We all need a little kindness now and then, whether it's a smile or a helping hand.

So tell us how you've been kind to someone in your family, your school or your community. Did you share your lunch with a hungry classmate? Shovel the sidewalks for an elderly neighbor? Make friends with the new kid on the block? Or have you had your day brightened — or your life changed — by someone who was kind to you?

Greater Twin Cities United Way, the Star Tribune and U.S. Bancorp are once again teaming up to sponsor a student essay contest.

Students in grades three through five are invited to write about how they have been kind, or how kindness has touched their lives.

Teachers, parents and community leaders are encouraged to invite students to participate in the contest. Essays should be concise (about 100 words), inspirational and, most important, personal.

Prizes, donated by U.S. Bancorp, will be awarded to the top 10 winning essayists, and their stories will be published in the Star Tribune on March 27.

Essay contest details

What: An essay contest for children in grades three through five. Submissions are welcome from individual children, schools and community organizations.

Deadline: Essays must be received by 5 p.m. March 13.

To submit: E-mail to essay@gtcuw.org or mail to Greater Twin Cities United Way, Essay Contest, 404 S. 8th St., Minneapolis, MN 55404.

Essays must include the student's name, age, grade, address, phone number and e-mail address. Essays will not be considered without contact information. (Contact information will not be published.)

Winners: The first-place winner will receive a $500 gift card from U.S. Bancorp. The nine runners-up each will receive a $100 gift card.