26 acts: Locals honor shooting victims with acts of kindnessResponding to a national call to action, local community members have pledged to commit acts of kindness honoring those killed last week at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
By: By Kari Lucin, The Jamestown Sun, The Jamestown Sun
Responding to a national call to action, local community members have pledged to commit acts of kindness honoring those killed last week at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
The local campaign was inspired by Ann Curry, NBC News correspondent, who challenged people to do one kind thing for each of the 20 children or 26 total people who died in the shooting.
“That’s essentially what we wanted to do — pay it forward and inspire other people, and live in honor of this, and try to make a tragic situation a little brighter,” said Jessica Haak.
Haak is one of several local people participating in the challenge, initially presented by Curry via her Twitter account, where it was tagged #26acts.
Haak and another woman purchased $5 gift cards and candy canes, and then labeled each little packet with the name and age of one of the Sandy Hook victims.
Each label also contains the number of the act, out of 26, a link to a website explaining Curry’s challenge, the invitation to “Pay it Forward” and a quote from Martin Luther King Jr.: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that,”
Fargo historian Aaron Barth stopped at Coborn’s Friday afternoon to purchase some groceries for an upcoming holiday feast. He got into his pickup truck and noticed an object between the windshield and the windshield wiper, and examined it.
It was one of the gift card packets, emblazoned with the name of Anne Marie Murphy, age 52.
When Barth got home, he investigated the #26acts project, and found information about Murphy as well.
“Her final act on the planet was to use herself as a human shield to cover a 6-year-old,” Barth said of the special education teacher.
Since Curry’s initial challenge, the #26acts have gone viral online and global offline, as people respond by doing their own acts of kindness in return.
For example, Barth has committed to taking his niece and nephew sledding when they visit. If it snows, he will shovel his parents’ walkway. He’s going to purchase a drink or two for someone else, and might pay for someone’s meal. He has “all sorts of things on the list” that he can do to honor the request to pay it forward.
“We’re kind of living in an age of sarcasm and cynicism, and I understand that — it’s healthy to be sarcastic or cynical, that’s how we survive,” Barth said. “But it’s also kind of nice to cut through all that with something like this. There’s a reality to what we’re doing each and every day.”
Not all of Haak’s acts were gift certificates, either. She donated blood, gave dog food to the James River Humane Society and added an extra weekend to be on call at Safe Shelter.
At least one local business is getting involved, too.
“Our marketing specialist (Jill Falck) saw it on Facebook, and (said) ‘Hey, what if we do this as a credit union?’” said Janna Bergsted, marketing manager at First Community Credit Union.
Each of FCCU’s 14 branches will be doing it, and a little bit of money has been set aside for the acts of kindness that do involve spending, Bergsted said.
FCCU is still in the early stages of planning out its acts of kindness, which may last through January.
Possibilities include doing something for local first responders and teachers, helping people shovel or just buying coffee for people. And many individual employees have decided to do their own acts of kindness as well.
The idea isn’t to “toot their own horn,” as Bergsted said, pointing out that FCCU wasn’t even going to issue a press release on its participation in the #26acts.
In an article on nbcnews.com, Curry wrote that “if you do good, you feel good. It’s the most selfish thing you can do. Right now, this country wants to heal. I think the only thing comforting in the face of a tragedy like this is to do something good with it if you can. Be a part of that wave.”
Telling people about the #26acts is a way to make the movement grow.
Barth, for example, wrote about it in his blog, “The Edge of Village,” at theedgeofthevillage.com.
“I’m inspired. … it’s okay to pause for a moment, look at the person next to you, and imagine what life would be like without them. Go ahead and hug them. It’s okay to do that,” Barth wrote. “Happy Christmas and merry holidays to all from the northern Great Plains.”
Sun reporter Kari Lucin can be
reached at 701-952-8453
or by email at