“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” – Anne Frank
Last Thursday was Gandhi’s birthday, and also the International Day of Nonviolence, a day to honor peacemakers around the world. To observe the day in the Lower Elementary, we read a short story about Gandhi’s life and talked about ways each of us might practice peace. The children thought of many different ideas like writing letters to new neighbors, helping someone, thinking about Gandhi, working with a Zen garden, saying kind words, and appreciating nature.
Listening to the children, I was reminded how each of them has many seeds of compassion waiting to be nurtured in fertile ground. As adults, one of our most important roles is helping all these seeds grow. In the early elementary years, we can:
Recognize, name, and respect children’s feelings. This can help children begin to think about how others might be feeling and to feel empathy for them.
Share our own values about kindness and helping, and share stories of people like Gandhi who made a difference in the world.
Have conversations with children about how they have helped others, and how others have helped them.
Get to know all kinds of people so children can recognize that all people have a great deal in common, and that not everyone is alike.
Help children think about things from different perspectives. Thinking about how other people might be feeling and why helps children build empathy.
Volunteer together. Consider your family’s skills, interests, talents, and time and choose an organization that fits your needs. The Volunteer Family (www.thevolunteerfamily.org) can help you get started.
Involve children in philanthropy by helping them identify areas of interest and possibility. Even when the amount is small, finding an area of need, thinking about how to raise money and awareness, and then giving a gift that will make a real change can be a very meaningful experience.
In the words of Anne Frank and the spirit of Gandhi, however young or old we are, all of us can help to make the world a better place.
Zoe (Lower Elementary Teacher)