In 2008, Founder, Douglas Carnine, was a hospice volunteer with Jeremy, a 35-year-old man dying of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Jeremy had experienced a three-year intensive Yogi meditation and radiated the power of mindful kindness so palpably that people came just to sit with him. That inspired Doug to devote his post-academic life to spreading mindful kindness.
First, he sought to test the idea of mindful kindness through correspondence with a man serving life without parole for murdering his parents in an Arkansas prison’s maximum security unit. “It was an experiment to see if people guilty of heinous crimes could not only transform themselves but also other inmates and even corrections officers through kindness,” Doug says. The experiment was later joined by three other inmates and Doug came to realize that these inmates had become teachers as they built kindness out of lives that had experienced and wrought unimaginable cruelty. Doug also saw that the respect he extended to them helped destroy their belief that they were unlovable, worthless, and despised by society.
Those are the roots of the Choose Kindness Foundation (CKF).
Doug then took a small inheritance and invested it in a highly speculative local start-up company that ended up making a few million dollars. Every penny of those earnings has gone into funding CKF along with money from some forest and farmland he and his wife donated to the foundation.
The Choose Kindness Foundation launched in February 2021.
The Origin Story
During his 35-year career, University of Oregon Professor Emeritus, Doug Carnine, Ph.D., taught about, conducted research on, and advocated for improved education for vulnerable children—the poor, handicapped, English language learners, and children of color. During this time he contributed to over 50 textbooks ranging from kindergarten math to university computer science. Simultaneously, he was following a personal fascination with kindness, meditation, and mindfulness, which led to adding these two very different non-fiction works to his legacy: Saint Badass and How Love Wins. His commitment to mindful kindness started in 1973, as a founding member of the Eugene Buddhist Priory, and culminated in him becoming a lay minister in the Order of Buddhist Contemplatives. He was ordained as a lay Buddhist in 1975 by Rev. Master Houn Jiyu-Kennett.