Unwrapping Kindness

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By Virginia Goodman

“Stars remind me that no matter how bad of a day I have, I can make a difference in someone’s life.”
-Hunter, The Night the Stars Fell from the Sky

My story, The Night the Stars Fell from the Sky, is rooted in two very meaningful parts of my life: my family and my career in education that spanned 38 years.

I taught special education for 13 years and kindergarten for 10 years before moving on to teaching children who needed extra help with subject areas on standardized tests.

Teaching so many grade levels over more than four decades, I realized that too many of the students had low self-esteem and didn’t realize they mattered to anyone. They acted as if they were defeated. I thought if I could find a way to help my students remind themselves that they are kind and caring people, they would in turn recognize the kindness they show others—and recognize when someone is kind to them.

An easy solution seemed to be to teach the children to light their own stars using their fingertips. It was a way for them remember the kind deeds they did for others and to give themselves a pat on the back. Now I needed to write a story to complete the process by reaching all those children who I would never get to meet in the classroom.

It took 10 years to complete my story, because I used my grandchildren as the characters, and each time I thought the story was complete, another grandchild was born.

My grandchildren and their parents have always been involved in helping in community projects and working through school clubs doing community work. After completing the book, I wanted to give my grandchildren an opportunity to light their own stars, so I contacted our local homeless shelter to ask for a list of items we could gather to fill bookbags to take to the shelter.

I added mats I crocheted out of plastic grocery bags for the children at the shelter. Because the homeless clients have to leave the shelter right after breakfast each morning and may not return until 4 p.m., I hoped the mothers could use the mats for their children to play on or lie down for a nap while in the park or any other place outside.

After my grandchildren and I loaded the bookbags, we headed for the homeless shelter. Before the clients returned, my grandchildren got to see how the shelter is set up. They also got to see a small playroom for the children and the kitchen where local churches take turns supplying food for breakfast and dinner.

We walked through the sleeping areas that the homeless clients are required to leave clean before leaving each day, which includes making their beds and taking all their belongings. We also got to hear their stories from a staff member, including one about a woman and her child who had come to Georgia from Ohio to escape domestic violence.

When I presented my grandchildren with a copy of my book that Christmas, they understood the story I had written and why we visited the shelter.

Today my seven grandchildren are 22, 20, 20, 19, 17, 16 and 11. I’m proud to say they are still caring children—and adults—who give great hugs and kisses when we get a chance to see them.

Hunter reminds us in my story that “The simplest things that we do for others matters.” Light your own stars each day.

Watch Georgia author Virginia Goodman read her story, The Night the Stars Fell from the Sky.

Some celebrated local authors, storytellers, and musicians have come together to connect with and inspire children and families through the Get Georgia Reading Campaign’s “Georgia Storytellers Series.” Now, kids and families, it’s your turn to share your stories. Retell one of your favorite tales or make up one of your own. Read it, sing it, act it, dance it—the sky’s the limit. When you upload your video on Facebook or Twitter, tag us with #GetGAReading so we can share your story. Learn more about the series.