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.


  • 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?

Story About Non Violence from a Roman Soldier (for children 10-14 years)

Proverbs 3  Verse 31,

31 : Do not envy or copy a violent man or choose any of his ways

32: for the Lord detests a perverse man, but takes the upright into his confidence (New International Version of Old Testament)

Story from a Roman soldier

My name is Lucius.  I am a Roman soldier.  I came to Britain many years ago, two hundred years after the death of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

It was my job to provision the battalion.  I had to make sure that there would be enough to eat for every man, woman and child in our care, for indeed many of our men had wives and children with them.  We would deal with the local people.  We would barter for goods or pay for them with our own money if they would accept it.

We kept animals to feed ourselves.  We grew winter crops which we saved to feed our stock.  We introduced many new crops to Britannia.  Our goats and sheep would graze the pastures.  We wanted to live peaceably with the local populations if possible.  It was too exhausting to be at war.  We wanted to gain territory rather by doing business with the people than by subduing them with weapons.  We wanted them to feel they could welcome us into their towns and cities.  We could show them many ways of building roads and houses that were new to them.  This would make it more likely that they would want to become like us as they could see the advantages of our ways.

I remember on one occasion a young man from a village near our fort came to see me.  He said he wanted to join the battalion.  He was tired of life on the land and wanted to weald a sword instead of a ploughshare.  I asked him what he thought he would be doing with his sword.

“I will be killing people, of course,” said he.

“And why would you want to do that?” I enquired, surprised at his reply.

“That is what all Roman soldiers do,” said he.  “That is why Rome has come and taken our land, our towns and our villages.  That is why you can eat whenever you want to eat.  It is why you can wear fine clothes and live in grand fortresses.”

“Young man,” said I, “It is not by violence that we conquer this land; it is by power.  We are more powerful than you people.  There are many of us and we are well organised and well disciplined.  It is true that our swords are sharp and our lances long and lethal, but the truth is we rarely use them.  We do not wish to waste human blood.  Every man is of value.  Every person, Roman or Briton is precious to us.  Do not think that if you join our army you will be killing people every day.  Indeed it is to be hoped that you would never need to kill anyone.  It is the threat of violence that controls people, rather than violence itself.  An army needs strong discipline so that unnecessary killing is strictly avoided.

An undisciplined man who kills another without a thought for the value of life will find that others may take revenge upon him.  He himself will have a short life, and the life that he has will be constantly under threat.  Fear will rule his life.  In choosing a way of violence he is choosing a path of fear.


  1. Why do you think the young man envied the Roman soldiers?

  1. How did he think they were able to control the local population?

  1. How did Lucius explain the truth?

  1. What is the danger of being a violent person?

  1. Does the story remind you of anything in your life, or in the lives of people you know about?

  1. What do you think verse 32 means?  In another translation of the Bible (New English) it says ‘For one who is not straight is detestable to the Lord, but upright men are in God’s confidence.’  There are lots of issues to consider here too!

Red Robbie ( a story for 9-11 year olds on non violence)

Red Robbie

Many years ago, in the time when your great grandmother was young, there lived in Scotland a young man called Fergus MacTavish and his brother, Robert.  They lived in Glasgow in an area called the Gorbals. It was infamous for its poverty and violence. Fergus had a large family – three brothers and two sisters. His father worked in the shipyards and his mother worked as a cleaner for some ladies in Bearsden.

Life was hard for the family. There was little money in spite of their parents’ hard work. They never had new clothes. Sometimes the ladies who Mrs. MacTavish worked for would give her clothes they no longer wanted. They were always far too big for her children and they had to be cut down to size.  Some of the women were very good at making new clothes out of old ones, but Fergus’s mother had never really mastered the art of sewing. She was quite handy with the scissors though. She would snip away at a pair of trousers until they were the right length for her ‘biggest lad’ as she called Fergus. When he grew out of them, they would fit the second boy, and so on, down the line of four boys.  The youngest boy, Robbie, was always a sight – a real scruffy lad.  It wasn’t his fault that he was so untidy.

Robbie had a crop of red curly hair and a real temper to go with it. People called him Red Robbie and woe betide anyone who teased him about his appearance or anything else.  Hid dad used to say to him, “You have to stand up for yourself, laddie, because nobody else will.”

Being so small and scruffy, Red Robbie did find himself the target of other lads jokes and remarks, especially at the beginning of the school year when many of the boys had new schools uniforms or at least, clothes that fitted them properly, but not Robbie. He held his oversized trousers up with a belt pulled in to his narrow little waist making lots of pleats where they should have fitted and been smooth. The trousers always looked as if they had half a dozen extra pockets in them.

Many an unsuspecting bigger boy would taunt him “What d’ye have in yer pocket, laddie?” and reaching into one of the pockets in the material to pinch Robbie, he would have a shock. It would be the last time the boy ever tried that trick on Robbie. Robbie would not take any nonsense. He had hard little fists and he was not afraid to use them.

As he grew older he had hard big fists and he began to enjoy using them. He had an expression, “Fists first, ask questions later.” People were afraid of Robbie. They kept their distance from him.

He noticed how his brothers always had friends, and girlfriends too. They got Saturday jobs and earned pocket money and went out to the pictures with their pals. They always seemed to be joking and laughing – whereas Robbie was always cross, always looking for trouble and ready for a fight.

Robbie’s elder brother, Fergus, had a girlfriend called Kathy. She was a lovely girl. She too had lots of red curls. Sometimes when she was waiting for Fergus to come home from his Saturday job, she would chat to Robbie. She was the only girl Robbie ever spoke to. Somehow his rough manner put the girls off and boys too, for that matter. Kathy could see that Robbie was unhappy.  One day she asked him why he was always scowling and angry.

Robbie blushed. He jumped to his feet and held out his fists as if he was going to hit Kathy. “Fists first, ask questions later,” he said.

Kathy knew he would never hit her. They were friends. Suddenly she understood. She knew how poor the family had been when the kids were small. She looked at Robbie and noticed how scruffy he was, and yet his family had enough money these days. Robbie had got into the habit of defending himself so fiercely that he had learnt to attack even before he had good reason to – just in case. In the same way he had got into the habit of always wearing old clothes and looking scruffy.

Robbie’s chats with Kathy helped him to understand that violence was no way to make friends. He needed to learn to give people a chance and not to think they were all out to get at him. He also learned to start to take pride in his appearance. Being neat and clean helped him to look more approachable to other people. He learnt to make friends and he became a much happier person.


1.       How did you feel when you heard this story?

2.       Did it remind you of anything in your own life?

3.       How many people had worn the trousers before Robbie got them?

4.       Why did Robbie get teased?

5.       What did Robbie’s father advise him to do?

6.       How did Robbie stand up for himself?

7.       Could Robbie have done it in a better way?

8.       What did Kathy teach him?

This story was written for the Education in Human Values scheme (bisse.org.uk)

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.


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.

A story for a very angry young girl (for 8-11yrs, dealing with anger)

A story for E’s client

A woman wearing tartan skirt and shawl came to tell me about her life as a young child.

A story for a very angry young girl

Hello, my name is Mrs McIver, Mary McIver. You can call me Mary. I’ve come to tell you about myself. When I was a young lassie I had red hair and freckles. My family looked different from me. My mum and dad had straight brown hair. My brothers had blond hair, but I had reddish curls and lots of freckles. Sometimes they teased me and I used to get cross. I used to shout at them when they said I needed a good wash in the burn (stream) to get rid of them. I knew I was clean. They knew I was clean. Why did they tease me? Families can be like that sometimes. They like to give you a label. My sister was known as ‘the quiet one’. One of my brothers was ‘the rowdy one’, the other was ‘the clever one’. I was ‘the angry one’. They used to say it was because I had red hair, and that would mean I would be a cross kind of person. I had a friend in school that had red hair too, and freckles. At least she wouldn’t tease me. I didn’t used to get cross with her. She was lovely. We used to play such great games. We had trees in our playground. We pretended we had horses and we would gallop in and out of the trees and tie our horses up to the tree we called our stable. She was called Dianne.

One Day I heard that Dianne had left my school. She just disappeared. I was so upset. Who could I play with now? The other kids all seemed to have their own friends. They didn’t want me. My brother ‘the rowdy one’ didn’t help. He and his pals came over to me sitting alone on the step in the playground. He didn’t know about my friend leaving.

“What’s the matter with you, misery guts?” he asked.

I couldn’t tell him I was so upset, but instead of being upset I put on my fiercest face and I said ‘Get lost, I hate you!’

My brother turned round to his friend and said, “It’s no wonder she hasn’t got any friends. I told you she was always angry.”

It was just not true. But I had discovered that being angry instead of being upset made me feel a bit less upset. So I used to get angry every time I was upset. Instead of crying and explaining why I was upset I would just get very, very angry. People would turn away instead of helping me to sort out what was upsetting me. They didn’t like it when I was angry.

The very angry girl

It was little things that made me angry – like when my brothers or my sister seemed to get more of something than I did. Or if they had a chance to go somewhere or do something and I didn’t. I didn’t tell anyone how I was feeling. I just screamed. I used to get into such a state. I’d hammer on the walls and stamp my feet. I’d get sent up to my room. I’d feel like I was burning up inside. If anyone came to see how I was I’d throw something at them. I only felt better after I’d had a sleep. Then I’d want to forget about it and I’d be OK until the next time. I thought it was all right to do what I did. Nobody seemed to think I could change.

But one day my Grandma’s sister came to stay. I had only met her once before. My family always said she was a ‘good listener’. I was in one of my terrible moods, shut in my room. I heard her voice outside my door. I didn’t think I should chuck anything at her. She wasn’t really in my close family so I thought I mustn’t be horrible to her. When she came in she just sat on my bed and reached out her hand for mine. I let her take my hand and I felt all the anger and tightness in my chest just turn into tears and sobs. I thought she, if anyone, would listen to me. I told her about my red hair and my friend leaving, and being lonely. She listened to it all.

“Ah,” she said,” Don’t you think your Ma and Pa would like to hear about this? Would you like me to tell them in case it makes you angry again?”

I let her tell my Mum and Dad. When they came into my room there was a different look on their faces. First I hugged my Mum and then I hugged my Dad.

“Shall we all start again?” asked my Mum. “No more name calling. If I’m upset I’ll tell you why, and if you’re upset, you’ll tell me why. Is it a deal?”

“Yes, Mum,” I said.

It made such a difference to me. I can’t say I never got angry again, but I wasn’t afraid to tell people how I was feeling anymore. I never needed to scream and shout and shut myself in my room again. I found some new friends and I did have a happy life.


1. What did Mary’s family expect Mary to be like?

2. What name was she given in the family?  

3. Did other members of the family also have ‘names’? Do you remember any of them, for example one was ‘The noisy one’.

4. How might it affect a person if they are given a label, or a teasing ‘nick name’, eg. ‘the angry one’

5. How did they tease Mary?  Was that fair?

6. How did Mary act when they teased her unfairly?

7. Who noticed that Mary’s problem could be solved, and what did that person do to help?

8. How did Mary act after she and her family had a new agreement, and what was the agreement?

9. Does the story remind you of anything in your life?