Greenville heart photo inspires kindness

GREENVILLE, NC (WITN) In a time when some are declaring America "more divided than ever," a Greenville girl's project to promote kindness shines brightly.

Rising fifth grader Rachel Nelson often wears a smile, but not when when she talks about how some kids are cruel.

"I don't like seeing people hitting each other," Rachel says. "Calling them bad names. I don't like it."

So as her fourth grade year got underway, Rachel brainstormed how she could foster unity in her school, to bring every person together. She applied for an Eagle's Dream grant, sponsored by Eastern Elementary School's PTA. Her submission for a project she called "The Heart of Eastern Elementary" was funded in the amount of $250. The plan was to gather everyone in the shape of a color-coded heart and capture the image from a drone.

To deliver this "life lesson," Rachel needed math, determining the physical area each person would need to stand in, multiplying that by 780, in the not-so-simple shape of a heart. When the Nelsons sprayed the guidelines on the playground in May, the heart looked small.

"Is this gonna fit?" Rachel remembers worrying. Are all those people going to fit into this tiny heart? And when I saw it, I was just like, Wow! It worked!"

What looked little turned out perfect--a parallel to something so often overlooked, as Eastern's principal Robert Johnson points out. "No matter your size, no matter your age, you can make an impact, on as many people as you so desire."

Sometimes the younger the voice, the greater the impact.

"I think that's where you need to start when you make changes with children, that you can't push those changes on them," says Rachel's mom, Megan. "They have to come up with them themselves, and take part in it and ownership of it, and that's when true change occurs."

Rachel accomplished the goal in her heart, and now hopes this heart with its meaningful message, "Kindness Begins with Us," will beat within everyone in the school.

"I hope people change what they do, how they act," Rachel says.

Kindness begins with us. Indeed it is the only place it ever has.