In Another Skin
You might have heard the name of To Kill a Mockingbird’s author, Harper Lee, floating around quite a bit recently as book lovers everywhere try to contain their excitement about her soon to be released novel, Go Set a Watchman. For an author with only one book, Harper Lee has been getting a remarkable amount of buzz. Yes, it is always exciting when a previously unpublished work comes to light, but I think there is some other reason the world has been captivated. Something else that is making readers from the ages of 10-100 clamor for an early copy. Perhaps it is because of the profound yet simple truths woven throughout Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. Regardless of age, sex, race, or religion, this book has an undeniable effect on all who read it.
Recently, as I skimmed through the world of Pinterest, I came across a quote from Mockingbird that stood out in a new way. It doesn’t come from a significant portion of the book and it wasn’t spoken dramatically, but it had a significant and dramatic impact anyway. In the beginning of the story, Scout (the daughter), comes home from school complaining about her teacher. In reply, her father, Atticus, states “You never really understand a person until you consider things form his point of view… until you climb into his skin and walk around in it." I love this. You see, Atticus didn’t just tell Scout to think about things from another perspective and then move on. He told her to “…climb into [someone else’s] skin and walk around in it…” This requires more than a brief moment. It calls for time, thought, and consideration. Truly making an effort to understand another person and what it’s like to be them, to look like them, feel like them, experience like them.
Another beautiful aspect of this quote is the fact that it is being spoken to a child. Atticus never believed that Scout was too young to understand this concept or to put it into practice. He didn’t dumb down the truth or lower his expectations for his daughter’s behavior. This is vital because, despite what many believe, bullying behavior can begin with children who are as young as 2 or 3 years old. The good news, though, is so can prevention. Scout was taught early on to consider others, so she knew how to treat people as she got older. In an article on www.ourfamilyworld.com, author, mom, and blogger Katie Hale describes ways we can prevent bullying behavior in pre-school children, placing a strong emphasis on understanding. Often children don’t understand what the word “bully” means or what bullying behavior looks like, but by introducing and explaining these concepts early on, we can prevent behavior before it ever gets out of hand and establish positive mind sets that will follow them as they grow.
Children can be taught to understand and to think from the perspective of another. When we thought about publishing our illustrated book This is A. Blob, we wanted to help assist adults in guiding children through this process of understanding. Most books on the topic encourage the victim and the bystanders and provide suggestions for children who are being bullied, but few ever consider the bully. In This is A. Blob, we follow a sticky purple bully named A. Blob and learn that there is often more to this bully than meets the eye. Through our discussion guides online, we invite children to put on his purple skin for a while and see the world from his point of view. Being considerate of others can be hard. Trying to understand those who hurt us can be even harder, but through books like This is A. Blob, as well as meaningful and straight-forward conversations, we can help our children “…get along a lot better with all kinds of folks…” as Atticus would say.
“Peace begins with a smile…“-Mother Theresa
A smile can change the world. A bold statement. But time and time again we see smiles crossing borders, crossing cultures, and crossing languages, opening doors that no piece of delegation could ever open. But why? Why is such a simple gesture so powerful? I think it’s because, despite the significant amount of cynicism that runs rampant in our culture (and on our computer screens) there is something pure and simple about a smile that can have a profound impact on the way we feel about ourselves and others. It may sound silly, but a smile really can change the world.
It turns out, there is actually some science behind why exactly we are all so universally affected by a smile. An article in Forbes Magazine argues that the act of smiling can actually raise your endorphin levels, make you feel as good as if you had eaten 2,000 chocolate bars (without the 200,000 calories!) or received $25,000, and--get this-- even lengthen your life. Now there is something to smile about!
So then, if a smile can be so powerful, why not use it to its full advantage? Luckily, today is (as you may have already guessed!) National Smile Power Day! Figuring that it was time to put all of this research to the test, I decided to make a conscious effort to smile more often throughout the day, especially towards others. I found that, when I smiled, I naturally felt happier. I wanted to act more kindly and think more positively throughout the rest of my day.
It can be so easy to allow negativity to take over and to think the worst of those around us. To assume the guy who cut you off on the highway is just a huge jerk. That the girl who placed a 20 step order in front of you in the coffee line had probably been sent there specifically to ruin YOUR day. But when I made the effort to smile, I found myself thinking better of others. Or, perhaps more importantly, thinking of others at all. How often had I only seen that guy as “traffic guy” and that girl as “coffee diva”, without giving a second thought to who they were? How often had I gone through my day, seeing these people as extras in my one woman show? But the simple act of smiling made me not only take a beat to think of these people as, well, people, but to think of them positively.
And it didn’t just affect my own inner thought process. While I received a confused look or two, most people seemed genuinely pleased that someone acknowledged them in a pleasant way. I noticed that they seemed to take that smile with them, if only for a second. Have you ever seen those commercials where the girl on one side of the screen eats a doughnut for breakfast and the girl on the other side has a Special K bar and the Special K girl decides to take the stairs and eat a salad at lunch while doughnut girl takes the elevator and eats a Big Mac because she made a bad breakfast choice? Though slightly exaggerated, it’s not too far off the mark. One good choice truly does lead to another, including the choice to smile. Imagine the possibilities if everyone I smiled at felt better as a result and passed that positivity on to the next person they saw and the next person. It sounds so simple and really, it is. It is so simple, but so so powerful.
So can a smile end all of our problems? Probably not. But, as Mother Theresa stated, peace BEGINS with a smile, and that means that peace on the playground, in schools, and on the internet can begin with a smile too. Smile at your neighbor, at your boss, at your customers, at your students. Text a smiley face to your friend or post one on your mother’s Facebook page. Encourage your children to smile at the new kid or the crossing guard as they pass by in the morning. I think you will be just as amazed as I was at the results.
I encourage all of you to go out on this day of smiling and give it a try! What’s YOUR favorite way of making the day a little brighter? We’d love to hear from you in the comments! Then send us a picture of your biggest smile on our Twitter or Facebook page along with your stories of how you celebrated National Smile Power Day! Together we can make a huge difference…or at least live longer;)
While bullying is nothing to smile about, these books designed to help kids combat and talk about bullying are! Studies show that early intervention is key to stopping bullying in its tracks. As children read about the sticky purple bully, A. Blob, they will learn that there is often more to a bully than meets the eye and discover that the power to create a happy, safe environment is right inside of them. Now that's something to smile about!
About Laughing Leopard Press
Hello! We are Laughing Leopard Press, an independent book publisher from Akron, Ohio. At Laughing Leopard Press, we’re interested in publishing works that contribute to our understanding of this wonderful world. Through this blog, we hope to add to that understanding with commentary on life, literature, and a few things in between. We hope you enjoy the blog and take some time to talk with us in the comments or on our social media sites. Happy reading!
This is A. Blob by L. A Kefalos. $14.95
$1.00 is donated to charity for each book sold on this site--half to St. Jude's and the other half to PetFix Northeast Ohio.