A Celebration Of Differences

On Friday evening, March 9th, 2018 nearly 200 (197 to be exact) people gathered to celebrate differences. At this event Kindness Grows Here sought to send the message to children and parents that differences are something to celebrate, not ridicule. It was a true celebration complete with pizza (donated by Ledo Pizza, Crofton) and cake pops and coffee (donated by Starbucks, Waugh Chapel).
 

The evening started with the founder of Kindness Grows Here, Kristen Caminiti introducing the concept of the evening and setting some ground rules. She also talked about how whenever someone learns that no two snowflakes are ever the same they think its “amazing!” and “So cool!” And so, she asked the audience, “Why don’t we say that same thing about people? No two people are the same, but we don’t seem to get as excited about people being different as we do about snowflakes.” She explained that it was her hope that everyone present tonight would leave being just as excited about people being different as they are about snowflakes.

KGH COD-10Kristen then introduced Bailey Streeter, a junior at Arundel High School, who read, “My Family, Your Family” by Lisa Bullard. This book discusses how all families are different. Some have two parents, some have one. Some have two moms or two dads. Some couples have no children. Some families grow through adoption. In some families all the people look similar, and in other families they look very different and may have different skin colors. But no matter who is in your family, all you need to be a family is love.

KGH COD-03Next, State Senator Ed Riley read the book, “Mama Zooms” by Jane Cowen-Fletcher. Senator Reilly was energetic and got the audience involved by chanting “Zoom, Mama, zoom!” This book is written from the perspective of a young boy whose mom uses a wheel chair to get around. The little boy explains how he and his mom go on amazing adventures in which her wheelchair zooms him like a race horse, or a ship at sea, or a rocket to the moon. The little boy sees his mom’s wheelchair as something awesome and exciting. But most of all, he just sees his Mama as his Mama, and her wheelchair doesn’t change anything about that. Kristen summarized this book by explaining that what we sometimes call a “disability” is really just a difference, and that such differences can often be strengths.

 

KGH COD-05The third book, “The Colors of Us” by Karent Katz was read by Addis Green, a 5th grader at Nantucket Elementary. Addis did a beautiful job capturing the innocence of the young girl, Lena, who is the main character in the book. In the story Lena is painting a picture of herself and she asks her mom for the brown paint. But her mom explains that she needs “the right brown” for her picture. Lena is unsure what her mom means and says, “Brown is brown.” But her mom takes her on a walk through their community and points out all the different beautiful browns: peanut butter brown like Ms. Sonia, chocolate brown like Isabella, peachy tan like Lucy, the color of ginger and chili powder like Mr. Kashmir, and many other beautiful colors. This book sent the message that we are all different colors and we are all beautiful! It also communicated that noticing differences is a way of noticing all the beauty in the world.

Lastly, Destiny Smith read the book “I am Jazz” by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings. In this book we meet Jazz who explains that she was born with a boy body and a girl brain. She explains that this is called transgender. She tells us about the process of explaining this difference to her parents, siblings, friends, and teachers. Jazz explains that being different makes her special and that what really matters is who she is inside. Jazz had a lesson for everyone there: The most important thing is being a good person!

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After all the books were read 4 amazing speakers shared their stories of who they are, and what things about them are different.

Bailey Streeter started us off by explaining that our differences are not what define us, but they are what make us interesting and unique. Bailey shared about personal differences, such as that she has two moms, as well as differences between her and her friends, such as speaking different languages, being born in different countries, or having different interests and hobbies.

Next, Mr. Esau Venzen, a local Dad, attorney, and teacher told us about his life growing up in New York City and then shared about how he has something about him that makes him part human and part machine! The kids were all ears and very interested when he pulled his pant leg up to show his prosthetic leg. The children present had lots of questions, and Mr. Esau answered them all. But his main message was that while he lost part of his leg as a teen in a football accident, this difference has never held him back in any way, and has only made him stronger.

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KGH COD-06Next, Dylan Kleiman, a sophomore at West Potomac High School in Fairfax County, VA shared his story. Dylan started by explaining when he was very little, he never liked “girl things.” He always liked Thomas the Train and had no interest in Dora the explorer. He wanted to wear pants and shirts and not dresses and skirts. Dylan did a beautiful job of explaining on a level appropriate for young kids that he may have been born with a girl’s body, but he always knew he was a boy. And Dylan explained that who he is as a young man is in no way defined by the fact that his body and brain didn’t match when he was born. He encouraged kids to be kind to each other and to never feel bad if they might feel different from their peers.

KGH COD-07Lastly, Briah Barksdale, a Senior at Glen Burnie High School introduced herself. She shared about her determination to live a kind life and to spread kindness among her peers. She has even started a research project at her high school that seeks to investigate how various kindness initiatives impact the culture of the school and the students overall. Briah explained that her Dad died when she was 12 in a car accident and her mom died last year of cancer. She now lives with her grandmother. Briah made it clear that the loss of her Mom and Dad never prevented her from achieving her dreams and that in fact it has motivated her to be better and kinder.

The evening ended by Kristen inviting the audience to come up and share about their differences. While no adults came up, many, many kids did. It was beautiful to hear things like, “I like to play with boy toys sometimes and that’s ok!” “I have autism, and I am special.” “I was born a boy, but I really, really want to be a girl and that makes me happy.”  It was clear the children in attendance understood the message of the evening. They left proud of their own differences and ready to celebrate the differences of others. Mission: Accomplished.

 

 

 

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