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Don't be mean

To show the value of treating others with respect.

by Jan Edmunds

Suitable for Whole School (Pri)


To show the value of treating others with respect.

Preparation and materials

  • No preparation is necessary, although an OHP/whiteboard would help with reading the prayer.


  1. Explain that you are going to read a story. Ask the children to listen carefully because you will want to know what they think about it when you have finished.

    Half Pay
    Many years ago there lived a woodcutter who was very mean. His name was Mr Grudge. He earned his living by cutting and selling wood. He cheated his customers by giving them fewer logs than they had paid for and by putting in a lot of fir logs, that do not burn as well as oak. He employed several people to cut timber for him but he worked them too hard and paid them too little. So they left him and went off to find work on the local farm.

    So Mr Grudge had a lot of timber in his yard but no one to cut it up. He called out to every passer-by and asked if they would like a job cutting up the wood.

    ‘All right’, said one man, ‘if you give me £5 an hour.’

    ‘That’s a lot of money,’ said Mr Grudge. ‘You’ll have to work hard to earn that.’

    The man did work hard, but at the end of the day Mr Grudge told him that he had only cut half the wood so he only gave him half his pay. ‘If you want the rest of your wages you must come back tomorrow,’ he said. The man did not come back again but found himself a job in the village butcher’s shop.

    The following day the same thing happened to a woman who took a job with Mr Grudge. She too only received half her promised pay, and she went and found employment in a grocer’s shop.

    On the third day another man agreed to work for Mr Grudge, who did the same thing again. The man went off angrily and found himself a job in the village fire brigade.

    So Mr Grudge had to saw and chop the wood himself. It made him very hot, tired and hungry. He was looking forward to a good supper. The butcher had delivered the meat, the grocer had delivered bread, cheese and candles and the farmer had delivered the milk.

    But Mr Grudge had a nasty shock. Instead of a nice juicy steak there was only half a chop; there was only half a stale loaf; there was only half a piece of cheese and that was mainly rind. Even the milk tasted funny and he guessed that it was half water. He was very angry. He was thinking about the rude things he would say to the farmer, the grocer and the butcher the next day.

    He lit his candle and went to bed with his stomach only half full. But instead of wax the candle was half cardboard and as it burned down it set fire to the table. The fire soon spread. He rushed to the window and shouted, ‘Help, help! Fire, Fire!’

    His house was ablaze. Soon he could hear the fire engine coming, but only half as fast as it could really go. Very slowly the firefighters connected their hoses and began to put out the fire.

    One firefighter put a ladder up against the window and Mr Grudge came down as fast as he could. But when he was halfway to the ground he came down more quickly than he expected because there were no rungs on the lower part of the ladder! ‘Sorry,’ said the firefighter. ‘It was only half a ladder because we couldn’t afford a whole one.’

    The firefighters worked at half pace. The fire was spreading rapidly. The sparks from the blazing house were spreading across to the timber yard. ‘Save my timber!’ shouted Mr Grudge. The fire was beginning to be put out in the house but by this time all the wood in the timber yard was burning like a giant bonfire.

    The firefighters turned off the water and started to roll up their hoses.

    ‘You can’t finish now!’ said Mr Grudge.

    ‘Sorry,’ said one of the firefighters, whose voice seemed familiar. ‘We’ll come back and finish the job tomorrow if you want your money’s worth. Goodnight!’
  2. Take time to discuss the story, asking questions such as: Do you think the firefighters were mean to Mr Grudge? Why did he only get half a chop from the butcher? Who gave him watered milk? Who gave him half a loaf, half a piece of cheese and half a candle? How do you think he felt? Do you think it would have taught him a lesson?
  3. Suggest that if we want people to treat us fairly we must learn to be kind to them. If we are mean to others we may find that they are mean to us and it is not very pleasant when we are on the receiving end.

Time for reflection


Can I be more helpful, kind and true,

Serving others in all I do?

Being more generous in work and play,

Becoming a better person day by day?



Dear God,

Teach us to be kind and generous and to think about other people in all we do.



‘When I needed a neighbour’ (Come and Praise, 65)

Publication date: September 2007   (Vol.9 No.9)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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