Only kindness matters. I couldn't say it better.
As a child, we learn from our surroundings. We learn how food tastes, how grass feels between our toes, how the sun warms our cheeks, and how a honeysuckle smells in the morning. We learn how to walk and talk through repetition. We learn the sounds that come from a piano, and we learn how a puppy likes his belly scratched.
But, some things come naturally. Emotions are not learned, they are inside all of us. We cry when we are sad, we laugh when we are happy, we get angry, excited, confused, and we react without thought.
And my favorite is LOVE. LOVE starts with parents, siblings, family, pets, neighbors, and friends, and spreads through your engagements with religious figures, teachers, musicians, sports figures, and has no limits. Love can be toward a favorite food, a childhood stuffed animal, your first car, a season, just about anything.
Close your eyes. Ask yourself what makes you happy. What do you LOVE? Picture it. Feel it. Smell it. Taste it. Is it a song? A picture? A memory of a lost one? LOVE uses all of your emotions, and that is what makes it so special.
So when you are a child, you LOVE your friends. You don't care about skin color. You don't care that their parents believe in a different God. You couldn't care less who their grandparents voted for in the last election. You have friends with glasses. You have friends with blue eyes. You have friends with learning disabilities. YOU HAVE FRIENDS!
So at what point do we start seeing differences? At what point do we notice Sally's red hair, or Johnny's wheelchair, or Brian's autism, or Beth's pale skin? I know as adults, we see it in the media every day. It's almost the norm to see headlines on the news or in our own social media platforms about what makes this person or that person different. So I know where WE see it. But where do the children see it? What makes a child ever see the differences? That's a very scary question to have to answer as an adult, because it usually comes back to us.
Children can learn behaviors from those who are surrounding them. When the Bears score a touchdown and your dad jumps up and down and celebrates, you learn to do the same. When mom hugs your older brother and cries as he boards a plane to visit his grandparents for the summer, you see through her eyes. And when the bully picks on and ridicules your best friend, you feel their pain. We learn behaviors from watching everyday situations. Good and bad. Right and wrong.
So it starts with us. The adults. The caregivers. The teachers. The role models.
When we continue to teach kindness, it spreads.
When you eliminate the negative, it only leaves room for positive. That goes for people, as well as situations. You can't always change those around you to see things through your eyes, so sometimes you have to let go. And by letting go of the negative, we are teaching our children to do the same. They will also fill their lives with positive people and situations.
But we must do more than just spread kindness. We must encourage our children to do the same. They need the strength to stop bad situations when they see them. When that happens, we can all start seeing through the eyes we once had.
And start seeing the beauty in the things that make us all unique.