New Costume, Same Message

The Early Show, Lee County, Miss., for the king. Elvis was born and raised there, but CBS News correspondent Steve Hartman went there for everyone but Elvis CBS/The Early Show

From time to time, we are lucky enough to receive updates on stories from the "Everybody Has A Story" series.

This time, CBS News Correspondent Steve Hartman revisits a Tupelo, Miss., woman to find that, since the story originally aired, her unique brand of teaching is catching on.

Most people come to Lee County, Miss., for the king. Elvis was born and raised there, but CBS News correspondent Steve Hartman went there for everyone but Elvis. In the end, he found someone in a costume, but not a tacky fringed jumpsuit.

And that left Hartman wondering if there's something in the water around Tupelo.

The woman in the phone said she dresses up in a dinosaur costume. "I'm Raktor," she explained.

Raktor, a.k.a. Dianne Ludt, is a 50-year-old otherwise perfectly normal mom.

She has a daughter Mattie, and a husband, Steve. Steve is president of Columbian Rope Company, a major manufacturer in town, which means our little dinosaur friend could spend her free time sipping tea at the Tupelo Country Club if she wanted. But she doesn't.

"Maybe that's a pre-conceived idea," she said. "I'm sure there are a lot of executive wives that do the same thing."

Raktor is the random acts of kindness dinosaur, Ludt's creation to encourage kids to be kinder to one another.

Every week, she holds a rally at Church Street Elementary School, puts up bulletin boards, and ballot boxes so kids can report do-gooders.

Asking a third grader why would somebody go to all the trouble to teach kids kindness, Zee Young answered, "Because that's pretty much what the world needs right now."

Zee said kids tease her because she's overweight. So kindness she noted, is "very needed."

Ludt said, "They're just cruel, so if you can just talk to them and make them stop and think about what they say."

To that end, Ludt has been wearing her costume for six years. It's not a very good one; most kids see right through it. But it seems to work. In fact, the principal says, thanks to Raktor, troublemakers are an endangered species around the school.

The principal said, "Six years ago, we had 25 suspensions and last year we had 2, so it has made a difference."

And that's how one woman's quiet little plea for kindness became an uproar. Her dream now is to share the message with other schools as many as possible.

Zee said, "So they can look at her. Listen to her!"

Ludt noted, "Just imagine multiplying it by the millions. And how can it not be a better world?"

It's been four years since Hartman first told Ludt's story and now he has some unfortunate news to report: as the costume got older, the mask began to disintegrate.

So after several failed dinoplastys, Ludt invented a new character: blue-haired, blue-garbed Betty Be Kind.

Ludt still does the rally and still runs the program, even though her daughter hasn't gone to school there in years.

After the first story aired, Ludt helped several other schools start up their own Random Acts of Kindness programs, which, of course, thrilled her daughter, now a seventh grader, to no end.

She says, "At other schools, they told you these nice things, be nice to people, but they didn't have a dinosaur telling you this. It kind of captivated the kids a little bit more. To listen to a dinosaur, a blue-haired woman, I did."

Hartman has no doubt that Ludt will eventually succeed in making the world a better place, as long as she keeps her little corner up right, like it is.
  • Tatiana Morales

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