Chris Lowe felt a gravitational pull to El Paso as she drove her Fall Forward Across America RV throughout the southern portion of the United States.
The trip, which hopes to instill a desire in people to perform 22 random act of kindness, began on July 26 and took a detour toward the Sun City after the attack on the El Paso Walmart on August 3.
“This RV is about kindness and the energy behind it,” she said. “I felt compelled to come here knowing that this town needed to know there are kind people in the world thinking about them. Everything just brought me here.”
Lowe, a Florida native, chose the number 22 for the acts of kindness even before the attack in El Paso which killed 22 people. The 22 represents the age her son would have been when she began her mission to spread love throughout the country.
Inspired by media reports of two EPISD teachers who asked strangers from throughout the world to show kindness to their students by sending them notes of support via mail, Lowe drove into Tom Lea Elementary on Friday.
She was joined by Tara Ijai of Love Glasses Revolution, who donated hundreds of heart-shaped sunglasses to students at Tom Lea and Hillside Elementary.
Tom Lea fourth-grade teacher Teresa Garrett had partnered with Hillside Elementary teacher Elvira Flores on the notes of love project, which has continued to draw thousands of letters from across the globe to the school.
Both Lowe and Ijai had already visited Hillside. Lowe challenged students to do random acts of kindness – big or small – and explained how this movement can have a ripple effect throughout the community.
“When you’re kind to other people — no matter what is happening in the world — you can change someone’s life,” Lowe said, echoing the message she shared with the students. “You could change someone’s day or change someone’s thoughts. Just one little kind gesture or comment can really change someone’s whole life.”
Benefactors of her cross-country trek have gotten a full tank of gas, gift cards, coffee, lottery tickets and simple gestures of opening the door, smiling, compliments and kind words. She gave students headbands and wrist bands as reminders of her visit and challenge to do at least one act of kindness a day.
“If you think about what you could do for others, it makes your problems seem less significant,” said Lowe, who began her journey in her home state of Florida. “The more you do it, the more you inspire others to do it and it becomes a wave of kindness.”
Along her journey through Arizona, she met Ijai who spreads love through her heart-shaped sunglasses. Ijai had only traveled throughout her state of Arizona gifting her sunglasses but felt a call to El Paso knowing the city craved her message.
“We want to show solidarity, love and support for those who need it,” she said, smiling at the sea of students sporting the heart-shaped glasses. “The teachers were asking for postcards but we felt we could do more.”
A few minutes before Lowe arrived, students received their glasses and quickly put them on — a reminder of their kindness and perfect shade from the hot summer sun. Ijai’s husband Adnane Ijai designed all the glasses and created selections in different colors and themes –all shaped in their signature heart frame.
“We are going to consistently rebel against hate and negativity,” Tara Ijai said. “Someone drove hours to deliver hate. We felt the natural antidote was to drive hours to El Paso to deliver love.”
The students gathered for photos showing off their new shades – the tag still hanging from most.
“These are the best glasses in the world,” said fourth-grader Kai. “They’re cool.”
His classmates appreciated the gesture and knowing people care about them and their city.
“I think it’s nice because of what happened in our city,” said Madison Miller, a fourth-grader. “It makes me feel protected in the United States of America. It makes me feel happy. I like the glasses a lot.”
Garrett is grateful for the Ijais and Lowe visit and the response the school has received from throughout the world. She spends hours every night reading and categorizing postcards and messages before sharing with students.
“You can’t put it into words,” she said. “The children are thrilled every single day and they are paying it forward. It’s been such an outpouring of love. Good people are truly still here. They outnumber the bad people and I think we’ve seen that.”
Story by Reneé de Santos | Photos by Leonel Monroy – EPISD