Kindness and kids seem to go together. That’s what we learned in our annual Greater Twin Cities United Way/Star Tribune/U.S. Bank Essay Contest. This year, we asked metro area third-, fourth- and fifth-graders how they’ve tried to improve the lives of others by being kind or how an act of kindness brightened their day or changed their life. Almost 1,800 students replied — a record number. In the essays, which were by turns sweet, heart-wrenching and even funny, students wrote about how everyday acts of kindness by grandparents, parents, teachers and classmates made them want to be kind in turn. Their essays say it best. Here they are:

First-place winner

Ben Meisterling
Grade 5, Mendota Heights

 Do you ever wonder how to spread kindness? Well, I do. I started going to neighbors’ houses and putting jokes in their mailbox. This made my neighbors upbeat and in a great mood, which would release their endorphins and my own. If everyone did this everyone would be walking around saying positive things, building other people up, and making them and everyone around them a great kind person. As Mark Twain once said, “Kindness is a thing the deaf can hear and the blind can see.” Now go spread a joke and wear a smile because kind people are the best kind of people.


 Maxwell Richardson
Grade 3, Mendota Heights

 It makes me happy to be kind. Sometimes my mom is sad because my dad died. When she gets sad I try to be very kind to her and give her my softie. Softie is my blanket my daddy gave me. I give her lots of hugs and kisses. I went to a group for kids that had someone die and when a new family came and they were really sad because their dad had just died I sat by them and played with them because I know how it felt. We sometimes cried but we smiled and laughed and ate too. Kindness makes me feel good every day but being kind makes me feel even better and makes my friends smile.


Sofia Fornicoia
Grade 3, Eagan

  A few months ago, we decided to give sandwiches to the needy. We gave them the sandwiches and they smiled really big! It made me feel happy I was making someone else happy, just by an act of kindness. The sandwiches weren’t what made their day, or mine. It was that I shook their hand, smiled at them, asked their name, and was just kind. There is a lot of power in learning someone’s name, talking to them, and being kind. Money and sandwiches aren’t what make people happy, it’s being loved by people and being cared for.


Lucia Gonzalez
Grade 3, Lakeville

 Have you ever planted a seed and watched it grow? My grandma planted a seed in me by being the kindest person I know. I took that kindness and helped plant it in my friends and neighbors. This year at Halloween, I decided to give my candy to my grandma’s cancer clinic. They give candy to patients because chemotherapy medicine tastes horrible. I asked my friends and neighbors if they had any extra candy. I started to collect donations. I collected 70 pounds of candy for the clinic. It was all because of the seed my grandma planted in me that grew inside so many other people.


Brady Salo
Grade 3, Cambridge, Minn.

  Kindness is very important to me. Last year when my grandpa died my grandma moved in with me and my family. She is very kind to me but I also think I’m kind to her. In the morning, she gets up early to get mine and my siblings’ breakfast ready. I really like it that she does that. I also think she is very nice for doing that. My grandma is also very nice because she never yells at me and tells me funny jokes. One time I was sick and she even took me to McDonalds and let me lay on the couch and watch TV. When it was her birthday, I made her a card and made sure she had pie and even told her not to do any work. I think we all need to be kind to each other.


Zach Olson
Grade 4, Eden Prairie

 Kindness isn’t something you can hold, like an object. It’s how you change someone’s life. This is how a small touch of kindness impacted me. This year I was a new student to my school. I was lonely. My parents had recently divorced. And I was heartbroken. I walked into class that first day, and out of nowhere, a kid walked up and asked to be my friend. That little touch of kindness will stay with me my whole life. Now I realize that kindness is something we have inside each of us. And I want to share that feeling with others.


Chulki Duba
Grade 4, Minneapolis

 On picture day, as I was walking to school, I noticed a piece of paper on the ground and so I picked it up. I discovered it was a paper with money, $20 taped to it. It also had a name of a boy, an address, and a phone number. I knew it was for pictures. I decided to take the paper and money to my school office and turn it in. I knew it was the right thing to do. The office made an announcement and the money was returned to the boy. The boy could pay for his pictures that day. I am glad I was kind because it totally felt good to help someone. My friend Mary Jo Copeland always says “Kindness is cool” and I believe it.


Aden Vue
Grade 4, Brooklyn Park

 I was a little baby when I had a tumor. In all my grades I have used a wheelchair and people have helped me. I am so happy that people have helped me. Today people even help and other people want to help me. My classmates push my wheelchair at the end of the day. They also help me when I fall. One of my friends helps me at lunchtime. I really appreciate her. My classmates also talk to me when I’m sad. I want to thank all the people in my class. I really appreciate my classmates. My classmates are kind.


Daniel Martin
Grade 5, Maple Grove

 The kindest thing that happened to me is that I have a mom and dad that cared about me enough to adopt me. My dad loves to play with me too. We go to the park, fish and play on our PS4. In our house we share lots of love. I especially give our dog Greta the Greeter much love and care because she is old now and has always been there for me. Over the years we also got a fish and a cat named Orea. Our most recent pet is a black lab puppy named Ruby. But before Ruby my mom and dad adopted my brother Tayvius. We’ve had so much fun playing together. The kindest thing is not my parents giving me toys or signing me up for activities. It’s that they put a roof over my head and that they love and care for me.


Nadia Burman
Grade 5, Rosemount

 What is kindness?  Kindness can be anything from sharing a smile to helping a classmate without expecting anything in return. For Anti-Bullying Day at school, my friends and I decided to make cards with messages for all our classmates. Each card had a personal, handwritten message to make each classmate feel good. Our teacher put the cards on top of the desks during lunch so our classmates wouldn’t know they were from us. When we came back in from recess everyone read their card and was so excited and happy! The students never found out who made the cards, but the principal did and secretly thanked us!