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Challenge sets kindness in motion

Kudos to students from Denton’s Strickland Middle School for surprising customers at a local restaurant with a free lunch one day last week.

We think their idea to pay it forward was inspired and hope that recipients of their kindness and others who hear about the idea will choose to continue the effort.

Members of the school’s Rachel’s Challenge club used money from a recent fundraiser to pick up the lunch tab for complete strangers. The students waited, $10 gift cards in hand, at the restaurant’s entrances and in the drive-through lane to greet patrons.

Along with the gift cards the students distributed, they shared cards that encouraged the recipients to “start a chain reaction” and spread kindness. The note also mentioned that the students hoped to “promote kindness and compassion” by picking up lunch.

Customers told us they were surprised and appreciative of the random act of kindness.

“We were so surprised that all these young people were doing such a nice thing,” said Patsy Price of Pilot Point. “It was surprising and encouraged us to do the same thing for someone else. When we’re back in here, we’re going to buy someone’s lunch.”

University of North Texas student Adam Johnson said initially he was unsure if the students were serious.

“I thought it was awesome,” he said. “We had no idea. We were just coming in to get lunch.”

The students used $350 they raised by selling cookies and cupcakes after school to purchase the gift cards, said Amy Clark, a counselor at Strickland and a sponsor for the Rachel’s Challenge group. All of the gift cards were distributed within 40 minutes.

Some customers were taken aback by the gift, one asked if they owed anything and people in the drive-through gave money to the students to pay it forward and buy lunch for someone else, the students said.

Named for Rachel Scott, who was killed in the Columbine High School shooting in Littleton, Colo., in 1999, Rachel’s Challenge is a program that encourages people to spread kindness and compassion. According to the Rachel’s Challenge website, Scott left a legacy of reaching out to people considered different, bullied or new to a school.

Kandyce LaFleur of Sanger said the gift card from the Strickland students was a pleasant surprise.

“I was surprised at their youth, and I think it’s really amazing that we have a group of young people that’s reaching out to their community and trying to spread kindness.”

In our view, the most noteworthy part of the effort was not the free food, but the reaction that the exercise drew from recipients and participants.

The students’ generosity provided a bright spot for everyone involved and put smiles on a lot of faces.

That’s quite a return on their investment, and the dividends could continue.

Thanks to the Rachel’s Challenge club members, random acts of kindness could become a growth market.