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In response to the Brattleboro area COVID period Unsung Hero recognitions and Teacher Tributes organized by Compassionate Brattleboro and the Reformer, students themselves are now stepping forward to engage in discussions about compassion and their experiences of it. These offerings are the second set of what may become many. Teachers are encouraged to submit such sets of student compassion reflections to compassionstory@gmail.com. Special thanks to teacher Amanda Nash and her English Language Arts middle school — remote learning “Team Felix” students from the Putney School, Dummerston School, and BAMS — for getting us started.

The students were responding to the following prompt: “Compassion means we care about others, treat them with kindness, and feel a strong desire to help people in need.” Based on this definition, write a paragraph about a compassionate experience you have witnessed or been a part of.

Kindness is a very strong and big word. You can use that word in many different ways. There are people in the world that are kind and care about others, and there are people in the world that just care about themselves. When I was in 5th grade, I decided to jump off the swing when it was time to go inside. As I hit the ground, I kinda did a roll and I was in a lot of pain. I ran over to the playhouse and sat there crying because it hurt so bad. A friend came over to see if I was okay. As they could see I was not okay, she ran over and got a teacher. She brought me to the nurse. The nurse helped me look on the brighter side and not think about the pain! And it worked!! She called my mom and my mom took me to the hospital as fast as she could. The whole way my mom was talking to me … she made me feel safe and not to worry about anything! She said I was going to be okay. My doctor told me that I broke my collarbone! To be truly honest, I had no clue what they meant!!! He said that I will be in this sling for 6 weeks. He said no swinging, try to not move it very much. If you move it just right and in the wrong way you will have to get surgery. And that’s when I got scared. After my appointment my mom took me home in a sling!! My brothers and sisters got off the bus at 3:00 and came running in the living room to see if I was okay! My twin sister gave me this whole stack of cards that my class made for me because they care about me! I was really happy that I got those cards! I had to stay in my sling for 6 weeks, so week one went by very slow. That was not fun! Week 4 started and I got a package in the mail. And guess what was in it? It was a whole bag of lollipops! There was also a card too! So I read the card and it was from one of my mom’s best friends! She told me that when she was little she also broke her collarbone too. It was such a great feeling opening that package and to know that somebody cares about me and to share the same pain. So as you can see these people care about me! They wanted to know that they were there with me all the way! Something very small can go a long way! So when you see someone not doing the right thing, always think, Kindness costs nothing but means everything! Always choose kindness!!!

— Jasmine Thibault, Grade 7, Dummerston

Sometimes after a church service me and some people would make cards for something called “Love Brigade.” Basically, we would get a page of stories about people who have been shown hate or sadness. Then we would send them hand drawn cards just to show them we cared and we were thinking of them. I think that is a prime example of compassion. When someone is at a low you show them that you care and have their back.

— Jonas Ackerman, Grade 7, Brattleboro Area Middle School

You might have heard of the Dairy Queen paying it forward on December 3 (2020) one person paid themself and the person behind them and the chain went on and on. But before the store closed for the night the last person paid for the first person the next morning and it went the whole next day reaching about 900 cars. Just a simple act of kindness can make someone’s day. I came across this quote from J.M Barrie, “Always try to be a little kinder than is necessary.” If only everyone would make it their goal just to be a little kinder than is necessary it would make the world such a better place. My family and I travel a lot and every year we go to Maine, there are 2 or 3 tolls on the way there. One of my first memories of a toll booth is when my Dad pulled up to the toll booth and the person in there said “Your toll was paid by the person in front of you.” I can tell that made my parents’ day and they gave the guy in the booth the amount of money that was needed for the toll and told the guy to pay for the person behind us. We try to pay for the people behind us each time we go through a toll now and remember how happy we were when it was us. Just a little bit of kindness can go a long way.

— Maeve Bald, Grade 7, Brattleboro Area Middle School

I was a part of a program through the Academy and BAMS school called leadership. Leadership is a program through the WSESU that focuses on kindness, inclusion and learning ways to help others when they need it. Something we did to be kind was to send out handmade letters to try to make someone’s day at The Gathering Place. Even though writing these letters were optonial I thought it was a great idea to do. The reason I thought this was a good thing to do was because they usually can not see their loved ones during this tough time. Also, whenever you can you should always do something nice to make someone’s day. To summarize, whether or not you send a nice email or a letter you can still make someone’s day better.

— Jamel Smith, Grade 7, Brattleboro Area Middle School

Winter can be hard for elders and people who are handicapped, especially. This winter we had a big snow storm and got about 2 feet of snow in Dover. Our family decided to go out and shovel elders’ walkways and steps so they could get out. We shoveled and charged nothing. We felt like giving to others and helping those who need it. Winter can be a hard season, especially this year because of COVID. Spreading kindness is very important and it makes not only them happy but you’ll feel pretty good yourself!

— Islynn Crafts, Grade 7, Brattleboro Area Middle School

A kid who was in my class in elementary school was wandering the playground. We were playing tag and decided to ask him if he wanted to play. He thought about it and decided to play and he was happy to play with us.

— Jayson Tirrell, Grade 7, Brattleboro Area Middle School

Recently I saw my brother make food for my other brother and just generally being kind. That would be abnormal or out of the norm. I was quite proud to see my little brothers being considerate and helpful. Sometimes my little brother is mean-spirited or angry but when he is not he is very nice. In summary my little brothers were kind to each other.

— Maddox Berube, Grade 8, Brattleboro Area Middle School

One thing that I did that I think that is compassionate is that I made bracelets for all my friends and sent them to their houses this Christmas. I have a friend that changed schools, and now goes to a private school. We live in the same area, but I didn’t know what apartment she lived in. But then she was out sledding. So I grabbed the bracelet and card I made for her and ran out the door. We were really happy to see each other. Something that made me feel bad was that none of our other friends have talked to her since she left the school that I go to still. She made me a bracelet too and I wear it every day. I gave her my email so she can talk to me. I check it every day.

— Hannah Rowe, Grade 8, Brattleboro Area Middle School

Over this past summer my family and I went out to be with some family friends for a vacation. We were at a lake where we would go swimming, kayaking and all sorts of other fun things. This other family has two girls in it. One of them had fallen off of the dock when getting off of the boat. She had to stay inside and not play with the kids. So, instead of going outside and playing with the other kids, I stayed inside with her and kept her company while she was hurt.

Then, two days later, I fell off of my bike and broke my collar bone. For the last few days of my vacation, the girl who had hurt herself stayed inside with me when I couldn’t go out and play with the other kids. She did this even though she could have been playing outside and going swimming and playing in the water. I believe that you should always treat others the way you want to be treated because it will pay off in the end And, even if it doesn’t pay off, you will still know that you helped someone. Therefore, when you show compassion to others, others will show compassion to you.

— Alli Ackerman-Hovis, Grade 8, Brattleboro Area Middle School

I was at my cousin’s house on my dad’s side of the family, and both my cousins are girls. I was in my cousin’s room and kept jumping on the bed. My other cousin was in the room as well. I was in the room with my two other female cousins. I eventually broke the bed on accident. So my older female cousin asked for a hammer. I gave it to her and she could not fix the bed. I was nervous because I broke her bed. My aunt came in and saw that it was broken. Then my cousin that is like 1 year older than me said that she broke the bed by jumping on it. I feel that was one of the nicest things anyone has ever done to me and I am super grateful to her for doing that.

— Sam Rondeau, Grade 8, Brattleboro Area Middle School

One time I was walking downtown somewhere and I saw a little box with food and water for the homeless. I thought this was so kind and would really help people during COVID. So many people can’t afford food so this was a great way to keep people not hungry.

— Iyla Neikirk, Grade 8, Brattleboro Area Middle School

Compassion. Sympathy. Two similar words. Many don’t see a difference. But, no, they are different. Very different. Compassion means to recognize the suffering of others and then take action to help.

It means to have a genuine concern for all of humanity, for plants, animals. You should show compassion to things that are alive and breathing, just like me and you, not just your own tribe.

Sympathy is a feeling of pity — it’s when you feel bad for someone else who’s going through something hard. Sympathy often irritates with many words. Compassion helps and hears in quietness and understanding.

You can tell whether someone is showing you sympathy or compassion just by paying attention to their tone.

If someone is showing you sympathy, they may say, “I’m sorry.”

However, if they were planning to show you compassion, they may say, “I’m here with you.”

— Rahaf Safir, Grade 8, Brattleboro Area Middle School

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