things like that remind me that we are all bonded together in some way.” I seriously was unaware of this free fruit in Target thing. Now, if my two youngest kids would just eat fruit that’s not in sauce or smoothie form. Sigh…

Paula C: “For no reason at all take over a dish or offer to watch a friend’s children.”  What a fantastic idea! We all do this when a new baby is born or when we know a parent is suffering from an illness. But wouldn’t it be amazing to just have dinner randomly show up at your door one night? I mean seriously, A-MAAAAAA-ZING!

Jennifer B: “We bring bakery treats to sick mom friends.” I mean, when I’m sick my kids will probably end up eating them before I’m well enough. But my kids eating the treats means they might be letting me sleep off whatever it is that is ailing me. It’s a win-win!

Brooke D: “I had a mom give me advice on how to wear my son properly. It was the kindest thing a stranger has ever done for me as a mom!” We’ve all struggled with a wrap, a ring sling, or carrier. Sometimes those YouTube videos are not as easy to follow as one might like. I could have totally used this kind of assistance from a stranger when I was in the early days of baby wearing.

Megan C: “I pay it forward in Starbucks when I see a minivan behind me!” Once again, free coffee. It’s helping to keep us all sane!

Nicole B: “When you see a post from a friend about their sick child, offer to have the healthy sibling over for a play date.” This is true selflessness here: risking exposing your own kids to an illness?!?! But man, we’ve all been here. It’s so, so hard to keep your healthy kids busy and thus maintain your own sanity when you have one sick kid and can’t leave the house. This would be such a life saver!

Samantha W:  “Hold/open the door for parents pushing strollers/ dealing with multiple kids. And I always let a parent and child go in front of me when in line for the bathroom!” I recently had someone let me and my “doing the potty dance” son go in front of them in the bathroom and it was so, so appreciated. Karla M. made the point that really any line in which you can let a parent and child go ahead of you can have a huge impact.

Sarah H:  “A Simple compliment to another person goes a long way. I’ve started telling people when an outfit or color looks nice on them and their face lights up with a smile.” This idea really speaks to me. So much of our identity is focused on our role as parents. When people notice and acknowledge parts of me that have nothing to do with my role as a parent it means so much. It grounds me and reminds me that yes; I am more than a boogie wiping, argument referee, who shuttles my children from activity to activity. We all need to remember that we are people with skills, and unique abilities that make us more than just “Mom” or “Dad.”

And yet, so much of who we are is wrapped up in our role as parents. Being a parent is to have your heart go walking around outside your body. And so sometimes, the best thing we can do to support parents, is to support their kids.

Jennifer R., another one of those awesome moms with grown kids talked about being able to help a friend with a young child who was in a child care jam. Jennifer was taking her friend’s son to the movies and said, “I haven’t seen power rangers in ages! I’m looking forward to a fun evening and giving her peace of mind.”

We all want peace of mind don’t we? We want to know that our kids are ok, that they are appreciated for who they are, and that they aren’t judged too harshly for their mistakes. Dorothy F said, “I have a sweet almost 12 y/o boy with ADHD who is so kind, but because of his impulsivity, can get into trouble. I got an email from another 6th grade mom at my boy’s school about how kind my son has been to him. It made my week. We often only hear when things are not great. Taking the time to point out the good is worth a million bucks (well almost).” I’ve met Dorothy’s son and I know firsthand how sweet he is. I’m glad others not only notice, but make a point to tell his mom and dad.

I mean, we’re all in this together, right? We’ve all had our kids make mistakes. And we’ve all made mistakes as parents. There is truly something to be said for feeling like we are a part of a community of people doing the best we can as parents, and trying to help other parents do the same. Jen S. talked about how important it is to be real. She said, “I feel like there is a lot of comparing going on.  Especially with social media these days, so letting other parents know that you also don’t have your shit together [helps to] create community and that goes a long way.”

Stephanie G. said that compliments when things are good and encouragement in difficult times make her “feel like part of a sisterhood.”

So, fellow Moms and Dads, go out there, and look for ways to be kind, understanding, and helpful to your fellow parents. And please, while you’re at it, never, ever, say to me or anyone else “Gee, you’ve got your hands full!” Instead, please say something like, “Wow! You’re doing a great job!” But if you do, beware: I might just spontaneously hug you.

Note: If you like what you read here find our group on Facebook, Crofton is Kind and ask to join. You don’t have to live in Crofton, MD to join our group, you just have to support KINDNESS. 

Kindness + Party = KINDNESS PARTY!

On March 12th we gathered at the home of the founder of Crofton is Kind to paaaaaar-tay! “Oh-What’s a Kindness party?” you say? Well, its a blast, that’s what it is! Here’s what we did…

We started by having everyone introduce themselves, and the kids shared what they think “Kindness is…”Kindness Party! (3)

Then we read two fabulous books. If you don’t have “Ordinary Mary’s Extraordinary Deed” and “The Invisible Boy” go get them now and add them to your collection. In these books we learned about how the kindness of just one person really can change the world, and how important it is to be a good friend…to everyone.

After the books we played a Kindness trivia game. The kids won prizes that they could choose to keep or to share with a neighbor. Here’s hoping lots of neighbors are the recipients of random acts of kindness (RAKs) today.

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We made sharing stones: 1 to keep and 1 to share.

And we made sure the kids all left with lots of tools to spread kindness far and wide.

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If this sounds like fun to you then find our group on Facebook by searching for “Crofton is Kind” and request to be added to the group. And if you have ideas of other activities that we can host, please reach out with ideas using the “Contact Us” page.

Thanks for reading! And remember, be kind….always.