“What if we taught kids compassion from the get-go? Imagine what their world could become.”
Sophie Kirby, Creator of Sophie and Friends
Since attending my first MSC course in 2016, my heart had become warmer and more open both to myself and every living being. Whether in my relationships, my professional sphere, or the workings of my own mind, I experienced more peace and ease than ever before. In keeping up my own practice and joining the third CDP cohort, I had witnessed the enduring effects of this training on myself and others. I had become convinced of the profound impact they could have on wider society.
Many of you will share this conviction, just like the Dalai Lama, and his longtime English translator Thupten Jinpa, who says in his book A Fearless Heart:
“Compassion, defined it its essence as a sense of concern for others’ well-being, holds the promise of grounding our shared ethics, without recourse to any particular religious or metaphysical creed. The cultivation of compassion, therefore, can also have huge societal and global implications. Imagine what our world would be like if each one of us made compassion the organising principle of our life.”
What if we taught kids compassion from the get-go? I thought. Imagine what their world could become.
Over time, the seed of an idea began to take root within me. I had an idea to create a YouTube channel that had kids’ long term well-being at heart. Through a mix of songs, mindfulness, movement, and creative exercises, it would teach 3- to 7-year-old children Mindful Self-Compassion and emotional literacy skills, and thereby, hopefully, help make the world a kinder, more peaceful place.
That might sound like a rather far-fetched aim. A YouTube channel contributing to social cohesion and social and environmental justice? But I had seen the impact self-compassion had had on my own life.
I’ve just planted a seed in this flower pot. Close your eyes. Picture yourself taking care of the seed every day, giving it water and light. Now imagine… What do you dream it will become? Watch the full episode above to find out my dream
This conviction has become a powerful motivating force for me. And interestingly, so has my MSC practice. Since beginning work on the idea at the end of 2018, I was at times overwhelmed by the challenge I had taken on.
I had an ambitious vision: rigorously researched, thoughtfully constructed and beautifully presented kids’ content. It was to be values-driven and in every facet a living appreciation of life’s small but most important wonders: community, nature, connection. Instead of cutting corners with technology, I would take the long, slow, mindful option at every turn: for instance, painting all the sets by hand. I also needed to find a team of people to join me on my mission.
In early autumn 2019, we uploaded our first Sophie and Friends episode to YouTube; it was the culmination of almost a year’s work. Called ‘Planting Seeds’, it focuses on how nurturing something on a daily basis and giving it the right environment encourages it to blossom and bloom.
Navigating the highs and lows of the creation process
Any of you who have ever created something will know the ebb and flow of energy and enthusiasm during the process. After the initial high of inception come a series of low points; ripe territory for the inner critic to rear up.
My own practice, as well as the support of loved ones, enabled me to navigate these difficulties with equanimity. Alongside it was now also a quiet determination, fuelled perhaps by the fierce compassion Kristin Neff has spoken of.
MSC allowed me to find a deep self-acceptance and the confidence to pursue my own vision. I could overcome previous concerns about revealing too much of myself, being too vulnerable. Instead, I understood that in sharing my authentic self, I could contribute so much more to society than if I remained small, silent, and safe.
In this way, I rode out doubts and frustration and months of slow and steady slog work. Researching, writing, playing, iterating. I have so many people to thank for helping me along the way – including a good friend who not only provided the initial creative inspiration by introducing me to Mr Rogers Neighbourhood (‘The world needs this now!’ I exclaimed, upon seeing it), but also helped equip me with the tools I needed for the job. We are all so much stronger together.
Watch Sophie and Friends’ fourth episode, ‘making new friends’.
Opening to the support of other passionate advocates
Then slowly, I started to share my ideas with people, posting on online forums, simply trusting the act of sharing. One day, an energetic, empathetic US expat with a shared passion for children’s well-being responded to one of my posts.
That was only in June 2019, but since then our team has expanded to some 15 members, each passionate backers of our mission.
Amongst them are a primary school teacher and a child therapist who have acted as trusted script consultants, ensuring our content is as beneficial for children’s well-being as possible.
In August last year we ran a successful crowdfunding campaign and were blown away by the support we received. It seems like there is a real desire, indeed a palpable need, for content like ours. Content that prioritises people over profit.
Upon our launch, we celebrated with a party here in Berlin. Children of different ages, backgrounds and beliefs attended, and together we drew around our hands and placed those handprints on a tree. Standing back, we could see how we are all just like leaves on a tree: inextricably connected and mutually reliant, even in our differences.
Just like a seed, when the conditions are sufficient, we can grow and develop into the beings we were always meant to be. Think back to that seed you planted. What did you dream it would become?
Join our movement for a kinder world.
We’ve now completed our first series and are entering the development process for our second!
We view Sophie and Friends as a community undertaking and strive to create the highest quality kids’ wellbeing videos available online. If you would like to be involved, do get in touch via [email protected]. We welcome all feedback from you and the children in your life, and we would also be very grateful for ideas on how to reach as many children as possible with our videos and sustainably fund our work.
Sophie (center) with team members Shakrah (left) and Rose (right).