DALLAS - Twice a week for the past few months, the fourth graders at Wesley Prep in Dallas have been taking the same field trip over and over.
They haven't gone far - just eight miles - but they have traveled way outside their comfort zone by visiting Dallas' homeless.
“We are so excited to be here," their teacher said as they arrived at the Austin Street Center.
It all started after the students in Lori Cousino's class read a book about kindness.
“One of the precepts of the book that we read was always be a little kinder than necessary," Cousino said.
So, in November, the students made meals for the homeless at the Austin Street Center. Someone else, though, delivered them and the kids thought that wasn't good enough.
They wanted to see who they were helping so they made meals again to deliver themselves. The residents say when you're homeless, it's not often someone is actually willing to come visit.
"You know, you get kind of that stigma added to you," said Cynthia Rice, a resident at the shelter.
“You tend to get treated indifferent," added Terri Datcher, another resident.
That's exactly how students like Courtney Schultz felt, at least at first.
“Until you actually meet them, it’s like, ‘I feel like I’ve known you forever,'" Schultz said enthusiastically. "Where have you been my whole life?”
Today, these kids can't get enough of their new best friends.
Since that initial visit, students and resident at the center have decorated cookies together at Christmas, taken pictures on Valentine's Day and have become good friends. Now, the students are trying to curb homelessness through poetry.
A couple times a week, together, fourth graders write poems with residents at the homeless center. They plan to share them at a poetry reading later this month. After that, they'll sell a book with their poems and give the money back to the shelter.
They call the whole thing the Common Ground Experiment.
“We’re going to show the world that just because they’re homeless doesn’t mean they aren’t good people," said Patrick Minnehan, one of the fourth graders.
These students have looked far beyond the surface to see something wonderful.
“They definitely are a blessing," Rice said. "They are. You can see their little halos."
“If we look at our kids sometimes, we can learn something," Datcher added. "We can learn something.”
This all started because these students simply felt called to give. It will keep happening because they can't wait to go back.
“Absolutely," Schultz said. "Every day I wonder when are we going to see them again. It just explodes your heart. In a way that’s good, not bad. It just explodes with happiness and joy.”
Changing the world never sounded so poetic.
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