Westfield State Students Demonstrate the Importance of Kindness and Compassion

Cranes for Compassion

Westfield State students create a visual tribute that expresses beauty and addresses violence.

Most professors assign a final paper or exam to end the semester, but Andriana Foiles, adjunct professor of Ethnic and Gender Studies at Westfield State University, had her students conduct a campus-wide presentation on the importance of kindness.

Called Cranes for Compassion, Foiles’s Intro to Women’s Studies students spent weeks collecting stories of random acts of kindness and documented the stories on papers that were folded into paper cranes. The more than 700 stories folded into cranes were on display against a clothesline of statistics on violence.

Foiles said the project was a compromise among her students.

“One group wanted to focus on a ‘Stop the Violence Campaign’ and the other wanted to do ‘Cranes for Compassion,” Foiles said. “Together, they created a perfect balance showing that although there is harm and violence in our world, we do amazing things for each other every day. They also addressed bigger questions: why should we wait for a tragedy to celebrate all of the kindness and generosity we show each other?”

“It’s easy to focus on one portion of our society, be it the kindness or violence. When they are side-by-side, it shows a richer expression of who we are as a people, and does not allow us to focus on only one piece of a much larger conversation.”

More than 1,500 students, faculty, and staff stopped to see the exhibit and more than 1,100 people signed the banner the classes made pledging to stop violence. In addition, the classes raised more than $450 for the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing.

The classes picked the project after a discussion the day after the bombing and concluded that people have the ability to change the world and end violence, but to do that, they must act.

“If we want the world to be different, then we must act and make our voices heard,”Foiles said. “And if we want a kind, just world, then that’s what we offer; we make our world.”

- Submitted by Molly Watson. Photo courtesy WSU.

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