On a warm winter afternoon, Wildcat cross-country runner and Honors College senior Megan Meyer is on a training run across Tucson. On her wrist, the nutritional sciences major wears a bright green bracelet made of ceramic with the words “Be Kind Step Up” stamped into the clay. Ahead of her she sees a woman stop to help a passerby pick up papers that spilled from a bag. Meyer jogs over and slips off her bracelet.
“I saw what you did,” Meyer says with a friendly smile, “and I wanted to give you this bracelet as a way to acknowledge your act of kindness.”
She shows the surprised woman a number on the back of the bracelet. “You can go tothe ‘Be Kind Step Up’ website and register your bracelet, and write where and why you got it. When you see someone else do an act of kindness, you can pass it on, and the next person can do the same. You can each track the journey of the bracelet and read about acts of kindness that are taking place.”
The Be Kind Step Up program is a collaboration between UA Athletics, UA Campus Health and local nonprofit Ben’s Bells, which promotes kindness in the community.
“When we give out the Be Kind Step Up bracelets, we’re saying ‘Kindness is contagious; let’s pass it on!’” says Meyer.
Stepping Up to Make a Difference
Meyer and other UA athletes, students and community members volunteer their time at Ben’s Bells to make the bracelets.
Meyer is one of the leaders of the UA’s Step Up! Bystander Intervention program, which was developed by UA Athletics and the NCAA to teach students how to intervene safely when they see something going on that doesn’t seem right.
“We believe many problems on a college campus can be prevented,” says Becky Bell, Associate Athletics Director and the innovator of the program. “Megan Meyer teaches other students how to recognize potential problems so they can intervene safely when they notice a problem.”
For instance, there might be a problem involving alcohol, or hazing, relationship, abuse, depression or sexual assault, or eating disorders or even academic integrity. The Step Up! Bystander Intervention Program is now used by hundreds of schools, universities and organizations across the country.
“Step Up teaches us to recognize problems and intervene,” explains Meyer, “and the Be Kind Step Up program lets us recognize and acknowledge those who aren’t just bystanders, but who are actually reaching out and helping others.”
A Movement of Caring
Kind acts can be as simple as helping a stranger who has dropped an armful of books to bringing a meal to a sick friend, or taking the car keys away from someone who’s had too much to drink.
As a Nutritional Sciences major with a minor in Chemistry, Meyer thinks a lot about how what we feed our bodies nourishes our health. “And in the same way,” she says, “I believe that when we practice kindness, we’re nourishing a healthy society.”
As a cross-country runner, Meyer knows it takes a lot of small steps to get her to her goal at the finish line. “The way I see it, community service is no different than my sport,” she says. “ Small things can add up and make a big difference. I have to take the steps I can, and so do you, and together we can create a movement of kindness and caring.”