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Christmas cheer from the mouths of babes can’t help but remind you of the reason for the season – Chicago Tribune

Need a little Christmas? Right this very minute?

Or maybe you just need a little encouragement from an expert on positive thinking.

A child.

In February 2022, two California artists enlisted the help of elementary school kids to create PEPTOC, a public art project that includes a pep-talk hotline (707-8PE-PTOC or 707-873-7862).

Dial in and get children’s suggestions for what to do if you’re feeling mad. Replies range from “punch a pillow” to “go get a cookie.”

Jessica Martin and Asherah Weiss were inspired by the constant resilience and joy of students at their West Side Elementary, despite a succession of hardships that included the pandemic, a spate of devastating wildfires and the challenges of growing up.

They enlisted the Healdsburg children in a project that channeled the youngsters’ positivity into art and encouragement. You can view the artistry, more than 150 posters, at www.peptoc.net/hotline and you can call the hotline if you are dealing with frustration (press 1), need a pep talk from kindergartners (press 3) or simply want to hear some laughter (press 4).

For Christmas, I decided to localize the effort and add sentiments from children living right here in the Chicago area.

Teachers at St. Damian School in Oak Forest, Naperville Christian Academy in Naperville and Oakwood School in Lemont asked some of their students to share advice on how to be happy, how to be kind and what to do if you’re feeling down.

Here’s a bundle of genuine, heartfelt love, straight from the mouths (-er, pencils) of babes.

How to show kindness:

  • “Donate old toys to those in need,” Connor, fourth grade, St. Damian.
  • “Invite others to play if they are left out,” Amiyah, fourth grade, St. Damian.
  • “Say ‘go’ and then say their name,” Bobby, first grade, Naperville Christian.
  • “Tell them, ‘Your everything looks good’,” Ellie, kindergarten, Oakwood.
  • “Don’t talk over people when they are talking to you,” Evan, fourth grade, St. Damian.

How to cheer someone up:

Pearl, a first grader at Naperville Christian, said, if someone was dealing with something sad, she would remind them “that God is with you.”

St. Damian fourth grader Ed wants to remind people not to say hateful words. His classmate Jocelyn added, but do “say please and thank you.” And Lahana said, always remember to “respect other people.”

Spending time with family and reading the Bible makes Samaya, a second-grader at Naperville Christian Academy, feel good, and there's nothing like a good laugh to make someone feel better, she says.

The Oakwood students also have lots of ideas for how to cheer someone who is sad.

Tell them a knock-knock joke, said first grader Drake.

Or, make a silly face, said Sofia, also a first grader.

Or, simply, “Give a smile,” said Charlie, a kindergartner.

If someone is feeling left out, suggested kindergartner Cooper, play with them. “I like to give hugs,” he added.

Naperville Christian’s Nathan, a second grader, said, “I would give them a nice hug and encourage them to cheer them up.”

If you’re the one feeling down, said Oakwood kindergartner Harper, “Hug your stuffies.”

Or, “Think about mommy and daddy,” said Jackson, also a kindergartner at Oakwood.

And don’t forget the reason for the season, reminded the Naperville Christian students.

Share “the story of when God was born,” said Evelyn, a second grader.

And don’t forget to say, “Merry Christmas. Hope you have a grand holiday,” said Libby, a second grader.

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Donna Vickroy is an award-winning reporter, editor and columnist who worked for the Daily Southtown for 38 years.

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