Empathy in Ireland: ‘Todd does the right thing’ A story for children of 10 to 13 years.

Empathy in Ireland

Todd does the Right Thing

Forget about 'sides', someone needs help!

Forget about ‘sides’, someone needs help!

This story is set in Ireland. It comes from a town that has known unrest and internal battles over many years. It could equally be set in many places around the world where neighbours struggle for power.

The warring factions could always find excuses reaching back into history as to why they should hate each other. Gradually over time and with the determined wisdom of some politicians from both sides they finally made peace.

Barricades were taken down. It became easy to travel from the street to that street without worrying whether a bottle or worse would be thrown at you.

The schoolchildren found that they could play football matches against people who might in the past have come from the opposite side.

Now it didn’t seem to matter any more. Now they enjoyed their freedom to come and go, to mix and talk with whom ever they wanted.

The wiser ones decided it would be better not to ask a person if they were green or orange, if they were from the North or the South if they were Catholic or Protestant. Better not to know, those were only labels. People discovered that without labels they could just be friends.

After a soccer match one Sunday, Todd and his elder brother Leon were wandering home feeling good. Their team had won. They weren’t paying much attention to the road. Suddenly two cars came screaming towards them. One took a sharp right turn and disappeared up a side street and the other rammed into a lamp post. The boys were shocked, but ran towards the stricken car.

irish boys save the day

A youth was slumped over the steering wheel and a young child of no more than four years old was screaming in the back seat. The boys noticed that the car had harsh threatening slogans on the back window. The words used were the kind their mother told them never to use.

‘People who say that are no better than scum.’ she had said.

The street was deserted. It was a shopping area but everything was locked and shuttered, it being a Sunday afternoon.

‘ We’ve got to do something quick,’ said the older lad, ‘that kid might be strangled by his safety belt and the other needs hospital! You stay here and I’ll run and get help. Stop any passing cars and tell them what’s happened.’

The engine in the wrecked car had cut out so the was no chance of an explosion. Leon raced off leaving Todd to watch and wait. Todd tested the back door of the car. The child stopped screaming, he just sat looking terrified and dazed.

‘Are you hurting?’ asked Todd. The kid shook his head. ‘Is that safety belt cutting you?’

The child seemed puzzled. He looked down and pulled at the belt. It seemed loose enough. Todd looked over at the driver. Nothing he could do to help him. He was unconscious and Todd knew not to move a person if their bones might be broken. The child began to cry again, this time it was a frightened whimpering.

Todd came back to the child. ‘Take my hand,’ he said, ‘I promise you I’ll stay until help comes.’ The child grasped his hand and nodded. Todd could feel his own heart beating loudly in his chest, but he stayed put although he really wanted to run away and hide himself.

After what seemed like a long time the sound of a police siren cut through the air. Leon was sitting in the back of the police car with a policewoman. Two male officers leapt out of the front and ran to the battered car. An ambulance siren wailed in the distance.

‘You’ve done a great job there, Todd, is it? Good lad. Little ‘un must have been in a state when you got to him.’

Todd managed a half smile and anxiously looked over at the slumped figure in the front of the car.

‘Don’t worry about his brother, he still breathing. We’ll have him in the ambulance in two ticks. How about keeping the little fellow company while we take you to the police station for a statement? He seems to like you.’

They lifted the child from the car. He looked terrified.

‘Dont you fret Sonny, Todd will stay with you until we get your mam or dad to take you home. Is that all right with you Todd?’

‘Yes, yes, of course,’ said Todd, wondering what his own mother would think of her son for helping someone who was so obviously not on the same side as his mother had been all her life.

‘I will have to let my mam and dad know where I am,’ he said.

‘All done,’ said the policeman. ‘Your brother phoned them and they will be at the station waiting for you. As for the little lad here, we haven’t got a contact number to him yet. We have to go through his brother’s papers to get that.’

‘Oh I’ll wait with him, no problem,’ said Todd, looking down at the child clinging to his legs, ‘whatever my mam says!’

Todd’s parents were at the police station when the police car pulled up in the yard. His mother rushed over to him and hugged him.

‘I hear you’ve been a real hero today, Todd,’ she said. ‘ we’re really proud of you! So this is the little ‘un you’ve been looking after! I didn’t know my two boys could be so brave and clever. Well done! We’ll all wait until his mammy comes for him, then you can tell us all about it on the way home.’

Todd told his parents about the horrible sign in the back of the car and that he knew they must be from the ‘other side’, ‘But,’ he said ‘if I’d been in that car I wouldn’t have cared who saved me, I would just need to be saved!’

‘Quite right, Todd,’ said his dad, ‘We’re all the same under the skin; we’re just people who need to be saved every so often.’

A tear fell from his mother’s eyes as she realised the importance of what her youngest son had said and she felt ashamed of herself.  She asked herself if she really would have walked away if she had been the one to find the car crashed into the lamp post.

Questions 

  • Does the story remind you of anything in your life?
  • What happened as the boys were walking back home from the football match?
  • What did they notice about the car which had crashed into the lamppost?
  • How did they feel when they saw the crash?
  • What did Leon do?
  • What did Todd do?
  • Why was Todd concerned about what his mother would think of the fact that he had helped the lads in the car.
  • How did Todd feel about the situation? What did he feel like doing?
  • Why do you think he stayed to keep an eye on the two in the car? 
  • How did his mother react when she saw him, was she happy or annoyed, or something else? 
  • What did his father think about people in general?
  • What would you do in such a situation? Why?

The Animal on the Mountain – story for little kids about not keeping wild animals as pets

                                                            The Animal On The Mountain.

Mary and Donald, Tommy’s Granny and Granddad, went to France to see the mountains, which were like huge, tall pointed hills with snow on top. They looked very rocky and difficult to climb. Mary decided she would not try to climb the mountains. She would just walk around the bottom of them where there were lovely flowers called alpine plants.

As Mary and Donald got ready to go on a mountain walk they put bottles of water and some biscuits in their rucksacks. They carried raincoats and wore sun hats. You can never tell what the weather is going to do in the mountains. It can be quite cold or very hot. Sometimes there are thunderstorms and very heavy rain. Mary wanted to be ready for anything. They decided they would try to go and see a glacier, which is a frozen river of ice. When you go on a mountain walk you zig-zag up the sides of the mountain so that it doesn’t feel too steep to climb. Mary had her two walking poles with her to help her go uphill more easily.

She was getting a bit puffed so she sat on a rock to have a rest. Then she thought she saw something moving along between the rocks. It was difficult to see. It was brown and furry. It disappeared. Mary whispered to Donald ‘Look over there! A creature is coming this way! Shush, don’t frighten it!’

A Marmot

 

It was bigger than a rabbit and a smaller than a badger. It had little short legs and it moved a bit like a rabbit or perhaps a cat. It did not hop. Every few steps it flipped its wiggly tail, which was longer than a rabbit’s ‘powder puff’ tail. It had little short rounded ears.

Donald said, ‘It can’t be a rabbit because it hasn’t got long ears.’

Then Mary got excited. ‘I know, it’s a marmot! My nephew Antony had a toy one to cuddle when he was young. It was his favourite toy! Oh Donald, I’d love to take a marmot home for Tommy! It looks so sweet! Tommy could feed it and keep it in a cage in the garden.’

‘I don’t think it would be happy in a box,’ said Donald.

‘We could make a big run for him then. Oh I do want a marmot for Tommy! I’m going to try to catch one!’ said Mary and she went scrambling over the rocks towards the marmot. It sat and watched her struggling with her sticks, then just before she got too close, it popped down a hole in the ground. Mary tried again and again to catch a marmot, but it was too difficult. Mary was determined to bring a marmot home for Tommy.

‘I will just have to buy one in a French pet shop,’ she told Donald.

The pet shop man smiled a sad smile, ‘Very sorry madam,’ he said, ‘we do not sell marmots here. Nobody sells them. They belong in the mountains. That’s their proper home. They don’t like to be kept in a cage. They like to be out on the mountain eating the alpine plants.’ Mary was sad. She told the pet shop man about Tommy and how much he might love one, just like Antony did.

‘Why don’t you buy Tommy a nice furry toy marmot? He can play with it and stroke it and talk to it and he will not need to feed it. And his marmot will not be unhappy like a real one would be.’ said the pet shop man.

Mary smiled a big smile ‘Ah yes, now that is a good idea! I’ll get a toy marmot!’ So she did and it’s on its way to Tommy right now on the boat to Ireland.

Questions:

What sort of animal did Mary see living in the mountains?

How big was it? Did it look cuddly or fierce?

What did Mary want to do to the marmot?

Why could she not catch one?

Would it be a good idea to keep a marmot as a pet? Why not?

What sort of food do marmots eat?

What did the pet shop man tell Mary to do for Tommy, instead of bringing a real live marmot home?

 

Meercat Story- ‘knowing right from wrong’- respect for animals – for age 6-10 years

Brett and the Meercats

When I was a child I lived in Africa . We didn’t have a back garden. We just had the bush.  I was fascinated by all the animals running around, just outside my house. Of course you couldn’t see them all at once. Sometimes we could hear the lions roaring; sometimes the elephants would pass by, these were such large animals I kept well away from them. We didn’t see them very often. I was more used to the smaller animals. We had a family of meerkats who lived not very far away from my house. I used to spend a lot of time watching them.  They became quite used to me.  I would take a little blanket all folded up neatly and walk very quietly to the meerkat tunnels, I would park myself just a few yards away from them slightly hidden behind a bush. I got a very good view of them. They knew I was there, but I never harmed them, so they didn’t bother about me.

I could always tell which meerkat was the boss. At first I didn’t know whether it was a male or a female meerkat. It was just a meerkat. I didn’t know if it was a mum or a dad. Then one day I noticed that the boss meerkat was looking rather heavy and round and then she disappeared. It wondered if she’d been killed. A number of days later she reappeared. She looked different. She wasn’t so fat but I could see that underneath her she had a milky udder, that’s what my mother called it, then I knew that she was a she, and that she had had babies and these babies were suckling her , hidden away under the ground. I don’t know why but I called her Tam Tam, I think I might have given her the name before I knew she was a girl. I wondered how long it was going to be before I saw her babies coming out into the daylight. I took my blanket out every day to make sure I wouldn’t miss them. I could go early in the morning and in the afternoon when it was cooler. Meerkats didn’t come out in the middle of the day,  it was too hot for them and too hot for me.

I don’t remember how many days I had to wait before the first signs of baby meerkats appeared. I think I might have watched them during their first excursion into the world. I remember seeing little noses peeping out sniffing the air and  popping back in again, very shyly.

meerkat babies

Finally Tam Tam came out of the burrow and called to them and they came one by one, sniffing  and blinking  their eyes, not used to strong light having lived in the tunnel for quite a long time. I was so excited and wanted to tell my friends, but something stopped me. I knew that some people could be very cruel to wild animals. Some people looked on them as pests. They would say all sorts of nasty things about them and then they would go and dig them out, destroying their burrows. They would say things like ‘ the cattle put their feet in the holes they might break their legs’. Well, I didn’t think cattle were that stupid.  I’ve watched our cattle carefully stepping round the burrows.  None of them ever hurt their legs. At the first sign of cattle the meerkats would disappear down their holes. The cows weren’t very interested in them, but they would nibble at the grass around the tunnels before moving on.

One day, a cousin came to stay. I hadn’t met him before, he was older than me and seemed to be a nice boy. He said that life in the bush was boring and I wanted to show him that it certainly wasn’t. I decided to take the risk of showing him the meerkats. I gave him a blanket and told him to walk very quietly. We waited patiently by the tunnels. The meerkats wouldn’t come out. I had told him about the babies and how they would all sit up on their hind legs in a row and look about them. Often their heads would all turn at the same time, it was almost like a dance and I found it very comical. I had told my cousin, Brett about other funny things that they used to do. He really wanted to see them, but I think he was making too much noise. He was laughing and joking and although I kept saying ‘Shush’,I was giggling a bit. The meerkats weren’t used to noise. We had frightened them. Suddenly Brett stood up and ran over to a tree with dead branches on it. He broke one off .

‘I’ll get them out of there!’  he said.

Before I could stop him he had poked the stick down the tunnel.  Luckily it was a long tunnel and probably had a bend in it, so he couldn’t reach my favourite baby animals. I was very upset. I picked up my blanket and whopped him with it.

‘You mustn’t do that, you’ll hurt them!’ I said, ‘Come away at once’.

‘I’m going to get a spade and dig ‘em out,’  he said.

He ran off towards the house. Luckily I knew all the spades were locked away. I ran to find my mother. She knew how much I loved the meerkats, I knew that she would tell Brett not to dig them out.  She did, she made him feel very ashamed of himself. But she wasn’t unkind. She knew he was a city boy who might not have been taught to respect animals.  I kept away from the meerkats then.

On Brett’s last day he asked me if we could go once more to look at the little family. He promised me he would not hurt them. Quietly we crept along the path to the meerkat tunnels. We hid behind the bush on our blankets, Brett was very quiet. After a short time, the meerkats came out one by one, they stood in a row sniffing the air and looking this way and that, their little paws hanging down over their chests. I saw a big smile spread over Brett’s face. He didn’t move a muscle. The meerkats played some fighting games. Finally, Brett couldn’t resist it. He just had to wave at them.  All at once they disappeared into the tunnel. We crept away.

‘Why did you do that, Brett?’ I asked.

‘I just wanted to show them I meant no harm.’ he said.

‘Ah, OK.’  What more could I say? It looked like he had learnt his lesson!

Questions

  1.        What name would you give to the story?
  2.        Did it remind you of anything in your life?
  3.        Who showed forgiveness?
  4.        In what ways do you respect animals?
  5.        Do you know what being cruel means?
  6.        How can we be kind to animals?

The Flood (A story about respect for others’ property)

This story is set in Bangladesh.  It is for 9-13 year olds .  I wrote it for  Sathya Sai Education in Human Values lessons SSEHV (an excellent scheme for primary and secondary children, find it on the web)

The Flood

In my village in Bangladesh we live very close to the sea. We live in fear of tidal waves, hurricanes, tornadoes and even extra high tides. If the people in my village could have found somewhere else to live, they would have. But most people are too poor to move away, so they stay and pray that the sea will not take them before their time.

When I was about ten years old, we had a terrible flood. I remember it so clearly. The weather had been bad for several days, raining heavily, turning everything into mud. Then we heard there were storms at sea. The tide was very high the night before it happened. My father said we could not risk staying at home for even one more day. He made us pack our belongings and put them into our handcart. My Mother readily agreed to go. She was afraid for our lives, the lives of her children, especially the new baby, only three months old. She felt he would be her last child and so he was especially precious to her. There were six of us children, four girls and two boys. Two of my sisters were older than I was and the others had come much later, they were twins and were about three years old.

For me it was quite exciting to pack up all our important things. We did not have very much, but my mother made sure we took our little cooking stove and a large bag of rice along with clothing and bedding and tools for working in the fields. We also took our oil lamp trying very hard not to break the glass. I wrapped my blanket carefully around it to make sure it was safe.

Many other people had the same idea as us; some had already had water in their homes from the previous night’s high tide.

The wind blew and the rain fell and we trudged along the road as soon as it was light enough to see. My father said we must walk at least eight miles to get onto higher ground before the next high tide. This was going to be difficult but father thought that even if we didn’t manage the eight miles at least we would be further inland. Maybe the land would soak up the sea behind us, so that it would not reach us, even if we were still on the low lying ground.

My elder sisters and I took it in turns to carry the twins. They were very small and could not keep up the pace. Mother carried the baby on her back and helped father to push the cart when he became tired.

After we had been walking about three hours a terrible thing happened. The wheel fell off our cart. People were streaming past us with their children, animals and all their worldly goods. Everybody’s cart was full up to the brim. There was no space for our stuff. Mother began to cry as she looked at her little cooker that she loved so much. Would she have to leave it behind?

Time was pressing on. The day was becoming hot and humid and there was still a long way to go. Mother noticed a signpost at the edge of the road. It indicated the way to the next village.

“This is a good marker,” she said, and she walked over to a rough brick house. It was open and there were signs that the inhabitants had left hurriedly, leaving little of importance behind them. Mother and Father dragged the cart into the house and draped an old sari she found lying in a corner over it to hide the contents.

“With any luck when we return we may find this house again and reclaim what is ours.” She said.

We continued our journey with no food and no water but with our lives intact. We reached the higher ground two hours before the next high tide and storm. The land was devastated. Thousands of houses were washed away and hundreds of lives were lost. Those too old or too ill to make the journey were drowned. Our family was still together, wet, homeless but together. After five days the local people who had fed us with bowls of rice said we must return to our homelands. There was no room for us in their villages. The water had subsided, so return we did. It was difficult to recognise the route we had taken. Dead animals lay strewn everywhere and every so often there was a human corpse. I noticed that several of the dead were people who had a leg or a foot missing, they had not been able to walk fast or far enough.

Father found an old wheel abandoned in the road and was hoping to be able to fix it on to the cart, should we ever find our cart again. My mother suddenly became excited as she saw in the distance the sign near the brick house where our belongings had been left.

.

Mother and I ran towards the house. There were some people standing round the door looking tired and dirty. Mother approached them cautiously. She spoke to a man leaning in the doorway. She explained how the cart had broken and she had left it in the hut. She wondered if it was still there.

“Ah, Madam, “ replied the tired looking man, “When we returned home all we found was mud, mud, mud. We have not started to clear it away yet. It seems to have half filled our house. Please look for yourself.”

Mother looked inside the hut. To her joy she found the leg of the cooking stove poking out through a piece of filthy slime.

“Yes, yes, “ she exclaimed, “It’s there! May we take it?”

“Indeed, Madam, since it is yours. Please feel free to release it from its tomb.”

“But what about you? You seem to have nothing left in your house. Are you sure you don’t want to keep it? That was the risk we took in leaving it here.”

“Madam, I have very little, and neither, I perceive, do you; but what is yours, is yours. Please take it. The Lord will provide for us, unless it is his will that we also should die.”

With that the man began to scrape away at the mud. Beneath our cart lay a pile of beautiful cooking pots.

There lay some beautiful pots in the mud.

There lay some beautiful pots in the mud.

“And these, madam, are these yours too?”

“No,” said Mother, “I have never seen these, you must keep them and use them for yourself.”

“I will indeed, until their rightful owner returns, I will consider them to be my own.”

He smiled a big smile and his wife looked in wonder at the pots.

On returning to our village we cleared away the mud and resumed our lives. That was ten years ago. I have always remembered that man’s understanding of what is mine is mine, what is yours is yours. It is a good way to look at property, and then one will never be tempted to steal it.

QUESTIONS: Support answers to questions 2 to 7 with evidence from the text.
1. What name would you give this story?
2. Why was the village unsafe?
3. Why did the people remain living there?
4. What were the family’s most important possessions?
5. How do you know the narrator had a positive attitude to life?
6. What help did they receive from the villagers on the higher ground?
7. What was the old man’s attitude who owned the house?
8. How did you feel when you heard the story?
9. Did it remind you of anything in your own life?