The Reading for Change project invites GCC students, staff, faculty, and members of the Greenfield community to share the experience of intellectual exploration and community building through reading, discussing, and engaging with a common text.

For fall 2021 we will be reading The War for Kindness: Building Empathy in a Fractured World by Jamil Zaki. In this groundbreaking book, Zaki describes research-informed strategies for increasing kindness and empathy in a world characterized by racial inequality, political polarization, and decreasing trust in social institutions. Readers are introduced to… “a former neo-Nazi who is now helping extract people from hate groups, ex-prisoners discussing novels with the judge who sentenced them, Washington police officers changing their culture to decrease violence among their ranks, and NICU nurses fine-tuning their empathy so that they don’t succumb to burnout.” (From warforkindness.com)

Ways to Participate

Faculty — Consider using The War for Kindness (in whole or in part) in your classes. The author explores empathy research applicable to a range of disciplines including criminal justice, human services, arts and literature, education, neuroscience, technology, and social science.

Staff — Read the book alongside others in your work area. Consider the significance of the author’s arguments and findings to your role at the college. Discuss what it means to build kindness and empathy into our institutional culture.

Everyone — There will be three community-wide virtual events in the fall including group discussions, panel presentations, and community building exercises.

Upcoming Events

Sorry, there are no upcoming events.

Past Events

The Reading for Change project is a collaboration between the Department of Social Science and Nahman-Watson Library at Greenfield Community College, Greenfield Public Library, and Greenfield High School.  For more information contact readingforchange@gcc.mass.edu.

Kindness Challenges

The ChallengesSubmit a Challenge!Challenge Board

Over the course of five weeks (October 18 to November 19), you are invited to participate in Kindness Challenges!—a series of exercises designed to strengthen your capacity for empathy. These include: Reverse the Golden Rule, Spend Kindly, Disagree Better, KindTech and Be a Culture Builder. Share your results in our community forum—coming soon!

Week of 10/18
Challenge #1 Reverse the Golden Rule: All too often we forget the importance of treating ourselves with kindness and empathy. For this challenge, extend to yourself the same understanding and forgiveness that you’d extend to someone important to you. What was this experience like? More info here.

Week of 10/25
Challenge #2 Spend Kindly: Research shows that we feel happier and less stressed when we act generously toward others. For this challenge, make a choice to spend time, money, or emotional resources on someone else. How did your act of generosity affect both you and the person you were generous towards? More info here.

Week of 11/1
Challenge #3 Disagree Better: We are living in an era of intense political and social polarization. Oftentimes we become so entrenched in our own beliefs and opinions that we fail to see the humanity in those we don’t agree with. For this challenge, have a conversation with someone who disagrees with you. Instead of debating your views, focus on the story of how you came to have them in the first place. Learn their story. Connect with their humanity. How did this experience affect your views of the issue and the person you were talking with? More info here.

Week of 11/8
Challenge #4 KindTech: Social media can be used in ways that decrease empathy in society. Genuine communication is reduced to memes, gifs, and fragmented text messages which promote narcissism, and incivility. However, research shows that social media can be used to increase empathy and human connection. The point is to use it to enhance, rather than replace, offline interactions. For this challenge, use your time online to promote empathy. Find someone who is struggling and voice your support, or reach out to someone you haven’t interacted with in a while and send them a message. How did your actions affect you and the person you connected with? Do you think you made a difference? More info here.

Week of 11/15
Challenge #5 Be a Culture Builder: As social creatures, we are profoundly influenced by our environment and the behavior of people around us. We are more likely to engage in acts of cruelty or indifference when others around us do and, thankfully, we’re also more likely to act with kindness and empathy when others do too. For this challenge, harness the power of social norms to either reinforce the positive behavior of those around you or to challenge those who act unkindly. Was it difficult for you to voice a norm to others? Do you think your actions made a difference? More info here.

Did you try one of our Kindness Challenges? Let us know here and we’ll share everyone’s good deeds with our entire reading community!

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#2 Spend Kindly

Often times I am in a rush and leave just enough time to run my errands or get to where I am going with no room for error if I want to be on time. Yesterday I decided to give myself more time so I could slow down a bit and pay attention to my surroundi … Read more

#2 Spend Kindly

Challenge 2 – Spend Kindly This one I’m actually doing right now, and I do this ALL of the time. My boyfriend has been majorly concerned about my mental health recently and I have given him an open line of communication and I give him reassurance when … Read more

#4 KindTech

I sent my grandmother a message on Facebook because she is not very healthy and due to family issues with her living situation she is under a lot of stress and is overwhelmed. My message really helped her feel better and that made me glad so I will con … Read more

#4 KindTech

I reached out to an old friend of mine I hadn’t talked to in awhile. He doesn’t love necessarily the closest, so it was easy to get caught up and lose a connection that used to be there. We had a good talk and it was really nice to reconnect with someo … Read more

#2 Spend Kindly

I ended up really recently helping my friend who’s car had broke down, and he didn’t know what was wrong. He called me late at night and I decided I would help because I know how a situation like that can be very stressful. I gave him a ride home after … Read more

#2 Spend Kindly

I have recently been spending a lot of time with my son. He is leaving for boot camp on Tuesday and I have been trying to be there emotionally for him as much as possible. I know that he is nervous, anxious, excited and I’m sure a little scared. His mo … Read more

#5 Be a Culture Builder

I work as a full time nanny where I am with children ages 1 to 10 years old, five days a week, from 6AM to 6PM. So, this challenge was pretty easy to me as I feel as though to be a positive role model I am constantly stepping in when I hear others acti … Read more

#5 Be a Culture Builder

The other day I was in line at the store. I was waiting for my turn patiently and I was watching this older man that started getting snippy with the woman behind the counter. It seems his card kept getting declined. This must-have happened at least 10 … Read more

#1 Reverse the Golden Rule

Recently someone close to my family but who I have a history of not getting along with went to the hospital for a surgery. Although I do not like this person, I texted them a sweet message. As I was writing them this message, I realized I didn’t actual … Read more

#4 KindTech

I was able to talk to a friend with who I haven’t been in frequent contact since the pandemic and we were able to have a really nice conversation. We caught up on life and I in a way helped her be able to open up more to me by the way that I wrote cert … Read more

#4 KindTech

Every week on Snapchat I post a positive inspirational quote. Quotes have always helped me voice some of the thoughts, feelings, and opinions I have but feel like I am unable to put into my own words accurately. My aim is to try and help other people l … Read more

#4 KindTech

This is a little difficult because I had previously stated in earlier challenges that I do not use social media anymore. I am glad that I made that choice. So, the best I could do was to help out a kid that I work with. The other night he messaged me o … Read more

#4 KindTech

This is a little difficult because I had previously stated in earlier challenges that I do not use social media anymore. I am glad that I made that choice. So, the best I could do was to help out a kid that I work with. The other night he messaged me o … Read more

#3 Disagree Better

I talked with my grandmother about ongoing religious differences that we’ve always encountered. I found that I learned a lot about her thought process and will use this when we go through situations later in life. Read more

#1 Reverse the Golden Rule

I really liked how I had to talk a minute and think about my life. I’m also glad how I was able to teach myself how to treat myself with empathy. Read more

#1 Reverse the Golden Rule

I had completely trashed myself for backing into my wife’s car but when my son backed into a light pole in the parking lot of the grocery store I just brushed it of and said it happens. It’s a big truck and you’re not used to it. I really do need to em … Read more

#3 Disagree Better

It’s kind of weird that I started doing this like two months ago. The last 4 to 5 years have been brutal. We have become so aggressive and downright nasty in the way we speak to each other. I found myself caught in the middle of it all. I am a very opi … Read more

#3 Disagree Better

Disagree better- With this challenge I talked to a person who had a different belief with politics. When hearing how they came to their thoughts I really understood that although sometimes it seems that way, the ideas of the other party are not always … Read more

#1 Reverse the Golden Rule

This challenge was quite hard for me.  I thought about googling “how to be kind to oneself” but in reality I do know what this is supposed to look like; I’m not as skilled at practicing it. This has been a VERY hard year.  In the past six months I have … Read more

#2 Spend Kindly

One way I wanted to practice this challenge was to give some of my time to one of my friends that is really having a hard time right now and is struggling. Her name is Cristina. Because we do not live in the same country, we rarely see each other, but … Read more

#3 Disagree Better

When listening to someone who disagrees with my beliefs or ideas I often try my best to fully listen to their opinion and why they are on the opposing side of me, but it can be difficult when someones opinion is racist, homophobic, sexist etc. For this … Read more

#1 Reverse the Golden Rule

One area in which I wish to improve my internal dialogue/self-compassion is in the gym. I can recall several moments where I just broke down into tears in the middle of the gym because I had felt weaker that day, the workout was causing me more pain th … Read more

#2 Spend Kindly

I went to dunkin and decided to pay it forward and pay for the people behind me, as well as myself. My dad went later that morning and told me that people had still kept the chain going. It was a good 2 hours after I originally started it. This made me … Read more

#2 Spend Kindly

I am taking five classes this semester. To say it has been a lot for me is an understatement. I have to pass up a lot of time with my friends and my family, because I am stuck up in my bedroom behind a computer screen. My younger brother is incredibly … Read more

#2 Spend Kindly

I bought lunch for my family which I haven’t done in a while. I felt good after doing it and it made me realize I should do it more often.  Read more

#3 Disagree Better

Last week I asked one of my friends whether he thinks blood is red or blue in the body before oxygenation. I personally have always been told that blood is red in the body and that it just gets a little darker red when it is oxygenated, also when I get … Read more

#2 Spend Kindly

I have begun to commit to paying closer attention to what ’causes’ and activities I am supporting financially to ensure diversity of support AND to what proportion of my left over money (after paying bills) I am giving charitably.  At some point, I beg … Read more

#2 Spend Kindly

I bought my co workers coffee and munchkins and I found myself in a much better mood throughout the day because everyone else was also in a better mood Read more

#4 KindTech

This is a little difficult because I had previously stated in earlier challenges that I do not use social media anymore. I am glad that I made that choice. So, the best I could do was to help out a kid that I work with. The other night he messaged me o … Read more