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After Shooting, 11-Year-Old Starts ‘El Paso Challenge’ To Heal Community with Acts of Kindness

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When terrible tragedies take place, it can be difficult to know how to help. Some people donate money to the affected parties, some offer meals or shelter, and others pray and try to spread awareness.

But when you’re a kid, it can be even more difficult to help — you probably don’t have much money, you don’t have much in the way of possessions or services to offer. But as one 11-year-old from El Paso found out, what kids do have is kindness.

Ruben Martinez is giving hope to people, reassuring the world that the kids are all right. His mother, Rose Gandarilla, said Ruben was understandably shaken over the weekend’s mass shootings and wanted to avoid shopping.

“He was having some trouble dealing with what happened,” she told CNN. “I explained to him that we could not live in fear and that people in our community are caring and loving. I told him to try and think of something he could do to make El Paso a little better.”

So, he did. He came up with a fairly detailed plan providing examples and suggestions, and with his mom’s help, that plan has gone viral.

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Ruben was very specific, outlining the purpose and method of his challenge and even how he planned to get the word out.

“Purpose: To honor the people who got killed in our city,” was the first line he wrote.

“How: I’ll challenge each person in El Paso to do 20 good deeds for each other.”

The idea behind this was one good deed for each of the people killed in El Paso, but many have understood that number to be 22, to match the number of victims from the El Paso shooting.

In case people needed some inspiration, Ruben listed some ways people could help one another out: “Mow someone’s lawn, visit a nursing home, pay for someone’s lunch or dinner, donate to families in need, write someone a letter and tell them how great they are, hold the door for everyone, comfort someone when they are sad or stressed, take flowers to someone in the hospital, leave a dollar on the vending machine for the next person; and any other random act of kindness.”

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He wrote that he planned to pass out flyers, hold posters and post on Facebook to get the word out, but his mom’s share on Twitter seems to have done the trick, and plenty of people are joining the #elpasochallenge.

Some participants have even added to the challenge, determining to include the victims of other attacks or join in for the 20+ acts of kindness even though they’re far away.

And of course, Ruben is hitting the pavement himself, getting out in the world and making people’s days better with a little help from his supportive mother.

“Last night, he agree[d] to go out to do his first act of kindness,” his mother said on Monday. “He chose to go deliver dinner to our first responders.”

“He seems to be doing better and says that hopefully, the world will be a better place with all these random acts of kindness.”

The Western Journal has reached out to Gandarilla for comment but has not yet received a response. We will update this article if and when we do.

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Amanda holds an MA in Rhetoric and TESOL from Cal Poly Pomona. After teaching composition and logic for several years, she's strayed into writing full-time and especially enjoys animal-related topics.
As of January 2019, Amanda has written over 1,000 stories for The Western Journal but doesn't really know how. Graduating from California State Polytechnic University with a MA in Rhetoric/Composition and TESOL, she wrote her thesis about metacognitive development and the skill transfer between reading and writing in freshman students.
She has a slew of interests that keep her busy, including trying out new recipes, enjoying nature, discussing ridiculous topics, reading, drawing, people watching, developing curriculum, and writing bios. Sometimes she has red hair, sometimes she has brown hair, sometimes she's had teal hair.
With a book on productive communication strategies in the works, Amanda is also writing and illustrating some children's books with her husband, Edward.
Austin, Texas
Languages Spoken
English und ein bißchen Deutsch
Topics of Expertise
Faith, Animals, Cooking