I have been excited to write this blog post for about two months! I’d like to introduce you to Mr. Wilson, the teacher in my book, The Kindness Machine. I’ll be honest, creating the students in the book came easy, but I struggled to come up with a meaningful teacher. I knew I wanted the teacher to be a male because I feel it is important to see males in the role of an early childhood educator and this book takes place in second grade. Mr. Fred Rogers would often give speeches and ask his audience to think about a kind person or a person who showed them kindness. One day I used this strategy, and when I really took a minute to think about kind people, two of my absolute best friends popped into my head. Mr. Wilson was inspired by Megan and Blake.
Megan and I met in 6th grade. We were encouraged by Blake to join the swim team when we were sophomores in high school. Neither one of us grew up swimming and looking back, I honestly can’t believe we agreed to it but am so thankful we did! I will never forget out first swim practice where we were so tired that we couldn’t even pull ourselves out of the pool. Blake and I met in 5th grade and after years of hilarious memory making, we went to prom together to laugh and dance some more. Neither one of us were blessed with steller dance moves, but we sure get an A for effort.
Fast forward through college where we all remained friends and seemed to get closer, even with physical distance. Visiting each other when possible and celebrating each other during weddings. Now, our little triangle talks weekly to check in, share stories about our families and reminisce.
These two wonderful humans are real change makers. Megan is a junior high school counselor and Blake is a licensed professional counselor/mental health therapist. Both are making a difference daily and I am so proud to call them my friends. I was able to blend them together for my story book character by pulling her maiden name and his stunning good looks. I wrote “Mr. Wilson” in my little notebook and never looked back.
Blake and Megan both knew I was writing a children’s book, knew it was about kindness but did not know they played such a key part until I received my acceptance email from my publisher. It was one of the greatest messages to send to both of them not only letting them know about the acceptance, but then sending one of the initial sketches of the teacher and typing, “I’d like you to meet Mr. Wilson.”
One of the greatest parts of this process is that my husband knows both Megan and Blake very well. As the illustrator, he was really able to bring Mr. Wilson to life by using some of Blake’s traits: his blue eyes, round glasses, and height. When I showed my father-in-law one of the initial sketches, he looked down and quickly looked up and said, “Hey! I know him, it’s Blake!”
In The Kindness Machine, Mr. Wilson creates a machine to help teach his students how to be kind to others and to themselves. I am so thrilled to introduce you to him today and hope you have enjoyed learning about the inspiration behind the character. Megan and Blake, I love you both so much. Thank you for being an inspiration, showing kindness and being change makers.