Program asks people with differing viewpoints to spend time together

The vitriol of today's world isn't lost on teens. They see it sometimes more than adults, attuned to a variety of social media where bullying seems a normalized practice.

That's why a group of six girls from Hannibal — participants in Teens In Motion, a program under the umbrella of Douglass Community Services — started a program to foster kindness in the community. Their hope is that the message will spread beyond Hannibal and go “viral” in an effort to curb widening rifts between people, sowing a sense of unity.

The girls have dubbed the campaign #apples2oranges — a take on the common phrase that one can't compare apples and oranges.

The campaign asks people who wouldn't normally interact socially — either because of philosophical, economical, social, or religious differences — to spend 30 minutes together in discussion to better understand one another. Then, the girls are asking participants to create a short video, posting it to social media, explaining what was learned from each other, captioning the video with the hashtag #apples2oranges .

“The bullying at school and on social media, the racial division, the political division, kids fighting kids, adults fighting adults, we see it all the time. We as a group feel that we need to do something good in our world,” TIM member McKenze Swank said.

The group was inspired by an essay that looked at the saying, “You can't compare apples and oranges” — a metaphor for the divisions in society the group sees. The essay examined the phrase, determining that many people think apples and orange can't be compared.

“But you can,” TIM member Jordan Allen said. “They have so many things that are alike, a lot more than you really expect.”

Project members, who met outside of normal TIM meetings to concoct the program, hope people with seemingly so many differences will discover the similarities between themselves. Each of the girls had a particular role in developing the project, from creating rules and guidelines to presenting particular ways people can foster greater interaction with one another. The hope is that the idea will spread. They're even hoping a celebrity might join in.

“These kids have some high aspirations,” said Teens In Motion Program Director Amy Vaughn. “This is totally about spreading kindness and unity.”

Vaughn said she felt proud that the teens worked together on a project emphasizing positivity.

After a presentation of the project Friday morning at the Mark Twain Dinette, the group went to County Market, handing out candy and flowers in random acts of kindness. The official program kicks off Saturday, Oct. 28 — coincidentally National Make A Difference Day.

“It came about when a small group of DCS Teens in Motion decided they wanted to make a difference in our world — to stop bullying in our schools and promote kindness and goodwill,” Elizabeth Chavez said.

The group includes Shelby Watkins, McKenze Swank, Elizabeth Chavez, Jordan Allen, Antoinette Ludington and Alex Webb.

Reach editor Eric Dundon at eric.dundon@courierpost.com .