Every time I turn on the news I feel as though something else has happened that is dividing us more and more as people, communities and countries. We are living in a time when we are constantly threatened by terrorism, whether by ISIS or in a school. Many are struggling to merely find their next meal or where they are going to sleep that night. Parents are trying to make sure that their children get an education so their lives are not under the stress of having multiple jobs to survive and having children raising children because they need to be at work. People have become so wrapped up in their own daily lives that we tend to be blind to what is happening on our own street or within our own communities and our world. It then seems that the issues are so BIG that we think that we cannot do anything that will matter. I understand, I get it, I am there too. But I believe that we can make change happen and even if it is small to start with, you never know where that might lead.
Begin with teaching Empathy and being a role model of empathy. How do we do this? I think that we start with helping our children understand themselves. Help them find what their strengths are and work to develop their confidence around it. When confidence is developed it opens the door for so much. It allows for one to feel as though they are worth something and they believe in themselves and their voice. It allows them to love someone else and enables them to find compassion for others. When someone is comfortable in who they are, then they can work to understand how someone else feels. Developing empathy is the basic building block which can lead to positive change in our world.
Also, be a role model by showing them empathic acts. Our acts of empathy, compassion, respect and tolerance help our children understand how to be empathetic and why it matters. Get our children involved with things that allow for empathy and kindness to be observed. Talk to them about it. Introduce them to different organizations that are out there and what they do to help others. Have them read books that encourage them to “walk in someone else’s shoes” and understand someone else’s life. You can also show them others that they identify with who make a difference in someone else’s life. A recent example is Travis Rudolph, a wide receiver at Florida State University. “During a recent visit to Montford Middle School in Tallahassee, Florida, Rudolph decided to sit with Bo Paske. The boy has autism and often eats lunch alone, according to his mother, Leah. When some of the FSU players stopped by the school, Rudolph was moved to make a new friend.” (CNN) Seeing that Bo was having lunch alone, Rudolph a hero in Bo’s eyes, sat with Bo and enjoyed having lunch with him when no one else was. What did this do for Bo? In an interview with him, he said, “It made me feel like I was sitting on top of a rainbow.” I hope that parents around the country are showing this to their children not only because it was wonderful that Rudolph saw the child eating alone and did not want him to but also to talk to their children about finding empathy for someone sitting alone and ask them to make the same choice that Rudolph did. It was a wonderful teaching moment -0ne that I certainly used with my own children.
I was fortunate enough to hear Maya Angelou speak just before she passed away. As she graced us with her amazing wisdom from her life experiences, her message that day resonates with me especially as we as a culture are struggling with love for a fellow human – “Be a rainbow in someone else’s cloud.” There is always hope and I believe that if we teach our children how to be empathetic, our world will be a better place for everyone. #KindnessMatters