by Rebecca Stewart
Two words – little words, at that - but they struck me all the same during a brainstorming session with a group of kiddos ranging in age from 3 to 14 on ways that we can choose - and spread - kindness. A lull had fallen over the group, and as I prompted them again, a skinny little arm shot up, and, “Be you,” proclaimed this wonderfully feisty, surprisingly thoughtful 10-year-old boy. Basically, he was saying to us, own who you are, no matter what that might look like – whether or not your classmates think it’s cool or not (in his case, a love for dance). I mean…color me dazzled.
So simple: Be you.
And when you are authentically you, it creates potential for your light to shine brightly in this world. Let's turn the tables on to us for a moment – our kids’ grownup counterparts. How is it that we’re helping our children to become the people they were meant to be? There are many ways in which we fill their life toolboxes, but when we look to ourselves, are we engaging in genuine interactions? Are we giving ourselves the gift (and the freedom) to own who we are? To, be you? Ultimately, are we leading by example?
We tell kids every day that they need to be kind, to choose kindness…But what does that mean? What does that look and sound like? We know we don't have to like everyone that we encounter in this world or be friends with every last person, but we do need to extend basic human kindness and grace. After all, we certainly want to be on the receiving end of those courtesies.
Every school year, I extend this hope to my teacher friends: May your students be sparkling sponges of learning readiness. The point being, here, may we all remember how sponge-like children are; that they are there soaking up what we, the adults in their lives, are putting out to the world. We cannot be content to laughingly say, “Oh, do as I say, not as I do.” We lament kids’/teens’ behavior online or in a text when so many adults are sitting behind their screens, filter-free, throwing toxic negativity around online as if there isn’t a human being on the receiving end. As a result, it’s oozing into our in real life interactions. We must first lead by example and spread the light that we wish to see in this world.