Ok guys, this one is special. So many things have been going on in our lives lately, and my brain has been in a million different places every day. With so many things happening in the news and so many things happening in our own lives, it is sometimes difficult to focus.
So, I have been trying to be more intentional and focused on what I know, what I care about, and what I can actually do to effect change.
To that end, I just finished a book that I plan to share with my students when we start school again in the fall. It is called Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, and it is written by Angela Duckworth. She also has a TED Talk about the topic. It is absolutely worth the six minutes if you have the time now!
The book contains tons of lessons and deep analysis about what actually makes people successful. It also focuses on the growth-mindset and the idea that even grit itself is a trait we can work to grow and develop. I think it will help my students in innumerable ways, and I can’t wait to share it with them!
There is also a wonderful chapter about parenting for grit, so it is worth the read just for that!
But the biggest personal lesson I took away from the book was about the power of focusing on your high-level passions and goals. I realized while reading the book that my high-level passion has pretty much always been the same.
As I look back at my life, it is obvious that reading (n sharing the insights I learn and using books/writing to make things better) has always been my passion – even when I wasn’t fully aware of it. Once, when I was in high school and ran into my second grade teacher, the first question out of her mouth was, “Do you still love to read as much as you did in second grade?” I was surprised by her question. I did love reading. I already knew I was going to college to become a high school English teacher. I already knew how much of a positive effect reading and writing could have. However, I did not realize that my passion for it was so obvious to others or that I had been passionate about it for so long.
I am lucky that my passion/goal led me to have a career where I can truly focus on it every day. I am also lucky that my goal works for both my professional and my personal life. Though it definitely takes more than just books to raise boys who are happy, well-rounded, caring, and successful at their own passions, I obviously use them to help.
That leads me to Mr. Snitzel’s Cookies. This book is one I LOVED as a kid even though we never actually read it. We didn’t need to. My dad had read it to my brother so many times that he had it memorized and recited it easily to my sister and me. I found it on Amazon as an adult, and knew I had to have it for my own boys.
It is an old story, and some of the language is unfamiliar to my boys, but that just lends to its charm. Basically, a hungry man and his dog walk down the street just as everyone is getting ready to close up shop for the night. Mr. and Mrs. Manypenny (gotta love the obvious symbolism) shoo him away and tell him they have nothing for people who cannot pay. Mr. Snitzel, meanwhile, has just realized that his bakery may not last another day, as he does not have enough supplies to bake for tomorrow, nor does he have the money to get more. However, when the man comes to him and asks if he has anything to spare, he happily shares his dinner and gives him a nice, warm place to sleep. The next morning, his kindness is repaid with a wish and Mr. and Mrs. Manypenny are jealous. They try to befriend the man and get a wish as well, but their greed takes over and they get exactly what they deserve.
The message is obvious, and the idea that if you put good things out in the world, good things will come back to you, makes it the perfect book to help me accomplish that goal of having kids who care. We talk about how Mr. Snitzel didn’t expect anything in return from the man; how he gave even when he didn’t have much to give; and how we don’t expect anything when we give, but we get something regardless. We get to feel amazing for having helped someone we will never meet – someone whose needs are much greater than ours – someone who then may be able to help someone else.
We have read the book before, but this week we read it after my oldest son and I went to volunteer for Pack Away Hunger – http://www.packawayhunger.org/.
Pack Away Hunger provides nutritious meals to those who need them both locally and in other countries. The best part for us is that kids as young as six can volunteer! Their website has options to either join a public packing event or host your own. We went to a public packing event, and I cannot say enough about how wonderful the experience was. Everything was well run, we felt like we accomplished a lot, and we got to work together with others in our community.
We talk to the boys a lot about how fortunate we are to have what we have. We have always tried to get them involved in donating the toys they no longer play with and the clothes they no longer wear, but I have been looking for other ways to show them the spirit of giving. The Pack Away Hunger event was perfect for just that!
The Grit book pushed me to focus on my goals and how I can effect change in my classroom, with my kids, in the community, and hopefully even through this blog. Mr. Snitzel’s Cookies helped to teach me (and my boys) at a very young age about the power of giving to others. And both books came together in an amazing way this week!
I am so lucky that my parents read to me and told me stories every night. I am so glad that I get to share some of those same stories with my own boys. And, I am so thankful for books like Grit which help me to focus on how all of those things can come together and allow me to accomplish my own goals. I hope it will help you as well.
As always, thanks for reading! I would love to hear from you. I would love to know if you know of other organizations that allow young kids to take part in volunteer work. So, if you have questions or comments, feel free to connect with me on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. Find the links in the menu at the right.
If you have trouble finding a copy of Mr. Snitzel’s Cookies, here are a few other titles about the power of sharing what you can:
Should I Share My Ice Cream? – an Elephant and Piggie Book – by Mo Willems (one of our ABSOLUTE favorite authors!)
The Berenstain Bears Think of Those in Need – by Stan and Jan Berenstain
And here are the links to the books discussed above – enjoy!
Mr. Snitzel’s Cookies – by Jane Flory
Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance – by Angela Duckworth