Two years ago, my family moved from the Boston area to Orlando. One could argue that the two cities my kids have now called home couldn’t be more dissimilar. In some respects, that may be true. In other ways, they are the same, as we all ultimately are regardless of where we come from.
One of the most unfortunate realities of having lived in both places in recent years is that my family has now had to live at arm’s length through two senseless terrorist acts – the Boston Marathon bombings and now the night club shooting of Orlando, the single largest terrorist attack on US soil other than 9/11, another tragedy I sadly remember all too well.
As a parent trying fervently to teach my children how important it is to see the humanity in the other people they encounter every day and to respond to human need when they come across it, trying to reconcile for them how hatred can be so seemingly “commonplace” at the same time is exceedingly frustrating, ostensibly contradictory at times.
Yesterday, as news of this latest tragedy emerged, PGK’s fantastic communications & outreach coordinator, Rachel, posted an article about kindness. In it, a teacher by the name of Marlem Diaz-Brown states: “I have learned that when you teach kindness and compassion to students and they really understand the concept, everything else falls into place. This should be the first lesson of every teacher.”
The article further goes on to quote Dacher Keltner, director of the Berkeley Social Interaction Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley, who states the physiological realities of kindness. Apparently being kind activates the vagus nerve, which communicates nerve impulses throughout the body which he said, “Tells us when I’m benefiting other people’s welfare, I get healthier and happier.” And then there’s also the release of oxytocin which calms the stress response. “If I practice kindness, I live longer, and now we understand neurologically why…what are the powerful pathways to happiness? The best we have is kindness.” (Article accessible at: http://bit.ly/25IIynS)
Whether the teacher be a parent, an after-school mentor, a grandparent or an actual teacher, I couldn’t help but think that our children today, perhaps more so than any generation that has come before it, need to be reminded of the power of kindness. They are bombarded with images and news stories and realities that remind them all too often of the other side of human nature. And yet, not only is kindness something that makes us thrive, individually and collectively, it is something that lies within all of us.
I want my children to live in a world where they don’t walk the streets in fear of what senseless tragedy may come next. I want them to walk the streets knowing that the power of kindness is stronger than the fear that drives these senseless acts. And the sooner we turn them on to their own power to create ripples of kindness, the better off we all will be. After all, kindness is a choice like any other. Today, and every day, I want them to choose to be kind.