Adams twins launch efforts to change world ‘one conversation at a time’
By Dc. Tom Cuskey
In March 2020, when the pandemic introduced us to terms like COVID-19, shelter-in-place and the Quarantine-15 (extra pounds, that is), some interesting and surprisingly positive ideas also bloomed during the spring that wasn’t and the time that followed. Twin sisters from Susquehanna County, Pa., just over the New York border, put voices to an effort that has planted seeds of kindness and borne fruit among a growing audience.
The “Courageously Kind” podcast started in August 2020, a “quarantine project” as Maddie Adams describes it. “It really, I think, was born out of the fact that we were pretty bored. It was the summer, we weren’t in virtual school, we weren’t doing anything.” When she says “we,” she includes her twin sister Liz.
The girls’ mother is Jackie Adams, Pastoral Associate at Our Lady of Sorrows Church in Vestal, Broome County, and a parishioner since 1985. It is the family’s — Jackie, husband Michael, Liz and Maddie — spiritual home. Jackie has served as Director of Faith Formation and no doubt helped plant the seeds that took deep root during the pandemic.
“2020 was a crazy and scary year for all of us,” Maddie told us. “We just kept coming back to ‘how can we best support ourselves and everybody else? And what does that look like?’”
The answer they arrived at was simple: kindness.
“We can always be kind to each other, we always can be kind to ourselves, no matter what is going on in the world, no matter what that looks like,” Maddie stressed. She took that idea to her sister, with emphasis on sharing kindness with others via online narrowcasting.
“What are you talking about” was Liz’s initial reaction. “I don’t listen to podcasts. We have no audio experience. … Yeah, it took a little convincing,” she admitted. It wasn’t long, though, before they were moving ahead with an idea to spread and share kindness among everyone they could garner as podcast fans and followers. Currently, more than 100,000 listeners in 70-plus countries have tuned in to the conversations.
“It started with just us having conversations about these big topics like kindness and empathy,” Maddie explained. That grew into more of an interview-format podcast where others who were involved in good works within their own communities were given the opportunity to share their stories and keep kindness moving forward.
While the podcast was Maddie’s suggestion, it was Liz’s voice that first called out for people to be kind to one another. Liz is active with FACES: The National Craniofacial Association, a group that supports people with facial and cranial disfigurement. Liz is among those the organization assists and she has devoted significant energy in efforts to encourage kindness to those who suffer from physical challenges and disfigurement. And from there it has spread.
“Absolutely,” Maddie agreed. “We’re all just people, we’re all humans, and everybody wants to be treated with kindness, and respect, regardless of who we are and where we are, what we think and believe.” That’s where the title “Courageously Kind” finds its roots. “It’s not always easy to be kind to others and to ourselves,” Maddie shared. “It’s not always easy to stand up and say, ‘I’m going to step out and I’m going to choose to be kind.’ It takes a lot of courage and it takes kind of breaking through that fear, to extend that love and that kindness to others.”
At Marywood University in Scranton, Pa., where the girls attend classes, the extension of love and kindness has resulted in another avenue of delivery. Kindness Week was observed at the institution during April this year. Like the work the sisters have put into podcast efforts, Kindness Week came about one day at a time.
“On Monday, we had students stop by and write kind messages to themselves or to others, and we displayed them on a glass window in our library,” Maddie explains. As the week developed, so did the spread of kindness.
“Day two and day three were thank-you cards (days). It’s having a card for support staff on campus … maintenance, housekeeping, all of the people on our campus that may be overlooked, underappreciated,” Liz shared. “We made sure that everybody got a thank-you card by the end of the week.”
Day four was kindness-challenge day, where students reached into a huge fishbowl and grabbed a slip of paper with a random task of kindness printed on it. Before the day was over, each participant had to fulfill that challenge and spread additional kindness on campus. Maddie explained, “It was things like buying someone a coffee or holding the door open or telling someone thank you or that you love them or that you care about them. It was fun to try and see how fast they could do it.”
Wegmans Food Markets got involved on the final day, donating 500 flowers to the effort. Students hit the sidewalks and hallways, handing flowers to staff, faculty, other students and visitors, all in the name of kindness.
As juniors this year, the twins are starting a succession plan, hoping to form a committee to keep Kindness Week alive and growing on campus each year. In the meantime, the “Courageously Kind” podcast will continue for the foreseeable future. Liz and Maddie are also very committed to continuing to work with FACES and encourage kindness among the world community.
“Face equality is something we integrate closely with ‘Courageously Kind,’” added Liz, who cares deeply about helping those with facial differences. “God bless FACES, it gave me the little kick I needed to take it on.”
The organization has invited the twins to speak about their efforts with Courageously Kind at an international conference in Toronto. How far can they take their campaign for kindness? Maddie was quick to answer. “As far as God wants it to go!”
Check out Maddie and Liz’s podcast and more at courageouslykind.org.