How A New Book Inspires Kindness With Simple Messages

Wendy Shragg had no reason to meet local golf pro Bryan Skavnak in early 2020. But when a mutual friend mentioned that Shragg should check out Skavnak’s uplifting Instagram feed Be The Nice Kid, it laid the foundation for a project that recently came to fruition.

Shragg, a “multi-passionate creative” who works in multiple mediums, provided the illustrations to Skavnak’s words in the new book Be Nice. The End: simple wisdom of the Playground Kids

“When we (first) talked, it was a very easy conversation,” Shragg said of that first meeting. “I wasn’t thinking about matching images and verbiage. It was about organically growing an Instagram presence.”

In the early days of COVID-19 lockdowns, Shragg said she felt herself getting frustrated. But then she thought of the people who suggested that she write a story about the Playground Kids, the line of children she drew as part of 2018’s #The100DaysProject on Instagram. Skavnak was sharing posts about kindness, acceptance, and courage, so she reached out to him to see if he’d want to get involved in the project.

“He said ‘heck yeah!’” she said.

However, being COVID-responsible, the two didn’t meet in person until three weeks ago — despite working on a book project together for nearly 18 months.

“In the beginning, two or three times a week we met on the phone,” but it came together so beautifully. It was a perfect match,” she said. “We cut out the pictures and his words, and laid them on a table, and moved them around to see what message was best from which kid.”

Shragg said she and Skavnak went into the project with the same vision, which lead to a harmonious partnership.

“It was so seamless, so enjoyable. The two of us had the same vision and it just came together almost effortlessly,” she said. “It was a relationship that felt like it had been going on forever. I feel like we’ve known each other all our lives.”

The Playground Kids, Shragg said, were created without anybody in particular in mind. 

“They truly are a work from my heart, and there’s a certain spark when I draw their eyes,” she said. “I can almost hear them speak to me, there’s just this inner-knowing that they have, they’re wiser than any of us. It’s that unhampered innocence of childhood.”

Skavnak’s words are the simple lessons that many of us learned — or should have learned — early on, like “Be the kid who helps when no one is looking,” or “Maybe you can’t. But what if you can?”

Some of the lessons are even more important now, especially as kids spent so much time away from each other during the pandemic.

“How are we kind and accepting of one another?” she said. “Kids have been out for so long; did they forget how to act? Everything you needed to learn, you learned in kindergarten, it’s that basic. It’s that innocence of childhood. And there’s a beauty in that.”