Acts of Loving Kindness offers community positivity

DePaul’s Acts of Loving Kindness have now taken on a virtual space through DePaul Newsline. What initially started off as a tight-knit community at DePaul’s Office of Religious Diversity and Pastoral Care, has evolved into a space where students, faculty and staff can continue to help the community and themselves through one homework prompt per week. 

The campaign was initially founded in 2016, when the office only had the title of Office of Religious Diversity. Rev. Diane Dardon, the director of pastoral care at DePaul and Matthew Charnay, DePaul’s Jewish Student Life coordinator came together to show some kindness after the result of an election that caused anger and animosity. 

Even though the Acts of Loving Kindness was developed through DePaul’s Division of Mission and Ministry, Dardon and Charnay opened it to the entire community for students who wanted a quick cookie to bite at their tablings and receive cards with positive messages regarding a call to action. 

“After a few weeks of tabling in the atrium and sharing Kindness Quotes, we had students looking for us every week,” Dardon said.

Over the years, students from both inside and outside the ministry would either stop by for a cookie, a hug or just a space to talk about what’s going on with their day. However, because of the pandemic, these rituals have been taken away. Yet, with being apart, the Acts of Loving Kindness has now taken on a new platform through DePaul Newsline and social media

“This year, it’s grown into something new,” Charnay said. 

Coming into fall quarter, Dardon became inspired when she saw DePaul’s President A. Gabriel Esteban’s video interview with Linda Blakely on the school’s mission and how he asked the university to do one homework act of kindness or charity each week. From there, she knew that the Acts of Loving Kindness was what Esteban was looking towards. 

With her desire to resurrect the campaign, Dardon contacted other colleagues, who jumped on the idea. Because of DePaul’s marketing Department, the Acts of Loving Kindness are now shown on a larger platform, showing contrast to its four-person base when it first arose. 

“The weekly kindness quotes provide inspiration, and the suggestion for offering a small act of kindness helps all of us take Dr. Esteban’s homework assignment seriously,” Dardon said. 

The pandemic has turned acts of kindness into a new light. Charnay said in order to do charitable and kind acts for the entire community, internal care takes priority. 

“Keep yourself fulfilled,” Charnay said. 

Charnay said transparency is key during these times. He said that professors are better off hearing about a student’s bad week while it happens as opposed to further down the road. With that, he also said everyone should prioritize what gives them joy. Charnay said to schedule that into the day and add ten extra minutes since it’s a staple for helping internally. 

However, Charnay also added it’s also important to try new things. Through attending different virtual events, vulnerability in meeting others could still be shown, even in an easier way. 

“It’s just a face on the computer,” Charnay said. 

Dardon also said these virtual platforms give allowance for kindness to be spread beyond individual means. 

“The many ways people are seeing and posting about kindness is a great way to spread the kindness beyond individual moments,” Dardon said. 

She also said with the pandemic and with political unrest, this is a perfect time to be nice to the community.

“In a day when people are so tired from Covid, distancing, worries and struggles, and in a day when social and political unrest in our country and the world are so prevalent, I believe humanity is yearning for good,” Dardon said. 

Charnay added it’s alright to take a break from social media with all this unrest. He said even though it’s tempting to be an advocate, stepping back for a certain amount of time won’t hurt. 

Dardon said students, faculty and staff can be kind to themselves and others just through completing these homework assignments. She added studies have also proven that kindness, giving, receiving and witnessing kindness has physiological and emotional benefits, leading to a healthier and happier life. 

According to Dartmouth College, kindness produces oxytocin, otherwise known as the love hormone, which aids in lowering blood pressure and improves overall heart health. It also decreases cortisol, the stress hormone, which allows for aging at a slower rate. Kindness also increases lifespan, energy, pleasure and serotonin. It decreases anxiety, pain and depression. 

Grace Jacques, a senior at DePaul has always felt community with the Division of Mission and Ministry. Even though she wasn’t involved with the Acts of Loving Kindness campaign, she always was driven by Vincentian Personalism. 

“I’ve always felt cared for in a special way by the folks in DMM,” Jacques said. 

She said faculty from the Division of Mission and Ministry have been checking in through these periods of remote learning. 

Dardon said doing these assignments can help promote kindness in our overall lives. 

“We can be kind to ourselves by being kind to others,”  Dardon said.