By Kathy Bloomfield
"The world stands on three things: Torah, Avodah (Worship) and Gemilut Chasadim (Acts of Loving Kindness) (Ethics of the Fathers 1:2)." What are these "Acts of Loving Kindness" that are so important they are supporting the world?
In short, Gemilut Chasadim are what make the world a better place to live. These are deeds we do for others that require us to give a little bit of ourselves, to put thought or effort into, to make a difference in some specific way. The following books can help impart this meaningful lesson to young children.
"The Lion and the Mouse" by Jerry Pinkney. Ages 3-6. In this Caldecott Award-winning wordless picture book adaptation of the classic Aesop's fable, a meek little mouse disturbs a resting lion. Unexpectedly, the lion lets the mouse go on her way. Later, when the lion is captured in a rope trap, the mouse repays the kindness by freeing the lion.
- The lion certainly looks angry about being disturbed, and the mouse looks prepared to be eaten. Why do you think the lion let the mouse go free?
- When the lion is captured in the poacher's trap, he roars loudly. What do you think he expected to happen when he roared?
- What do you think the lion expects the mouse to do when he sees him come running in response to his roar?
- The moral of this Aesop's fable is, "Little friends may prove great friends." Applying the value of Acts of Loving Kindness, create a different moral for this story.
"Rabbit's Gift" by George Shannon. Ages 3-6. Winter is coming. When Rabbit finds two turnips, he is happy thinking he will be set when the snow comes. However, when he thinks about his friend Donkey, who is all alone, Rabbit decides to give his second turnip to her. But Donkey has plenty of food, so she shares with Goat, who shares with Deer, who shares with another. As each animal thinks of another friend, they come to realize there is enough food for all of them to share what they have together.
- Why did Rabbit decide to share his extra turnip with Donkey?
- How do you think what rabbit and the other animals did might qualify as Acts of Loving Kindness?
- Can you think of a time when your family shared something with someone or with a group less fortunate than yours? How did you feel about the experience?
"God Said Amen" by Sandy Eisenberg Sasso. Ages 5-8. The Kingdom of Midnight has plenty of water but needs oil to light their lamps at night. The Kingdom of the Desert has lots of oil but needs water for their garden plants. Unfortunately, the Prince of Midnight and the Princess of the Desert are both too proud to ask for what they need and too stubborn to give what they have without being asked. In the end, a simple act of kindness by two young people brings the two kingdoms together.
- Why do you think the prince and princess of the two kingdoms were so stubborn, despite their prayers to God for help?
- Why do you think the young boy, Keeper of the Royal Crane, and the young girl, Keeper of the Royal Ostrich, bring the animals to the prince and princess without being asked?
- What gave the boy and girl the courage to speak with each other when they met in the valley?
- Can you think of a time when your family had to overcome fear and pride to offer assistance or seek assistance? How did you feel about that experience?
"Ordinary Mary's Extraordinary Deed" by Emily Pearson. Ages 5-8. Ordinary Mary changed the world by picking some ordinary blueberries from an ordinary bush, putting them in an ordinary bowl and setting them on Mrs. Bishop's porch. Mary's simple act sets off a chain reaction that sends a message of love to every person in the whole world.
- Mary is a regular person, yet she managed to change the world with one simple act. What would you do to start a similar chain reaction?
- Think of ways to keep track of where your good deed goes. How will you know if the whole world changes because of what you did?
- You can do more than one good deed a day, and you can do many good deeds every day. If everyone you know did good deeds every day, what do you think the world would be like?
- Think of some ideas to start getting people to do good deeds every day and pass them along to others. Share these ideas with your family, your teachers and anyone else you think of who can help make a difference in the world.
Kathy Bloomfield founded the website forwordsbooks: kids books that matter in 2009 to highlight and review kids' books that espouse Jewish values. As a member of the Sydney Taylor Book Award Committee, Kathy has previewed many children's books published in the past several years. For more information or for book guidance for your family, please email Kathy at firstname.lastname@example.org.