Lessons from Books

3 Lessons from Each Kindness

Summary of Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson:

A new girl, Maya, shows up at school one day. She looks different from everyone else. Her clothes are ragged and her shoes are falling a part. Chloe is not impressed, and she scoots away as Maya is seated next to her. For days, Chloe watches Maya play by herself as everyone else stays away. When Maya smiles, Chloe ignores her. When Maya asks if Chloe would like to play with her, Chloe walks away. One day, the teacher gathers the class around a bowl of water. As she drops a small pebble into the water, she tells her students that kindness is like the pebble. It creates ripples in the lives of many people.

Chloe thinks about how she’s treated Maya, and she wants to change and be kind to Maya . . . except Maya didn’t come to school that day. Or the next. Or the next. Maya didn’t come back to school at all. And Chloe never got a chance to show kindness.

This story is heartbreaking and it doesn’t have the happy ending that we all wanted, but I find the ending effective and thought provoking. Here are three lessons we can learn from Each Kindness.

Lesson #1: Look for someone who needs a friend.

Throughout the story, it was obvious that Maya needed a friend. Not one person in the class smiled at her or played with her at recess, no matter how much she tried to be friendly. We can learn from the children’s bad example. Instead of shying away from the kid who is different or alone, be a friend! Go out of your way to make them feel welcomed and included.

Lesson #2: All actions have a ripple effect.

In the story, the teacher teaches that students that kindness creates a ripple effect. I would argue, however, that ALL actions create a ripple effect . . . the good and the bad. Our bad attitude or snobbish behavior can hurt others or cause others to join us, which in turn, hurts more people. However, showing kindness and love encourages others to join us in our efforts and as a result, more people feel loved, included, and valued.

Lesson #3: Don’t wait to be kind.

In the story, Chloe waited to long to make the choice to be kind. By the time she was ready to show kindness, it was too late and the opportunity was gone. Maya left that school never feeling loved or included in her class. While this ending is unexpected and sad, I believe it is the most powerful ending the author could have written. Our kindness cannot wait to be shown next week, tomorrow, or an hour from now. We need to show kindness and love to everyone around us, right now, while we have the chance.

I hope your children walk away, determined to be a friend and show kindness to others today. This book always strikes a chord with the children that I read it to, and we always have discussions about kindness and friendship. Happy reading!

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