Grace Foxwell Murdock helps see Salisbury recognized worldwide for Kindness

Grace Foxwell Murdock.

Salisbury has earned a special recognition — it is the first city in the United States and second in the entire world to earn the distinction of World Kindness City. On Thursday, Oct. 3, Salisbury became  become the first World Kindness USA City. The announcement was made from Switzerland, during the World Kindness Movement Summit.

The only other city to be so recognized is Gold Coast, Australia, which received the designation in September 2017.

In a dog-eat-dog, cutthroat world, that’s no small achievement.

The process of applying was spearheaded by Salisbury resident Grace Foxwell Murdock, who was inspired to focus on kindness by the massacre of young children at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Sandy Hook, Conn., on Dec. 14, 2012.

“My niece lives in Sandy Hook,” said Murdock. “After talking with her, we just wanted to change the focus from tragedy to hope.”

Murdock was first known for her kindness bracelets, a project that unexpectedly went viral. Proceeds from sales of her bracelets were donated to local individuals in need and other causes in the community.

A 38-year veteran of the public school classroom, Murdock also held positions with Title I, as vice principal, learning facilitator and new teacher coach. Her career included working with elementary students in Somerset and Wicomico counties. She wanted to do more than make bracelets.

“We’ve gone from bracelet to banner,” said Murdock, referencing a banner hung proudly from the top floor of Salisbury’s downtown parking garage along South Division Street. “We’re re-imagining our city as a leader in the kindness movement.”

The World Kindness Movement was created in 1997, in Tokyo, Japan. Murdock discovered it via social media and embraced the movement.

Recognized as a global body for kindness, it provides a platform for collaboration and sharing. Its mission is to “inspire individuals toward greater kindness by connecting nations to create a kinder world.”

The movement’s tagline is “The Courage to be Kind.”

Murdock approached her mission with enthusiasm. She brought national and global speakers to Salisbury, including at least four visits from Bob Votruba and his Kindness Bus.

The World Kindness Movement has assembled a list of “kindness performance indicators” that must be satisfied to earn the designation World Kindness USA City.

“In 2017, I went to meet Michael Lloyd-White in Alexandria, Va.,” Murdock said. “Then I wrote to Mayor Jake Day with idea of having Salisbury named a World Kindness USA City in 2017 because by that time, we had already satisfied several indicators. He said yes.”

Lloyd-White, who is Australian, was secretary general of the World Kindness Movement before becoming the CEO of World Kindness USA.

The Salisbury City Council unanimously passed and signed the World Kindness USA Resolution on July 9, 2018.

“What that says is kindness will be considered as part of any decision made by City Council,” Murdock said. “The importance of these signings is that whoever is in office or in these positions will always have these resolutions as a guide to include kindness in decision-making. People come and go, but this will always be on record.”

The Wicomico County Council signed the resolution June 18, 2019. On July 9, 2019, the Wicomico County Board of Education did the same.

Altogether it’s been a two-year process.

Thanks to Salisbury, the United States is the second nation to have a World Kindness City.

“This USA initiative is new,” Murdock said. “It’s been in other countries.”

World Kindness is active in Australia (home to the original World Kindness City) and Sweden (where no cities have been designated yet). Canada has a World Kindness Canada city in process.

“We know kindness is the glue that can hold communities together through social interaction,” Murdock said.

What does that mean for the Salisbury community?  

Murdock said businesses, nonprofits and government activities in the Salisbury area are already paying attention and responding.

“Businesses that routinely perform kind acts for our citizens include Acorn Market, which has hosted Michael Lloyd White,” she said, “and Olde Towne Deli, which donates its tip jar proceeds to the Camden Community Garden.”

Olde Towne Deli also has a latte named “Be Kind A Latte.” Customers are encouraged to pay for one that is to be given free of charge to the next customer who orders one.

Vicente Hernandez, the new owner of Olde Towne, just dropped off a handful of coupons to Christine Chestnutt at the Salisbury City Department of Housing, for clients to use at Olde Towne Deli. Hernandez recently said he was informed by the city that all those coupons had been given away.

“The Camden Community Garden hosts an annual Summer Lunch Program,” Murdock said. She also cited the growing success of Salisbury’s National Night Out as a public gathering that embraces kindness.

“The increase in kindness is evident through our events that bring the community together,” she said.

Wicomico schools are hosting active kindness clubs, kindness door decorating competitions and service learning projects that support kindness. Wicomico schools opened with speaker Ron Clark from Ron Clark Academy, who urged educators to invest in building relationships with students.

“This is definitely a kindness to students,” Murdock said.

Murdock has also presented workshops to two area companies.

Another requirement involves hosting a workshop for all city department heads, which will be held Sept. 24.

“Without Mayor Day, none of this would have happened,” Murdock said. “The support of this community has been tremendous for every kindness-related activity that has been held or proposed.”

Dance for Kindness, a flash mob event held to celebrate World Kindness Day, is a worldwide initiative to highlight people who gather simply for kindness.

“This was truly the spark that made us want to pursue the World Kindness USA designation,” Murdock said. “We needed a large group event as one of our KPIs, and we had already done this one.

Orly Wahba of Brooklyn, New York, and founder of the nonprofit Life Vest Inside, organized the first Dance for Kindness in 2012.

“She had the idea to have worldwide event just for kindness, and it has morphed into a platform that unites 50 countries and more than 120 cities for World Kindness Week,” Murdock said.

This year, World Kindness Day is Nov. 13. The dance is always held Sunday prior to that date, which will be Nov. 10, 2019. This year, Salisbury’s Dance for Kindness will be held at the new downtown amphitheater.

Grace Foxwell Murdock, who through the sale of kindness bracelets is funding the materials cost for building buddy benches for elementary schools, chats with Supervisor of Career and Technology Education Bryan Ashby about the next steps in the buddy bench project.

Registration will officially open before the end of September. Registered participants will be able to learn the dance online. Follow the Facebook page “Wicomico Grows Kindness” to learn when and how to register.  

The dance is inspiring, but not required.

“It’s not necessary to be public about kindness,” Murdock said. “We want it to become everyone’s new habit. It can be as an individual or as a group – random acts of kindness, paying it forward or as simple as a smile. Or it can take the form of a donation to a local cause. I am trying to keep it local, but it’s not about photo ops or public displays. It’s just about nurturing a personal habit of kindness.”

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