Lesson Summary

Empathy is a form of compassion. It is an important tool for connection and understanding. This lesson gives a real-life example of a woman who believed in the power of empathy. It helps girls understand the importance of it and how to incorporate the character trait into their lives and relationships.

Section One

Preparatory Reading


Audrey Hepburn. The beautiful, petite, doe-eyed actor with a charming smile was poise personified. Certainly, no one who saw her portrayal of the wacky heroine in Breakfast at Tiffany’s would suspect she had trudged through a difficult childhood in war-torn Europe, suffering through malnutrition and depression. But Audrey never forgot—and her celebrity status gave her the perfect platform to shine a spotlight on third-world problems. While her cinematic credits are many, arguably, Ms. Hepburn’s empathy was her greatest gift to the world.

Even today, Audrey Hepburn still mesmerizes. Girls of her day wanted to be her. Audrey defined “fabulous” in a way not many women could, embodying the word in every way, shape and form.

While she is best known as a beauty icon who graced the movie screen with her presence, Audrey’s story takes on some grit when the wartime struggles of her childhood are revealed along with how she left her glamourous world behind in search of finding the cure for hunger. Her life story presents two life lessons for those who will follow in her footsteps: that pain can be turned into purpose and that pink can be gritty.

Audrey’s first message—the core and complete rawness of her story—is the lesson that everyone has the ability to take painful personal experiences and turn them into grace for others. Audrey took the starvation she had endured as a child and turned it into a mission to feed the hungry. The fabulous actor with a beautiful face was committed to this mission, and she got gritty and real in the process of being empathetic and serving others. What a lesson for all girls! The trials endured in childhood deliver grace in adulthood. All those hardships today’s girls struggle with overcoming can fuel their success in life. Pain can be a means to help others, a reason to extend beyond the borders of one’s soul and into the lives of others to keep them from experiencing the same hurt and suffering. This is a gentle reminder to all girls that good things can grow from hardships.

Audrey also helps girls understand that they can be strong and soft at the same time. You can be tough and like pink.

Spanning the decades, many girls and women have been drawn to Audrey. They like watching her move and listening to her speak. She had an admirable talent, and many secretly longed to be her. So, it stands to reason that a woman adored by so many would be the perfect life lesson to study and apply to a larger sisterhood.

It seems a study in contradiction for women to find that happy medium between being strong and enjoying the rights that come so easily with being a girl. It is a struggle—finding the balance between enjoying makeup, fancy clothes, endlessly fun shoes, big sunglasses and even bigger hats while still satisfying the need to appear strong, independent and uncomplicated.

For today’s mothers, the goal is raising strong daughters who understand the difference between superficial and deep concerns. Today’s girls are struggling to answer questions like: “Can I be a tough athlete, get ‘As’ in school, work with my hands, enjoy sweating outdoors and wear makeup? Does wearing makeup and liking the color pink make me appear too ‘girly’ to be considered a strong woman?” While some girls already may understand the importance of serving others, they still may wrestle with the “here and now” questions: “Can I be strong and girly? Do I have to choose one over the other?” Audrey says, “No.”

Be everything and anything and do it all at once. Audrey loved a side of pink with her grit and lipstick with her service. She combined the best of all things woman with the best of all things empathy and grit. It isn’t always this or that; girls can choose this and that. Grit can be soft and feminine, and grace can be sweaty and tough. Audrey gives girls permission to embrace the appreciation for the color pink and the gritty lesson of using their pain to serve others with graceful femininity.

“I believe in manicures. I believe in overdressing. I believe in primping at leisure and wearing lipstick. I believe in pink. I believe happy girls are the prettiest girls. I believe that tomorrow is another day, and ... I believe in miracles.” —Audrey Hepburn


Almost every year of Audrey’s life was spent doing something for herself or others. Though her early years were filled with tragedy, the time from young adulthood to her death was full of glamour and empathy. She was an incredible humanitarian.

Audrey Kathleen van Heemstra Ruston was born in Brussels, Belgium.

German forces invaded Holland, and all the family’s property was confiscated.

After nine years of ballet, Audrey began giving “under-the-table” dance lessons to earn money for herself and her mother.

After being noticed as a chorus girl in High Button Shoes, Audrey was cast in additional roles and eventually landed a role in Gigi as well as in the movie Roman Holiday.

Audrey wins the Best Actress Oscar for her work in Roman Holiday and later marries Mel Ferrer, an actor and film director.

After years of being cast in several movies, Audrey began work on one of her most iconic roles in Breakfast at Tiffany's.

Audrey got involved in a UNICEF television special hosted by Julie Andrews.

Audrey was named UNICEF’s Goodwill Ambassador, and this post fueled her passion for the rest of her life. She would spend much of her time traveling with UNICEF, educating the world on hunger and poverty and lobbying Congress for aid to underdeveloped countries.

On Jan. 20, Audrey died at home in her sleep. Two months later, she posthumously received the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award.

Audrey’s life was a life fully lived, filled with adventure, excitement, heartache and service. It is hard to believe that one person went through so many events in one lifetime. Audrey was a fascinating woman whose appearance on film was one of utter grace—but, behind the scenes, she led a life full of grit.


Audrey Hepburn’s empathy was the fabulous result of grace and grit.

To be empathetic is to have the ability to reach out to others and give wholly and completely. It requires less ego and more wisdom. Less sympathy and more compassion. Less hard line, more vulnerability. Less judgment, more grace. Less in the way of excuses, more grit.

Because the classrooms of today are filled with the leaders of tomorrow, empathy is a lesson that needs to be learned now—to match the exponentially growing needs not only in nearby communities, but also those that exist worldwide. It can be taught and demonstrated in a variety of ways, and not all of them involve volunteering at food pantries and working with vulnerable communities. Empathy is also needed in leadership roles or team participation—whether it be a sports team or a group assignment in school. “Less of me and more of you” is required for team projects. Empathy requires emotional maturity and higher-level thinking skills.

As students, think about all the opportunities available in school: student council, academic clubs, athletics—these all require a level of empathy. Every time a girl athlete steps onto a basketball court, she leaves her “self” behind and becomes part of a team. Every time a girl takes the position of student-council president, she leaves her “self” behind and thinks of the student body. Every time classmates are given a group assignment, there is less ego and more “us.”

Teaching these skill sets should begin at a young age. It can start with having toddlers donate items to the Salvation Army, taking children shopping to purchase gifts for Christmas Angels programs, having them take part in preparing food for ailing family and friends, and of course, volunteering at a food bank or helping disadvantaged youth. Sometimes, being able to see how others live—and what they live without—is what it takes to open one’s eyes and develop a desire to make things better for “the team.” This same perspective can be applied during group assignments at school, mission trips with the church, leading others through extracurricular activities and even babysitting jobs.

Connection with other people is essential to developing meaningful relationships, and true connection stems from empathy. Empathy requires one’s eyes to be wide open and one’s compassion to be turned on.

However, it also requires understanding the limits of one’s body and soul and knowing when to say “yes” and when to say “no.” Too often, girls are guilted into being told they should care about everything, which is an unfair expectation. Girls must be so confident in knowing themselves that they say “no” to what they cannot take on without making excuses to make others feel better. They should be able to utter a resounding “no” and have it treated as if that two-letter word was a complete sentence.

Saying “no” is yet another required skill set. Saying “yes” to all things in the universe depletes a person’s resources until there is nothing left to give. So, if everyone takes on a bit of the responsibility of compassion, everyone grows individually while also propelling the growth of humankind—and the result can be something pretty fabulous.


Below are descriptions of each item we offer as part of the Empathy Theme. Depending on your purchase, some of these may not be applicable.

Illustrated Portrait
Our portrait gives life to each of our sets. Audrey's illustration has her standing with her arm resting on a globe. After nearly starving during WWII, Audrey was empathetic to others who didn't have enough food. She used her influence to help those in need. The picture suggests she is looking beyond everyone into the future and imagining a time when no child ever is without food.
Activity Booklet
The Activity Booklet highlights the themes in Audrey Hepburn's life. It gives an overview of her journey into empathy and the legacy she left behind. The booklet includes six thought-provoking activities that guide the readers to apply the lessons of Audrey's life to their own. Girls will understand what empathy looks, sounds and feels like. More importantly, they will understand how to be their own best advocate.
While the Activity Booklet highlights Audrey's story, the Biography gives a more in-depth telling of her life. The reader will learn how Audrey developed her deep empathy for others. It tells about the dangers she faced as a child during Hitler's invasion of Holland, her rise to stardom and how she became an ambassador for UNICEF. The Biography contains personal stories and quotes that reinforce Audrey's empathy.
Biography Workbook
The Biography Workbook allows the reader to dive into the lessons Audrey Hepburn's legacy teaches and apply them to their life. We took the same thought-provoking activities from the Activity Booklet and made them into a companion guide for the Biography. After completing the activities, girls will understand what empathy looks, sounds and feels like. More importantly, they will understand how to be empathetic to themselves.
Timeline Poster
The Timeline Poster is a quick introduction to the life of Audrey Hepburn. One look at it, and the reader can easily spot the milestones in Audrey's life, how she navigated through her childhood and how she rose to fame, only to give it up for a deeper purpose. From birth to death, girls can trace Audrey's path and understand how her accomplishments changed the course of history.
Play-It-Forward Cards
Using the Play-It-Forward Cards allows your girls to generalize the lessons they have learned about the empathetic Audrey Hepburn. By following the directions on the cards, they will acknowledge those instances where they see Audrey's spirit in themselves and others in their community. The Play-It-Forward Cards encourage girls to support one another by encouraging and recognizing empathy in others.
The Accessory is a gift that reminds girls of Audrey Hepburn's empathy. Usually, the accessory accompanying each historical figure is specially designed and handmade just for Grace & Grit by a locally owned company. For Audrey, however, the decision was made to purchase bracelets handmade by artisans in developing countries. There always is good work to be done, just as there are beautiful ways to help others. The purchase of these bracelets helps women support their families and communities.
The charm is a reminder of Audrey Hepburn's legacy. Audrey's charm is a disk stamped with the words "Help Others" paired with a globe. When paired together, Audrey and the charm remind girls that they can be sophisticated, fabulous and humble enough to serve others. Empathy will make the world a better place.


Hand out the materials to the girls, allowing them to spend some time going through them independently. If you purchased the charm or accessory, invite them to try it on or talk about how they can use it or add the charm to a bracelet. Give them time to satisfy their curiosity so they can focus on the lesson once you begin. After a few minutes, bring their attention back to you and start the lesson.

The following sections provide you with guidance to get the girls thinking and discussing the topics related to the theme and lesson contents. Use the discussion questions to the extent time allows.

Consider using a whiteboard to note responses, comments and ideas from the group as you go along.

Timeline Poster

Statement or Instructions:
Direct the girls to the timeline.

Take turns having the girls read each event on the poster.

What do you know about Hitler’s invasion of Europe?

After reading the timeline, what would be a word to sum up the trajectory of Audrey’s life?

Illustrated Portrait

Statement or Instructions:
Direct the girls to the portrait.

What do you already know about Audrey Hepburn?

What are your initial thoughts about Audrey’s portrait?

Who do you think she is looking at?
What might she be thinking?

Why do you think she is standing next to a globe?

What do you want to know about Audrey?


Statement or Instructions:
NOTE: If time is limited, group leaders may consider assigning the reading to be done independently before the group meets.

If the group is reading the biography together, consider doing so during silent reading time, out loud by the facilitator, or by taking turns, each girl reading a paragraph or page.

Guided questions to deepen understanding of the Biography:
What facts do you know about life during World War II?

Have you ever had to change your dreams or goals as Audrey did? What did that feel like?

Have you ever heard of UNICEF? (UNICEF is a worldwide nonprofit that takes care of children in developing countries, providing food, clothing, medical care, education and safe drinking water.)

How do you think Audrey felt, knowing she could help children who were starving?

Do you think Audrey would have been as effective at helping other children had she not experienced the life she did?

How did Audrey use her fame to serve others?

Activity Booklet (Reading Section)

Statement or Instructions:
Ask the girls:
What do you think the quote on the cover of the booklet means?

Have the girls open up the booklet and invite them each to take turns reading a paragraph.

1. Read parts of the booklet and use the suggested questions below to deepen the discussion and check for understanding.

2. Read the booklet (up to the activities) and then use the suggested questions below to deepen the discussion and check for understanding.

Guided questions to deepen understanding of the Activity Booklet reading:
What facts do you know about life during World War II?

Have you ever had to change your dreams or goals as Audrey did? What did that feel like?

Have you ever heard of UNICEF? (UNICEF is a worldwide nonprofit that takes care of children in developing countries, providing food, clothing, medical care, education and safe drinking water.)

How do you think Audrey felt, knowing she could help children who were starving?

Do you think Audrey would have been as effective at helping other children had she not experienced the life she did?

How did Audrey use her fame to serve others?

Content Discovery

Statement or Instructions:
Have the girls take the bracelet and the charm from the box. Use each item as you discuss the following questions.

Statement or Instructions:
Read the card tied to the colorful bracelet. What does it mean? (The woman who made this bracelet lives in a developing country. When people buy her bracelets, they help her feed herself and her family.)

What strikes you about this bracelet?

What do you think of the charm?

When you wear it, what will it remind you of?

A small thought to share: When we think of Audrey Hepburn, we see a glamorous woman, but we never really know what is going on in someone’s life. They may have had something happen to them that is really sad. Always keep this thought in mind and give people your compassion because, when you give compassion, you are being empathetic.

Activity Booklet (Question Section) Or Biography Workbook

Statement or Instructions:
Invite the girls to complete the activities in the back of the booklet and discuss their answers. This is the heart of the lesson. While some girls may not want to share their answers, please allow time for discussion and processing their answers. The objective is for the girls (when applicable) to apply lessons about the woman’s life and character trait to their own lives.

The following are the questions found in the Activity Booklet or Biography Workbook. They are meant to be answered independently by the girls in the booklet, but may be referenced as needed in the lesson.

Activity 1:
Empathy is the act of connecting with others by understanding their emotions. Audrey endured hard times during World War II and was able to use her experience to identify with others.

This week, challenge yourself to empathize with someone. Write these acts down, along with the way they made you feel.

Whom did you empathize with?

Why did you choose that person?

How did it feel to empathize with others?

How do you think it made them feel?

What did you learn about yourself?

Activity 2:
It is always important to serve yourself as well as others.

Audrey said we each have two hands: one to help ourselves and one to help others.

Why should we make sure we take care of our own needs as much as we take care of others? Write down how you will always take care of yourself.

Activity 3:
“I can testify to what UNICEF means to children because I was among those who received food and medical relief right after World War II.” —Audrey Hepburn

Nonprofits are organizations that offer help and resources.

Why are organizations that help others important to humanity?

If you had the choice, who would you help?

Activity 4:
“The beauty of a woman is not in a facial mode but the true beauty in a woman is reflected in her soul. It is the caring that she lovingly gives, the passion that she shows.” —Audrey Hepburn

Audrey was an empathetic woman who had many wise things to say.

What do you think she meant when she said, “The true beauty in a woman is reflected in her soul. It is the caring that she lovingly gives?”

Activity 5:
Audrey Hepburn was a dancer, resistance fighter, model, actor and humanitarian. She lived a full life but had to step away from acting to concentrate on the things most important to her: family and helping others.

It took presence of mind to be able to go from humanitarian to Hollywood star.

After living through the horrors of World War II, do you think Audrey ever found the glamor of Hollywood silly?

If you were Audrey, how would you keep a healthy balance between being an actor and a humanitarian?

Activity 6:
It was important to Audrey to help and support others. The support she received as a teenager was life-changing, and she wanted to give that support to others.

Which trusted adult woman in your life shares your same views and opinions? Invite her to read Audrey’s story.

What did she learn from it?

What did she think of Audrey’s empathy?

How does she lead an empathetic life?

Questions to deepen discussion (if time allows):
In your own words, describe what it means to be empathetic.

When you think of the word “empathy,” who do you picture in your head? Is it a friend or family member?

Look up the word “sympathy.” How does that differ from empathy?

Discuss a time when you had trouble being empathetic to others. Why did you find it difficult to be empathetic?

What is required to be empathetic?


Statement or Instructions:
Tell the girls what the Play-It-Forward Cards are and how they are intended to be used with other girls in their daily lives.

Have the girls take the Play-It-Forward Cards from the Lesson Set and browse through them for a moment.

Go around the group and have them read the front and back of one card aloud. Ask the girls what that card means to them and how they could use it in everyday life. (Depending on time, you may want to limit this exercise to 3 cards.)

Remind them that, over time, as they choose to pass out a card to another girl with positive intent, their name will go into a drawing to get the tote bag.

Depending on time, you may want to limit this exercise to only a few girls.


As you close the lesson, you are looking to spark a conversation among the girls about how they plan to use inspiration from Audrey to improve their own lives while also helping and supporting one another. The goal is to help them recognize how topics from the lesson apply to their own lives in a positive way.

Discussion Questions
Optional: Use the Timeline Poster as a focal point for open discussion.

What impresses you most about Audrey?

What did you find most interesting?

What are some ways you can practice empathy in your life?

How can you help someone else practice empathy?

How do you think this will help you become an empathetic person?

What ideas do you have for using the Play-It-Forward Cards?

Did you learn things about Audrey’s life that were different from what you typically learn in school? Does that remind you to look beyond the obvious to see what else there is to learn?


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The Digital Lesson Guide is a free download containing the same information from this section. We also have Printed Lesson Guides available for purchase if you prefer to have a physical copy for your personal collection.