Spreading Kindness … One Meep at a Time
Sixth grade English teacher Maura Moore learned to crochet from a friend. She started making baby blankets, but soon progressed to more complicated items, such as Christmas ornaments or birthday party favors.
Then, she branched into a whole new world. She crocheted a Meep.
She makes the polyfilled emotional support orbs in a rainbow of colors, snaps eyes on and hands them out to her students to recognize a job well done on an assignment, positive behavior or kindness to other students. It’s her way of bringing love and healing to the world.
But, it didn’t start out that way.
She gave her very first Meep to an adult who was going through a hard time. “It was given to someone who had not been kind to me, but was struggling.” It was appreciated in a way that Moore didn’t expect.
After that, she made a black hole for a friend who was going through a divorce. “I saw it on Etsy; you can put all your problems in this black hole,” she said. She made a yellow one for a friend and told her she was giving her some sunshine. She gave another yellow ball of sunshine to a nonverbal student at school.
This student “always had the biggest smile and was laughing,” said Moore, who teaches at Takoma Park Middle School. “That’s how the Meeps first came into school.” An extra one that sat on her filing cabinet was given to a student having test anxiety. “She asked whether I had something she could squeeze and I gave her that one.”
Ever since, the Meeps have turned into a symbol for kindness, a thoughtful way to say ‘I see you and I care about you.’ Before coronavirus shut down the schools, Moore handed them out in class during a “Meep of the Week” distribution. It’s something she continued in the spring, though those Meeps are still in her closet, waiting for their rightful owners.
“Usually, I have an adoption center and kids get to pick the Meep they want,” Moore said. “Now, I created a Google form where kids can tell me what color Meep they would want.
“Kids need to know that they’re seen. I do think that right now, this idea that we’re still connected even though we can’t see each other, is so important. When you’re in person, you can build relationships with kids. I’m thinking about how to create those relationships so they’re comfortable with me, so that they’ll share their thoughts or take risks.”
She plans to carry on the Meep of the Week tradition through the fall. And, she recently won a grant from Kindness Grows Here, a nonprofit that will provide funds for her to mail the Meeps home to students.
The Meeps have since taken on a life of their own. They have a social media presence on Facebook and Instagram (All You Meep is Love). She’s sold them at craft fairs, with proceeds going to the local PTA. Fox Chapel Elementary School created an opera incorporating the Meeps. Moore is writing a children’s book about the Meeps, and they will be incorporated into a subscription box that you’ll soon be able to buy, with proceeds going to a local mental health association. She’s been so overwhelmed with requests that she has taught others how to make them, including some of her students.
“It’s been so amazing to have other people make them and people share their stories with me and tell me how it makes them feel that they can share them with others,” Moore said.
Moore says it’s about capturing the emotion that American poet Mary Oliver describes in one of her works: “Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this too, was a gift.”
“Sometimes, life gets life-y,” says Moore. “That wasn’t normally how I’d respond, but I chose to be kind in that situation. I chose to rise above the pain. To see what that one moment has brought to my life … I tell people all the time, ‘You have no idea what one little choice could do.’”