Tag Archives: kindness

crows ravens bullying and kindness

What’s there to crow about?

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes a raven. It can be in nature or used to describe humanity as a metaphor. Follow the bird. Go where the prompt leads.

While ravens and crows may have their differences, as an Australian, I can be forgiven for having difficulty in telling them apart. As this article about the Australian Raven in Birds in Backyards says,

“There are six members of the family Corvidae found in Australia: five native breeding species and one infrequent self-introduction. Three are called crows and three ravens, although there is really little difference. Most Australian species are similar in size and colouration, and can be difficult to tell apart.”

In fact, when I attempted to find photographs of crows and ravens, I found the same photograph labelled ‘crow’ in one location and ‘raven’ in another!

I provide this information only so you’ll understand why I refer to crow rather than the raven of Charli’s prompt.

You see, Charli’s prompt reminded me of this video in which a crow shares its bread with a mouse.

I wondered why the crow would make such an effort to share with a mouse. Don’t crows usually eat mice?

I was reminded, then, of the Aesop’s fable The Lion and the Mouse in which a lion, surprised at the idea that a mouse might one day be able to help him, forgoes a meal and releases the mouse. The mouse returns the favour one day by freeing the lion when it was ensnared by hunters.

However, in the fable, it was the potential prey who helped the predator in an act of kindness.

In the video, it is the predator showing kindness to potential prey. Finding a motive required some divergent thinking. This is what I came up with as a start.

Crow and Mouse

“Caw, caw,” called Crow in the morning from atop the tree.

“Caw, caw,” called Crow at midday from the neat vegie patch.

“Caw, caw,” called Crow, perched high on a wire, at the end of the day.

“Shoo, shoo,” shouted Man in the morning, shaking knobbled fists.

“Shoo, shoo,” shouted Man at midday, stamping his feet.

“Shoo, shoo,” shouted Man, clattering his pans at the end of the day.

Sneak, sneak went Mouse from his hole in the wall, to the kitchen and back, unnoticed by Man who was noticing Crow.

And so it repeated, day after day.

Until, one day, Man grew tired of shooing Crow and loaded his slingshot with a rock. Mouse, ready to sneak, saw Man take aim. Mouse ran–across the floor and up Man’s leg. Man stumbled. In so doing, he dropped the rock upon his toe. He hollered. Crow heard the commotion and flew away, cawing his thanks to Mouse.

Man saw where Mouse hid. He fetched his hammer, nails and a board.

Just in time, Mouse escaped–down the stairs, through the garden and into the woods. In the darkness, Mouse trembled.  All his life, he had filled his belly with three good meals a day from Man’s kitchen. Could he fend for himself? He looked about this unfamiliar world. When the quiet was interrupted by a flap-flap-flap, he ducked for cover.

Too late–he’d been spotted.

“There you are,” cawed Crow, placing a piece of bread on the ground in front of Mouse. “Thank you for your kindness. One good turn always deserves another.”

What do you think?

Stories, stories, everywhere

I had fun writing the story and it reaffirmed for me that potential stories are everywhere, not only for adult writers, but for children too. I think children would love to discuss the video of the crow and the mouse and would ask many more questions and come up with more inventive stories than I did. What a fun writing prompt it would be. Children could also compose dialogue for the animals and act it as a play.

Of course, this story is much too long to qualify for Charli’s flash fiction 99-word requirement. For that I thought I’d go back to school with a chance for the bully Brucie to learn some kindness. The timing is just right with the observation of National Day for Action Against Bullying And Violence on 16 March, and both Harmony Day and the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination on 21 March.

In this article from ABC News, I discovered that clever crows are learning from magpies to swoop in order to protect their nests. It also seems that they never forget a face. Perhaps they are no happier to see bullying than we are.

This is my response to Charli’s challenge. I hope you like it.

Nothing to crow about

Brucie had to get there first to stake his place at the very top. He didn’t slow on the still-wet grass, and only momentarily to laugh at Jasmine who slipped as he brushed past. From his perch, he smirked at the disappointed faces below.

“Caw!” said a crow, alighting alongside.

“Shoo!”

It didn’t shoo–more came.

Brucie shouted, waving his arms.

The crows shuffled closer.

Brucie thrashed wildly.

Bang! Bang! Bang! Jasmine banged a cricket bat against the frame.

The crows flew away.

“Are you okay?” asked Jasmine.

Brucie nodded, then let the others play.

The crows never returned.

Thank you blog post

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.

Would you like ice with that?

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills writes about her daughter’s current lifestyle in Longyearbyen, the world’s most northern town. I thought the town may have been named for seeming to have a long year when the days are dark and sunless. But no, as I found out in this article, 12 facts you never knew about Longyearbyen, the world’s northernmost city, it was named after American John Longyear who started the Arctic Coal Company there in 1906.

The article is worth a read for the information it shares. What spoke strongest to me, in these times of horrific shootings, was a sign displayed on the entrances to buildings:

“All the polar bears in this shop are already dead, please leave your weapon with the staff.”

The article explains that, as polar bears are quite common in the area, locals are required to carry high-powered rifles when they are out and about. There is no need for them indoors.

It was thoughts of her daughter’s icy environment that inspired Charli’s challenge to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story on ice. It can be an event on ice, a game on ice or a drink on ice. Go where the prompt leads you.

My thoughts went immediately to Elsa in the movie Frozen, based on The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Andersen. In the movie, Elsa has the power to turn things to ice. The song Let It Go became very popular, and for a while I couldn’t go anywhere without seeing a little girl dressed as Elsa, or hearing another one singing it. I didn’t mind. I love the song and blue is my favourite colour. I couldn’t help but smile at the enthusiasm with which the girls belted out the song.

Elsa’s ability to turn things to ice reminds me of the curse placed on King Midas to teach him a lesson about greed–everything he touched, including his beloved daughter, turned to gold.

Neither ice nor gold were particularly good outcomes. E.T.’s healing finger would bring better results.

If you had fingers with power to affect everything they touched, what would that power be? Perhaps it is impossible to know in advance all possible repercussions, but kindness would be a good place to start. We don’t have to try to heal the world.  It is best to start small and effect positive changes and heal hurts within our own circles of influence.

Back in the old days at school, we used to kiss small hurts better with a Band Aid. Nowadays, when children may be allergic to the materials used in plasters of any kind, ice has become the “kiss” of choice, with many children believing it to be imbued with magic healing powers.

That’s where I’ve gone with my flash, renewing acquaintance with some of the characters from the Marnie stories again. We’ve met Jasmine and Georgie before here and Mrs Tomkins here.

band aid ice

Ice Magic

Mrs Tomkins was sorting the mail when she noticed two big tear-filled eyes peering up at her–Liam.

“Can I have some ice, please?”

“Where does it hurt?”

“All over.”

She pointed to the chair and got him some ice.

“Now tell me what happened.”

“No one will play with me,” he said, holding the ice to his temple.

“Have you…”

Mrs Tomkins looked up as Jasmine and Georgie burst in.

“Liam. Come on. We’ve been looking for you.”

Liam thrust the ice at Mrs Tomkins.

“Thanks,” he said, smiling. “The ice worked.”

Mrs Tomkins smiled too. Ice magic.

Thank you blog post

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.

A break in the Flash Fiction routine: #Flash4Storms #WATWB #FFRODEO

Usually at this time on a Tuesday evening (my time) I am posting a flash fiction response to the prompt by Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch. But not tonight, and for good reason.

The usual weekly Carrot Ranch flash fiction prompt is on hold during the month of October, replaced by the Flash Fiction Rodeo which kicks off today. There are many prizes for both writers and readers. Check out the post for details of how you can win.

My contest runs first with a prompt about childhood ambitions. It will go live at the Ranch, and again here, on Thursday. I do hope you will join in.

You may have read my contribution to the We Are The World Blogfest with the story I posted on the weekend, #WATWB The Teacher Helping Hurricane Harvey’s Youngest Victims – And How You Can Help / A Mighty Girl | A Mighty Girl The story tells of  a teacher from Texas who created the online Hurricane Harvey Book Club. The Club involves children recording videos of themselves reading books to share with children who, as a result of the devastation of Hurricane Harvey, have no access to books. Hundreds of videos were uploaded to Facebook, and the Club is also raising money to help restock classrooms devastated by the storm.

Flash for storms

Hurricane Harvey was just the first. More was yet to come with Irma and Maria following close behind. Fellow Blogger and Rough Writer at the Carrot Ranch Sarah Brentyn, who blogs at Lemon Shark has extended a helping hand to those in need with her own flash fiction challenge #Flash4Storms.

For each flash fiction response to her prompt “Help”, Sarah will donate $1 to hurricane relief. Check out Sarah’s post to find out how you can join in and lend a helping hand.  Let Sarah know in the comments that I sent you, and I’ll add another dollar to Sarah’s donation.

Here’s my response to Sarah’s challenge for a story of 50 words or less on the theme ‘Help’.

Kindness repaid

He was proud, never asking for or accepting help. If he couldn’t do it, it wasn’t worth doing. He’d always be first to help others though. Never too much trouble, there was little he couldn’t do. But, one day, when his world came tumbling down, they eagerly repaid his generosity.

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.

Introducing author-illustrator Gregg Dreise – Readilearn

This month it is my pleasure to introduce you to Gregg Dreise, gifted artist, storyteller and musician. Gregg is a descendant of the Kamilaroi and Yuwalayaay people of south-west Queensland and north-west New South Wales. He is a proud ex-student of St George State School. When he visits schools and is involved in festivals, he features the didgeridoo and guitar in his performances.

Gregg is author and illustrator of three award-winning books Silly Birds, Kookoo Kookaburra  and Mad Magpie. A fourth book Why are you Smiling is to be released soon. All four stories are about teaching morals. They address friendship, kindness, tempers and bullying.

Gregg also illustrated Di Irving’s retelling of the classic story Tiddalik the Frog, and Elaine Ousten’s second megafauna picture book Megal the Massive Megalania.

In this post, I am talking with Gregg about his award-winning book, Kookoo Kookaburra.

Oh, here he is now!

Yarma – hello, I’m Gregg Dreise the author and sillystrator of Kookoo Kookaburra. This is a story about

 

Continue reading: Introducing author-illustrator Gregg Dreise – Readilearn

How to teach compassion – and why

During the past few weeks I have been exploring the idea of compassion, along with many others in the blogosphere, in response to the #1000Speak for Compassion project.

In a TED Talk I shared in a previous post Joan Halifax questioned why, if compassion was so important, didn’t we teach it to children.

Man-resigning

That question provided me with a challenge. Indeed I wondered if the question was really fair. The question implied that children were not being taught compassion. And while that assumption may be true for many, it is just as true that many children are being taught to be compassionate – in their homes, in their schools, and in other groups to which they belong. By recognizing the many who do, I in no way wish to indicate that enough is being done. Indeed, much more needs to be done, but let’s not make a sweeping statement that attempts to colour everyone with the same inadequacy in teaching compassion.

I decided to investigate just what ideas were available for teaching children compassion. I had to look no further than one of my blogging friends for evidence that children are being taught compassion through their daily activities. In a number of posts on her own blog Lemon Shark, and in a number of comments on mine, Sarah Brentyn has described practices that she uses to teach her children to be compassionate by involving them in compassionate acts.

Some practices that Sarah recommends for developing compassion include things from as simple as using common courtesies and good manners to volunteering and making personal donations to homeless shelters.

I defy you to read her post 1000 Voices for Compassion without being moved by her generosity and compassion. It tells a beautiful story of compassion in action, a lesson for not only her children, but for all of us.

In her following post entitled Defining Compassion vs. Compassion in Action Sarah described asking her children what the word “compassion” meant. They weren’t sure how to answer her. But when she asked them to describe something compassionate they had no difficulty coming up with examples – from their own lives. Why? Because from the moment they were born Sarah’s children have been living in a compassionate world. They have been treated compassionately and they have not only had compassionate actions modelled for them, they have been involved in those compassionate actions. I congratulate you Sarah, for inspiring us to be compassionate, and for being a role model for us to emulate.

Sarah Brentyn = walk the walk

Looking beyond Sarah’s examples for further suggestions, I came across a number of other articles. Each seemed to reiterate what Sarah had already shared.

In an article for the Huffington Post Signe Whitson, author and child and adolescent therapist, says that “experts agree that fostering compassion in young people is among the best ways to prevent verbal, physical, and emotional aggression” and shares 8 Ways to Teach Compassion to Kids:

  1. Walk the walk

“Show young people that anytime is the right time to engage in acts of service and compassion for others.”

  1. Put the Child on the Receiving End of Compassion

“tending to a child when he is feeling down or under the weather is the best way to teach him how to show compassion to others.”

  1. Talk the Talk

“talk explicitly about acts of compassion . . . communicate its importance as a prized family value”

  1. Volunteer Your Time

“When children become actively involved I acts of showing compassion to others, they learn about his value in a very deep and enduring way”

  1. Care for a Pet

“Children who care for pets learn important values such as responsibility, unconditional love, empathy, and compassion for all living things”

baby bird

  1. Read All About It

“Children’s books are great for providing a window into the experiences of others.”

Whoever you are

  1. Compassion It TM

Wear a Compassion It band as a daily and “personal reminder to act compassionately towards someone else”

  1. Make a Wish

The “Make-a-Wish Foundation provides hope, strength, and joy to children with life-threatening medical conditions . . . can have a truly impactful experience of being able to provide tangible help and joy to a peer”

Other than the references to the specific organizations, Compassion it and Make a Wish Foundation, the suggestions are things that have been discussed before in various posts about compassion, including Sarah’s.

Like Sarah, Whitson believes that it is the accumulation of little everyday actions that make a difference. She states that, as a bullying prevention trainer, she considers “big” solutions — such as policies, procedures, and trainings are trumped each and every day by the seemingly little, yet extraordinarily powerful, acts of compassion and kindness that adults show to the young people in their lives.”

In her article about How to Instill Compassion in Children Marilyn Price-Mitchell agreed about the importance of teaching compassion, saying that  “children who participate in programs that teach kindness, respect, empathy, and compassion and who have families that reinforce those strengths at home develop the muscles they need to become civically-engaged adolescents and adults.”

Price-Mitchell suggested that parents could help teach their children compassion by providing opportunities to practice compassion, by helping children understand and cope with anger, and by teaching  children to self-regulate.

Jane Meredith Adams, in her article Raising a Compassionate Child says that “children have an inborn capacity for compassion … they naturally identify with stuffed animals, other kids, pets, and underdogs. The tricky part is that their empathy must compete with other developmental forces, including limited impulse control – which makes them pull the cat’s tail – and their belief that their needs absolutely must come first – which makes it hard for them to let their cousin push the col fire truck.”

Adams says that teaching compassion is “part of day-to-day life: how you answer your child’s questions, how you solve conflict at the park, how you nudge his or her growing capacity to understand and think about other people.” Adams suggests to Promote sweetness” every day by showing children how to be gentle to others, by speaking to them softly, by rejecting rudeness, and by saying sorry when you have made a mistake. I think Sarah would agree with all of those.

Similar ideas are proposed by  Kim McConnell, and Leticia of techsavvymama who sums it all up nicely with these suggestions:

  • Model the kinds of behaviour we expect
  • Exercise patience
  • Listen to our kids
  • Teach resiliency by providing strategies, and
  • Use quality educational content to reinforce the concept (e.g. books, DVDs and downloadable material)

I’m sure that many of these suggestions are familiar to you through your own personal experiences, either when growing up or as an adult. I think what my exploration of this topic shows me is that, while it may be useful to teach about compassion in schools, children really only learn to be compassionate if they are treated compassionately and have compassion modeled for them, if it is an integral part of their everyday lives.

What do you think?

Thank you

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts about any aspect of this post.