Ellie May jumped out of her mom’s car and into the driveway of her friend, Susan’s, house. “Bye Mom!” She shouted, before slamming the sliding van door shut and racing to the front door. Writer’s circle was her favorite part of the day, and she couldn’t wait for it to start.
Susan was waiting for her by the door, and swung it open, leaning out of it while keeping her feet inside.
“Hey Ellie May! Come on in! We’re about to start!”
“Thanks for waiting!” Ellie May puffed, slipping off her shoes and placing them neatly in the little shoe alcove the Anastas kept near the door. In her sock feet, she padded across the carpet and into her spot in the circle, where four other people plus Susan sat. Their mentor, Melinda, whom everyone called Miss Mel, smiled at her as she did.
“Alright, welcome, welcome everyone.” Miss Mel said in her low, soothing voice. Ellie May settled in her seat with excitement. She loved Miss Mel. Ellie May believed that Mel was the most insightful adult she had met. She loved Mel’s thought-provoking writing prompts and the way she listened to Ellie May and her peers.
“Today we’re going to start with one of my favorite prompts. ‘The energy I’m bringing today is…’” Ellie May, Susan, and their other peers, Michael, Jeanine, and Mary Anne, began to write. Ellie wrote the prompt at the top of a fresh page in her notebook, and chewed on the tip of her pen as she reflected.
‘The energy I’m bringing today is… excitement! I love writers circle, and it’s nice to have time after school to write a little bit. It makes me feel motivated to write more, even after a long day.’
When she finished with her writing, she sat quietly and watched as her friends wrote themselves. Susan finished just as quickly as she did, and they both smiled at each other. After waiting a minute more, Miss Mel said,
“Alright everybody, pencils down. Would anyone like to share what they wrote?” Ellie May’s hand shot up along with Susan’s and Mary Anne’s. The three of them were very extroverted, Ellie May knew, and loved to share, whereas Jeanine preferred to hear what other people said before she shared her ideas. Michael, being the only boy in the group for now, rarely ever shared.
“Susan, why don’t you start us off?” Miss Mel said, smiling kindly at her. Susan tossed her long black hair over her shoulder and began.
“The energy I’m bringing today is some low energy. Not like tired energy, but very chill. I’m glad it’s summer and that I don’t have much to do today, because that way I can look forward to all my friends coming over and spending time with them whenever I want.”
“That’s awesome Susan! I’m glad you’re enjoying your summer! Why don’t we just continue to go clockwise down the circle and share that way. Michael, would you like to share today?” Michael shook his head fervently, avoiding Mel’s eyes as he stared at his notebook.
“Alright, no worries. Mary Anne, how about you?” Ellie May listened patiently as Mary Anne talked about her grandparents visit, and how she was glad to have a break from her little brother.
After Jeanine mumbled a little bit about being happy to be at writer’s circle as well, Ellie May prepared herself to read her writing out loud. She was a little disappointed that everyone wrote about the same thing, but at least she felt a little more high energy than everyone else.
“Alright Ellie May, what did you write?” Mel asked, her eyes fixed on Ellie May attentively. Ellie May cleared her throat and read her piece aloud. After she was done, Miss Mel beamed at her.
“I’m so glad you’re excited to be here today! That’s exactly how I felt coming to lead writer’s circle today.”
“Alright, well I’m glad we’re in such good moods, whether it’s high energy or low energy. The next prompt I think we should focus on is, ‘what is kindness to you?’.”
Again, heads bent in thought, everyone began to write. Ellie May chewed hard on her pen cap. There was so much she could say, but there was also so little time to write all of it. Which part of her thoughts were the most important to get down now?
Ellie May had just written her last word when Miss Mel announced pencils down. She was also particularly pleased when Mel said,
“Ellie May, why don’t you go first this time, since you went last in our last round?” Ellie straightened up in her chair with delight, feeling important.
‘Kindness is very important to me. I try my best to be kind to other people, because other people have been kind to me. I really appreciate when my friends listen to me when I tell them about things that interest me, and I try to do the same for them. I also try to show kindness to strangers, like smiling at someone when our eyes meet, because sometimes you need to see a smile during a hard day. I also try to make new friends if possible and make them feel included. I know how hard it is to be in new and different situations, and I want to try and make that easier for them.”
Ellie May looked up from her paper to see Miss Mel grinning.
“That is very kind Ellie. I like how you focused on how kindness affects those around you, and how you have this community built on kindness. It’s good to notice the ways your kindness spreads. Thank you for sharing!” Ellie May smiled, bashfully looking down at her paper again.
“Who else wants to share next?” To Ellie May’s surprise, Michael’s hand rose tentatively along with everyone else’s.
“Oh Michael! Let’s hear what you have to say, then we’ll listen to Jeanine, Mary Anne, and finally Susan.”
Ellie May watched attentively as Michael stared intently at his paper, his face turning red. She felt bad for him. She had talked about making people more comfortable, but in Michael’s case she wasn’t necessarily sure how to. She tried her best to look earnest as she listened. Michael took a deep breath before beginning to read his writing verbatim.
“Kindness is when my older brother lets me watch some of my shows on the T.V., or offers to play video games with me. Kindness is when my dad helps me with my homework, or teaches me how to ride my bike. Kindness is when my mom makes my favorite food for me. Kindness is when I share the last cookie with my brother. That is what kindness is to me.”
Ellie May tilted her head in concentration, trying to process what Michael had written. It was so simple. She had expected him to maybe have something more insightful hidden in his writing. But then again, maybe he did, and maybe he didn’t feel like he could share that stuff. Or, maybe he just wasn’t a great writer. But the purpose for writer’s circle was to work on becoming a better writer… right?
“Excellent Michael! Thank you so much for sharing. Again, I like the focus on actions that show love and kindness. Let’s hear from everyone else!”
After everyone had shared their pieces of kindness, Miss Mel had them write about what they would do if they were given a magic wand. The themes were centered more on doing things for others, based on the previous prompt, but Ellie May ended up writing about freezing time so that she had more time to do different things that she wanted to do, as well as be able to do important things for school. Mel said that she liked how creative Ellie May’s answer was, but also said it sounded like she should think about her time management skills and try making time for the fun things as well as the important stuff for school.
After everyone else had shared again, the writer's circle was drawn to a close. Ellie May, Susan, and the others said goodbye to Miss Mel as she left for her other classes, and then waited as one by one, their own mothers came to pick them up.
Ellie May fidgeted with her backpack as she packed her things back up, trying to think of a good way to reach out to Michael. When she opened her pencil case to replace her mechanical pencil, she found that she had packed two granola bars earlier today, in case she got super hungry during writers circle. Thinking about Michael and how he had talked about sharing food as one of his acts of kindness, she grabbed a bar and walked over to his seat. He was doodling something funny, and it made her smile a bit before she tapped his shoulder to get his attention.
“Hey, um, I have an extra granola bar, do you want it?” She asked, smiling nervously at him. She hated feeling a little awkward, but she felt this was the right thing to do.
“Uh, sure, thanks.” Michael mumbled in reply. He took the granola bar, and Ellie May, unsure what else to do, tried to channel her inner Miss Mel.
“I liked what you shared on kindness today. I’m glad you were able to share that with us.” Michael looked up at her, considering her thoughtfully for a moment, a small smile forming.
“Thanks, I liked yours too.” Was all he said, smiling back at her as best he could. Ellie May was struck by the realization that Michael’s eyes were a light brown, like the new freckles that crossed his bump of a nose. She felt better immediately that she had taken this chance, and smiled back at him before turning to gather her things.
“I’ll see you next writer’s circle! Bye Susan!” she said, hugging Susan on her way out. Her energy of excitement was coming back to her. As she hopped back into her mother’s van and buckled her seatbelt, her mom said,
“So how did writer’s circle go?” Ellie May looked back at Susan’s house and saw Michael headed to the car behind theirs, smiled, and said,
“I think I made a new friend.”