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Believe in kids, and they will believe in kindness

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Children’s author Deborah Abela will release her 29th book entitled The Kindness Project. Photo: Supplied
Children’s author Deborah Abela will release her 29th book entitled The Kindness Project. Photo: Supplied

Popular Australian children’s author and former St Patrick’s Primary School Guildford student Deborah Abela is set to release her 29th book, The Kindness Project.

The writer of the Max Remy Superspy series is venturing into new waters with her first verse novel. It follows four students who don’t like each other with a class assignment to make the world a better place.

Ahead of The Kindness Project releasing on 7 May, The Catholic Weekly sat down with Deborah to discuss the importance of kindness.

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What is the kindest thing someone has done for you?

My Year 4 teacher saw I wanted to be an author. I felt I wasn’t good enough, but she encouraged me. My life changed from then and I always come back to that. I am so thankful for her and her kindness to me.

Is kindness something taught to children, or do they already possess it?

I believe they’re intrinsically kind. A child’s little orbit is mostly about themselves and maybe their family and friends—there is an egocentric aspect to kids because they are still learning about themselves. I’ve worked with kids 20 years and found everyone, not just children, learn kindness through example. If you believe in kids and they know you believe in them, their best self will come out, which is inherently kind.

Deborah Abela’s 29th book, The Kindness Project, releases 7 May. Photo: Supplied
Deborah Abela’s 29th book, The Kindness Project, releases 7 May. Photo: Supplied

How important are adult figures in shaping a child’s ability to be kind?

Kids are like sponges. My nanna was important to me when I was young. I loved her and I always felt safe with her. She is the inspiration for Nicolette’s nanna in the book.

By 11-12 they’re not little kids anymore, but not teenagers either. It’s why I love writing for this age group because the adults in their influence have such a chance of helping them become the best person they can be.

These kids are steps away from the rest of their lives. Adults, by what they say and how they treat each other, play a role in how kids see the world around them, so being kind is important.

Many world leaders might consider kindness to be a weakness, but is that the case?

It’s the opposite, it’s the biggest strength. I get so frustrated when some world leaders suggest being a good leader means being tough, which means being harsh and hard.

I realised when I was thinking about this book, the easiest thing for these characters to do would be to stay away from each other. The harder thing is for them to sit and work things through together, even if it’s with a kid who has bullied them.

That’s the strongest thing, not to be walked over, but to allow other people a chance to experience forgiveness and your love. It’s so much better for you. We know that. If you let that anger go and you forgive, your soul and heart are better for it.

With so many terrible things plaguing the world right now, is there more of a need for kindness?

Absolutely, and it has to start small. There’s so much going on that it can be easy to believe there’s nothing we can do. But what you can do is look after your world: your friends, family. Smile at that stranger serving you at the fruit shop.

That’s the idea of The Kindness Project, that if we do something small amongst ourselves it adds that little bit more kindness in the world that has a ripple effect.

Oftentimes what’s happening in the world is totally out of our hands. When kids get all these messages about war in Ukraine and Middle East, what must they be thinking? Because it must feel like such a mess to them, and it is.

I wanted this book to convey that no matter how small, you can actually affect your world very simply. Ask what it is that you feel happy doing. I guarantee you’ll feel better having done it.

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