Season For Nonviolence
A Better World Kids Adventure

by Robert Alan Silverstein
Illustrated by Vineet Siddhartha

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Chapter 1
Do The Kindness Roll

"The weekly meeting of the Better World Kids Team is now called to order," Ahmed typed on his laptop.

Suddenly, and mysteriously, the Better World Kids appeared together IN cyberspace. They still didn't know why they were magically transported from their homes all around the world each week, but they were sure glad it happened. After they'd hugged, they looked around excitedly at each other, wondering where this week's adventure would bring them.

"Hey Erin, we're going to be having too much fun for you to have time to catch up on your homework," José kidded when he spotted the book tucked under Erin's arm.

"Huh?" Erin giggled in confusion and then remembered what she'd brought. "Oh, no, this is a Kindness Journal I wanted to show you all," she exclaimed.

"What's that?" Jamal asked, and all the other Kids echoed his question.

Erin got really excited now. "We had this assembly at school this week. It was really right up our alley. You guys are going to love this!"

"What kind of alley is that," José giggled. "A bowling alley? I do love to bowl…"

The Better World Kids rolled their eyes. José was always kidding around.

Excitedly, Erin explained that the Season for Nonviolence was coming up.

"Doesn't that have something to do with Mahatma Gandhi?" Sunanda asked.

"And Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr?" Jamal added, a little questioningly as he wasn't sure if he was remembering correctly.

"Exactly!" Erin agreed. "The Season for Nonviolence honors the memorial anniversaries of Gandhi and Dr. King. It also honors other important nonviolent leaders like Cesar Chavez and The Dalai Lama."

The Kids were really impressed. These were some of their biggest heroes!

"Since 1998," Erin continued, "thousands of events and activities have taken place in over 900 cities in 67 countries during the 65 days between January 30 and April 4 … all to bring communities together and raise awareness about peace and nonviolence."

"That's really cool," Michiko noted, "but… what does it have to do with your Kindness Journal?"

"Well, as we all know, 'showing kindness' is a great way to put peace and nonviolence into practice," Erin reminded them, and everyone nodded. "My school is taking part in the Season For Nonviolence during the Season for Nonviolence. Each day during the Season we're supposed to perform an act of kindness and write it down in our journal."

"You're right, that is right up our alley… Kindness Alley!" Ling laughed, looking over at José, and all the other Kids agreed.

"Hey, what's that on your wrist, Erin?" Sol asked pointing at her green bracelet.

"Oh, yeah, I forgot," Erin smiled. "We got these at the assembly, too. It says 'My Kindness Feeds Others.'"

"Wow, I like that expression," Maya said and the other Kids nodded in agreement.

"Well that's good, because I brought bracelets for all of us," Erin told them. Reaching into her pocket she pulled out a bag of them.

"Hey guys," Ahmed said as he paused from taking notes on his laptop and slipped his bracelet on. "I almost forgot, I have something to share, too."

"Whoa! What is this with all the presents today," José exclaimed. "It's not my birthday!"

"It's not exactly a gift," Ahmed admitted. "It's something I learned. Do you guys know 'The Kindness Sign?"

"Is it like the peace sign?" Johnny asked, holding up two fingers.

"It's like this," Ahmed said, showing them as he rolled his hands over each other.

"Whoa! Let's all do 'The Kindness Roll!' José laughed as he and all the other kids tried to copy Ahmed.

"Actually, we're doing the 'sign for kindness' in sign language," Ling pointed out.

"Yeah," Ahmed said. "That's what I meant. It sure makes a cool way to greet each other, doesn't it!"

The Kids agreed and had some more fun 'doing the kindness roll' as José put it.

"Well, that was cool," Sol said after a while, "but what Cyberjourney are we going on today, Ahmed?" he asked.

Ahmed was the Better World Kids Team secretary and usually by now a hyperlink would have appeared on his laptop, giving the Kids a clue about where their adventure would take them. But the cursor just blinked nonchalantly on their Better World Kids Team URL. He was just about to say so when the Kids heard a familiar humming tune drifting through the hazy Cyberspace all around them.

They turned to look, and sure enough they began to see Harmony the Spirit of Kindness, their favorite Cyberguide walking towards them.

Chapter 2
A Season for Nonviolence

"Welcome back," Harmony said in her sing-song voice as the Kids rushed forward to hug her. She wrapped them in her arms and held them tightly.

Erin showed her the Kindness Journal and The Kids proudly displayed their 'My Kindness Feeds Others' bracelets. Harmony smiled when they shared the Kindness Sign with each other.

"Are you going to lead us on an adventure to find out more about the Season For Nonviolence during the Season for Nonviolence?" Michiko asked, and all the Kids stared excitedly with wide eyes waiting for her answer.

"Yes I am," she said and her eyes twinkled. "And I've got a surprise," she added. "A very special friend of ours is going to take us on our adventure."

The Kids couldn't help but show their excitement. The only thing they loved as much as their favorite Cyberguide was when she brought them visitors to accompany them on their adventures.

"Here she comes now," Harmony said softly. The Kids looked around them but didn't see anything except cyberhaze.

Harmony pointed upwards and all the Kids looked up into the Cybersky. A tiny speck soared closer until they could just about make out who it was.

"Liberty!" they all cried out as a giant eagle hovered above them and joyously sang out its flight call in greeting.

Liberty landed gently near them, and all the Kids ran forward to tell her how glad they were to see her again.

"Well, we'd better be on our way," Harmony said, and they all climbed onto Liberty's back. After they'd made themselves comfortable, Liberty raised her wings, flapping them rapidly, and they began to rise off the ground.

"Ahmed, would you give Liberty the web coordinates on your laptop…" Harmony asked as they soared up into the cyberhaze. Ahmed leaned forward and read them aloud above the roar of the wind all around them.

Faster and faster they soared, right into the hyperlink. Before they could even blink they saw that they were high up above the clouds in a blue, blue winter sky.

They flew for a while, gliding across countries and continents, until down below the Kids saw one of their favorite landmarks.

"Oh look there's the United Nations down there…" Maya said, as she was the first to spot the UN Headquarters building in New York City.

"Hang on," Harmony sang, "we're about to land at our first stop."

Liberty leaned forward and rocketed down, right towards the United Nations' Visitor's Entrance. They rushed past the long line of disbelieving visitors, and jetted past the VIP's.

The guards at the security check point looked up and smiled as they saw Liberty approaching and waved her on. Liberty folded her wings around Harmony and the Kids, and they sailed right through the metal detector gate. The guards waved as they glided past, and went back to checking bags as if nothing unusual had happened; Liberty was after all a frequent visitor at the UN.

Liberty glided through the maze of hallways until they reached a large lobby.

The guard who stood in front of a row of doors stared with his mouth hanging open as Liberty landed in front of him. Today was his first day and no one had told him that anything like this might happen.

The Kids climbed down and walked towards the guard, pointing to the badges that had miraculously appeared on their shirts.

"Uh, okay… Go on in," the guard stammered as the badges clearly stated that they were there for the special Season for Nonviolence launch.

"Liberty will wait out here in the lobby for us…" Harmony said to the guard. "If that's okay?" she added.

"I… uh…" the guard stammered. He tried to visualize the training manual in his head. He remembered something about seeing-eye-dogs, but he was pretty sure there wasn't anything about giant eagles.

The guard looked up again at Liberty. She looked back, unblinking.

"I guess so," he squeaked, and held the door open for Harmony and the Kids to step inside.

As the Kids walked in they recognized that they were in the balcony of the United Nations General Assembly Hall, and as they looked below they saw it was a packed house. On the stage below someone was speaking.

José was just about to say something funny he'd thought of but the guard standing inside looked sternly at the Kids and put his finger to his lips and whispered, "Shhh…" before José had a chance to speak. He pointed at a few empty seats and Harmony and the Kids walked quietly toward them.

As they sat down they heard the speaker talking about Gandhi and Martin Luther King, and how both were "leaders of awesome stature."

"We're back in the year 1998. That's the Reverend Jesse Jackson," Harmony whispered ever so softly, so that only the Kids could hear her.

Down below, Jesse Jackson was sharing one of his favorite Martin Luther King quotes that summed up the character of this great leader who had been his friend. "Moral leaders of substance don't follow opinion polls, they mold opinion. Not with their guns, or dollars or position, but with the power of their souls.''

The crowd applauded as Reverend Jackson finished his speech. "That's Yolanda King, Martin Luther King's daughter," Harmony said pointing to one of the people sitting on the stage. "And this man who's getting up now to speak is Arun Gandhi, Mahatma Gandhi's grandson."

The Kids listened intently as Arun spoke about his memories of Grandfather, and why he and his wife Sunanda and the Association for Global New Thought launched the Season for Nonviolence. He offered his hopes about how this campaign would be an ongoing yearly opportunity to spread the teachings of these two great men.

"They shared the same dream, that if we make an attempt, we can achieve a world where peace and harmony can prevail," Gandhi's grandson said. "They dreamed that there would be a time when we would not look upon ourselves or identify ourselves by the color of our skin or the race that we belong to,'' he went on. Arun continued speaking and when he had finished the audience rose in a standing ovation.

The Kids could feel the energy and the excitement and the hope all around them. They knew this launch would be only the beginning of something wonderful that would inspire many people all around the world for many years to come.

"The simplest acts of kindness are by far more powerful than a thousand heads bowing in prayer," a voice boomed out as the applause quieted down.

"Uh, guys," Ahmed gasped as he realized the voice was coming from the laptop on his lap.

"Compassion is a muscle that gets stronger with use," the voice said even more loudly. It was so loud that everyone in the balcony had heard it and they were all staring at Ahmed. Including the guard, and he didn't look very happy.

"You must be the change you wish to see in the world," the same voice continued through the laptop.

Now the Kids knew who the voice belonged to, because they recognized that famous quote. "I think a hyperlink is about to take us to the next chapter in our adventure…" Ahmed whispered nervously as he looked up from the blinking cursor on his laptop to see the guard storming toward them.

The Kids started to get really excited because they had a pretty good idea that the next stop in their cyber-Adventure was going to bring them to meet one of their most favorite heroes ever, Mohandas K. Gandhi! They turned and saw the guard approaching and hoped they'd be leaving soon. Like immediately. Fortunately they felt that tingly feeling they always got when they were about to cyber-jump.

"What about Liberty?" Ling asked as they prepared to be cyber-transported.

"She'll catch up to us," Harmony smiled as the guard reached their aisle and discovered to his surprise that they had all disappeared. He blinked a few times in dismay and started mumbling incoherently to himself. "Shhh…" the people in the audience around him whispered.


Chapter 3
A Walk With Grandfather

As the Kids sped along the hyperlink, they expected, or at least hoped to materialize someplace exciting. Perhaps they'd join Gandhi and his followers in a peaceful protest, facing the entire British army. Or they'd walk amongst the joyous crowds that gathered to hear Gandhi, the leader of a new nation, speak after the Indian people had finally gained their independence. Or…

Instead, the Kids found themselves standing on the side of a rather ordinary looking hill. Below them a dusty dirt road wound around the bend. It looked completely deserted. The only sound they heard at all was a bird chirping in the distance.

"The long and winding road…" José sang to himself as the Kids looked around.

"Huh…" they mumbled as they stared at each other wondering why they'd ended up here. They were just about to ask Harmony that very question when they all noticed two figures coming around the bend.

There was no mistaking the older one walking slowly with a long, thin, wooden walking stick. Everyone recognized him immediately; it was Mahatma Gandhi! Walking beside him was a twelve year old boy who listened intently while the older man spoke.

"Can you guess who the boy is?" Harmony asked the children.

"Is it the person we saw at the UN who thought of starting the Season For Nonviolence …?" Maya asked.

"Gandhi's grandson, Arun?" Sunanda added.

"It is indeed," Harmony said. "He has just come to stay with his grandparents for a few years. His parents sent him here because Arun was having a difficult time back at home in South Africa."

"Is it because there was a lot of prejudice there back then?" Jamal asked.

"That's right," Harmony agreed. "Arun was often picked on, simply because he was an Indian. He was even beaten up several times."

"He looks pretty strong," Johnny noted.

"Yes," Harmony said. "He spent a lot of time working out and learning to defend himself. He felt like he was always angry because of the way things were. His parents thought it would be best for their young son to spend time with his grandfather and learn firsthand about the principles of nonviolence, so that he could learn how to deal with his anger."

As the two figures grew closer, the Kids could just about hear Gandhi explaining about how to practice nonviolence. He told his grandson that even though it is important to learn how to resolve conflicts peacefully, the most important thing is to learn how to avoid conflicts in the first place. We do this, he told him, by creating an atmosphere where we don't have as many conflicts. Then he told Arun that this is why personal transformation is so important.

"Oh…Personal transformation," Ling whispered, "that's what he's talking about in that 'be the change you wish to see in the world' quote."

"Right," the other Kids agreed, and Harmony nodded with a smile.

Gandhi's conversation grew easier to hear as the two approached. They heard him telling his grandson that anger is like electricity. He told him that it can be just as useful and just as powerful, but only if we use it intelligently. He warned Arun that anger can also be just as deadly and destructive if we abuse it. The secret, he explained, is to learn to channel anger in the same way we channel electricity, and use that energy for the good of humanity.

"Wow," Michiko sighed, "I never heard it described like that before."

"It really makes a lot of sense," Maya agreed.

"Hey, look at that," Ahmed pointed. "Arun is carrying a notebook…"

"Wow, Erin," Johnny said in surprise, "it looks just like your Kindness Journal!"

"Actually," Harmony told them, "it's an 'Anger Journal.' Arun's grandfather asked him to stop whenever he got angry, and instead of acting on his anger, to write it down in his journal."

"Wouldn't that just get him angry again later when he re-read his journal?" Sol asked.

"Well," Harmony explained, "in addition to writing down why he was angry, Arun was also supposed to write down ideas about how to solve the problem that made him angry. Then he'd have a constructive way to fix the problem."

The Kids were just about to tell Harmony that they thought an Anger Journal was a great idea, when José burst out, "Guys there's a herd of elephants stampeding this way, and they're about to trample Arun and his grandfather!"

At first none of the Kids believed José; he was such a kidder. But when they looked down below, they saw that a herd of elephants was exactly what was barreling down the road behind Gandhi and his grandson.

The Kids quickly rushed down the hill, waving and yelling "Look out!" to the two figures below. But the old man and his grandson were so caught up in their discussion that neither of them seemed to notice the Kids calling them, nor the now thundering sound of the stampeding elephants right behind them.


Chapter 4
A Noble Nobel Achievement

The Kids reached the road at just the exact same time as Gandhi and his grandson and the elephant stampede. The air was covered in a cloud of dirt and dust and none of the Kids could see a thing. Everyone gasped and held their breaths.

When the dust finally settled, they saw Harmony laughing and fondly patting the leader of the elephant herd on the head. The other elephants stood quietly on either side. It almost looked like they were smiling.

Quickly the Kids turned around and saw Gandhi and his grandson quietly continuing down the other end of the road, still deeply involved in their conversation, and completely unaware of what had almost happened to them. Just as they were about to disappear around the bend, Mahatma Gandhi turned his head back and smiled at the Kids. He winked and then the two figures were gone.

"Hey, you all wanna go for a ride," a deep voice thundered. The Kids turned around. "Maybe have a race?" the elephant leader continued.

Even though they knew that strange things happened all the time on their cyber-Adventures, the Kids were a little surprised to hear the elephant speak.

"Come on!" the other elephants urged.

"Can we?" Johnny asked, turning to Harmony. He'd always wanted to ride an elephant. The other Kids looked just as eager.

"Sure, why not," Harmony laughed and she climbed up on the leader. "Let's race to the next hyperlink," she said, and each of the Kids found an elephant eager for a jockey in the race.

"On your marks…" the elephant leader bellowed.

"Get set…" he continued.

"Go!" he roared and they were off, thundering down the road.

Being in an elephant race was more fun than riding a thrilling roller coaster and just as loud, with all the gasps and laughs and excited yells.

They were all neck and neck as they approached the finish line erected right before the hyperlink at the end of the road. Then out of the blue, Liberty swooped down and joined the line of racing elephants.

With a final burst of speed they all crossed the finish line in a photo-finish finale.

"Who won?" the Kids laughed as they each hugged their trusty elephant and were lowered to the ground by a helpful trunk.

"It sure was close, but I think Liberty won by a beak," Harmony laughed.

"Hey, I was just going to say that," José insisted.

They were hugging their elephant friends good bye, when Erin said with a gasp, "Hey, look, the hyperlink is getting away…"

Sure enough, it had started floating up into the sky. As it drifted into the distance, the Kids heard a dynamic voice calling out to them. "At the center of non-violence stands the principle of love," the voice said. "Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend," it continued.

Although they might not have remembered who had said those quotes, they all recognized the famous voice immediately. It was Dr. Martin Luther King's voice coming from that hyperlink!

Their giant eagle friend motioned for everyone to climb aboard. "Liberty," Harmony said when they were all settled in, "follow that hyperlink!"

Off they sped in hot pursuit. They gained ground quickly, but just before they reached the hyperlink, Sunanda noticed a familiar figure down below. "We're still in India," she said. "So, what's Martin Luther King doing here?"

"Dr. King came to India in 1959 to study Gandhi's philosophy of nonviolence," Harmony told her. "Now hold on tight," she said as they plunged into the hyperlink.

In a flash they sped through cyberspace and burst out into a cloudy sky over Atlanta, Georgia in 1960. Down below they saw Dr. King and some others being taken away from a restaurant in handcuffs.

"What did they do wrong?" Ling asked. "Why are they being arrested?"

"Martin Luther King was arrested many times when he stood up to unfair laws," Harmony said as Liberty glided above the line of police cars that sped toward the jailhouse. "All he did was sit down in a 'White Only' section in a restaurant," she explained. "Earlier that year 'lunch counter sit-ins' began all across the deep south to protest segregation -- the idea that people of color weren't allowed to mix with white people in restaurants or on buses, or even use the same water fountains."

The Kids couldn't believe that things had ever been so unfair.

"I wish we had our elephant friends here," José said as they watched Dr. King and the others being taken into the jail. "We could knock the jailhouse walls down and bust them out of there!"

"They'll be out soon," Harmony told them. "Until the next protest, that is…" she sighed. "We're seeing the very heart of the civil rights movement unfolding here," she told the children as they sailed past the jailhouse towards the distant horizon. "A lot of people made a lot of sacrifices to bring about change," she said.

"But they made a difference, right?" Michiko asked.

"Their acts of kindness absolutely made a difference!" Harmony exclaimed. "The movement grew and grew as more people got involved and stood up for what was right by practicing nonviolence … Look down there. We're flying over Detroit in June, 1963."

"Wow!" the Kids exclaimed; there were a lot of people marching through the streets, with Martin Luther King proudly leading the way. The line seemed endless.

"One hundred and twenty-five thousand people marched in this Freedom Walk!" Harmony told them.

"That's a lot of people!" Maya declared. It took a while for Liberty to reach the end of the long line of black and white and young and old freedom marchers.

"You ain't seen nothing yet!" José piped in. He remembered learning about an important event that would happen just a few months later in that very same year.

"That's right," Harmony laughed. "Look over there."

The Kids strained to see. Up ahead they could just about make out some familiar landmarks in Washington DC.

"We're approaching August 28, 1963," Harmony told them as they grew closer. "Two hundred and fifty thousand people came together for the March on Washington… it was the largest civil rights demonstration in history!"

"I have a dream…" Martin Luther King's voice echoed. And then the Kids clearly saw the Lincoln Memorial and more people than they could ever have imagined sprawled out over the National Mall.

"…that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: 'We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,'" MLK was saying. The words were electrifying.

Liberty sailed over the crowd and the Kids' mouths fell open when they were sure they saw Dr. King wave to them.

They continued on until they reached the White House. Liberty perched on the window sill and they all peered inside. Martin Luther King was standing behind President Lyndon Johnson as he sat at a table surrounded by a room filled with lots of important people. Television news cameras were recording every moment.

"This is July 2nd, 1964," Harmony said quietly. "The President is about to sign the Civil Rights Act of 1964 … it's a major achievement and milestone for equal rights. Dr. King's dream is coming true!"

As the President signed the document, Martin Luther King looked up to see the Kids. He smiled at them before he turned back to congratulate the President.

"Ahmed," Harmony said softly. "Would you click the next hyperlink. I think we should give Liberty a little breather. We've covered a lot of ground and have a bit more to see before our adventure's over."

"Sure," Ahmed said and pressed ENTER on his keyboard. In the blink of an eye they were whooshed thousands of miles across the Atlantic Ocean.

The Kids found themselves gazing up at the stage in a fancy hall in Oslo, Norway, where Martin Luther King was receiving an important prize.

"On December 10, 1964, just a few months after the signing of the Civil Rights Act, Dr. King was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize," Harmony whispered. He was the youngest person ever to receive it!"

As Dr. King stepped into the audience where the important dignitaries waited to congratulate him, he spotted The Better World Kids and smiled. Then he winked before the crowds surrounded him.

Liberty was whistling to them from out in the lobby; they had a lot of things left to see. So they made their way through the crowd and set off once again.


Chapter 5
So Many Ways To Show Kindness

It was pretty obvious why Harmony had wanted Liberty to rest up on the previous hyperlink jump. She had a lot of flying to do on the last leg of their journey!

Although only a few minutes passed by in the real world during this last chapter of their adventure, Liberty brought the Better World Kids to hundreds of cities and towns all around the world wide web and back and forth through cybertime. The Kids got to take part in lots and lots of activities and events that had occurred during the Season for Nonviolence over the years.

As they traveled, each of them had a favorite in mind that they thought they would help to bring to their communities, places of worship or schools, back in the real world.

Michiko's favorite community-building activities were the Peace Pole and Peace Tree planting ceremonies that brought communities together at schools and parks and churches, temples, synagogues and mosques. The ceremonies made everyone feel really connected. Then after they were over, there was a lasting monument to inspire people for many years to come.

Maya loved the Peace Concerts. She thought that music was the most universal language to bring people together and see past their differences.

Jamal thought that service projects were the best way to show how acts of kindness could make a difference in people's lives. Volunteering at a soup kitchen, or collecting canned goods for a food bank; visiting the elderly in nursing homes or children in the hospital; participating in a community clean-up day or being a mentor …there are just so many different ways to get involved in helping out in your community!

Erin was a bit of a fitness fanatic. She liked the Walkathons and Peace Runs to commemorate those who choose nonviolent action as a way to bring about a better world.

José thought that talking things over was the best way to get things out in the open. That's why he loved the Town Hall Discussions and Peace & Nonviolence Dialogue Days, where communities got together and talked about kindness, peace and nonviolence and how these principles could be applied to the problems in their communities. Of course, adding a little humor to the conversation always helped, too.

Ling thought that potluck picnics honoring local heroes and people who made a difference in their communities was the best way to go.

Johnny liked the Teach-Ins, lectures and workshops in schools and places of worship that taught young and old specific tools to put nonviolence and conflict resolution into practice in our daily lives.

Sunanda thought the candlelight vigils were the most inspiring ways to bring communities together to think about kindness and peace.

Ahmed's favorite was the Children's Peace and Kindness Art Festivals. He couldn't believe how beautiful young people's visions of a better world were everywhere they went.

Sol loved to read, and he found the Book Study circles talking about books on the theme of kindness, peace and nonviolence were the most rewarding. He also planned to help organize a storytelling circle for younger kids, too. But then again, he also loved movies, and thought maybe he should help organize a Better World Movie Festival, showing inspiring movies that would make people want to get involved in creating a better world.

There were just so many different ways to take action, that by the time they were done, the Kids knew they'd have lots of choices to share with their friends and families to see what they wanted to do to get involved with the Season For Nonviolence.

"Whatever we choose," Ling started to say as the Kids began to feel that tingly feeling they got when their meeting was nearly done and it was getting time to go back to their homes all around the world. "Let's at least get people to do an act of kindness every day for the Season For Nonviolence ..."

Everyone agreed as they hugged each other. "Yeah," Jamal said. "Once people get into the 'habit' they'll see how rewarding it is to help others all year long…"

"And they'll see that helping others is the best way to feel good about ourselves, too," Sunanda added.

Harmony smiled at them proudly, and waved goodbye as Ahmed adjourned the weekly meeting of the Better World Kids Team.


For more information about the
Season For Nonviolence:

Season For Nonviolence
A Better World Kids Adventure

Story © 2013-2014 Robert Alan Silverstein
© 2014 Vineet Siddhartha


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