On the morning of August 3, 2019, a gunman killed 22 people and injured another 24 at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas. Following this tragedy, social media has been abuzz with people discussing and debating everything from gun control reform to the country’s approach to mental health. In addition to these hot topics, however, Internet users have also been paying tributes to the lives lost and affected, with a sixth grader serving as a sparkling example.
In the wake of the devastating event, 11-year-old Ruben Martinez has started the #ElPasoChallenge. Like other viral prompts—including the #IceBucketChallenge, the #InsideOutChallenge, and #Trashtag—this challenge invites Internet users to fulfill a task. In this case, Martinez is asking each participant to perform 22 good deeds—one for each lost life. These, according to a list of instructions handwritten by Martinez, can include mowing someone’s lawn, visiting a nursing home, or even comforting someone when they are sad.
According to Martinez’s mom, Rose Gandarilla, the overall message of the challenge is simple: “Be kind to each other all day, every day.” She goes on to explain that her son came up with the creative prompt as a healthy way to process his own grief. “He was having some trouble dealing with what happened,” she told CNN. “I explained to him that we could not live in fear and that people in our community are caring and loving. I told him to try and think of something he could do to make El Paso a little better.”
After a brief brainstorm on Sunday, the day after the shooting, the preteen came up with his plan. To kick off the challenge, he tasked himself with his first good deed: to deliver dinner to first responders. This small but powerful action has inspired others to do the same—and not just in his own community. In just three days, the challenge has gone viral, giving Martinez, his mom, and mourners around the world a much-needed sense of hope in a time of undeniable darkness.
“He seems to be doing better,” Gandarilla reveals, “and says that hopefully, the world will be a better place with all these random acts of kindness.”
Reeling from a devastating shooting in his local community, 11-year-old Ruben Martinez has come up with the #ElPasoChallenge, an easy yet impactful way to help victims.