I was driving into Seattle late Monday afternoon and was in the usual traffic snarl beginning around Greenlake. As I passed under 50th Street, cars changed lanes to go around a stalled van in the second lane from the left.
My impulse was to pull over, jump out of my car, run across traffic, get the driver to throw it into neutral, and start pushing the van out of traffic. Just the vision of that impulse caused some minor terror- the fear of judgment, the fear of invoking someone’s anger, the fear of being seen doing something unusual. I did not stop.
And, of course, this is exactly what our friend, Houston Kraft, talked about when he visited on Tuesday. What keeps us from acts of kindness is our fear. It is a fear, he says, we are not born with, but that we develop over time as we experience, suffering, pain, loss, grief.
I have been fortunate to have been in a six-year conversation with Houston. The actual talking happens only periodically, but it feels like a place of learning where vulnerability and not being the hero in your own story is ever-present. Each reminder deepens my own meaning making, largely because Houston’s message comes through stories of his own imperfections, mistakes, and regrets.
Kindness has become a bit of a guilty pleasure, as some poets and philosophers have posited. I am not sure why it appears that way to them- kindness seems practical and necessary in a complex, and, at times, mean world. I am grateful Houston’s reminders of my own imperfections and the steady progress I am making becoming a better human.
Scott Mauk - Edmonds Heights K-12, WA
This is the second time we've had Houston speak to our students and the growth of both the message, the speaking style, and whole package of CharacterStrong to support the message has just been phenomenal. I am highly recommending Houston to my colleagues in High School Activities and Administrative positions.
We had Houston join us on our second day of school this year. We connected his message to our roll out of PBIS in our school this year. His assembly set the tone and framework for PBIS / creating a positive and inclusive school climate. Additionally, Houston stayed and spoke to our staff in a special All Staff meeting after school. We don't usually have staff meetings on Thursdays and I was nervous that staff would skip it in favor of setting up their new classes (also very important). But I was blown away that all of our staff came and so many came up to me afterwards to comment on how valuable it was to get a pep-talk / reminder from Houston about the importance of building our relationships with students - that before serious learning can happen, we have to show that we love and value the students we are trying to teach.
Since having him speak our first week, we have now rolled out CharacterDares to all students and staff are able to have a language to talk to students about character. I'm so excited for how this has invigorated this whole approach to teaching our students and it is a perfect dovetail for PBIS work!
Johanna Phillips - Shorecrest High School, WA
Houston was an awesome speaker! Many of the students said he kept everyone's attention for the entire assembly. Not an easy feat in middle school! They loved the stories he shared.
The students are excited to continue some of the challenges he put before them.
Catherine Shapiro - Hastings Middle School, OH
Houston was amazing! Absolutely a talented and captivating speaker who pulled the heart strings of every group! I love the emphasis on sustainability and the resources that accompany the event. Houston stands out above many and I am so thankful we were able to make this happen at our school!
Jennifer Jackson - Clifton Middle School, CA
I can't speak highly enough of Houston and his impact at our school. In debriefing his visit with my students, they were impacted on so many levels. Not only was his narrative well put together and well thought out (Houston has mastered a full circle conclusion better than most authors!), the message was something they could relate to and take into their lives outside of school as well. Afterwards, Houston took time to meet with students who cried and opened up about how kindness has affected them. My leadership students are eager to carry his message - to live it and help others live it as well. Thank you so much for this visit and this message!
Crystal Stengele - Kamiak High School, WA