Who Said Kids Don’t Care? These Young Ones Go Overboard for Their Deserving Janitor

At an elementary school classroom in Tennessee, a deaf custodian's milestone is sweeter than he imagined

Two groups of kindergarten kids at a Tennessee elementary school were thinking of someone special recently when they learned how to sing “Happy Birthday” in sign language.

Mr. James, as he is known (pictured above right), is a school custodian at Hickerson Elementary School in Tullahoma, Tennessee, and is deaf; his 60th birthday was Wednesday.

To celebrate his milestone, the kindergartners — led by teachers and helpers, as WZTV noted — signed the birthday tune to him.

A video of the kids’ gesture captured the pure joy on the man’s face (see below). He was so surprised that he threw his hands in the air and let out a happy yell, but only before he covered his face to hold back what looked like tears.

Hickerson’s principal, Jimmy Anderson, told WZTV the kids adore Mr. James.

“Mr. James teaches the kids sign language every now and then, teaches them good manners and how to treat other people,” Anderson said, adding that James is a great role model for the students.

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James has worked at Hickerson Elementary for 15 years; he’s worked for the school district for 30 years.

The custodian said the kindergarten students’ gesture “touched his heart,” said WZTV.

Many parents may wonder: How do you raise a child who, even at an early age, is considerate enough to make another person happy with a kind gesture?

Children have an “inborn capacity” for compassion, noted Jane Meredith Adams in a piece for Parenting magazine. “Small in stature themselves, they naturally identify with stuffed animals, other kids, pets, and underdogs.”

She added, “Teaching this doesn’t mean lectures or visits to soup kitchens. It’s part of day-to-day life: how you answer your child’s questions, how you solve conflict at the park, how you nudge his or her growing capacity to understand and think about other people.”

Natural temperament plays a role in whether a child is kind; some kids are “more tuned in” to others’ feelings, while others “are a bit oblivious,” she noted.

Either way, teachers and families have enormous influence in fostering a child’s ability to empathize.

Calling out kindness and labeling it for kids can help them become more compassionate.

“When you catch your child offering a shovel to a friend in the sandbox, label her actions by saying, ‘What a good friend you are,’ or ‘You’re very thoughtful,’” Adams noted.

See the kids sing to their custodian in the video below.

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