In every Mindful Kids class, there is always a moment, that one special moment that I reflect on for days after. In the last class that moment came during the making of some pay it forward cards. Pay it forward cards are one of the activities we do to get kids thinking about kindness to self, kindness to others, community, and their contribution to their community. We craft pay it forward cards by using stickers or writing messages on small pieces of colourful cardstock.
After explaining the activity to the group, I was working with a young lady (7 yrs old) who during the task had some very good questions. Our conversation went like this.
Miss N – So, who are we making these for?
Me – Anyone you wish. Some kids choose to make them for someone specific (friends, family ect) and some choose to make them to give to people they don’t know (leave one in your mailbox for your mail person, give one to your server next time you eat at a restaurant ect)
Miss N – How many do I need to make?
Me – You can make as many as you would like but let’s start with 5.
Miss N – Why do I need to give these out?
Me – You don’t need to or have to, but when you have them done you may choose to.
Miss N – Why?
Me – Let’s talk about that after you have made them.
Miss N – Why?
Me – I think it will be easier to explain after.
Miss N begins working asking me to read her some of the words/messages on the stickers. While she is working on her third one she has more questions.
Miss N – What if the person I give it to doesn’t want it and throws it in the garbage?
Me – That would be okay, it’s their choice just like it was yours to give it to them.
Miss N – Wouldn’t that be a waste of making them?
Me – Are you asking if it’s a waste of the paper and stickers or a waste of your time?
Miss N – quiet and thinking for a moment… both I guess.
Me – Well it would be unfortunate to use the paper and stickers only to throw them in the garbage yes, that is true, but tell me how do you feel making them?
Miss N – Happy, these are nice. Hopeful too!
Me – That sounds like a good thing.
I make my rounds around the class and when I get back to Miss N she is working on her 5th one. She asks me to read her more of the stickers and tells me that this one is going to be special.
She finally finds a sticker she approves of and works on crafting her last card.
Me – What makes this one special for you?
Miss N – I’m making this one for a girl in my class, she’s mean.
Me – Interesting, can you tell me more about that?
Miss N – “I have a girl in my class she is always mean to me. She bullies me and never lets me play with her.”
Me – “And what do you think about that?”
Miss N – “I don’t know. I would like to know why she is mean.”
Me – “So you made her a card?”
Miss N – “Yes.”
Me – “What do you think may happen when you give her the card?”
Miss N – “I’m not sure. Maybe she will like it, maybe she will throw it in the garbage.”
Me – “Miss N she may throw it in the garbage even if she loves it. Sometimes people feel like they need to be mean because of how they feel inside. Have you ever behaved in a way that got you into trouble because of feeling angry or frustrated?”
Miss N – “OH YES!!!”
Me – “And have you done it over and over again even if you knew it would get you in trouble?”
Miss N – “yep.” (with a goofy smile)
Me – “Yeah me too…”
Miss N – (laughing) really?
Me – (laughing) Yes! Everyone does at some time. We all make mistakes then we learn and grow and we can choose something different.
Me – “How would you feel if you saw her throw it in the garbage?”
Miss N – shrugs her shoulders “It would be okay.”
Me – “I’m curious… earlier you asked me why you would choose to give these out, right?”
Miss N – “Yes”
Me – “So let me ask you, why would you want to give this card to the little girl you are talking about?”
Miss N goes silent and continues to work on her card. To give her some space and time I take a walk. I help some other kiddos again and start tidying the other table that has their painted rocks on it. While I am tidying Miss N comes up to me to chat again.
Miss N – “I want to give this to her because maybe…” (silence again) “Well, I want her to know that although we can’t be friends right now because she is mean, if she ever wants to stop being mean and try being friends I would like that. I can’t make it different for her, you know?”
Me – “Yep I agree, I think that’s her job.”
Me – (Not entirely comfortable with the answer I got earlier and wanting to check in again) “So, back to, if she throws it in the garbage, what do you think about that?”
Miss N – “I think what you said before… about how we need to be nice to ourselves so we know how to be nice to other people is true. She needs to like herself before she can like anyone else.
There is another long pause, these amazing little humans you can see the gears turning as they take an idea, turn it inside out and back again trying it on to see how it works for them. Finally, she looks up at me.
Miss N – “I really like myself for making this card.”
Me – “Then no matter what happens to this card it will never be a waste, will it?”
Miss N – (now with a new spark to her, this has been an ah ha moment for her) “Nope!”
Miss N – (as she skips away to her desk) “I really like making these.”
What a gift it would be at 7 yrs old to begin to understand that other people’s crap isn’t about us. How freeing it would be to know the only behavior we are responsible for is our own and to go easy on the judgment because at some point in our lives we all take a turn at being the jerk. Promising to know that at any moment we can begin to make different choices about how we treat ourselves and others and that we can work towards making amends. How empowering to know that when we are accepting, loving, gentle, and kind to ourselves first, we can treat others that way without expectation and not feel devalued or abused if/when it’s not reciprocated. What a gift indeed!