By: Clare Archibald
Regional Director of Early Childhood Services in the Anglophone East School District
My grandmother had a profound influence on me. I witnessed some, and heard stories of, the many ways she showed kindness to others. She visited families during the harsh winter months and brought them blankets; she cooked an abundance of wholesome food to share with the hungry; she provided her orphaned brothers a home; and, she shared her family’s clothing with those in need. Her kind acts were performed humbly and quietly.
One Christmas, my grandmother asked my sister and I to share some of our toys with some girls who would have no Christmas presents to open. We carefully cleaned two wooden cradles, dressed and placed two dolls inside. Our hearts swelled with pride to play a part in brightening these little girls’ Christmas.
Adults teach children kindness and generosity in the same way my grandmother did – by sharing stories; allowing children to see acts in action; and, by inviting children to participate.
One way to inspire children and increase their awareness is to intentionally choose story books to share. The library has a wealth of children’s books focused on kindness and I’ve reviewed many of them. Two I recommend are:
The Mitten Tree by Candace Christiansen introduces us to “old Sarah” who’s worried about the children playing in the snow without mittens to keep their hands warm. Old Sarah responds by knitting many pairs of multi-color mittens and hanging them on a tree next to the children’s play area. As the mittens disappear from the tree, Old Sarah keeps knitting. One day, Old Sarah is touched and surprised by an act of kindness in return.
The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein is a touching story of a relationship between a boy and a tree. As the boy grows, the tree offers him many things – branches for climbing; apples to eat and to sell; and, wood to build a house and a boat. The tree shared of itself until it was a stump only. After every act of kindness, the tree expressed happiness. We learn that we receive (happiness) when we give.
Another way to inspire children is to invite them to participate. We can:
- Donate gently used clothing to recycling bins placed in various parts of the city;
- Place children and adult books in little free libraries;
- Donate pop bottles to neighborhood drives or to a charitable agency;
- Make a meal for someone who needs a pick-me-up;
- Give nutritious food to a food bank, soup kitchen, or breakfast program;
- Do something this Christmas – donate a toy or a turkey; buy a food box; help pack and deliver the food boxes;
- Send Becca a Christmas card – her address is P.O. box 7135 Pine Glen Road, Riverview, NB E1B 4T8; and,
- Smile and thank everyone who provides a service to you.
And lastly, children will come up with their own ideas to demonstrate their kindness to others.
I am hopeful that sharing stories and kind acts with children influences a lifetime of kindness and generosity.