“Stone Soup Magic” Storyteller: A.E. Hotchner
(Taken from: Stone Soup for the World. Edited by Marianne Larned, Conari Press, 1998.)
Think of him as a master chef cooking up magic for the whole world. “I like to take what I’ve got and spread it around,” Paul Newman says. He has the old-fashioned notion that a man ought to give something back. So, he does. He donates every penny of his after-tax profits from his company, Newman’s Own, Inc., to good causes. Since 1982, his charitable contributions have totaled over eighty million dollars.
“Newman’s Own furnishes people with wholesome, all-natural foods that they enjoy,” Newman explains. “The after-tax profits from the company are then given to organizations serving people who, because of poverty, sickness, old age, or illiteracy, desperately need assistance.” Newman has funded programs for health, education, the homeless, the environment, the arts and children. Thousands of organizations have received grants from the company, with the majority of grants being made to smaller, obscure organizations that are often overlooked by mainstream charities. “What makes this business great is the mutually beneficial recycling from the haves to the have-nots,” says Newman.
Among his favorite endeavors is the Newman’s Own and Good Housekeeping Recipe Contest, in which winners receive ten thousand dollars to donate to their favorite charity. When a first-grade class at the Terra Linda School in Beaverton, Oregon, learned about the recipe contest, they decided to try their luck.
That week during story time, their teacher, Mrs. Clement, read them the classic children’s folk tale, Stone Soup: “A hungry traveler feeds himself and a whole village, starting with just one magic stone and a pot of water. When each of the villagers gives a little, there is plenty for everyone.” Twenty-four six-year-olds listened carefully, sitting cross-legged on mats surrounding their teacher. Their wide eyes studied the pictures she showed them. When she finished reading, they talked together about the book. The children agreed that their favorite illustration was the very last one. Above the words, The End, an entire village was feasting upon this very special soup.
Then Mrs. Clement had a great idea: what if the class entered their own recipe for Stone Soup in the contest? The kids were very enthusiastic. Working together, they chalked a list of their own special ingredients upon the blackboard; your basic soup ingredients, except for two: One was a twenty-six-ounce jar of Newman’s Own Sockarooni Sauce. The other was a stone. “It wouldn’t be right without a stone from Oregon,” said ten-year-old Jessica Stewart.
The Stone Soup recipe made the first-graders winners. “When Mrs. Clement told us we had won the contest,” Jessica remembers, “we screamed, shouted, and danced around the classroom.”
The students knew exactly what they would do with their $10,000 in prize money. They would give it back to their own school. They purchased books for the library, keyboards for the music department, and a weather station. They stamped each and every item with the words Newman’s Own. Now when students check out a book or play the keyboards, they can remember how good it felt to help their school and work together as a team.
As for Jessica, her days of giving have just begun. “Winning $10,000 as a kid made a big difference in how I feel about giving. It made me want to help others now and when I get older,” she says. “Now that I’m in the 4th grade, I’m on the student council. Each year we give our time and energy to help others. We’ve collected money to buy school supplies for the flood victims in the Oregon flood. We’ve collected pop cans to raise money for Keiko the whale. We bring in Campbell’s Soup labels to get balls for our playground.”
Mrs. Clement is happy that the contest gave the children an opportunity to give back to their school. “An important part of what we teach in the classroom is sharing, giving, and helping others,” she says. “The students also learn that to be successful in life, it’s necessary to listen, work together, and solve problems.” The Stone soup story gave them lots of food for thought.
Mrs. Clement is very grateful to Paul Newman. “He gave these children a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” she says. “The books and keyboards will grow old and out of date, but the memory of what the students were able to do for their school will stay with them always. He could have just made a donation, but by helping others to give, he gives so much more than just money. The greatest gift Paul Newman gave my students was a lesson in the value of giving. He planted the seeds for them to do great things in their lives.”