a sprinkle of kindness
3rd place || 2022
5th through 6th grade


by Ashley Bender


Arial sat at lunch, twirling her dark curls and dreading recess. She knew what the bullies were going to do because they always did it. Through her big circle glasses, she spotted Sam, Angela, and their crew sitting around the table in the corner, probably scheming about what to say to the new girl Savanna, today.

Arial knew she couldn’t escape it, but still, she didn’t want to line up for recess. Somehow, she dragged her feet behind all her classmates. She found her friends near the swings.

She saw Rachel, Tessa, and Chase.

“Hey Arial!”

“Hi!” She tried to sound cheerful but heard the first mean comment of the day.

“Oh, look it’s —”

Arial ran hard, going to the other end of the playground, to avoid hearing the bullies over the other kids’ laughing as they played. Soon her friends joined her.

After telling them how she couldn’t stand to see Savanna in tears, the teacher blew her whistle. There was only one hour of school left.

Arial got off the big yellow bus at her house on Chess Street in the large Connecticut neighborhood of Brownstown. She climbed the driveway of her big, brick house and entered the shiny, clean door. It was Family Friday, and after a hot bath-bomb bath, Arial picked her favorite game, Candy Land. After winning twice she declared, “I wish life was as magical as cotton candy clouds and lollipop forests!”

“Me too!” cried her five-year-old brother, Tanner, who was adopted from Portugal, where Arial’s dad was from. Arial went to bed that night refreshed, knowing exactly what she was going to do on Monday.

On Sunday, Arial listened intently as her Sunday-school teacher said, “God made you unique. Just like we all have different favorite activities, we are different in outward appearance too. However, we’re all the same in at least one way: our heavenly Father loves us! It says here in Romans 12: 6-8: Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith; or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teacheth, on teaching; or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness.”

After talking to her teacher about her plans for Monday, Arial got a few tips on how to make her point, with the grace of God. She got in her family’s minivan to go get ice cream and ordered her favorite cone, S’mores.

I’ve got this, Arial thought as she climbed out of bed on Monday.

She picked out her favorite outfit—her lavender summer Bible camp tee—and whipped her hair into a bun so that everyone would be able to note what the back of her t-shirt read: The Lord Is My Strength.

Outside, she ate her breakfast in the fresh morning, then ran down the driveway to catch the bus in her white sneakers. She felt ready to take on anything.

She repeated Isaiah 43: 1-3, her favorite bible verse: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.”

Toot! It was the line-up whistle. Arial took a deep breath as she went out of the doors. It was a sunny day, perfect for playing. As she saw the bullies make their way over to Savanna, Arial jogged over, right before they could say a word.

“Hey, Savanna, right?”

“Uh-hum.” Savanna whispered.

“My name’s Arial!”

Just then Arial felt a hand tap her shoulder. She turned around.

“If you want us to mess with you too, then be our guest, but we’ve got some stuff to discuss with this girl next to you.”

“Excuse Me!” Arial cried, as Angela pushed her away. “First off, her name is Savanna; and second, based on the look on her face, she doesn’t want to talk to you.”

Arial’s anger bubbled, and she remembered her Sunday-school teacher’s words: You must be like a child of God. Therefore, do not harm anyone with words or actions. Instead, use kindness to win. Always remember, God is by your side.

Arial took a deep breath. Savanna’s eyes filled with tears.

Three, Two, One. She counted in her head. Here goes nothing.


“What do you want!”


“Spit it out!”

“I really think you look nice!”

“Oh, really?”


“Ugh, whatever!”

“Would you have liked it if I said you looked ugly?”

“No. Now be quiet.”

“Exactly! In a sense that is what you are doing to Savanna, constantly bringing her down. Please take time to think of that, and in the meantime Savanna and I are going to go play!”

No one said anything. Not even Sam.

Now, Arial, Savanna, Rachel, Tessa, and Chase are friends. They’ve never forgotten to treat others the way they want to be treated and will admonish anyone who will listen to remember that we never know what someone may be going through, so always be kind.

Ashley loves to dance, read, write, and learn about Jesus. She also loves smiley faces, and making people smile!