Rachel’s Challenge Lives On


Contributed photo.
Children’s librarian Betty Lawson with
the paper chain of “acts of kindness” created by children and their families.

By Tom Kane

Rachel Scott lives on in Wayne County. Despite the hustle and bustle of the Christmas holidays and the sub-zero temperatures of early January, the message of the 17-year-old
senior assassinated in the Columbine High School massacre is still very much alive here. The challenge to spread “random acts of kindness”—presented in Wayne County schools in September—is still snapping in the cold air of our community. Many signs and posters around Honesdale remind us of “Rachel’s Challenge:” to keep acts of kindness spreading through the town in accord with Rachel’s wishes, expressed in her remarkable journal that’s been compared to the diary of Anne Frank. But there is evidence of the effects of Rachel’s message besides these external signs.

Take what is happening through the efforts of Wayne Memorial Hospital. The hospital has played a major role in spearheading Rachel’s Challenge in both the schools and the community. Donna Decker, Community Health Manager at Wayne Memorial, is continuing to coordinate efforts among community individuals and organizations to promote the positive messages brought by Rachel’s Challenge.

And look at what is happening at the Wayne County Public Library. Betty Lawson, children’s librarian, regularly holds story times at the library and at three other sites in Wayne County where she encourages children to discuss acts of kindness at the dinner table with their families. She asks them to write these “acts” on paper links that are then brought to the library and joined to other children’s links to be made into a “chain of kindness.” The chain is spread out on the walls of the children’s room, running out into the corridor. “Through the children, we encourage parents to perform deliberate acts of kindness like allowing a car to merge in traffic ahead of you, or putting a note on the windshield saying ‘Have a nice day.’

Another suggestion that came out of the dinner table discussion is for us not walk with our heads down but to look up and smile at people—and say hello.” Lawson says she notices that people in Honesdale are acting with more kindness. “I can see a difference,” she said. “If we can get these young children to be kind now, when they grow up, they’ll be kind naturally.”

Father Edward Erb of Grace Episcopal Church in Honesdale said his church will continue to work on the challenge. “We put the chain links over our steeple in October, but we’re not stopping there. Our youth group and our parishioners will continue to work on the challenge in the months ahead,” he said. Paul Meagher, owner of RE/MAX Wayne in Honesdale, told me that local businessman Joe Bunnell is donating space for a month on a large billboard on Route 6 for a “Rachel’s Challenge” promotion. The billboard, designed by Donna Decker and Lisa Champeau of Wayne Memorial Hospital, is now prominently displayed on the hill near Cordaro’s Restaurant. “I have suggested the names of several other community-conscious business people who should be willing to serve on a steering committee to involve more businesses,” added Meagher.

So the next time you are walking around town, keep your eyes up and be ready to greet people with a warm “Hello!” Being kind is easy to do, so why not do it?

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