Each Kindness is a sad and meaningful children’s book written by Jacqueline Woodson. With some magnificent illustrations by E.B. Lewis, this simple story really gives children a visual understanding of how acts, small and large, make a big difference. In this story, a poor girl moves to a new school. The kids snicker and tease her about her used clothes and looks. No one wants to sit by her. A group of girls exclude her at recess, and she’s left to play alone. As the narrator tells the story, it seems as if she wants to reach out to this lonely soul but never takes the opportunity and then, one day, Maya is gone. She never shows back up to school and the narrator is left to live with guilt, knowing she should have and wishing she would have been kind to her. The teacher does a little demonstration with the class in which they each have a small stone to toss into the water.
The narrator can’t think of a single kind deed to share, while other classmates give little examples. The story ends with an illustration of regretful girl sitting on a pond’s edge. As she throws a rock, she watches the water ripple in and out like each chance she had, come and gone.
This school year, my sweet Anna has already started a gentle ripple. So, I got an email at the end of summer from a Bridge worker about a new refugee family we’d be getting. There are 3 new girls from Iraq. I was excited to see even more diversity at our school and happy for this family to be joining us. But, I was even more excited when we discovered one of the girls is in Anna’s class. I talked to Anna a little about this new girl before school started, explaining refugee camps again and how she probably doesn’t speak any English. I reminded her to reach out to new kids in her class. And, she talked about E. after the first half-day of school.
On day two, her sweet teacher assigned Anna to teach her about some labeled objects in the classroom. Anna was excited to tell us about it at dinner out , leading her around the classroom to point to chair, tables, carpet, and door. Then, yesterday, when Bo took Anna to school, he said that E. was coming in at the same time. She got a huge grin on her face and started waving at Anna!
Last night, Anna told us she asked her to play with her and her best friend on the playground yesterday. Anna explained that she doesn’t haven’t anyone to play with and was just wandering around. So, Anna said she went to get another Iraqi boy who was in her class last year to translate, “Do you want to play with us”. She did.
Are there any words? No. She doesn’t speak English. But, Anna proudly says she learned to say ‘chair’ this week and is following instructions quite well. She also repeated ‘Anna’ and another girl’s name after they had her repeat it over and over. Anna imitates how she teaches her, and how E. softly speaks.
*Melt my heart.*
Friendship isn’t just words, or who’s your “BFF”. Kindness is little tiny actions, spoken and unspoken. I don’t care if she scores 100 goals in soccer or gets straight A’s and E’s because this girl is already passing second grade in my books!