NORTH SALT LAKE—There’s a secret going on at Foxboro Elementary – and the students are in on it. Children in the third through sixth grade were enlisted into the CIA last week at a special assembly led by children’s author Shelly Brown.
“We won’t be ninjas or doing juggling or using art skills,” Brown said. “We’re going to be working on something amazing called compassion. It can grow in your heart.”
Brown said it’s not like the government’s CIA. “It stands for Compassion In Action,” she said. “You have to see like an agent of the CIA.”
She showed them pictures of the words green, blue and red and asked them to tell her what color the letters were. Then she switched them up so the words were the same but the letters were not the color that matched the word. It tripped some of the students up.
“It changed it from being easy so that you had to take a little time to let your brain adjust and compute what you were seeing,” said Brown. “Do you see people who have a need around you? We need to act on it. The people around us are what matters. We all have things that we are fighting and have our own struggles, every child and adult.”
Brown told the group that to be a CIA agent they needed to find people to serve and show kindness to. “There are bulldozers and builders,” she said. “Bulldozers tear people down and make them feel small. They break you down and that never feels good. We’ve all felt that before. A builder builds people up and makes them feel special and important.”
To make her point, she showed a couple of short video clips of a football star that visited a school and sat by an autistic boy at lunch that always ate alone. The other followed a 6-year-old orphan who decided he would make others happy by giving a toy to strangers he met.
“It makes me happy when I see this and I didn’t even get a toy,” Brown said. “He makes others happy and himself happy.”
Brown and her husband Chad Morris, who is also an author, co-wrote a new children’s book called “Mustaches for Maddie,” that is based around their own daughter Maddie.
“Maddie was diagnosed with a brain tumor and had to have brain surgery,” she told the students. “My cousin Jenny wanted to help. She knew Maddie loved mustaches so she showed up at the hospital wearing a blue felt mustache to make her smile.”
Soon pictures of Maddie and others wearing mustaches hit social media and people all over the country started posting photos of their babies, stuffed animals and even a car with a mustache.
“It was a little thing to do but it added up to something that made Maddie’s day better,” Brown said. “You need to be doing compassion in action. Sometimes you do it in disguise or in secret.”
The book is partly about Maddie and her surgery, Brown said, but it’s also super funny and crazy. “I think you’ll really like it.”
Brown said her goal with the CIA is to get kids thinking with bigger hearts. “My challenge to my CIA agents is to spend a little bit of extra time today thinking like CIA agents,” she said. “Look around you, be careful about the words that come out of your mouth, you’re responsible for those. Listen to a friend or talk to someone who needs someone to talk to. You’ll be happier and you can change your corner of the world.”