Tiny Steps Toward Peace

Ordinary Acts of Peace

Ellie: When I say the word Peace­mak­er, who is the first per­son that comes to mind? It is so impor­tant to teach chil­dren about famous peace­mak­ers like Dr. Mar­tin Luther King Jr, Desmond Tutu, Moth­er Tere­sa, Malala, and Nel­son Man­dela. If we only teach about folks who have become larg­er than life, how­ev­er, chil­dren may put peace­mak­ing on a pedestal that seems unat­tain­able for them­selves. We can teach chil­dren and remind our­selves that we can choose peace­mak­ing now in the tiny, ordi­nary moments of the day.

Ordinary Mary's Extraordinary DeedOrdi­nary Mary’s Extra­or­di­nary Deed by Emi­ly Pear­son is a book about how one gen­er­ous deed can change the world. Mary, an ordi­nary kid, stum­bles upon some blue­ber­ries and decides to pick them for her neigh­bor, Ms. Bish­op. That tiny act starts a chain reac­tion of com­pas­sion and kind­ness that spreads through­out the world. Mary’s kind deed loops back to her by the end, when she receives a neck­lace from some­one who is pay­ing kind­ness for­ward in a chain that can be traced back to Mary’s blue­ber­ries. The book is full of delight­ful rhymes and exam­ples of how ordi­nary ges­tures can mul­ti­ply into some­thing tru­ly extra­or­di­nary. Soci­ety would have us believe that love and pow­er are sta­t­ic so that we rush to grab and hoard our piece of the pie before it’s gone. In truth, love and pow­er grow one tiny act at a time.

Questions for Kids

  • Who is a peace­mak­er that you know and want to be like? How can you be more like that per­son, not just when you grow up, but today?
  • Who is some­one your age that you see mak­ing oth­er peo­ple feel good?
  • When is a time you received much need­ed help or an unex­pect­ed gift?
  • Who is your favorite per­son to sur­prise with kindness?
Cranes received as gifts in the lobby of Abbott Northwestern Hospital, Minneapolis, MN
Cranes received as gifts in the lob­by of Abbott North­west­ern Hos­pi­tal
, Min­neapo­lis, MN, enjoyed by patients and visitors

Growing Peace

Caren: At Abbott North­west­ern, a hos­pi­tal close to my home, a hos­pi­tal chap­lain gave a COVID patient a fold­ed paper crane. It was a tiny, com­pas­sion­ate act with an unex­pect­ed impact. The patient was encour­aged both by the gift and its sym­bol­ism: “I will over­come COVID and I will keep this crane for my entire life,” he promised. Hear­ing this sto­ry, Japan­ese peo­ple of all ages made paper cranes and sent them to the hos­pi­tal as gifts to patients. The hos­pi­tal received 16,000 cranes, strung them togeth­er and used them to dec­o­rate the hos­pi­tal. Sen­bazu­ru is a Japan­ese tra­di­tion of string­ing togeth­er paper cranes as an expres­sion of heal­ing and peace. One crane at a time, these peo­ple trans­formed the hos­pi­tal so that now it is burst­ing with col­or, hope and peace.

Con­sid­er fold­ing paper cranes with your fam­i­ly or stu­dents. String them togeth­er and hang them as a sym­bol of peace and a reminder that small con­tri­bu­tions can add up to cre­ate some­thing beau­ti­ful and new, togeth­er. (Learn to fold here.)

Practicing Tiny, Practicing Peace

12 Tiny ThingsEllie: My most recent book, 12 Tiny Things, explores the idea that lit­tle things are in fact big things. Each chap­ter has a theme and one tiny thing to try around that theme to build a more root­ed and inten­tion­al life. Work­ing for peace, it is easy to get over­whelmed and burned out. We can jump to fix bro­ken­ness at the sys­tems lev­el and skip over the tough inner peace and heal­ing work. 12 Tiny Things embraces the pow­er of small, dai­ly acts to trans­form our hearts and our com­mu­ni­ties. We believe in claim­ing incre­men­tal improve­ment on the go. We believe every­thing we need is already inside of us, we just need to remem­ber. And we believe in unfold­ing together.

Although the book is geared toward adults, we have built resources for kids and teenagers who want to try on some tiny things to grow peace. 12 Tiny Things is a great resource to use indi­vid­u­al­ly, inter­gen­er­a­tional­ly, and in groups.

Digging Deeper

Behind every famous peace­mak­er is a net­work of less­er-known com­mu­ni­ty orga­niz­ers doing the dai­ly, tiny grunt work to dis­man­tle oppres­sion and change sys­tems. The sto­ry we tell about Rosa Parks start­ing the Mont­gomery bus boy­cott makes it seem like her deci­sion to remain seat­ed on the bus was ran­dom and indi­vid­ual. Rather, a designed foun­da­tion had been built over the course of years to ensure the bus boy­cott would be effec­tive. More than the sur­face sto­ry tells, the bus boy­cott was about pro­tect­ing women’s bodies.

In 1949, six years before the bus boy­cott, Gertrude Perkins was raped by two police offi­cers in Mont­gomery. She report­ed the rape and the tri­al got nation­al press. The black com­mu­ni­ty in Mont­gomery orga­nized to sup­port her. Then nine months before Rosa Parks’ arrest for refus­ing to sit at the back of the bus, fif­teen-year-old Claudette Colvin was arrest­ed for the same act. There were years of tiny and not so tiny acts of civ­il dis­obe­di­ence and net­work­ing that set Rosa Parks’ act up to be a tip­ping point. It is impor­tant to see his­toric events of peace, not in iso­la­tion, but set in the web of small acts of resis­tance so that we too might see the pow­er and influ­ence of our dai­ly choic­es to prac­tice peace. Lis­ten to this Scene on Radio pod­cast episode to hear more about Gertrude Perkins’ role and the Mont­gomery Bus Boycott.

What tiny act of peace will you choose today?


For each Peace-olo­gy post, Caren and Ellie part­ner to learn and explore the mean­ing of peace by talk­ing and lis­ten­ing with each oth­er. If you’d like to share your ideas about peace, books, and chil­dren, please share your com­ments here, or vis­it our websites.

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3 years ago

My good­ness – such won­der­ful resources list­ed here! Thank you for shar­ing these sto­ries. Those cranes – WOWZA!

David LaRochelle
3 years ago

I just request­ed 12 TINY THINGS from my library. Thank you!