It is the little things. It is also the big things. In fact, it can be anything.
Created and funded by UC Berkeley Haas School of Business professor Alan Ross, the Chris Kindness Award allows anybody who works, lives or attends school in Berkeley to be nominated for any random act of kindness, one of which will then be voted on by the community to receive $1,000 each month.
Berkeley community members can currently be nominated through an online form — others were nominated on paper during the organization’s first event at Telegraph Avenue’s Second Sundays Fair. The organization is currently accepting submissions for the first month of nominations.
During the Second Sundays Fair, it was “really fun” to watch people’s reactions, Ross said. Ross noted that people’s attitudes shifted from skepticism to enthusiasm after they explained the award.
“After my parents died, I wanted to do something to honor them,” Ross said. “But also my kids’ preschool teacher Chris died. He was by far the kindest person I’ve ever met — an amazing human being. So I decided to call it the ‘Chris Kindness Award’ in honor of Chris and in memory of my parents.”
Chris Walton, who taught at JCC Preschool in North Berkeley, had a way of connecting with every kid, according to Ross. Kids idolized him, including Ross’ own son, who insisted on having his own guitar because Chris had one.
After the award was named after Chris, people came out of the woodwork to share their memories of him, according to Ross. In an email to Ross, Chris’ sister Kate Nelson expressed that her family appreciates his naming of the award more than he will ever know.
“His chosen work was joyful, holy ground for him,” Nelson said in an email to Ross.
Nominations for the award range from little kids nominating their parents, to a teacher who brings an extra lunch every day to ensure one of her students is fed, to a street artist who made a woman who is mentally disabled feel seen by drawing a brain on her wheelchair.
Ross hopes that the award will inspire other cities to implement a similar award program as well and encourage people to be more kind and appreciate the kindness in others.
“Some of the most generous people have the least and also people of means, odds are when they win this award, they will probably donate it to something fantastic,” Ross said. “By giving it to these incredible individuals, the money will be very well used.”