Update: JPD is inviting the public to attend a series of meetings, for those interested in supporting “kindness activities.”
The meetings will be held at the JPD station on Sept. 24 from 10 a.m.-noon, Oct. 22 from 10 a.m.-noon, and Nov. 18 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
For more information, see this JPD press release.
Before leaving the grocery store one day, a Juneau woman bought a bouquet of flowers with the idea that she would give them to a stranger — a random act of kindness.
In the parking lot, she spotted a man and woman who seemed stressed while wrestling with their child’s car seat. She walked over to the man and asked if he’d accept her flowers.
“He said, ‘You’re a beautiful person and you just made my day,’” said Kris Sell, the woman who bought the flowers and who also happens to be a Juneau Police Department lieutenant. She said she drove away from that encounter with a smile on her face and a natural high. Sell wasn’t on duty when she committed that random act of kindness, but she said it is an officer’s job to find ways to make Juneau a kinder, happier place.
Promoting more random acts of kindness across town is now part of JPD’s mission.
“A Year of Kindness” is what JPD has proposed for Juneau residents. It would begin, like so many other resolutions, on the first day of 2017 (and no, Sell said that doesn’t mean people should get their bad deeds out of the way until then). The goal is for every person in Juneau to do one kind act a day for one year. One kind act each week should be directed toward someone outside a person’s normal group of friends. Sell said when people reach outside of the “cliques” or “circles” that are common in Juneau, there is greater potential for bridges to be built that could connect people of all races, religions, cultures and socioeconomic backgrounds.
“I’m really excited about it,” Sell said. “I’m thinking that we really can make a difference if we embrace this as a community. … We can really prove something to the whole world about kindness.”
The national group The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation will help JPD with this project, sending an organizer to the community next year to help things get going. The foundation will also campaign internationally to show others how a U.S. state capital has committed to a kinder way of life.
“As I talked to the Random Acts nonprofit, I told them we also don’t have a road out of town, which makes us uniquely motivated (to be kind),” Sell said jokingly.
The truth is, Juneau is already a kind place to live for the most part, Sell said. When a 22-year-old man with autism went missing this past week, dozens of people showed up to help police find him after the department made just one Facebook post. He was found less than 24 hours later and reunited with his family. Sell said kindness obviously isn’t a revolutionary idea, but as an officer she’s seen too often what can happen in its absence.
“We are the ones who have to pick up the pieces when people aren’t kind to each other. We show up when there’s a disturbance, when there’s a broken window, when there’s blood on the floor,” Sell said. “We get exposed to a lot of lack of kindness.”
Those problems arise during simple person-to-person conflicts, something that could happen less often if “act kind” was on everyone’s mind a lot more, Sell said.
Central Council of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska, the Juneau School District, Bartlett Regional Hospital, the City and Borough of Juneau and multiple private businesses have already signed on to help promote the “Year of Kindness” project. Central Council President Richard Peterson said that considering the national dialogue that’s centered on divisive relationships between law enforcement and minorities, this project is something Juneau can truly benefit from.
“We’re trying to bring some positivity into our community,” Peterson said. “We want to do something that’s uplifting and JPD, they’ve really been making an effort to work with the tribal community, and we want to reciprocate that (by joining the kindness initiative).”
How exactly Central Council or the other partners will be involved isn’t clear yet — Sell is still working out those details. Some groups will likely take part in JPD’s weekly community updates, where they present the kind acts people in their group committed that week. Sell needs 51 groups to fill her calendar; employees and prisoners at Lemon Creek Correctional Center have already claimed the week one spot.
Sell said an Alaska Department of Corrections supervisor called her shortly after JPD made the kindness initiative announcement, eager to get involved, and she hopes that first week serves as inspiration for groups that follow.
“You can do kind things if you’re not perfect,” Sell said.
When December 2017 comes along, finding out if Juneau actually was a kinder place all year will be the next task. Sell said JPD will use crime statistics from the previous year to see if increased kind acts can make a measurable difference. BRH officials are also considering comparing rates of illness in Juneau to see if being kinder also leads to a healthier life.
Other areas JPD will measure are rates of suicide and drug overdoses. The hope is that when enough people begin to experience that same high Sell felt after she gave flowers to a stranger, the desire for other drugs will dissipate.
“That’s the drug we’re pushing, kindness. That’s the drug to replace all other drugs,” Sell said.
Those interested in learning more about the JPD kindness initiative can contact Lt. Kris Sell at 500-0646.
• Contact reporter Paula Ann Solis at 523-2272 or firstname.lastname@example.org.