Little Things Do Make a Difference

Little Things Do Make a Difference

From Chicken Soup for the Soul Celebrating People Who Make a Difference

Little Things Do Make a Difference

Start by doing what’s necessary, then what’s possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible.

Saint Francis

It tore at my daughter Laurie’s heartstrings to hear the sobs of my granddaughter. This was the third time in a week there had been bullying problems at the elementary school my granddaughter attended.

Creative juices flowing, Laurie realized she had the perfect answer. It would take a lot of planning and even more time on her part, but Laurie became a woman on a mission.

After gaining the approval of the school principal, Laurie developed a program that would help the students focus on positive actions and words. She was about to inspire and motivate hundreds of children, and she realized a lot was at stake. It has to work, she thought. It just has to!

Laurie explained to the school staff that the students were to be encouraged to file reports on one another for their kind gestures, no matter how small the deed. “The interesting thing about it all,” said Laurie, “is that it truly was the little things that they all began noticing.” She picked up two reports at random and read them. “When I was by myself, Jeffry sat on the swing with me.” “I slipped and cut myself on the ice, and Sara sat with me.” Similar reports handed in by the school children eventually soared from the hundreds to well over the thousand mark.

“The children revealed a lot about what their concerns are during these early school years. I observed a noticeable pattern emerge in the reports,” said Laurie. “The children spoke a lot about their appreciation for being included, their appreciation for having someone to play with, and their relief and appreciation when another student comforted them after a spill.”

The response to the new program was astounding and was more than Laurie had hoped for. Participation by the students increased weekly. Subsequently, the load of volunteer work for this one parent increased by leaps and bounds. Students had filed sixty reports of kindness in one week alone.

“It became a challenge to fit everything on the bulletin board, and to keep it sparkling and colorful. The kids loved the glitter of the displays,” Laurie said. She devoted hundreds of hours working both at home and at the school to prepare materials and build weekly displays to keep the children engaged.

The elementary school took on a conspicuous change. Kids were sharing lunches and opening doors for one another. Kindness thrived! Even the crossing guard at the crosswalk was reported for her acts of kindness. “The wonderful thing about this,” observed Laurie, “was that the report was put in by a youngster who was so shy he had never even spoken to the crossing guard, although the guard had spoken words of encouragement to this particular child many times.”

A child who held the reputation for being arrogant was suddenly helping another clean out her desk. One lonely child reported of a classmate: “When I needed a friend to play with, she was there.” The reports went up weekly, but not just as ordinary reports. Each weekend Laurie chose a theme. One week she placed the names of the youngsters on lightning bolts, and another week every report was done on teddy bears, and yet another time on little T-shirts, all hanging on a clothesline.

The bulletin board itself was always eye-catching, and crowds gathered so that soon parents, teachers, and other staff were also gathering around to view the theme and designs for the new week.

When the school year drew to a close, Laurie took each and every “good deed” report and attached them to one long continuous roll of paper. Once posted, this was to be the final reminder to all—that little things do make a difference. She chose a time when only teachers were at the school, and she and her young daughter literally wrapped the school walls with over a thousand kindness reports.

Motivated by her concern for her daughter and the other children, one parent found a way to counteract bullying and meanness—by reporting acts of kindness.

“I sincerely believed, and still do, that an act of kindness should receive ten times the attention given to a deed that came about because of wrong choices. I wanted my program to encourage both students and adults to focus on the positive, on what is appreciated, not on what is annoying or hurtful.”

On the final school day that year, Laurie asked the principal if the children could leave their classrooms and walk about to view this accumulated list of their good deeds and thoughtfulness. The students were told that any reports that featured their name could be taken home as souvenirs.

Choked with emotion, Laurie felt an overwhelming sense of satisfaction as she watched excited students gather around the reports, first reading them, then commenting and remembering. Students took great pride in how many reports bore their names and raced around the halls to retrieve the reports to take them home as mementos. In recognizing the smallest of gestures, these students made a huge difference in the lives of one another. Just wait until next year!

Ellie Braun-Haley

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