For SPS Dean of Student Support Kate Daniels, positive connections are more than academic.
BY IAN ALDRICH
What does it mean to be kind? What are the powers of compassion? How can thinking more deeply about both things help the world become a better place? These are just a few of the questions Kate Daniels, dean of student support at St. Paul’s School, is exploring in a new “kindness curriculum” she launched this year. The program, a mix of short lessons and group discussions delivered at the School’s weekly Thursday afternoon dorm meetings, delves into the importance of positively connecting with others and the reverberations those singular acts, no matter how small, can have on a relationship and a community.
For Daniels, this is no academic exercise. Research has shown there’s real power in kindness, she says, and not just for those on the receiving end of it. “When we are kind — when we do something kind for someone else — it makes us feel good, happier, more optimistic,” says Daniels, who is the head of Manville House. “When people experience positive feelings like this, they are more apt to continue to be kind. And, when others are the recipients of kindness, they are more inclined to be kind to others.” Daniels draws the distinction between being kind, which is centered on others, and being nice — which is more about a person’s view of themselves and is somewhat transactional in nature. She also notes that some studies indicate that kindness also offers some protection against sadness and depression. “People who do regular volunteer work, for example, show that they have lower rates of depression than people who don’t volunteer, which is really interesting,” she says.
If everything we’re doing is rooted in kindness, if it becomes a litmus test that we use for any of our actions, then maybe, and I know this sounds Pollyanna-ish, it can negate a lot of the unattractive behavior we’re seeing so much of these days.”