History of Florence Nightingale for Kids & Families

Close your eyes and imagine you’re a soldier in a war. But you’re not on the battlefield. Instead, you’re lying in bed recovering from injuries you received in battle. The room is pitch black and it’s been a long night, and you are very uncomfortable. You are sad and not feeling well. You miss your family back at home and wish you were not sick. But suddenly, you hear a door open and you turn and look down the hall. There’s light from a lamp and it’s moving toward you. You smile because you know who it is. A woman, a nurse, stops by you and puts her hand on your shoulder. “How are you feeling,” she asks. “Can I get you anything?” She gives you a drink of water. “Let me know if you need anything else,” she says and then walks away to attend to another soldier. You felt lonely and sad but now you feel much better, thanks to the woman who would become one of the most famous nurses of all time, the Lady with the Lamp, Florence Nightingale. 

Florence Nightingale was born on May 12, 1820. Her parents were English, which means from England, but at the time they were living in the city of Florence, Italy. And this is where she got her name, Florence! The Nightingales were a very wealthy family. Her father was a London banker. Florence and her sister had a very easy, privileged life. Growing up they got to travel all over Europe as a family. Imagine how interesting that would have been! After their travels, they settled in their home country, England. There they had two homes, a summer house in Derbyshire and a winter house in Hampshire. With the homes came servants who took care of them and all of the housekeeping. Like I said, a pretty easy life for the girls and the parents who had plenty of money to live in comfort.

During the 1800s most girls didn’t get a great education. But William Nightingale wanted the best for his daughters, so he took a special interest in their learning and taught them various subjects like history, geography, and literature. Florence was a very gifted child and soaked up everything her father taught her. Even at a young age with lots of practice, she could speak in several languages: French, German, Latin, Greek, Italian, and Latin. 

In the time Florence lived, called the Victorian era, women from wealthy families were expected to only handle housework (with the servants doing most of the work) and host guests. They weren’t supposed to look for jobs or earn money. Florence saw this but wanted something different. She wanted to work for herself and earn money for herself. She wasn’t satisfied with the way the world was. She wanted to find her purpose in life and believed there was more for her than simply running the home and taking care of guests. At an early age, she decided her calling in life would be to help others, to ease their suffering. She loved taking care of sick pets and servants. Being a nurse seemed like a natural fit for desire to help others.

So Florence mustered up the courage and went to her parents to tell them she wanted to be a nurse. They were very upset and refused to let her do it. They told her she wasn’t allowed to go to nursing school. In their minds, this was very inappropriate for a woman of her wealth and status. Like I said, it was a very different time and Florence was going against what was normal in her day.


But do you think Florence just went along with it? Nope. She was determined to become a nurse so she could help others.  Finally, after a lot of persuasion, her father gave in and she packed up her bags and moved to Germany to go to nursing school. The school was called the Institution of Protestant Deaconesses. There she learned all the important skills to take care of other’s medical needs. Florence was a fast learner, so she made quick progress and after moving back to England soon became the head of a hospital in London. 

In 1854, a war broke out between the countries of Turkey and Russia. Did you know there was a country called Turkey? It’s a big country on the Mediterranean Sea between Europe and the Middle East. The war became Russia and Turkey later became known as the Crimean War. Since England, Russia and France were allies, British soldiers were sent to fight in the war. To help sick and injured soldiers, a hospital was set up in Scutari, Turkey. And sadly due to the war, many injured soldiers ended up in the hospital. But the soldiers weren’t being taken care of properly. And this means soldiers who didn’t receive the proper care, often did not survive. Leaders at the time wondered what to do and someone suggested just the person to help – Nurse extraordinaire, Florence Nightingale! Florence was a friend of the Minister of War’s wife and he requested her to accept the job.

So, Florence, not being one to waste time, quickly went to work assembling a team of 34 nurses and all of the supplies they’d need to help the soldiers waiting in the hospital far away in Turkey. 

When Florence and the nurses arrived in Turkey, they were shocked at what they saw! The hospital was so overcrowded that soldiers had to sleep on the floor. And it was very unhygienic, which means it was unclean and it’s very important that a hospital is kept clean because if not germs can flourish and make sick soldiers even sicker. There were puddles of drain water everywhere — and worst of all rats! It was no wonder all of the soldiers were getting infected!

Florence knew if the soldiers were to get better, the hospital would have to change. Right away. With money from England, she quickly improved the conditions. She ordered new equipment, cleaned up the rooms, and even set up the kitchen to serve better quality food. All of her training as a nurse was being put to good use to save the lives of the soldiers and improve their quality of care. She was a true nurse who properly cared for her suffering patients. 

You’d think with all of this busyness, Florence would just want to rest at night. But at all hours, Florence kept an eye on her patients. At night she used to make her rounds, checking on each and every soldier. She used a lamp to light her way and the soldiers named her “the Lady with the Lamp”. Imagine if you were a soldier suffering and could not sleep at night. Imagine what it would feel like to see that lamplight coming down the hall and know that someone cared for you and was checking in on you. This is the kind of care Florence gave! She also wrote letters to the home of the soldiers who were unable to do it themselves and found ways to entertain them.

Thanks to Florence and other nurse’s hard work and selfless service, the conditions in the hospital barracks started to change. The mortality rate, which is the number of deaths in a certain period of time, decreased by two percent. This means that more and more soldiers were starting to survive their injuries!

This was such exciting news that papers back in London started writing articles about Florence Nightingale. People started calling her a heroine. Even the Queen of England wrote her a thank you letter!

After the Crimean War ended, Florence’s work did not. After seeing how poor the conditions were in Turkey, she set out on her new mission to make hospitals better across the empire. She met up with important figures such as Queen Victoria to discuss her ideas. Eventually, the army started training doctors and nurses to take care of soldiers with the care and concern Florence would give them.

To honor her service, the government decided to create a fund as a token of their appreciation and gratitude. They called it the Nightingale Fund and through it a big sum of money was raised and gifted to Florence to use however she pleased. In 1860, Florence set up her own institute called The Nightingale School of Nursing at St. Thomas’ Hospital in London

The school gave hope to women who wanted to work and service and earn their own living. It made training and schooling more normal for women in their society. It was an excellent school, one of the first to be developed based on accurate scientific methods. In fact, it was so advanced that most of the techniques that Florence developed in the school are still in practice today! And to this day, she is considered one of the founders of nursing training. 

Florence believed that nursing starts from the home. With this, she set up various training camps in smaller neighborhoods so the women of lower class could learn from her. This improved the level of health in poor families immensely. Not only was Florence a full-time professional nurse, she also published many books on nursing and healthcare. Her most famous writing is the Notes on Nursing: What It Is and What It Is Not which is the best guidebook for household nursing. It has detailed step-by-step procedures on how to best tend to a patient at home.

To honor her service, there are plaques and statues of Florence Nightingale all around the globe. Three statues of Florence are in Derby, England alongside numerous plaques. From Los Angeles in the USA to Andhra Pradesh in India and in Kawanishi in Japan, various countries have put up statues in respect of The Lady with the Lamp.

Spend some time thinking about how Florence lived her life and the change for good she made in the lives of others. Do you like caring for others? What does it feel like after you help someone? It feels good inside, doesn’t it? Florence saw suffering around her and did whatever she could to help. For you, this might start small by helping a sibling when they are trying to tie their shoe or make their breakfast. Or it might mean helping your parents when they are sick — remember how much they helped you when you were sick! In fact, just the other day I wasn’t feeling well and my kids brought me some food and water and it made me feel much better. Next time you’re given the opportunity to serve others, remember Florence Nightingale and the change she made in the lives of others one individual at a time!

Siddhartha Gautama Buddha For Kids

Close your eyes and imagine you’re a prince or a princess, living in a giant, luxurious palace. There your parents make sure that you have everything you could ever want or need: lots of toys, fine clothes, the best education. You’re surrounded by beautiful gardens and expensive things. You have servants to clean up after you, bring your food, and help with everything. When you’re not learning from private tutors, you spend your days swimming, practicing archery and swordsmanship, and riding horses. The palace is so massive, it’s your entire world and you never even need to leave. 

Now imagine you decide to give that all up. You’re not happy with that life. You wonder if life has a greater meaning. You wonder if possessions can ever make people truly happy and content. This was the life Siddhartha Gautama found himself in. You might have heard of him: now, we call him Buddha. 

The story of how Siddhartha became Buddha begins even before his birth. Siddhartha’s father was king of a small kingdom in northern India in the sixth century BCE over 2,500 years ago!  Several years before Siddhartha was born, the king was visited by sages, or wise men, who told him his son would be either a great king, or a great holy man. Of course, Siddhartha’s father wanted his son to follow in his footsteps and be a great king.  So when Siddhartha was born in 567 BCE, his father decided to shelter his son from the world, so he wouldn’t know about suffering and death. He thought that if Siddhartha never saw bad things in the world, he wouldn’t want to fix them, and so he wouldn’t want to become a holy man. 

So Siddhartha grew up surrounded by all the comforts and privileges money could buy. When he became a young man, he married a woman named Gopa. He seemed to have it all, but the plan Siddhartha’s father made for him to become a great king was about to fall apart. Instead of accepting the life of luxury that he was given, Siddhartha grew restless living in the palace. One day, he asked his father to let him go on a chariot ride to see the city around the palace. His father agreed, but told the chariot driver to stay in the richer parts of the city, close to the palace, to avoid letting Siddhartha see people who were poor or suffering. 

Siddhartha set out in the chariot with his driver. Before long, they saw an old man, slowly hobbling along the road, looking as if he might fall over at any moment. Siddhartha had never seen such an old man, and he asked his driver what was wrong with him. 

His driver replied, “He is very old. His body has grown weak with age. You too will grow old someday. All people do.”

Siddhartha was disturbed, but asked him to drive on. Later in the ride, they saw a sick man lying by the side of the road. He was groaning and looked very unhappy. Again, Siddhartha asked what was wrong with the man. 

His driver replied, “He is sick with a terrible disease. Everyone gets sick sometimes. Someday, you will get sick.”

Siddhartha felt terrible, seeing this man suffering, but they continued their ride through the city. 

On their way back to the palace, they came across a funeral procession. People were crying and moaning. For a third time, Siddhartha asked his chariot driver what was happening.

Again, his driver replied. “Someone has died, and these people are his friends and family. They are mourning for him.”  

When Siddhartha returned home, he could not stop thinking about the old man, the sick man, and the funeral. He thought about these things happening to his father and mother, to his wife, and to himself. He realized that all the treasure in the palace, all the servants waiting on him, all the beautiful things surrounding him, could not prevent him or anyone else from the sad things he sad. He realized that he wanted to find a way to help people overcome suffering. 

Once he realized these things, Siddhartha knew he could no longer live an easy life in the palace. So one day, he said goodbye to his family, and set out to find the cause of suffering. He cut his hair and lived as an ascetic – someone who chooses to live in poverty and simplicity. He studied meditation with great holy men and discussed the problem of suffering with them, but after many years of living this way, he still didn’t know why it happened, or how he could prevent it.

Finally, he decided to sit and meditate under a bodhi tree. He vowed not to leave until he had the answer to the problem of human suffering.  Siddhartha sat meditating day and night, still and calm as a statue, for six days. On the sixth day, he opened his eyes and realized he understood the nature of suffering. He became enlightened and from then on was known as Buddha, which means awakened one. 

For the rest of his life, Buddha travelled throughout India, teaching others about what he had discovered. He taught people the four noble truths he had realized about suffering. The first truth is that everyone suffers and has hard things happen to them. It’s just part of life. 

The second truth is that we suffer because we are always wanting more, and trying to hold onto what we have. This might sound surprising. Didn’t he start his quest because he saw people who were suffering because they were old, sick, and dying? Buddha thought that the real reason we suffer is not because bad things happen to us, but because we allow negative feelings and desires to take over our thinking. If we’re sick, we lie around feeling sorry for ourselves, and wishing we were well. But then when we’re healthy, we think of other things we want, but don’t have, and we still suffer. 

Think about a time when you really wanted a new toy or game. It probably felt very unfair that you didn’t have it, and then, if you did get it, you might have been happy for a short time, but then you were just back to normal and wanted something new. We become attached to things, or even ideas of things, and those things are not permanent. This keeps us spending all our time wanting things we don’t have, and worrying we’ll lose what we do have. He taught that things like toys and games and other things we might buy don’t really make us happy deep down and any happiness we do feel doesn’t last.

The third truth is that we can overcome suffering. Once we overcome suffering, Buddha thought, we could reach a state of nirvana, or perfect peace and happiness, just as he did when he meditated under the bodhi tree. 

Finally, the fourth truth tells us how to overcome suffering. The way Buddha thought we overcome suffering is by following what he called the “eightfold path.” I won’t go over all eight parts of the path, but basically, to follow the eightfold path, we must always try to improve ourselves: this means being kind and honest; try not to harm anyone or anything; and act with compassion. We must also learn to pay attention to their own thoughts. As we pay attention to our thoughts we can better understand the thoughts that make us feel sad. This helps us think in a new way. This paying attention to our thoughts is called meditation.

Buddha taught that following the eight-fold path creates good karma.  Karma is the idea that everything you do has a consequence, whether good or bad. Kind actions tend to have positive consequences, and unkind actions, negative consequences. This isn’t a consequence like a reward or a punishment – it’s just a thing that happens as a result of an action. He taught that by building up a lot of good karma, you can reach nirvana, a state of true enlightenment. 

Buddha spent the rest of his life travelling around India, teaching what he had discovered to anyone who wanted to learn. He encouraged his followers to try out the practices he taught for themselves, to see how well they worked, and to gather in communities to learn and help each other. Community was important, because Buddha knew that to be truly happy, people need to feel compassion and kindness for both themselves and others. This is called metta in Buddhism.

After its beginnings in India, Buddhism spread throughout South and East Asia, and was practiced widely in Tibet, Bhutan, Thailand, China, and Japan, among others. Today, people around the world practice Buddhism in different forms. For some it’s a religion, but for others it’s simply a way of looking at life.

Like Buddha taught, you can take the time to meditate each day. Meditating is a good chance to breathe deeply and slow your thoughts. It can also help you look closely at your thoughts. Your thoughts often lead to how you’re feeling. So if you have lots of negative thoughts those may be causing negative feelings. Breathing deeply and clearing your mind can give you the positive energy you need to help yourself and help others. There are a lot of great ways to start meditating. You can find videos, podcasts and apps, that can get your started. But the simplest way is to just set a timer and try and sit and relax during that time while breathing deeply. 

Also, like Buddha taught, remember that things that we buy won’t always make us happy. Toys eventually break, or they go out of fashion, and we’ll always want something new. Think about how you might turn your attention to more important things like spending time with your family and friends, learning something new, or doing good for others. These are things that last longer and will give you greater, deeper joy.   

I hope you enjoyed this episode about Buddha. Be sure to check in next Monday for a new episode!

Sources

Fields, Rick. “Who Is the Buddha?” in: Tricycle, Spring 1997. https://tricycle.org/magazine/who-was-buddha-2/

Meyers, Rachel. Curiosity Chronicles: Snapshots of Ancient History. Little Monster Schooling, 2017.

Nagaraja, Dharmachari. Buddha at Bedtime.Watkins, 2016.

The History of Martin Luther King, Jr. for Kids

So this coming month, February, is “Black History Month” in the United States and Canada.  Black History Month is a time for us to remember important people and events in the history of people of African descent around the world and in our countries. Black History Month can be traced back to 1926 when Carter G. Woodson founded Negro History Week to recognize the achievements made by African Americans.  Carter Woodson was a Harvard university graduate and he chose February as the month to celebrate black history because the birthdays of Frederick Douglas and Abraham Lincoln were both in February.  

We thought that for this month’s first episode of Bedtime History, we would focus on one of the great black rights activists and civil rights leaders of American history, Martin Luther King Jr.  Civil rights are the rights of citizens to political and social freedom and equality. 

Martin Luther King, Jr. was born on January 15, 1929, in Atlanta, Georgia.  His dad was a pastor and his mother was a school teacher.  A pastor is a minister in charge of a Christian church or congregation.  Martin also had an older sister named Cristine and a younger brother named Alfred.  They grew up in a wealthy area of Atlanta called “Sweet Auburn” where many black families lived at the time.

Martin knew from a young age that he enjoyed a great childhood and a good education that not many black children in America at the time had access to.  It inspired him to want to help other black children have the same opportunities to live a good life.  He was also inspired by his father, who worked hard on activities to try to improve the lives of black people and achieve equality.

Martin was a very good student and he worked hard to get good grades.  Because of his hard work, he got into a good college when he was 15 to study law and medicine.  It was called Morehouse College and was the same college that his father and his grandfather had attended.

Even though Martin did not originally plan to become a pastor like his father, he became more and more interested in religious studies and politics during his time at college.  Martin decided to finish a Bachelor of Divinity degree so that he could become a pastor too.  

Martin was a popular student, even though he was one of the only black students in a mostly white student college.  He finished his degree in 1948 and was elected president of his class in his final year of college.

After he graduated, Martin moved to Boston to attend Boston University when he was 24.  While he was there and studying for a higher level degree, he met Coretta Scott.  Coretta was a singer from Alabama who was also in college in Boston.  She was studying music at the New England Conservatory of Music. 

Martin and Coretta fell in love and got married in 1953.  After Martin’s studies were finished, they moved to Montgomery, Alabama.  Martin became the pastor of a church there called the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church.  He was a great pastor and had a special gift of being a very good public speaker.  People always paid attention to what he had to say because he was well spoken and delivered his sermons in a very convincing style.

Martin and Coretta had been living in Montgomery for a short time when they started to have children.  At the time, the city of Montgomery also became the centre for the civil rights struggle in America.  The city was very segregated.  This means that black and white people were divided and expected to live apart from each other.  Some people challenged the rules that forced them to live apart.  This led to a court decision about segregation of students in schools.  The court decision decided that while black and white kids had been separated in the past, they were now allowed to go to school together. 

The decision was a great victory for those who wanted equality for all people and the end of segregation.  However, the decision made some people who disagreed with these changes very angry. At the time, there was a lot of racism in the area. Racism means to have negative thoughts and actions towards people of a different race based on the belief that your own race is better.  

The fight over civil rights grew greater in 1955.  That year, a black woman named Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to a white passenger on a bus and she was arrested. The rules at the time said that she was supposed to sit in the back of the bus in the segregated section for black people.  However, Rosa Parks refused to go to the back of the bus to protest this rule. To protest means to do something to show you are against a rule or law.

Rosa Parks’ arrest made a number of people angry.  A group of activists got together and decided to stop using the bus as a protest.  An activist is someone who works to bring about political or social change. Activist groups started taking more and more actions to try to change the rules that limited equality for black people and separated blacks and whites. 

Martin Luther King, Jr. became the leader and spokesman of the activist group at the time. Martin started speaking as the leader of a group trying to fight racism and bring about equality peacefully.  Martin admired Mahatma Ghandi and other peaceful activists from around the world and history.  Ghandi and others were people who taught that the way to bring about real change in society was to protest but not to be violent.

Even though Martin was trying to change things peacefully, many people disagreed with him. Many of these people threatened him and his family. Some even tried to set his house on fire. This was very scary for Martin and his family, especially now that they had four young children. Even though it was a scary time for Martin and his family, they were proud of the success of their protests and how many people had joined the cause for equality.

Next Martin began traveling across America and giving talks to big groups on civil rights and nonviolent protest.  His messages were becoming more and more popular, but also causing more and more people to be angry with him. 

Many people fought very hard for equality and the rights of black people and many people fought against these ideas.  Most of the protests were peaceful but some became violent when protesters and those against them became heated.

In 1963, Martin and his friends protested segregation in Birmingham, Alabama, which was one of the most racially divided cities in the United States. Martin was arrested and had to spend time in jail. It was a sad time for him because he was away from his family, but he used this time to write letters to those who opposed him, peacefully trying to convince them of why equality was right and good.

Later that year, when he got out of prison, Martin organized a March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.  A march is a type of protest in which people walk along public roads in an organized way to protest about something.  The march was peaceful and it was attended by around 250,000 people!  

At the March on Washington, Martin gave his famous speech, known as the “I Have a Dream” speech.  It called for a peaceful world in which all people are treated as equals.  Many people around the world watched Martin Luther King, Jr. give this speech in person and on TV.  Later that year, he was named “Man of the Year” by TIME magazine. 

In 1964, Martin Luther King, Jr. also became the youngest person ever to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.  He was only 35 years old. And in August 1965, the US Congress passed a law that gave all black Americans the right to vote. This was a big step and would not have come about at that time if not for the hard work of Martin and his fellow activists.

Unfortunately a few years later, Martin’s life and work were cut short when he was shot and killed.  He was standing on the balcony of a motel in Memphis, Tennessee when someone shot him. The killer was a man that had escaped prison.  He was later caught and sent to prison.

People across the country were saddened by Martin’s death. The president at the time declared a national day of mourning, which was meant to be a time for the entire country to express sorrow over Martin’s death.  Later, in 1983, the US created a federal holiday in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. It is known as Martin Luther King Day and is on the third Monday of January each year. 

Martin Luther King, Jr. was a brave and hardworking man.  He fought hard for the things that he believed in and to help others.  He believed in equality and human rights for all people, regardless of race, ethnicity, skin colour or how rich or poor someone is. And he did so by always being peaceful.  He was truly an incredible man.

There is still much work to be done as society works towards Martin’s dream of “full equality”.  But by learning about Martin and his life and work, you can join the conversation and become part of the efforts that are still underway in your country to bring about full and meaningful equality to all people. And the ways in which you can help society become a more peaceful, equal and loving place. 

If you haven’t already heard it, I would recommend that you listen to the full audio of Martin’s “I Have a Dream” speech.  It is one of the most famous and amazing speeches of all time. 

History of Mahatma Gandhi for Kids

Have you heard ever heard of a country called India? India is between China and the Middle East and much of it is surrounded by the Indian Ocean. India is home to one of the world’s oldest civilizations and for many years was one of the richest countries in the world. Over one billion people live in India. It has more people than any other country in the world, second only to China. 

In the 1800s the British Empire ruled many countries of the world including America. During the American Revolution the Patriots fought off the British King and his soldiers and became their own free country. At the time of our story the British Empire was still in control of India. This is the story of how India came to be free and the man who helped make it happen.

In 1869 in the city of Porbander, India a boy named Mahandas Ghandi was born in a small home to a simple family. The Ghandis were good people. The father was a leader in the city and his mother was a very religious woman. She taught her children to pray and read scriptures such as the Bhagavad Gita, the Vegas, and some texts from the Bible and Quaran. The Ghandis were Hindu, so they didn’t drinking wine or eat meat. Ghandi’s mother also taught the family to fast — which means going without food for a certain period of time. She believed it gave them strength and self control. 

When Mahandas was little he was very playful and sometimes liked to cause trouble. Often he would chase down dogs and twist their ears. He also loved to listen to classic Indian stories, such as the stories of Shravan and Harischandra, which were epic tales about virtue and adventure. These stories taught good principles and helped Mahandas want to be a good person.

At age nine Mahandas started school and there learned math, history, language and geography. He was just an okay student and pretty shy and had trouble speaking. This made him very nervous when he had to speak in front of his class, but he did like books and learning.

At this time in India people got married very young. Mahandas was 13 when he married a girl named Kasturba. When Kasturba was 17 they had their first baby, but sadly she didn’t live very long. This same year Mahandas also lost his father, so it was a very hard time for him. But later Mahandas and Kasturba had four more children, so it made them happy to be parents.

Next Ghandi decided to travel to London, the capital of the British Empire, to go to college to become a lawyer. A lawyer is someone who helps others work with the law, the rules that keep a country in order. Ghandi’s parents were worried while he was there he wouldn’t live his religion, that he would eat meat and drink alcohol and do other things they didn’t approve of. But when he left he promised them he would stay faithful no matter what. And Ghandi did live up to his word, he stayed strong in his Hindu religion while he was away from home. This is called commitment and dedication to something you believe in.

Ghandi learned a lot about the English people while he was in London. He had always been shy and at first school was difficult, but instead of giving up he joined a group that taught him how to speak louder and more clearly and with lots of practice he became a very good speaker.

After finishing college, Ghandi got a job working for a shipping company in South Africa. At this time the British Empire also ruled South Africa. In South Africa Ghandi was treated badly by the English because he was from India. Once when he was on a train they didn’t let him sit with other people. They picked him up and threw him off the train. Ghandi was so upset by this he refused to leave the train station until they let him on the next train. This is called a protest. Finally, they let Ghandi back on the train. Many times Ghandi was treated badly because he was from India. He started to think England shouldn’t be in control of India anymore. 

When Ghandi moved back to India and he was determined to do everything he could to make India a free country. He began speaking and writing about what the India people needed to do to become free. But Ghandi was a peaceful person and didn’t believe in hurting others to become free. Instead they would peacefully protest and use civil disobedience — which means finding other ways to make your point other than violence. 

One thing England did to control India was tax the things they bought, this meant charging extra for food and clothes and keeping the money. So instead of buying clothes and salt from England, Ghandi decided to make his own clothes and salt. He learned how to make his own clothes and started wearing them. Thousands of other India people started doing the same. This made the British upset, because they were losing money. To make his own salt, Ghandi began a journey to the ocean. He walked over 200 miles to make salt in the ocean. People all over India followed him and did the same. All across the world people saw what Ghandi and the India people were doing and sympathized with them. Ghandi was put in jail many times for his actions. He would go without eating until they would set him free. What Ghandi was doing was very difficult, but he was sacrificing his owns desires for the country and people he loved.

Sometimes the Indian people wanted to use guns and weapons to fight the British leaders, but Ghandi continually taught that this was the wrong way. He used scriptures of many different religions to show that peace was a better way. When his people did start to fight Ghandi would go without eating for many days until they stopped. The people often stopped because they loved Ghandi and didn’t want him to be hungry.

Eventually, England let India become free. The amazing part of this story is that it came about without a big war and lots of people dying. This was truly a miracle and Ghandi showed the world that freedom can come about through peaceful ways. The Indian people and Ghandi celebrated. They were so happy to be in control of their own country. The time after this was very challenging as they figured out how to be on their own, but it gave them a chance to make their own choices and be a free people.

Not long after India became free Ghandi passed away, but his mission was complete and the Indian people and people all across the world will remember him as someone who loved his people and gave his life for them.

In life it’s easy to focus on yourself and what makes you happy. Its natural for us to want to take care of ourselves, which is important to some degree. But giving of ourselves to help others is also very important. It’s important to share and to think about what makes others happy. Spend some time thinking about what makes others happy and then do something about it. Next time you have a treat think about how happy it will make others to taste it, too. If you are playing with a toy, think about how your brother or sister or friend might enjoy playing with it. 

Ghandi believed in being peaceful. Next time someone wants to fight with you or argue, think about a more peaceful way you can deal with the problem. You never know, in the end someone who you think is an enemy might become a friend.

Fred Rogers Story for Kids

Can you hear that?

“Ding, ding.”

It’s the Neighborhood Trolley making its way back from King Friday’s castle to the Neighborhood Of Make Believe. It’s here to deliver a message to all of you about the man known as Mr. Rogers.

Fred McFeely Rogers was born on March 20, 1928, in Latrobe, Pennsylvania. His father’s name was James and his mother Nancy. His love of music started early in life as he began to play the piano at the age of five. 

Before we go any further, I know that you’re all dying to know about Fred’s middle name, McFeely. Yes, that is actually his middle name. McFeely was his grandfather’s last name. Fred Brooks McFeely.  Fred’s grandfather was a local entrepreneur and the man that they named Fred.

Now that we have that interesting fact out of the way, let’s learn some more about Mr. Rogers.

Childhood wasn’t the easiest for the man who would become known as one of the nicest, happiest men on TV. He was very shy and overweight. He spent a lot of time stuck at home suffering from bouts of asthma.

Fred was picked on a lot as a child because of his weight. Some kids even called him “Fat Freddy”. Fred had a very lonely childhood which forced him to make up imaginary friends. He spent a lot of time playing alone with his toys in his bedroom, making up imaginary worlds for them to explore.

In High School, Fred finally overcame his shyness and made a couple of good friends. Fred served as president of the student council. He was also a member of the National Honor Society and editor-in-chief of the school yearbook. 

Fred got into television because he hated the shows that were on TV. In an interview, he said, “I went into television because I hated it so, and I thought there’s some way of 

using this fabulous instrument to nurture those who would watch and listen”. His first job in the TV business was working for NBC in New York as a floor director on several shows.

Fred worked for NBC until 1963 when he moved back to Pitsburg. He took a job as a program developer at the public television station WQED. Together with Josie Carey, he developed a children’s show called The Children’s Corner. While Josie was the host of the show, Fred made puppets, characters, and music for the show. Many of the puppets and characters that he developed for The Children’s Corner were used on his later shows. 

It was while working on The Children’s Corner in 1963 that Fred became an ordained minister. Rather than becoming a pastor, he turned his focus to ministering to children and their families through television. He would appear before church officials regularly to keep up his ordination.  

It was during this time that he met Margaret McFarland. Margaret became his key advisor, collaborator, and child-education guru. Most of Fred’s appreciation for children came from his work with Margaret. Margaret helpd with Mr. Rogers Neighborhood scripts and songs for 30 years.  

The original Mr. Rogers show ran from 1963 to 1967 on the CBC in Toronto. It was a black and white 15 minute long show and was the first time that Fred appeared on TV as Mr. Rogers. In 1967 Fred headed back home to Pittsburg with his wife and two young sons.

In 1968 the real magic happened. Fred began filming the show Mister Rogers Neighborhood. Mr. Rogers filmed 895 magical episodes of the show between 1968 and 2001.

Oh, can’t you hear it? I hear it. 

The shows about to start.

[Verse 1]

It’s a beautiful day in this neighborhood

A beautiful day for a neighbor

Would you be mine?

Could you be mine?

[Verse 2]

It’s a neighborly day in this beautywood

A neighborly day for a beauty

Would you be mine?

Could you be mine?

[Bridge]

I have always wanted to have a neighbor just like you

I’ve always wanted to live in a neighborhood with you

[Verse 3]

So let’s make the most of this beautiful day

Since we’re together, we might as well say

Would you be mine?

Could you be mine?

Won’t you be my neighbor?

Won’t you please

Won’t you please

Please, won’t you be my neighbor?

Every show started this same way. Mr. Rogers would sing this song, greeting everyone while changing from his jacket to a cardigan sweater and his dress shoes to sneakers. He was now ready for the show’s adventures to begin.

He always welcomed everyone with open arms into his world. He would share stories of make-believe. He took everyone on amazing journeys outside his home to see how different things worked in the world. But most of all, he taught many lessons about life.

The show ran the same way for the entire time it was on the air. Mr. Rogers would introduce the show’s theme. Then he would leave his home to visit another location. He would let everyone see how different things were made or built.

Once he finished his visit, Mr. Rogers left and returned home. Now we knew it was now time to visit the Neighborhood of Make-Believe. Mr. Rogers headed to the window seat by the trolley track and tells the viewers about the story they were about to see as the Trolley comes out. The camera follows it down a tunnel in the back wall of the house as it enters the Neighborhood of Make-Believe.

Each story and lesson would take place over a week’s worth of episodes. Each involved puppet and human characters. The end of the visit occurs when the Trolley returns to the same tunnel from which it emerged, reappearing in Mr. Rogers’ home. Mr. Rogers always had the last talk with the viewers before the ending of the episode.

Unlike the show Sesame Street, which focused on teaching kids numbers and letters, Mr. Rogers’ show focused on often things like developing feelings and having good morals. There was no other show quite like it. 

Mr. Rogers Neighborhood stopped filming for 4 years between 1975 and 1979. Mr. Rogers focused on adult programming to the shock of many of his coworkers. When he returned to making the show in 1979 until it ended in 2001 the show was better than ever.  

In 1969 Fred went before the U.S. Senate to help get more money for PBS. Fred wasn’t well known but he had the ability to be very convincing. He was able to connect emotionally with everyone he spoke to. His words helped get money for the television station for many years afterward. It was also considered some of the most powerful words spoken before Congress. In 1970, President Nixon appointed Rogers as chair of the White House Conference on Children and Youth.

Not bad for a guy who was so shy as a child that he only played with toys! Now he was using his talents to not only help children everywhere but also to make sure the TV station, PBS, had enough money to keep making Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood for years to come. 

Over the years, Mr. Rogers did many interviews and over 150 speeches to college graduates. His speeches were all about children, television, education, his views on making the world a better place, and how he never wanted to stop learning.

Though Mr. Rogers always spoke with a soft voice, everyone always listened to what he had to say. During some speeches, he would ask the audience to be silent. He asked them to think about someone in their lives who helped them. This is something Fred always encouraged. He always appreciated others for all they have done. 

Mr. Rogers won a Lifetime Achievement, Emmy award, in 1997. He was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame in 1999.

Have you heard of the show Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood. This kid’s TV show is based on characters from Mister Roger’s Neighborhood.

We can all learn some very important lessons from Mr. Rogers. Even though he started out shy and unhappy as a child, he didn’t let that stop him from having an enormous impact on the world around him. He focused his life on helping children grow and learn to be the best they could be. He taught kindness, compassion, and caring to everyone he ever met.

Mr. Rogers treated everyone like they were his friend and neighbor and only asked the same in return. The world would be a much better place if more people had this same attitude.

Each day please be kind to a stranger and do something nice for your friends and family. Even these simple acts of kindness can make a big impact on the world. Love and happiness are contagious!

As Mr. Rogers once said;

“All of us, at some time or other, need help. Whether we’re giving or receiving help, each one of us has something valuable to bring to this world. That’s one of the things that connect us as neighbors — in our own way, each one of us is a giver and a receiver.”

Thanks for listening to this episode about Fred Rogers. Be sure to tune in next Monday for a new episode!

Clara Barton For Kids

When was the last time you helped someone? Did it feel like it was very important? How did you feel at the time? Most people go through their lives performing acts of service at one time or another. Clara Barton was a special person who devoted her entire life to helping others, and tried to be of service in whatever she did – in her family, in her work, even on the battlefield of the American Civil War!

Clarissa Barton was born Christmas Day in 1821.

She started going to school when she was just three years old, and she was very good at reading and spelling. Clara only had one friend because she was so shy and timid.

At the age of ten, her brother David fell from the roof of a barn and hurt his head very badly. Clara wanted to help take care of him, so she learned how to give him his medicine, and how to place leeches on his body – which was a typical medical practice at the time. Even after the doctors gave up on treating her brother, Clara continued to help care for him, and he eventually got better. 

While Clara was growing up, her family moved in order to help a family member take care of their house and farm. Clara was happy and persistent in offering her help, which included repairing and repainting the house that Clara’s family lived in. Clara loved to play with her cousins, and loved activities such as horseback riding. 

As a teenager, Clara’s parents encouraged her to become a schoolteacher as a way to help her overcome her shyness. Clara obtained her teaching certificate and was a very successful teacher, able to handle even the most rambunctious and energetic children. Clara was asked to open a free public school in New Jersey. The school became very successful, and Clara would teach classes to over 600 people. 

Clara later moved to Washington, D.C. and worked in the U.S. Patent Office as a clerk, helping to file and keep track of patents. Clara was the first woman to receive a clerkship in the federal government, and her salary was the same as the male clerks in the Patent Office. 

While she worked at the Patent Office, the American Civil War began. In The Civil War the Northern States and the Southern States fought over whether the nation should be divided or stay together. During the war many soldiers were hurt in battle. Clara went to the railroad station in Washington D.C. to help nurse the wounded men who had been transported there. She brought them the clothing, food, and supplies they needed to recover from their injuries. As she worked with the men, Clara learned how to store and distribute medical supplies. She worked hard to help the soldiers feel cared for; she often read books to them, helped them write letters to their families, and talked to them to help keep them in good spirits. Clara believed this is what she was meant to do in life, andbegan to look for ways  to help the soldiers fighting in the war. In 1862 in Virginia she saw the awful fighting first hand and helped to care for wounded soldiers near several other battles, including Cedar Mountain, Second Bull Run, Antietam, and Fredericksburg. In order to gather supplies, Clara even placed an ad in the newspaper, and people in the area helped to donate supplies to take care of the wounded soldiers. Even when supplies weren’t available, Clara still did everything she could to help. For example,at one battle where they didn’t have any bandages, the wounded were treated using corn-husks instead. The soldiers nicknamed Clara ‘the Angel of the Battlefield’ for the help that she gave them. 

Clara was known for helping all soldiers who needed aid, even if they fought for the other side, which in this case was the South. She said ‘I may be compelled to face danger, but never fear it, and while out soldiers can stand and fight, I can stand and feed and nurse them.’ Clara was brave and helped soldiers even while battles were taking place around her; while she was tending one soldier a bullet from the fighting tore through the sleeve of her dress!

After the war ended, Clara discovered that the relatives of soldiers who had died in the war were sending letters to the War Department trying to find their loved ones. These letters were going unanswered because the soldiers had been buried in unmarked graves, which meant that no one knew what had happened to them or where they were buried. Clara wrote to Abraham Lincoln asking for permission to start responding to the families and trying to locate their missing loved ones. President Lincoln said yes, and she began running the Office of Missing Soldiers. Clara Barton and her assistants wrote over forty thousand replies to letters, helping to locate more than twenty-two thousand missing men! During the summer of 1865, Clara helped to find, identify and properly bury thirteen thousand individuals who had died in a Confederate prisoner of war camp. She would continue to work with the Office of Missing Soldiers for four more years, helping to identify and bury twenty thousand more Union soldiers and ensuring that their graves were marked. 

Clara gave lectures around the United States about her experiences during the war, and drew large crowds when she spoke. After her speaking tour, a doctor suggested that she travel, to rest and remove herself from the physically and mentally demanding work she had done. She decided to travel to Europe.

While in Europe, Clara Barton worked with the organization known as the International Red Cross. Clara helped to prepare military hospitals and gave aid to the Red Cross Society during the Franco-Prussian War. She helped poor people in Strasbourg find work after the Siege of Paris, and was put in charge of distributing supplies to the people of Paris. Because of her work, Clara was given the Golden Cross of Baden and the Prussian Iron Cross. 

She was so inspired that she began to petition for an American branch of the International Red Cross to be created. Clara argued  that not only could the American Red Cross be helpful in war, but it could also give relief and aid during natural disasters like earthquakes, forest fires, and hurricanes. It was founded in 1881, with its first local branch in New York, and Clara served as the first president of the American branch. They built their headquarters in Washington, D.C. near the White House. She was able to help with  such disasters as the Johnstown Flood in Johnstown, Pennsylvania in 1889 (at the time one of the worst disasters in American history) and the Galveston Flood in 1900. 

Clara continued to help the Red Cross across the world  as well. In 1897 she sailed to Constantinople and helped to open the first American International Red Cross headquarters in Turkey. She would also take several trips to Armenia to provide relief and aid, and she worked in hospitals in Cuba.

After Clara resigned as the president of the American Red Cross, she founded the National First Aid Society, an organization meant to start local first aid programs.

To this day The American National Red Cross continues to be an important part of our country. They provide emergency assistance, disaster relief, and disaster preparedness education throughout the United States. 

Clara continued to give speeches and lectures about her work after she left the Red Cross organization. She published a book about her life called The Story of My Childhood in 1907. She would pass away five years later after contracting pneumonia. 

The work that Clara Barton did to help others and the example she set of continuous service continues to be an inspiration. In 1948, a postage stamp with a portrait of Clara and an image of the American Red Cross symbol was created. Clara Barton was inducted in the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 1973. 

The next time you see someone who needs help, remember Clara Barton and her example of service. There are always opportunities to help others, large and small, and our acts of service can help others see the importance of giving aid and being helpful however possible.

Mother Teresa for Kids

Watch Mother Teresa accept the Noble Peace Prize

On August 26, 1910 a baby girl was born in the city of Skopje (SKOP-eeh-eh), Macedonia. Her parents named her Agnes. They were the Bojaxhiu (boy-a-GEE-you) family and they were Albanian. Agne’s father, Nikola, owned a construction company and was on the town council. Many people knew her father and he did his best to earn money for his family and make his city a better place. Drana was Agne’s mother and she loved to take care of the poor and the needy. Often when Agne’s and her siblings came to dinner, Drana had invited strangers to eat with them. Agnes later found out these people were poor, and even though her mother didn’t know them, she fed them and often let them spend the night if they didn’t needed a place to stay. During the day, Drana went out into the city to share food and water with the needy. She often took Agnes along to help.

Agnes and her family were Catholic, which is a religion that believes in and follows the teachings of Jesus. Many people in their city were Muslim or Jewish, which had different beliefs, but Drana taught her family that they should love and serve people of all races and religions. Religion was an important part of their family  tradition. Agnes sang in the choir, the prayed daily and went to church weekly. Agnes liked to read about Catholic missionaries who travelled the world. A missionary is someone who moves far away to teach others about their religion and serve them.

When Agnes was 12 years old she had a deeply spiritual experience and decided her life’s mission would be to help others. When she was 14 she started teaching Sunday School at church and joined a group called the Sodality of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which met together to pray and serve the poor. By 18 she decided to become a missionary nun. In the Catholic Church a nun dedicates her life to her faith and to teaching and serving others. Agne’s mother was proud of her daughter, but knew if she became a nun she would move far away and may never see her again. But finally after much prayer, Drana gave Agnes her support. It was very hard to leave her family, but Agnes was determined and strongly believed this was her life’s mission.

So Agne packed her bags and said goodbye to her family from the train station. It was one of the hardest moments of her life, because she knew she may never see them again. First, she travelled to Ireland, where she lived with other nuns and learned English. Agnes worked hard and picked up on the new language fast. Next, she took a train to Italy and then a boat to Calculutta, India and finally to Darjeeling, India. On the way, she saw crowds of people in the street who were poor, sick, and hungry. Her heart ached and she wanted more than anything to help the suffering.

In Darjeeling, Agnes continued to learn English, and two more languages, Hindi and Begali. She also started teaching children who attended their school. She loved teaching and soon became very good at managing the school and helping the children. During this time Agnes took her vows as a nun and took on a new name, Sister Teresa, after one of her favorite saints of the same name.

Before long, Agnes, now Sister Teresa, was running most of the school and when the Mother Superior became ill, Sister Teresa took her place and from then on was known as Mother Teresa. She continued to teach and loved what she was doing, but often she’d look out the windows of the convent and see people who suffered and needed help. She believed serving them was her true calling, but sadly because she was a nun she wasn’t able to leave the school.

Mother Teresa prayed for the people, but she also believed in taking action, so she received permission to gather a group of nuns and weekly leave the school to take food and medicine to those in need. But for Mother Teresa, this wasn’t enough! She wanted to spend all of her time serving these people — but to do it she’d need permission from the Pope, who was the head of the Catholic Church. So Mother Teresa wrote a letter and continued writing and asking until she was given permission to remain a nun, but also live outside the school and help the people of Calcutta.

Imagine how nervous Mother Teresa felt when she left the safety of her school and ventured into the big city for the first time. In many ways it was a dangerous place, so it required great bravery and faith to venture out in this new, unknown world. Mother Teresa wanted to blend in with the women of India, s0 she changed her black nun’s clothes out for a white traditional robe, called a sari.

After finding a place to live and a little money, Mother Teresa walked the streets of the city looking for people she could help. She wasn’t sure what to do, so she started doing what she did best, teaching! She drew letters in the dirt and curious kids started gathering around her. Soon a huge crowd of children surrounded Mother Teresa each day, hungry to learn, and feel of her love and attention for them.

When people in the city saw what she was doing they started donating money and items to help. Her former students volunteered their time. Before long Mother Teresa started a new order called the Missionaries of Charity. Every day Mother Teresa and her nuns said prayers, ate breakfast, then went out into the slums of Calcutta to help others. A slum is a place where very poor people live. Often their homes are broken down or they sleep on the streets with very little clothes or shelter. There is usually no clean water and garbage and diseases spread easily. 

At first Mother Teresa and the other nuns would carry people to the hospital, but soon the city leaders saw the good they were doing and gave them an old building to use. The nuns cleaned it up and began caring for the sick. Mother Teresa was determined to treat all people equally, regardless of their religion, like her mother taught her. If they were Muslim or Buddhist or Hindu, she still said their prayers with them and did what they asked even though their requests were different than her Catholic faith. 

Leprosy was a disease that infected many people in India. It causes sores all over peoples’ bodies and no one wants to be around them, because they are worried the leprosy will spread. But Mother Teresa wasn’t concerned about herself, so every day she and her helpers drove a van around Calcutta and found lepers in the street. They set aside a special village for the lepers, where they could live and be taken care of.

In 1969 a journalist noticed what Mother Teresa and the Missionaries of Charity were doing in Calcutta, and made a film about them. When people around the world saw what they were doing and what a difference they were making in India, they started donating money and other supplies to help her cause. Remember, that in order for Mother Teresa to help the sick and poor, she needed medicine and buildings and food and money. It takes many humans working together to make a difference! And every little donation helped! Soon, the Missionaries of Charity were able to help even more people and began to open new cities around the world. Next was Rome, Italy and then places like Australia, Africa and England, and later New York. 

In 1979 Mother Teresa was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Her goal was never to be famous, she just believed she had a mission to fulfill and did what came natural to her, loving others and serving them. Her life wasn’t always easy and many times she was nervous or afraid. Helping others often takes courage. It can be easy to be too shy or nervous to help someone, but I challenge you to take the leap and do it anyway! Most of the time others are happy to receive help and to just know they are loved and someone cares about them. For example, if someone is new to your class at school or in your neighborhood you can say “hi” to them and let them join in your play. Or take them a plate of cookies. People love to be cared about and feel like they belong. 

One reason Mother Teresa’s organization was successful was because people in India and all over the world donated to help out. Find a cause that you and your family care about and consider donating. Even small amounts make a difference. Our family has donated to different charities over the years and helped pack food for the hungry. Ask your parents about local charities that do the same thing. It’s always a great experience and feels good to know what you are doing makes the world a better place!

The Maya Angelou Story for Kids

Performing “On the Pulse of Morning” at Bill Clinton’s Inauguration:

“Caged Bird” by Maya Angelou

“Still I Rise” by Maya Angelou

“Harlem Hopscotch” by Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou was born on April 4, 1928 in St. Louis Missouri. Her full name was Margeurite, but her older brother had trouble saying her name so he started calling her “Maya” for short. Maya’s parents had trouble getting along and when she was three they divorced. Her parents thought it would be better for her grandmother raised them instead, so they sent Maya and her brother on a train to live with their grandmother in Stamps, Arkansas. They called their grandma Henderson “Momma.” Most of the people in Stamps were black and it was a segregated town. “Segregated” means that everyone who was black attended a different school, ate at their own restaurants, and lived in their own neighborhood. Maya’s grandmother and her son, Uncle Willy, owned a store in Stamps, and Maya and her brother, Bailey, lived in a room in the back of the store. 

Momma loved her grandchildren and took good care of them. She also wanted them to be responsible, so she taught them good manners and made them help at the store. Often Maya’s job was to sweep the floors. Their Uncle Willy taught them to read and believed they should have an education. It was at this time that Maya fell in love with words as she read new books. One of her favorite authors was William Shakespeare. Charles Dickens was another favorite.

While living in Stamps, Maya’s brother, Bailey, was her best friend. They spent all of their time working and playing and learning together. They loved to run in the woods and had lots of freedom. Bailey always stood up for Maya when people teased her or said mean things. She loved her older brother very much. 

In 1935 Maya’s father came to Stamps to bring them back to the city where he lived, St. Louis, Missouri. They weren’t used to the city but were glad to see their mother again who also lived there. St. Louis had a big library and Maya spent her free time checking out books and reading them at the library. Before this time Maya had a safe childhood, but when she was 7 she was hurt by her mother’s boyfriend. This horrible experience caused her to stop talking. No one knew what to do. Eventually, Maya and Baily moved back to Stamps to be with her Grandmother and Uncle Willy again. For five years Maya didn’t speak. Instead, she spent most of her time reading and writing.

In 1941 Maya’s Grandmother decided they needed to move back in with their mother who now lived in San Francisco, California, because the schools were better there. She and Bailey were now 13 and 14 and enjoyed the new city with the amazing Golden Gate Bridge and the cable cars. Maya liked her new school and did well there. She spent her free time writing poems and her own stories. She also started taking singing and dancing lessons. But Bailey had a harder time in San Francisco and often got into trouble and ran away from home. Maya missed Bailey and this caused her to struggle in school. She decided to take a break and look for a job. In San Francisco people used cable cars on tracks to move all around the city. Maya applied to be a cable car conductor, the person who takes people’s tickets and helps them on the cable car. She ended up becoming the first African American cable conductor! After a semester of working, she decided to back to school. She also learned that Bailey joined the Navy and they wrote letters back and forth. She was happy to hear from her brother again.

In 1945, during her last year of high school, Maya had her first baby and named him Clyde Bailey after her brother. She and the father didn’t end up getting married, so Maya was left to raise Clyde on her own. For the next several years she worked as a waitress to earn enough money to take care of Clyde. She also worked at a music store and later as a Calypso dancer at a club called The Purple Onion. There she sang and danced for the audience. Performing before an audience made Maya very nervous, but she did it anyway and found she had a talent for it and got better and better as she continued to practice and improve her skill.

Soon people all over San Francisco were waiting in lines at The Purple Onion to watch Maya perform. Her name started showing up in the newspapers and on the radio. Her next big break was joining a touring group that performed a musical called Porgy and Bess. They traveled all over Europe and Africa, visiting 22 different countries to perform. Maya loved visiting foreign countries and while traveling began to learn other languages and write about the places she visited.

When the tour was done she returned home to be with her son and continued working as a dancer. But Maya knew her real love was writing poems and stories. She had many experiences in her life she wanted to share with others. While living in Los Angeles, she met a famous author, John Oliver Killens, who read some of her stories and encouraged her to move to New York, so she could share her own stories.

In New York City Maya joined the Harlem City Writer’s Guild, where writers met to share their stories and give each other advice. In New York Maya went to listen to a speech given by Martin Luther King, Jr. He spoke about how people should be treated the same, no matter the color of their skin. Maya liked Martin Luther King, Jr. and helped put on a show to raise money for him and his cause, which was called the Civil Rights Movement. They believed that all people should be equal and treated the same. They wanted to end segregation. 

Maya continued to help with the Civil Rights Movements by writing and helping earn money for the cause. She later moved to Egypt to help with Civil Rights in Africa. There she wrote for a newspaper and met other famous Civil Rights Leaders like Malcolm X. 

Maya moved back to New York to continue writing and speaking about Civil Rights. There a famous black author and friend, James Baldwin, encouraged Maya to write her life’s story. This is called an autobiography. When Maya finished her autobiography in 1969 she gave it the title “I Know Why A Caged Bird Sings.” She gave it this title because many times in her life she felt like she was living in a cage, not always free to live and act the way she wanted. To Maya, this cage was racism and abuse. But her story was also hopeful, like the bird singing, because she believed that even when someone’s life is hard and painful they can still find joy and happiness. Her book, “I Know Why a Caged Bird Sings” was a huge success and soon many knew about Maya Angelou and her incredible life story. 

Maya continued to write. She wrote a book of poems and a screenplay for a movie. She starred in a musical on Broadway and a TV miniseries called “Roots” about the history of slavery in America. She was also married to a French cartoonist and writer. Her son was married and had a child of his own, so she became a grandmother. 

Maya wrote more books of poems and traveled and spoke and told her life story to inspire others and give them hope. She read her poems for three of the Presidents and in 2010 was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honor a civilian can receive. 

In 2014 Maya died peacefully in her home in North Carolina. She was 86 years old and after her passing people all around the world spoke about how much they loved her and loved the words she wrote. Her life and actions and deeds were an inspiration to so many people over the years.

Maya once wrote: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

And “You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.”

She also wrote, “If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.”

Finally, “If you’re always trying to be normal you will never know how amazing you can be.”

Gail Halvorsen: The Berlin Candy Bomber For Kids

Tonight we’re going to talk about one of the most difficult times in the history of the world — World War 2. A world war is where many countries are fighting each other at the same time. Two of the countries fighting in World War 2 were America and Germany.

But tonight our story begins before the World War on a little farm in Utah. Living at this farm was a boy named Gail. Every day Gail helped his father grow sugar beets on the farm. Gail’s father taught him to work hard and to help his neighbor.

One day when Gail was working in the fields he heard a noise in the sky. He looked up and watched as planes flew over his head. From that moment he knew he wanted to be a pilot when he grew up.

When he was old enough, Gail joined the air force and learned to fly. Soon after this enemy airplanes attacked America’s base at Pearl Harbor and America joined in the war. Gail flew bomber planes during the war.

Once the war was over America decided to help its old enemy, Germany. They helped them by giving them food. Gail and other pilots new job was to fly food to the hungry people in Germany.

One day when Gail was walking around in Germany he saw a bunch of kids crowded at a fence. They talked to him and thanked him for bringing them food. Gail had a strong feeling he should give them the gum he had in his pocket. The kids broke up the gum into little pieces and shared it with each other. They appreciated the gum. Appreciation is when you are thankful for something.

The next time Gail flew his plane over the crowd of kids he had a crazy idea about how to give the kids his chocolate bars. He made little bags of candy and little parachutes for the bags. When he flew over the kids he threw the bags out the window and they floated down to the ground. The kids picked up the candy and jumped for joy. When Gail would fly over he would wiggle his plane wings so the kids would know it was him. They started calling him “Uncle Wiggly Wings.”

Later other pilots learned about Gail throwing candy out of his plane, so they started the same thing with their chocolate bars. Newspapers all over the world started writing stories about what Gail and the other pilots were doing for the kids in Germany. Soon candy companies started sending boxes and boxes of all types of candy to give to the kids in Germany. In school in America kids helped tie the candy into parachutes for Gail and the other pilots.

Even though the kids were happy to get the candy, more than anything Gail’s kindness gave them hope that life would be okay.

After helping in Germany Gail spent the rest of his life trying to help people in other ways. He is very old now but stills does all he can to be kind and help others.

Many years later Gail met a man who said when he was a little boy in Germany he was walking to school one day. It was rainy, cloudy and he was sad — when all of a sudden he saw a white parachute fall through the clouds and landed right at his feet. He was so excited and it made him happy! He said that he enjoyed eating the chocolate, but more importantly he knew that someone else was thinking about him and cared enough to send him chocolate. It gave him hope.

Like Gail, you can forgive others who might have been your enemy. Forgiveness is when we are kind to someone even if they did something wrong to you. You can also be creative and think of fun ways to help others. You can help your family by cleaning your room or making your bed or helping your little brother or sister get dressed. You could make someone at school a nice card. You can be nice to someone at school who others aren’t nice to. There is so much you can do to help others like Gail if you just think about it.