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The Little Brown Bag


By Donna Messer

A number of years ago, when my grandson Keegan was in grade two he came home with a little brown bag. The kind you could get when you bought penny candy years ago!

His eyes were shining and he was excited, he couldn’t wait to share the contents of that little brown bag.

I have to step back a little and let you know that Keegan had been diagnosed with having ADHD. And if you asked him for words to describe himself – he would come up with words like “troublemaker; disruptive; uncooperative; noisy and a problem”. Not a very positive group of words for a young boy! 

Where did he get those words? From the people who were in his life. His teacher, the kids who reflected the teacher’s words and from the people he came in contact with day after day. Imagine how that little boy must have felt.

Well I guess his teacher must have got wind of the negative image this little guy had of himself and she was determined to try and “right the wrong”. She decided she would give the kids the chance to do an interactive writing exercise and have fun while doing it.

The class was small and everyone sat in a circle. The teacher passed each child a mirror and asked them to say something positive about themselves. Then she said that each child must write a positive word about all the children sitting in the circle. They were instructed to drop the word into the little brown paper bags she had with each child’s name on it.

At the end of the day, each child got to pick up their little brown bag with all the words that described them.

My grandson raced home that day to share what his school mates had written about him.

He dumped out the little brown bag and the words swirled around the table………words like “Happy, Smiley, Helpful, Brave and Fast, quickly settled on the table for both of us to consider. Keegan looked at me and with a huge smile on his face he said, “They like me Nanny, they don’t see the bad me, they see the good me!

I hugged him and realized that we all have two parts to who we are. And it’s often the negative that we dwell on.  It’s been years, but Keegan still has that little brown paper bag with the words inside, and sometimes when he’s down – he dumps it out and remembers that he is liked and he has the good words prove it!

We all need a mirror and a little brown bag occasionally.

Donna Messer is an author, speaker and trainer. She brings both the mirror and the little brown bags to many of her workshops!  For more information go to


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