Empathy in Ireland: ‘Todd does the right thing’ A story for children of 10 to 13 years.

Empathy in Ireland

Todd does the Right Thing

Forget about 'sides', someone needs help!

Forget about ‘sides’, someone needs help!

This story is set in Ireland. It comes from a town that has known unrest and internal battles over many years. It could equally be set in many places around the world where neighbours struggle for power.

The warring factions could always find excuses reaching back into history as to why they should hate each other. Gradually over time and with the determined wisdom of some politicians from both sides they finally made peace.

Barricades were taken down. It became easy to travel from the street to that street without worrying whether a bottle or worse would be thrown at you.

The schoolchildren found that they could play football matches against people who might in the past have come from the opposite side.

Now it didn’t seem to matter any more. Now they enjoyed their freedom to come and go, to mix and talk with whom ever they wanted.

The wiser ones decided it would be better not to ask a person if they were green or orange, if they were from the North or the South if they were Catholic or Protestant. Better not to know, those were only labels. People discovered that without labels they could just be friends.

After a soccer match one Sunday, Todd and his elder brother Leon were wandering home feeling good. Their team had won. They weren’t paying much attention to the road. Suddenly two cars came screaming towards them. One took a sharp right turn and disappeared up a side street and the other rammed into a lamp post. The boys were shocked, but ran towards the stricken car.

irish boys save the day

A youth was slumped over the steering wheel and a young child of no more than four years old was screaming in the back seat. The boys noticed that the car had harsh threatening slogans on the back window. The words used were the kind their mother told them never to use.

‘People who say that are no better than scum.’ she had said.

The street was deserted. It was a shopping area but everything was locked and shuttered, it being a Sunday afternoon.

‘ We’ve got to do something quick,’ said the older lad, ‘that kid might be strangled by his safety belt and the other needs hospital! You stay here and I’ll run and get help. Stop any passing cars and tell them what’s happened.’

The engine in the wrecked car had cut out so the was no chance of an explosion. Leon raced off leaving Todd to watch and wait. Todd tested the back door of the car. The child stopped screaming, he just sat looking terrified and dazed.

‘Are you hurting?’ asked Todd. The kid shook his head. ‘Is that safety belt cutting you?’

The child seemed puzzled. He looked down and pulled at the belt. It seemed loose enough. Todd looked over at the driver. Nothing he could do to help him. He was unconscious and Todd knew not to move a person if their bones might be broken. The child began to cry again, this time it was a frightened whimpering.

Todd came back to the child. ‘Take my hand,’ he said, ‘I promise you I’ll stay until help comes.’ The child grasped his hand and nodded. Todd could feel his own heart beating loudly in his chest, but he stayed put although he really wanted to run away and hide himself.

After what seemed like a long time the sound of a police siren cut through the air. Leon was sitting in the back of the police car with a policewoman. Two male officers leapt out of the front and ran to the battered car. An ambulance siren wailed in the distance.

‘You’ve done a great job there, Todd, is it? Good lad. Little ‘un must have been in a state when you got to him.’

Todd managed a half smile and anxiously looked over at the slumped figure in the front of the car.

‘Don’t worry about his brother, he still breathing. We’ll have him in the ambulance in two ticks. How about keeping the little fellow company while we take you to the police station for a statement? He seems to like you.’

They lifted the child from the car. He looked terrified.

‘Dont you fret Sonny, Todd will stay with you until we get your mam or dad to take you home. Is that all right with you Todd?’

‘Yes, yes, of course,’ said Todd, wondering what his own mother would think of her son for helping someone who was so obviously not on the same side as his mother had been all her life.

‘I will have to let my mam and dad know where I am,’ he said.

‘All done,’ said the policeman. ‘Your brother phoned them and they will be at the station waiting for you. As for the little lad here, we haven’t got a contact number to him yet. We have to go through his brother’s papers to get that.’

‘Oh I’ll wait with him, no problem,’ said Todd, looking down at the child clinging to his legs, ‘whatever my mam says!’

Todd’s parents were at the police station when the police car pulled up in the yard. His mother rushed over to him and hugged him.

‘I hear you’ve been a real hero today, Todd,’ she said. ‘ we’re really proud of you! So this is the little ‘un you’ve been looking after! I didn’t know my two boys could be so brave and clever. Well done! We’ll all wait until his mammy comes for him, then you can tell us all about it on the way home.’

Todd told his parents about the horrible sign in the back of the car and that he knew they must be from the ‘other side’, ‘But,’ he said ‘if I’d been in that car I wouldn’t have cared who saved me, I would just need to be saved!’

‘Quite right, Todd,’ said his dad, ‘We’re all the same under the skin; we’re just people who need to be saved every so often.’

A tear fell from his mother’s eyes as she realised the importance of what her youngest son had said and she felt ashamed of herself.  She asked herself if she really would have walked away if she had been the one to find the car crashed into the lamp post.

Questions 

  • Does the story remind you of anything in your life?
  • What happened as the boys were walking back home from the football match?
  • What did they notice about the car which had crashed into the lamppost?
  • How did they feel when they saw the crash?
  • What did Leon do?
  • What did Todd do?
  • Why was Todd concerned about what his mother would think of the fact that he had helped the lads in the car.
  • How did Todd feel about the situation? What did he feel like doing?
  • Why do you think he stayed to keep an eye on the two in the car? 
  • How did his mother react when she saw him, was she happy or annoyed, or something else? 
  • What did his father think about people in general?
  • What would you do in such a situation? Why?

Meercat Story- ‘knowing right from wrong’- respect for animals – for age 6-10 years

Brett and the Meercats

When I was a child I lived in Africa . We didn’t have a back garden. We just had the bush.  I was fascinated by all the animals running around, just outside my house. Of course you couldn’t see them all at once. Sometimes we could hear the lions roaring; sometimes the elephants would pass by, these were such large animals I kept well away from them. We didn’t see them very often. I was more used to the smaller animals. We had a family of meerkats who lived not very far away from my house. I used to spend a lot of time watching them.  They became quite used to me.  I would take a little blanket all folded up neatly and walk very quietly to the meerkat tunnels, I would park myself just a few yards away from them slightly hidden behind a bush. I got a very good view of them. They knew I was there, but I never harmed them, so they didn’t bother about me.

I could always tell which meerkat was the boss. At first I didn’t know whether it was a male or a female meerkat. It was just a meerkat. I didn’t know if it was a mum or a dad. Then one day I noticed that the boss meerkat was looking rather heavy and round and then she disappeared. It wondered if she’d been killed. A number of days later she reappeared. She looked different. She wasn’t so fat but I could see that underneath her she had a milky udder, that’s what my mother called it, then I knew that she was a she, and that she had had babies and these babies were suckling her , hidden away under the ground. I don’t know why but I called her Tam Tam, I think I might have given her the name before I knew she was a girl. I wondered how long it was going to be before I saw her babies coming out into the daylight. I took my blanket out every day to make sure I wouldn’t miss them. I could go early in the morning and in the afternoon when it was cooler. Meerkats didn’t come out in the middle of the day,  it was too hot for them and too hot for me.

I don’t remember how many days I had to wait before the first signs of baby meerkats appeared. I think I might have watched them during their first excursion into the world. I remember seeing little noses peeping out sniffing the air and  popping back in again, very shyly.

meerkat babies

Finally Tam Tam came out of the burrow and called to them and they came one by one, sniffing  and blinking  their eyes, not used to strong light having lived in the tunnel for quite a long time. I was so excited and wanted to tell my friends, but something stopped me. I knew that some people could be very cruel to wild animals. Some people looked on them as pests. They would say all sorts of nasty things about them and then they would go and dig them out, destroying their burrows. They would say things like ‘ the cattle put their feet in the holes they might break their legs’. Well, I didn’t think cattle were that stupid.  I’ve watched our cattle carefully stepping round the burrows.  None of them ever hurt their legs. At the first sign of cattle the meerkats would disappear down their holes. The cows weren’t very interested in them, but they would nibble at the grass around the tunnels before moving on.

One day, a cousin came to stay. I hadn’t met him before, he was older than me and seemed to be a nice boy. He said that life in the bush was boring and I wanted to show him that it certainly wasn’t. I decided to take the risk of showing him the meerkats. I gave him a blanket and told him to walk very quietly. We waited patiently by the tunnels. The meerkats wouldn’t come out. I had told him about the babies and how they would all sit up on their hind legs in a row and look about them. Often their heads would all turn at the same time, it was almost like a dance and I found it very comical. I had told my cousin, Brett about other funny things that they used to do. He really wanted to see them, but I think he was making too much noise. He was laughing and joking and although I kept saying ‘Shush’,I was giggling a bit. The meerkats weren’t used to noise. We had frightened them. Suddenly Brett stood up and ran over to a tree with dead branches on it. He broke one off .

‘I’ll get them out of there!’  he said.

Before I could stop him he had poked the stick down the tunnel.  Luckily it was a long tunnel and probably had a bend in it, so he couldn’t reach my favourite baby animals. I was very upset. I picked up my blanket and whopped him with it.

‘You mustn’t do that, you’ll hurt them!’ I said, ‘Come away at once’.

‘I’m going to get a spade and dig ‘em out,’  he said.

He ran off towards the house. Luckily I knew all the spades were locked away. I ran to find my mother. She knew how much I loved the meerkats, I knew that she would tell Brett not to dig them out.  She did, she made him feel very ashamed of himself. But she wasn’t unkind. She knew he was a city boy who might not have been taught to respect animals.  I kept away from the meerkats then.

On Brett’s last day he asked me if we could go once more to look at the little family. He promised me he would not hurt them. Quietly we crept along the path to the meerkat tunnels. We hid behind the bush on our blankets, Brett was very quiet. After a short time, the meerkats came out one by one, they stood in a row sniffing the air and looking this way and that, their little paws hanging down over their chests. I saw a big smile spread over Brett’s face. He didn’t move a muscle. The meerkats played some fighting games. Finally, Brett couldn’t resist it. He just had to wave at them.  All at once they disappeared into the tunnel. We crept away.

‘Why did you do that, Brett?’ I asked.

‘I just wanted to show them I meant no harm.’ he said.

‘Ah, OK.’  What more could I say? It looked like he had learnt his lesson!

Questions

  1.        What name would you give to the story?
  2.        Did it remind you of anything in your life?
  3.        Who showed forgiveness?
  4.        In what ways do you respect animals?
  5.        Do you know what being cruel means?
  6.        How can we be kind to animals?

The Bamboo House, a story about respecting animals (children 6-10 years)

The Bamboo House:

cockeral-lit

Susie lived in Malasia. When she was six years old something happened in the family which she would never forget.

Susie’s house was made of bamboo. Long poles of wood were used to hold up the roof, the walls and the floor.The house was built above the ground so that people did not get wet and a higher house was not so easy for the  wild creatures to get into.

There were three children in the family: Susie, her brother Sam and her sister Tali.

Their mother and father used to grow fruit for the family and to sell in the market.

One day, Father loaded up the baskets on his bicycle and set off to market. Mother stayed at home to look after the family. She was not feeling very well and she was tired.Mum fell asleep on the mat in the bedroom.

Sam was the eldest and he said he wanted to go and play in the garden. Susie didn’t think he ought to do that while their mum was asleep, because he should stay in the house and look after Tali who was only three years old. Tali could be a bit naughty sometimes.Sam went out to play and Susie looked after Tali while Mum as asleep.They played with their dolls made of palm leaves. They were very quiet so as not to wake Mum up.

After a while they heard some shouting. It was Sam and someone else.

“Stop. Come here,” said the voice.

“Go away!,” said Sam.

Mum woke up.“Whatever if the matter?” she asked. “What is Sam up to now?”

Sam appeared up the ladder and climbed in to the house. He was looking guilty.

“Whatever have you been up to, Sam?”

“I didn’t mean to frighten Mr. D’s chickens,” cried Sam.

Then Mr. D appeared below us, shaking his fist at Sam.

“That boy of yours, Mrs! He’s been shooting peas at my hens. They have all flown off into the jungle.  Wild animals may catch them and eat them if they are too frightened to come home.”

“Oh dear, oh dear!” said Mum.“This is the last thing I need today. Come on, all of you. We have to go and bring back Mr. D’s chickens. Sam, I am very cross with you.”

The houses were in a clearing in the jungle. The chickens had run away to hide in the trees. 

Cockerel in bushes

A cockerel was hiding in a bush.

It took a long time to find them and shoo them back.

Mum and Susie were very tired and cross when at last the chickens were all in their pen.

Sam felt bad. He had frightened the chickens and because of him everyone felt cross and tired, especially mum.

“I’m sorry, Mum. I won’t do it again. I didn’t mean to hurt the chickens. I was just practising my shooting.”

His mother sighed a big sigh.  “All right, Sam, but why don’t you hang some big leaves on the washing line and get your sister to pull it up and down. Then you’ll have a target that won’t get hurt.”

Susie enjoyed helping Sam with his target practice and he used his pea shooter to frighten away snakes and any other animals which were careless enough to climb up to the house.

  • What name might you give to the story?
  • How did Susie try to help her Mum at the start of the story?
  • Sam did several things which were not helpful and not good.  Can you remember what he did?
  • What did Sam do with his peashooter?
  • What might have happened to the chickens in the jungle?
  • What do you think about hurting or frightening animals?
  • Do you think Sam’s mum was kind or unkind? Why?
  • How did Susie help Sam at the end of the story?

Law 6, You must not commit murder (Laws of Life, North American Indian Tradition) for 10 years old to adult

A story from Calling Horse

You must nor commit murder

When I was a young man and had performed my initiation into adulthood, I was one of number of young braves who learnt together and who went through the rites and ceremonies together. We were a happy band with one exception. There was a young man who always seemed to have a cloud hanging over him. He came from a family which had lost their father . Their mother had had to bring up the children herself and had not had any support from a man. She had four young sons who used to argue a great deal and jostle for position in the family. Three of them were similar in age, two of them were twins, and the cloudy brave was one year younger. He always felt aggrieved that the twins seemed to have all the power in his household, and he had none.


One day the twins had gone hunting and had come back with nothing. Dark Water had managed to catch a small deer by himself. They had stolen it from him and had taken it as their quarry to show their mother, She always sided with them, and insulted our cloudy brave. He was mortally offended.


Dark Water went away to brood on his hatred. He disappeared for several days. His brothers felt guilty about what had happened and after much questioning from their mother, they admitted what they had done. Their mother turned pale.
“How could you treat your brother thus? This is not the way of the Great Spirit, to steal his glory to cover up your own failure. Shame! Go and find him, and don’t come back until you do.”


The twins set off to look for Dark Water. Their hearts were heavy, they knew he was a deeply resentful character. They wondered about their own safety. Perhaps he would kill one or both of them when he saw them. They realised that over the years they had given him enough cause for resentment, and now finally they had begun to regret it.
“But surely our brother would never kill us!” said one.

 “Why not? He has nothing to lose if he has decided to leave the tribe anyway.”
“Do you really think he would?”
“I would not blame him if he did.We have dishonoured him. We have cheated him.”
“When we see him how are we going to know what is in his heart?”

“Whatever it is it will not be good.”

“Do you think we should kill him first, so that he cannot kills us?”

“Well, it would solve the problem.  He would not come back and brood and threaten us like he always does.”

“But what if he does not plan to kill us and we kill him?”

“Then we will have to pay the penalty to the Great Spirit.”

The two continued in this vein as they traversed the countryside. No sign was to be seen of their brother. Further and further they went, looking for foot prints, for campfires, for signs of blood from a killing. They found nothing.
They decided to return, their fear beginning to lessen. Perhaps they would not have to face this dreadful decision to kill or be killed. They returned to camp. The twins found their mother very distraught.

“I have had a terrible dream.” she said. “I dreamt that you two killed your brother and returned, saying nothing to me. Then you went off on a hunting expedition, and you were both shot by the hunters’ arrows. What does all this mean? We must ask the chief.” The little family went to the chief and explained shamefacedly what had happened. The twins did not divulge their conversation about killing their brother. They were by now very frightened young men.


The chief sat quietly for some minutes with his eyes closed. Finally, “Yes,” he said, “I can see your brother. He is hiding in a tree just outside the camp. His heart is full of sorrow. He does not want to return to a loveless home where he is not appreciated, but he does not want to leave the tribe. What are you going to do about it?”  He looked directly at the twins.  They hung their heads in shame, greatly relieved that they had not actually killed their brother, and that their mother’s vision had only been a dream. They were very glad of the chance to make amends.

He is hiding in a tree just outside the camp

The family walked round the camp, calling their brother encouraging him to appear. Finally he emerged looking tired and drawn.
His mother enfolded him in her arms and begged forgiveness for neglecting him and for indulging the twins. The twins handed him their best weapons, a beautiful bow and a tomahawk, in recompense for their bad treatment of him. The youngest boy, just a child, held his brother’s hand as they all returned to the camp. The Great Spirit had saved them from the abomination of committing murder; never again did they harbour such black thoughts in their hearts.


A COMMENT BY CALLING HORSE

There was no controversy amongst those who knew it was wrong to kill any one you knew, but when it came to territorial struggles, or power struggles with other tribes, and blood was shed, who was in the right? Was ‘might’ right, or did the ‘ meek inherit the earth’? Of course we did not have your Bible, or your way of doing things. Might, in general, was right, but most tribes were not pugnacious. They were peace loving and respected the lives of all people whether they were of their own tribe or not.

Story about an abandoned child (to help deal with guilt, worthlessness, loss of trust.)

Taking the Chance to have a New Life

The boy I am going to tell you about was born to a young woman who already had three children. She was poor and her family were often very hungry. They lived in the Deep South of America. The woman loved her children and wanted to try to feed, clothe and send them to school. When she found she was pregnant for the fourth time she wondered how she could possibly cope with another child.

“God will provide,” the preacher told her.

She thought that that would be the only way the child would survive, if God provided. She did not think that she could feed yet another child. Her milk had run dry with the third child, a little girl. That one, she had hoped would be her last. But Nature has a way of changing things around, and less than twelve months after the birth of Lisa, a boy was born. He was called Abe. As the mother suspected she could not find enough food to feed herself and provide milk for the baby.

Fortunately her sister who lived in the vicinity had milk to spare and she offered to feed the child. This was a great relief to Tam, the mother. At least the child would live for a few months without being a drain on the meagre resources of her family, while she got her strength back. Tam went back to her cleaning job, taking Lisa with her. Little or no money came from Tam’s husband who liked to sit around in the local bars all day. Tam would spend the money she earned on food rather than take it home to be stolen by her man and used for beer.

Life was very hard for Tam and her family. The baby Abe often stayed with Tam’s sister for days at a time. Tam was too tired to pick him up. Tam’s sister was a kind woman who had a little more money than she did, as her husband brought home a wage for his family. After Abe was about six months old and her own child reached 9 months, her milk dried up. Her husband said it was time the baby Abe went back to his mother. He said it was hard enough to keep his own family clothed and fed, without having to feed little Abe, who after all was her sister’s child, not hers, and certainly not his.

Her sister felt very uncomfortable about approaching Tam with the problem. In truth she knew that Tam was hoping that she would be able to keep the child for a year or two ‘just until she got herself straight’. Tam’s sister didn’t think that would ever happen.

“Just get rid of that useless man, then you’ll have a chance to get straight.”

But Tam didn’t think she could do that, after all he was the daddy of her children and she had married him. In her marriage vows she had agreed to take him for richer and for poorer. Poorer they were, but the promise still held.

Tam begged her sister to keep the child. Her other children sometimes went to bed hungry and crying. She prayed to God asking what she should do.

In her dream she saw herself taking the child to the mission house. They would take him and she would vow never to have any more children.

The people at the mission tried to persuade Tam to keep her child, but she said it might die if she did. At least the child would have a chance with them. Nothing they could say would persuade her otherwise. They could see how thin she was and they knew about her other children so they agreed to take Abe on one condition. She must never try to ask for the baby again. They would change the child’s name and hopefully another family would adopt him. Tam agreed and feeling very heavy hearted left the baby in their care.

There was an orphanage at the mission; there were ten children of various ages. People would come and adopt the younger ones sometimes, but somehow Abe, now called Michael, never found parents as a baby. He stayed at the orphanage and grew up with the gossip of the other children and the carers moving round his mind. He learnt that his mother did not want him and that because of him his brothers and sisters were starving. The carers were not very good at keeping the news from the villages to themselves. They heard that Abe’s sister had died, and of course this news travelled to Abe who was now seven years old. In his young mind he thought it must be his fault that his family were hungry and his sister had died. He wished he had never been born.

Fortunately there was plenty of food in the orphanage and Abe grew up to be a strong young lad. He was taught how to read and write, and he helped in the garden to grow fruit and vegetables for the orphanage.

A man and his wife appeared one day saying they were looking to foster a young lad. They had lost their own son and wanted to give another child a chance in life. They did not want a baby but a boy of ten or eleven who would enjoy working with the animals on their farm. Abe, now Michael was the only boy of that age in the orphanage. He had grown used to his life there, used to feeling guilty, knowing that everything was his fault and that he was worthless, or why would he have been left by his own mother? When he heard that the couple were looking for a child of his age to foster he did not want to go with them. He did not feel he could trust them. They too might decide he was not good enough, then where would he be?

The matron of the orphanage knew Abe well enough to understand what was going through his head.

She said to him, “Sometimes we have great difficulties in this life, and the only way to get over them is to face up to them. We have to grab our chances and make the most of them because they may not come again. You have a chance here of having a loving family. For some reason it has not been offered to you before, I don’t know why but it certainly is not your fault. It was not your fault that your mother could not keep you. It is not your fault that your sister died. Bad things happen in life, but so do good things and I believe that this is one of them.  You are not stupid. You have the chance of a good education now. I’m telling you to take it. Yes, you’ll be scared. It is hard to trust sometimes when you have been hurt in the past, but unless we try to trust others, nothing good can happen with new people in our lives. You don’t want to be stuck here with us for the rest of your young life now, do you?”

Abe thought about what had been offered to him. He realised maybe for the first time that matron knew how he felt and what he was thinking; it was the first time that he thought that maybe he had been thinking wrongly. He understood enough about life now to know that it is not a child’s fault that it comes into the world. The child is not to blame if his parents cannot look after him for whatever reason.

He began to realise that from his experience in the orphanage usually children do not know the reasons their parents give them away, sometimes they guess and guess wrongly. It doesn’t do any good blaming anyone, the parents or the child. What happened, happened. The question is how to deal with it.

In Abe’s case he took the chance and after a wobbly start he became a member of a proper family. He let go of his feelings of guilt and his foster parents explained that his mother had been told that she must never try to contact him again. But she had not abandoned him in her heart even if she was never to see him again. She had moved away to another town and Abe thought that maybe when he was older he would try to find her to tell her he had forgiven her. That thought made him feel better. The solid tightness in his chest loosened and he was able to look people fully in the face and know he was a worthwhile person, even if bad things had happened to him in the past.

Abe grew up and became a teacher. He always paid extra attention to any children in his class whom he knew had been fostered. There were always one or two. He helped them to value themselves and their talents and to be the best that they could be. He did a good job.

Questions

1. Does this story remind you of anything in your life?

2. Why do you think little Abe felt guilty, as if he had done something wrong?

3. Do you think a baby or young child can ever be blamed for becoming an orphan or needing foster care?

4. Why do you think that Abe was unsure about going with the family who offered to adopt him?

5. Do you think Abe worthless, or did he manage to overcome his early difficulties and become able to help others?

6. How did the story make you feel? Why?

A woman wearing a blue nun’s headgear told me this story as I meditated for Corrine.

Celine, Letting Go of The Past (story about forgiveness of a deep wrong) therapeutic story for adults

Celine, Letting Go of The Past

A Chinese woman in traditional dress came to tell me this story.

My story starts on a train. I am boarding it, a young girl travelling away from my family to start working in the city.I feel rather afraid and very alone. My uncle and aunt have made arrangements for me to stay with friends of theirs. These people have found work for me. I am to work in a factory and to pay them rent and to send the rest of my earnings back to my family. I am only fourteen years of age. I know nothing about these people. I only know that they will meet me at the railway station and that she will be carrying a pink parasol and he will be holding a bunch of chrysanthemums, which he will give to me. I will accept them and tell them my name, which is Celine. I will follow them to their apartment and be given a room. There I will stay for an undecided period of time – at least a year and depending upon what my parents and my landlord think, possibly a lot longer.

They are there to greet me. They recognise me first, because I have the red suitcase my aunt had told them about. They look pleasant enough. The woman bows and the man gives me the flowers. I notice a certain look in his eye which makes me uncomfortable. I spend a month there in that apartment during which time the man never speaks to me. The woman is kind but very shy and retiring. Her husband is very much the controller in the household. She is told by him what I can and cannot do, and this she conveys to me shyly, apologetically. He starts to impose various rules upon me. I must change from my work clothes into a housecoat as soon as I return from the factory. I must wear ‘these shoes’. I must twine my hair in this manner. There is a photograph on a shelf in the main living room. Gradually I realise that he is turning me into the woman in the picture. He does not seem to look at me but I notice that he watches me furtively when his wife is not in the room and when he thinks I am not noticing him.

I ask the wife about the woman in the picture. For the first time her normally docile eyes grow dark. Her face tightens.

‘That was master’s first wife. She died in childbirth. The baby was stillborn. Then more bitterly she says ‘I cannot have children.’

I felt my heart lurch and my stomach tighten. It seemed as if he was trying to turn me into his first wife. The last thing I wanted to do was to become anyone’s wife, let alone his.  He already had a wife, surely that would stop him from wanting me.  But it did not.  I was unable to write to my parents about my problem because they could not read and I could hardly write. Suddenly the problem became much more pressing. The man brought me another bunch of chrysanthemums and in front of his wife he gave them to me.

‘Take these,’ he said.  It was the first time he had directly addressed me, ‘We would like you to become part of the family.’

He stroked my head and his wife looked away.  I began to feel very nervous.  The way he looked at me was the look of a hungry dog.  He did not hide his emotions any more.  His wife kept out of the way when he and I were in the room. I wished I had a lock on my bedroom door, but I did not.  He used to stroke my hair and smell his hands.  I tried not to let him but I could not prevent it.  One day after coming up behind me and burying his head in my hair he pushed me into my bedroom.  I was so shocked.  I shouted but his wife had gone out.  There was no-one to hear my pleas.  He had his way with me.  What could I do?

Afterwards he was contrite.  He did not speak to me again.  His wife became very attentive towards me.  She apologised for her husband’s behaviour.  She said she would look after me.  She did not need to,  he stayed away;  but I was pregnant.  I did not realise what had happened to me for several months, but I began to feel very heavy and tired.  The woman said that I must leave work and again that she would look after me.  That she did, always sending money to my parents every month.  They had no idea what was happening to me, no-one knew, except for one of the under managers at work, she had her suspicions, but as she knew my landlord, I could not tell her what had happened.

I had the baby and the landlord and landlady helped me at the time of its birth.  I wanted to hold it to me but they refused to let me see it.  They turned me out of their house, keeping my baby for themselves.

I was distraught.  What could I do? I thought of the under manager and found my way to the factory.  People were arriving for the morning shift.  They gave me strange looks but nobody made any remarks.  The under manager was very understanding.  She said she was not surprised.  Old Lee had always wanted a son and now he had one.  She told me about a home for ‘fallen women’ that I could go to, to recover my strength.  I did that and managed to find other lodgings with one of the girls at the factory.  When I told the girls what had happened they all said that it was a terrible shame that this had been my fate.  They also said that the best thing I could do was to let go of the memory.  Pretend it had never happened.  Tell myself I did not have a son – or the memory would eat away at me for the rest of my life.   They told me that I was beautiful and had my own life to lead, and that I should take comfort from the fact that my child would be brought up in a home that would be well provided with all his needs.  He would never know his true mother but at least he was wanted, whereas there is no way I could have provided for a child in my situation.

It took me several years to truly forgive my landlord and his wife for their cruel deception, but one day I heard from the under-manager that they had become benefactors to the children of parents who sustained injuries at the factory.  They were very generous with their money and so in some small way had made recompense for their terrible crime.  I forgave them and it was as if a great weight had been lifted from me.  I could smile freely again and I found a loving husband, and had a child of my own, a little girl whom I loved dearly.  I never told her about her brother.  It was not a burden to be shared.  The forgiveness had lightened it considerably and I did not wish anyone else to feel the weight of it again.

I had moved on.

Deng Zhang Looks for His Father (A story about forgiveness and acceptance for kids and teens)

                               DENG ZHANG

As a child I lived with my parents in a village not very many miles from the outskirts of Beijing. They were only allowed to have one child because it was feared that the population would expand too rapidly if families had more than one offspring. After I was born my father went to Beijing to work in the city. He had a rickshaw and he would work very hard to earn money to send home to us. We did not see him very often.
When he came back for one of his short visits, he was always overcome with joy to see us. The tears would roll down his face as he embraced us. My mother would make a very special meal. She never stopped smiling when my father was around.
As I grew older, I asked my father why he did not stay at home with us. He could work on the land, as mother did, growing vegetables. We could sell them and make enough money so that he did not have to go away.
“No, no, my son,” he would say. “If I were to stay at home, your mother and I would argue. We would not be happy. She would have more children and we would be in trouble. This is the best way for us all.”
I did not understand my father. Mother was always happy when he was at home. Why did he think they would argue? She was always smiling when he was around and when he went away she grew quiet and sad.
One day I decided to ask mother why father did not stay at home. I asked her if she thought they would argue if he was there every day.
“Deng Zhang, my son, sometimes it is difficult to explain your feelings to your child. I love your father very much, but before you arrived when there were just the two of us, he would spend some of the time working in Beijing, just the same as now.

When I asked him why he said. ‘I cannot live with one person all my life. I need time alone, time to think. Although I love you, and I do not have eyes for any other woman, to be with you all day, every day, would be too much for me. I told you this when we married and you agreed that you would be happy to let me go away at times. When our child is born I will go away and work in the city. I will send you money to bring up our son or daughter, and I will visit you sometimes, but do not ask me to stay. This I cannot do’.”
My mother said she was sad about not having father around, but she accepted his decision. She had agreed to living separate lives, even before they were married, although she would have preferred not to. She was not alone – many of the women in our village had husbands who worked away from home. It was very common. None of mother’s friends had husbands at home. Some of them never came back at all after they left for Beijing. Some sent money regularly and some did not. Some would return, penniless perhaps once a year and their wives would feed them and mend their clothes. They in turn would help with the heavy work of mending the roof or adding another room to the house. Then they would be off again.
My mother forgave my father for his long absences and was grateful that he returned to see us when he did. She learnt to live with the situation and to forget her sadness when he was away.
Unlike many of the women, she was not bitter about him not being there for us. She did not scream and shout at him in anger on his return, nor did she plead with him to stay when he decided to leave.
She could laugh and joke with the other women in the village and they supported each other in times of trouble. I grew up knowing that my father loved me and the times my family spent together were very happy. I would have liked to have seen my father more, but it was not to be. If mother had been harder on my father, he may never have come home at all, like so many of my friends’ fathers. Her forgiveness made it possible for him to keep returning and she was grateful for the happy times they had together.
Unfortunately my mother died when I was twelve years old. My father was away from home at the time. I decided I would try to find him and his rickshaw in Beijing. I haven’t found him yet, but I am still looking.


QUESTIONS: Support answers to questions 2 to 6 with evidence from the text.
1. What name would you give this story?

2. Why had Deng Zhang’s father left for Beijing?
3. What good qualities did Deng Zhang’s mother have?
4. Why was she able to remain happy?
5. How did she feel when her husband first left?
6. What explanation did her husband give for staying in Beijing?
7. How did you feel when you heard the story?
8. Did the story remind you of anything in your own life?

The Doll and the Snake (A short story about forgiveness for age 6-9 years)

A Short Story about Forgiveness (for children 6-9 years) 

I was cold. I sat with my arms hugging my body on the step outside my house. I was cross. My sister had been annoying me again and I shouted at her. I threw her doll out of the window. My dad told me to go and get it and not to be so silly. I stamped outside and slammed the door. Why should I get her stupid doll? What did I care if it got wet in the rain? It didn’t matter to me. The porch over the front door was small, but it was keeping me dry. I didn’t want to go back indoors again. I started shivering. I only had my tee shirt on.

The front door opened a crack. My sister peeped through it at me. I pretended not to see her.

The Dol and the Snake story pic

‘I’m sorry, Tom,’ she said.‘I didn’t mean to annoy you.’

Suddenly I felt better. I looked up.

‘Come back in Tom,’ she said. ‘I’ll lend you my snake toy if you like.’

I jumped down off the step and ran into the garden. There under the tree was her doll. I picked it up. It cried. It was one of those dolls. I ran back in through the front door. My sister took the doll and gave it a hug. She pulled me through to the living room and put her snake toy in my hand.

‘I’m sorry too, ‘ I said. ‘Is your doll OK?’

‘She doesn’t mind getting wet,’ said my sister, ‘I gave her a bath yesterday!’

Suddenly I felt much better. I felt happy again, and warm. We played a good game with the doll and the snake. The snake was magic and it could bring the doll anything it wanted. And you know what the doll wanted? She wanted a big brother to play with. So I pretended to be the doll’s big brother. My sister does think up some strange games!

Questions

 Does the story remind you of anything in your life?

  1. In the story, who said sorry?
  2. How did Tom feel after he had forgiven his sister?
  3. Why did Tom say he was sorry?
  4. How did his sister show that she had forgiven him?
  5. What might have happened if neither Tom nor his sister had forgiven each other?
  6. Do you think this happens in families very often? What do you think about it?
  7. Older children:What does bearing a grudge mean?

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The Skiing Accident. A story about forgiveness

This story is suitable for children from 10 to teenage.

The Skiing Accident

The day I fell and broke my leg was one I will never forget. It is etched in my mind in the same way that the skis scored into the surface of that soft ice on the mountain pass. I was crossing the pass at a difficult time of year and contrary to my parent’s advice I had gone alone. ‘Never ski by yourself,’ they had drummed into me since I was a boy. ‘If you have an accident, you may be lost forever. No one will know about you and you may freeze to death.’

I had always followed their good advice on this matter. Always there were friends or my brother or father who would go with me. But this occasion was different. I had wanted to keep my journey secret. I was going to visit a girl in the next village, just over the mountain. My parents disapproved of her but I was madly in love. I felt I really needed to see her. I told my mother I was going to stay with my friend Tod over night. He lived only a quarter of a mile away. My mother would think it would not be a problem if I encountered trouble. Tod would come looking for me, whereas in fact I would be three miles away over the ridge, on a rendezvous with this girlfriend, a meeting I had arranged two weeks previously, before the snow had fallen.

I put on my skis and warm clothes, a hat, gloves and heavy boots. I would be all right. I set off early shortly after sunrise to make sure that I had plenty of daylight, just in case I encountered trouble. That was my only precaution, and thank heavens, it was the one that saved me, but only just.

I made tracks towards Tod’s home for a few hundred yards, and then I branched off into the forest, took my skis off and started to climb to the ridge. It was heavy going; the snow was quite deep. I began to think with irritation and puzzlement about why my mother didn’t approve of Sally. She was such a lovely girl, The problem didn’t seem to be about her, but was something to do with her family. I could never get my mother to explain it to me, she would just get cross and change the subject. A knot of annoyance grew in my stomach as I struggled around boulders three quarters buried in snow.

Finally I reached the summit of the ridge. I looked down at the settlement in the distance. Smoke was rising from several of the log cabins. The one my girlfriend lived in was the furthest away, beyond the settlement. I could only just see it in the distance. My heart began to beat faster as I caught sight of her fathers place, distinguished by it’s two chimneys, one at each end of the wooden house. I imagined her face at my arrival, how she would blush and tremble with the pleasure of seeing me. As I caught my breath again after the difficult climb I started to survey my probable route. It was quite straight forward, through the trees, around two rocky outcrops and on down to the village. The snow was about a foot deep and had a crisp layer of ice on the surface, as this side of the ridge faced the sun and the top layer of snow had melted. If I put my skis on I would just glide my way down there and be with her in ten, maybe fifteen minutes. I carefully strapped on my skis. I noticed the leather on one of the buckles was looking a little worn, but it seemed strong enough to me.

I pushed off down the hill guiding myself with my poles. Down I went, my heart starting to race again as I imagined Sally, her pretty face all aglow. I rounded the first outcrop of rocks moving faster than was advisable for the terrain, my excitement mounting. I saw a large boulder coming up rapidly towards me. Quickly I wrenched my foot around to change the angle of the skis. The leather strap holding my boot on snapped and my ski smashed onto the boulder. I twisted round and was flung in the air. There was a horrible crack just before I took flight and landed on my back in the snow. I felt no pain but was winded and shaken, angry at myself for having sped so fast with a strap which was obviously wearing thin. Regaining my breath I tried to stand up. As soon as I took my weight on my ski-less leg, it buckled beneath me at a strange angle. A sickening pain shot through my lower leg. I realised that I had broken it. The words that issued from my mouth are not fit to be written on paper. I was so angry with myself. I was livid. What to do now? It would be very unlikely indeed that anyone would come by, this being a forested slope some distance away from any track.

As I realised of the implications of my dishonesty and stupidity I began to feel a more continuous throbbing pain in my broken, useless leg. I could not crawl, the snow was too deep, and one of my poles had flown high up into a tree and hung hopelessly in the branches clearly in sight, but well out of reach. Then I remembered something. I should have a whistle with me to alert someone. Painfully I searched my pockets. No whistle. What an idiot I was! All I could find was a penknife and a skewer. I always kept it down the side of my ski boot to scrape out mud from the deep treads, as I used them for hiking in the spring and autumn.

In despair I half sat and half lay in the snow. I was beginning to get cold. What to do? I had to do something, but what? Shouting would be a waste of energy. As I lay there becoming more and more anxious and despondent about my situation, there came a soft plop, the sound that a lump of snow makes when it falls from a tree. I looked up and noticed that the bare branches of some sort of tree were shedding their accumulated snow. The branches were rough and coarse looking, with pale raised areas. The words, which had been going through my mind, seemed to get more insistent.

‘I wish I had a whistle! I wish I had a whistle!’

I stared at the straight, fragile looking branches and twigs, then I remembered the toy whistles I learnt to make with my grandfather. They were made from elder branches, and this was an elder tree! If only I could reach up and break off a length of one of the branches. I had my knife, I could make a whistle. It was a long hard struggle to reach a branch, but finally with the help of my remaining ski pole, I managed to bend one down. I carefully selected a section that would be wide enough to create a suitably loud whistle.

The sun was moving across the sky, soon I would be in shadow. I had to move fast and accurately to make my whistle and then attract attention before I froze to death. I tried to remember exactly how it was done. It had been many years ago since I had made an elder whistle. Cutting fast I whittled a mouthpiece and a wedge shaped hole about an inch above it. The twig was full of soft pith, characteristic of elder. How could I clean it out to allow the air to flow through it? My knife was too broad. I looked up at the sun anxiously noting its progress behind the peaks. I had only about half an hour of warmth left. The shafts of light spiking behind the branches of the trees reminded me of the long pointed skewer I had in my boot. I dug out the pith frantically and blew. And blew and blew. At first I didn’t think about sending a message, just a noise. Then I remembered about the S.O.S. that my father had told me about. I turned the Morse code into blasts on my whistle, three short, three long and three short. Again and again I repeated it. I had started to shiver violently. It was all I could do to hold the whistle in my mouth. The sun had disappeared, I started to feel very tired.

‘Mustn’t go to sleep,’ I said to myself, ‘Must keep whistling.’ In my half dreaming state I thought I heard a dog barking. I blew my whistle just in case. Yes, there was a dog. I blew again, S.O.S, S.O.S. Then I remember nothing more.

I woke up in a hospital bed, my mother holding my hand, looking anxiously over me. My girlfriend and her mother were there too. Hazily I recalled what had happened.

‘I’m sorry Mum, ‘ I said sheepishly.

‘No, Peter, it’s I who am sorry, ‘ replied my tearful mother. ‘Sally’s mother and I quarrelled years ago over such a stupid thing and I have refused to speak to her ever since. I feel so ashamed of myself. I nearly lost you because of it. I am truly sorry. I know you are not a deceitful boy. If I had agreed to let you see Sally, this would never have happened. Thank goodness their neighbour heard you whistling. Your grandfather always said it is better to forgive and forget, but I’m afraid I didn’t listen to his good advice.’

‘Well, it was grandfathers whistle that saved my life, so let’s be thankful that I listened to him at least.’

Sally stepped forward to squeeze my hand.

‘I’m so glad you’re OK, and that we don’t have to be secretive any more.’

So was I!