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April 06. 2014 9:14PM

Be Kind

Be Kind Fest organizers hope small acts lead to big results


Michael Kline, the founder of the Be Kind Fest, shares a light moment with Sandy Ruka, the executive director of the Visiting Nurse Home Care and Hospice of Carroll County, at the group's offices in Conway. (John Koziol Photo)

CONWAY — The organizers of the upcoming Be Kind Fest are dealing with a delightful paradox: while acknowledging that the world won't be transformed as a result of the event, they nonetheless firmly believe that it can and will be changed for the better, incrementally, one attendee and one act of kindness at a time.

To be held May 16-18 at Schouler Park in North Conway, the 2014 Be Kind Fest will again focus on random acts of kindness, which was the basis for its founding in 2011.

A self-described "entreprenologist" and the owner of Kline Seminars, Michael Kline is also a member of the North Conway Village Association. One day a few years back he was thinking about how to create another springtime event in the village, but one that would offer "something meaningful."

Being familiar with the work of Michael Chase, a Portland, Maine, author and kindness expert whose credits include a 24 hours-of-random-acts-of-kindness video that went viral on the Internet, Kline and others decided to build a festival around kindness.

The inaugural festival drew hundreds of people who came out to get their 'kindness supplies,' and who then shared those items, such as gift certificates for a free cup of coffee or an ice cream cone, flowers and smiley-face balloons, with people in local nursing homes, hospitals and also with complete strangers.

Local students created works of art that were displayed at Schouler Park and they also set up "hugging stations," which Kline expects will be back this year.

The current thinking on the matter of hugs, said Kline and Sandy Ruka, the executive director of the Visiting Nurse Home Care and Hospice of Carroll County, is that a "warm fuzzy" not only feels good, but it actually has very positive emotional and physiological effects.

According to some of the current literature on hugging, human beings need four hugs a day to survive, eight hugs to maintain and 12 to thrive. Additionally, there's science that supports the benefits of being kind in that with an act of kindness, there is believed to be an accompanying release of serotonin, a chemical in the brain that is associated with feelings of well-being and happiness.
The study of kindness, Kline and Ruka said recently, shows that an act of kindness — in an improvement upon Shakespeare's view of mercy in the "Merchant of Venice" as something that "blesseth him that gives and him that takes" — has a three-way blessing: to the one extending the kindness; to the one receiving it; and to all those whose only part is to witness it.

Be Kind Fest 2014 will also attempt to create positive energy when it hosts its inaugural "Grande Drumming Circle" on May 17 from 2 to 4 p.m.

Professional facilitator and performer Michael Wingfield will coordinate the drumming circle, but apart from that, anything goes, and it's all about the noise.

Kline and Ruka, who hope to have 1,000 or more percussionists at Schouler Park, have reached out to drumming groups from around New England as well as to the general public, who are invited to bring their own drums, pots and pans, trash cans or anything they can bang on to express their feelings.
As they finalize Be Kind Fest — proceeds from which will benefit the Visiting Nurse Home Care and Hospice of Carroll County — Kline and Ruka said they're still looking for volunteers and donations as well as lots of good, positive energy.
Information on how to be a part of Be Kind Fest 2014 can be found online at www.bekindfest.com, which also has a complete schedule of events, or by calling Ruka at 356-7006 or Kline at 968-8541.

"I believe there is a cultural movement afoot" for more kindness in the world, said Kline, adding that for many people, their response to some of the unhappiness of life is to delve further into kindness.

The Be Kind Fest is the only one of its kind anywhere, Kline said, although there have been expressions of interest from other communities to replicate it.

Kline and Ruka understand that the Be Kind Fest may not solve all the problems of the world or even those of some of its attendees."We're not claiming anything it isn't," said Kline.

"As Mike said, one day isn't going to change your world," said Ruka, before Kline interjected "it is," adding that one random act of kindness — be it a smile, a kind word, a flower — will multiply and keep growing into other acts of kindness.

"There's more good in the world than bad," Kline said.

jkoziol@newstote.com


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