Caring is an act of compassion. It is not simply an act of graciousness or generosity. It comes from deep inside the heart.
All children know the damage that a bully can inflict and they know the feeling of powerlessness when their friends turn and walk away, pretending not to see. How do we teach our children to turn towards, to see, and to act?
Showing your child how to be a caring, involved citizen, doesn’t mean that you have to lead a march or run for office. It is in the small everyday things that children learn. As parents and teachers we are the first role models. How do we treat others day to day? Do we show respect and concern for all beings? When we listen, share, and help, our children see who we are and imagine who they will be. They also see when we ignore, dismiss, or act selfishly.
Books, and the conversations they inspire, are great ways to instill compassion. When a child wants desperately for Dorothy to get back home and the evil witch to dissolve, the seeds of compassion and yearning for justice have been planted. Books can also take you to other places, teaching that there are many cultures and that each one is unique and special. Include books on the history of your own country, and of the world. These kinds of books will open your child’s mind and heart in ways that go far beyond what is literally on the page.
The future is in our children’s small hands. And, as unknowable as it may be, one thing is certain, that the next generation will need courage and clarity of vision in a world that promises to be confusing and chaotic. They will need to know how to discern truth from lies and how to raise their voices against injustice of all kinds.
Long long ago a Native American chief was sitting by the fire with his grandson. “Tell me about the battles you have fought!” begged the little boy. His grandfather looked deep into the fire. “The most important battle I have fought is between the two wolves that are within us all. One wolf is greedy, angry, arrogant, a liar and a hypocrite that thinks he is superior to all other wolves. The other wolf is gentle, full of hope, love, empathy, truth and kindness.” The boy became very quiet. He was listening for the two wolves inside him. “Which wolf is stronger?” he asked. “The one you feed,” replied his grandfather.
There is much in this world that needs heedfulness. The fate of our planet depends on it. Helping to solve these seemingly insurmountable problems will need critical thinking, of course, but equally as important, it will need hearts that truly care.