In a world that can often feel like it’s filled with tragedies and traumatic events, Chip and Joanna Gaines are determined to add some kindness.
The former Fixer Upper stars will be the first to tell you just how lucky they feel — and how grateful they are — for their many reasons to smile, from welcoming their fifth child, son Crew, in June 2018, to building a thriving lifestyle empire. But despite all their joy, the HGTV stars couldn’t deny a growing sense of heaviness that had crept in over the last few months.
Between mass shootings, the tense political divide and an ongoing global climate crisis, the hurt that many people are experiencing around the world began to weigh heavily on the couple.
“All these terrible things that have happened just really shocked my system,” Chip, 45, tells PEOPLE in this week’s issue, on newsstands Friday, November 8. “I started talking to Jo like, ‘What can we do?’ I don’t want to leave a world like this to my children.”
That’s when they came up with the idea for Kindness Flyers (which are available to download and print here).
“We started wrestling with the thought of simply paying for a stranger’s meal or calling an old friend— just a little token,” says Chip. “It evolved from there.” They created four different flyers with tear-off tabs encouraging acts like “Volunteer at a charity” and “Thank a veteran for their service.”
“It got really personal for me,” says Chip. “Obviously, I want to do a whole lot more than print out flyers and staple them around people’s neighborhoods, but if this is where we can start, I’m honored to give it a try.”
Adds Joanna, 41: “We were hoping that it would resonate with people. Little things that wouldn’t feel like a stretch and are good for your soul.”
In August, Chip opened up in a personal essay on his wife’s blog: “It’s been a tough couple of weeks for a lot of people in our country, and I can’t help but wonder, how did we get here?” he wrote at the time, shortly after the mass shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio.
“I’ve been thinking a lot about kindness lately, about where it starts and what keeps it moving from one person to the next,” he continued. “I believe that we are all made in likeness, and because of that, our hearts are naturally drawn toward one another. But the thing about kindness is, it’s a choice.”
The Gaineses’ commitment to kindness made them a natural choice for the cover of PEOPLE’s first-ever Kindness Issue, dedicated to highlighting the ways, big and small, that kindness can make a difference and change lives. In the issue, celebrities from Julia Roberts to Tiffany Haddish tell us about the impact kindness has had on them, and everyday people share the moment of kindness that inspired them to improve the lives of the people around them.
WATCH THIS: Joanna Gaines on Juggling 5 Kids and Her Magnolia Empire: Crew ‘Gave Me an Extra Kick in My Step’
Chip and Joanna say the response they’ve received to their flyers so far has been encouraging, especially among children.
“For me, the schools are where it starts,” says Joanna. “That’s the generation we are raising up. Every day we try to teach our own kids to be kind to themselves, to each other, to neighbors and especially to those who look like they are alone.”
As parents to sons Drake, 14, Duke, 11, and Crew, 1, and daughters Ella, 13, and Emmie, 9, they’ve made instilling those values early a huge priority.
“We try to be conscious of what we hear them say to each other and how they say it,” says Joanna. “I know the kind words that were spoken to me as a kid that were really impactful—but also the negative words that I had to work through up until my 20s and 30s. We try to teach our kids that their words really matter.”
The couple say the addition of Crew has been a reminder to the family of the innate goodness in people.
“There’s just something about kids—they don’t have the stereotypes that we’ve built in our own minds, or the prejudices,” Chip says. “It’s funny, for Jo and me and our older kids, we watch Crew and see how he embraces life with this amazing neutrality. He’s just full of life, love and curiosity.”
Read more in PEOPLE’s Kindness Issue, on newsstands Friday, November 8.
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