Be small to be BIG

The dolls had an amazing afternoon eating the fluffy cinnamon pancakes that Doll Lady made and washed them down with chilled fresh gooseberry juice. They ate and chatted and laughed. Finally, there was just one delicious pancake left on the plate. They looked at each other, suddenly silent.

“If no one wants the last pancake, I’ll have it,” Amani said at last.

“I was thinking I should have it,” Jabali said, staring at Amani, “since I’m the biggest.”

“Well, what’s that got to do with anything?” Pendo chimed in, still eyeing the pancake, which sat on a beautiful handcrafted flowery plate drenched in delicious honey. A little bee buzzed by happily to investigate. But the dolls looked quite serious now.

“Bigger people need to eat more,” Jabali said, pushing his chest out.

“That’s not true!” Fadhili declared, rolling his eyes. “I’m smaller than you and I can eat way more than you can.”

Doll Lady pulled the plate closer. All the dolls’ eyes were glued on her. She cut the pancake into small equal pieces, one for each doll. “Sometimes,” she said, “you have to be small to be BIG.”

“Is that an African proverb, Doll Lady?” Jameela asked, taking a small bite of her piece of pancake.

“No, it’s a Doll Village proverb,” Doll Lady replied with a smile. “It means that the most humble people, those who think about themselves less, and think about others more, are the greatest leaders.”

“I want to be like that,” Jabali said, looking a little sad. “I’m sorry I tried to get more than everyone else.”

“It’s okay Jabali, “ Doll Lady said, standing up to give him a big hug. “It wasn’t just you eyeing that last pancake. And saying ‘sorry’ is also a big part of becoming small. That makes you a great leader.”

The dolls nodded. “Yes, we all want to become small to be BIG,” Pendo said.

“Would you like to hear about some super amazing people who became BIG by being small in Doll Village? Doll Lady asked, pouring more gooseberry juice for the dolls. They drew closer to listen, their eyes wide.

“Well, there was Tree Lady, who planted thousands of trees so that Doll Village would always be as beautiful and cool as it is now. Orange trees and mango trees. Fig trees and avocado trees. Trees with flowers and trees for shade. Trees with healing leaves and roots. Every morning, she woke up early, put on her gumboots, and planted trees for the village until she was too sweaty and dusty and tired to plant any more.”

“Wow! Fadhili said,” his eyes round. “The trees in Doll Village are so beautiful. I’m glad she did that.”

“Yes, me too,” said Doll Lady. “Then there was the Great Peacemaker. He once sat with two brothers who were fighting about an orange farm for a whole day and night to help them make peace. In the end they understood that one brother wanted to make juice and the other wanted to make orange oil from the peels. They didn’t need to fight any more.”

The dolls laughed at the story. “What a great ending!” Jameela said.


Did you know…

Kenyan leader and hero, Wangari Maathai, told a beautiful story about a brave little hummingbird. When the forest it lived in caught fire, all the animals were terrified and didn’t know what to do. But the hummingbird flew back and forth to the nearest river bringing water in its beak to put out the fire. “What do you think you’re doing?” the animals asked. “I’m doing the best I can,” the hummingbird replied. Wangari Maathai was like the hummingbird, working to save and plant forests. You too can be like the hummingbird, doing small things that matter in BIG ways.

Pick a role model…

Ask your parent or an older family member or teacher to tell you about some of their favorite role models when they were young. Which one inspires you the most? Pick one as a role model and do something you think they would have done when they were your age.


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