My $20 Challenge: A Lesson in Kindness


After my sister died, I found some money in her wallet.


I knew this money had to go to helping others, as aiding those in need was something my sister was so passionate about, but donating the money to a random charity didn’t feel exactly right.


So I held onto the cash and slowly contributed to it. I won a Chromebook at a conference and sold it and added to the pile. Cash here and there went into the wallet where it would wait for the right moment. Finally, by Christmas of last year, I had enough to do something that would be meaningful.


The day before winter break, I told my students that I had a special project for them. I cried and told them about my sister and the money and pulled $420 in twenty dollar bills from my back pocket. They gasped as I handed each of them a bill and told them I was giving it to them with one stipulation: they had to use it help someone in need or to do a random act of kindness.


They spent the entire period excitedly brainstorming what they could do. And then the bell rang and I sent them off to break with the magical feeling giving to others can give you.

Some donated to charities that were important to them, some gave back to others in the community, and some just did things to bring a smile to a stranger’s face. However, all of them learned the lesson I so desperately try to teach my students each semester.

It’s a lesson that I hope stays with them.


But even more amazing is that it’s a lesson that has continued on.


A few weeks into the new semester, I received an email from someone telling me they heard about what my class had done. Wanting to remain anonymous, this person wished to pay for my new class of students to have the same experience. A few days later, a $520 check awaited me.


And so my current students get to experience this lesson. And I’m excited to see what they do. And I hope they learn the same lesson my students did last semester: that we are all connected; that humanity relies on each of us looking out for each another; and that kindness is contagious.


If you’d like to see my students from last semester speaking about their experiences with my $20 challenge, please feel free to follow the link. I’d love for their voices to be heard:



Pear Vanilla with Honey

Meet Kristina

proud mother of two
passionate educator
edtech enthusiast
lifelong learner
future minivan driver
forever optimist
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© 2019 Kristina Ulmer/Tea with Teacher

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