February 10



I was having a terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad morning when the spark for A Good Day Can Grow came to me. It was a wake-up-with-a-headache, step-in-cat-puke, discover-we-were-out-of-coffee kind of morning. I drove to the local Starbucks drive-thru to get more coffee and was rudely cut off by another driver on my way there. A gloomy little storm cloud hovered over my head and with each of these annoyances it expanded and darkened.

The drive-thru line was long (of course). I couldn’t find anything but commercials on the radio (of course).

I was wearing the opposite of rose-colored glasses. (Cat-puke-colored glasses?)

When I pulled up to the window and handed the barista my money, she greeted me with a smile and asked how my morning was going. I know this is Customer Service 101, but there was something about the way she spoke that just . . . shifted something for me. There was genuine warmth in her greeting. It wasn’t robotic or rushed or hassled. It wasn’t fake or overly bubbly. It was just a friendly, “Hello fellow human being. How are you doing on this day on our planet?”

The barista was a sunbeam shining through my cloudy mood, knocking my cat-puke-colored glasses askew.

The difference it made was subtle at first. We exchanged routine pleasantries—I doubt it was a memorable interaction for her. But as I drove home, I noticed green leaves sprouting on trees and how pretty the clouds looked against the morning blue sky. I thought about how contagious our moods can be and how simple actions—things we maybe don’t even give much thought to because it’s part of our job or we’re doing something we do every day—those small things can end up making a big difference to someone else.

A phrase came to mind as I drove, the good deed that grew, and I could immediately visualize it as a picture book, maybe a story about a child who does something nice for a neighbor who in turn does something nice for another character, and so on and so forth, until a whole community is transformed.

As soon as I got home, I was scribbling down ideas. I wanted this story to be about how the energy we put into the world travels its own path, and how we can never know how far it will go. Finding the right words to express these ideas as a story didn’t come easily, but I continued to circle around them, putting them aside and then returning to them, over and over, until finally, one day, I changed the phrase the good deed that grew to a good deed can grow. It’s a small, subtle difference, but just like I was shown on that grumpy morning with the Starbucks barista, small things can have a big impact.

Writing “A good deed can grow . . .” led me to exploring different similes and from there the words flowed. The barista who greeted me years ago will never know she sparked these lines:

A good deed can grow like a smile.

A smile that calms worries and nerves,

warms hearts,

or welcomes you home.

I ended A Good Deed Can Grow with a question—“What good will you grow today?”—because I want children (and adults) to feel empowered by the idea that our words and actions, even the very routine and everyday ones—maybe especially the very routine and everyday ones—have an impact on others, far beyond anything we can ever know.

So, Nerdy Readers, let me ask you: What good will you grow today?


Bertman_Jennifer Chambliss_© Analise Lawson PhotographyJennifer Chambliss Bertman is the author of the New York Times bestselling Book Scavenger series as well as Sisterhood of Sleuths. She holds an MFA in creative writing and has worked in a variety of roles with children and in publishing. Born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, Jennifer now lives in Colorado with her family. She invites you to visit her at www.JenniferChamblissBertman.com You can find Jennifer on Twitter  & Instagram as @jabertie.