We had parent teacher conferences last week and as I was waiting for my turn and looking around at all the artwork in the hallway, I noticed the “kindness wall” created by C’s class. It was filled with annotated drawings by the kids that demonstrated various acts of kindness as conceived and interpreted by 6 year olds. It made me think how interesting it is that we need to reinforce and teach kindness, selflessness and compassion to children. Aren’t these traits already inherent in human nature? Or is our natural instinct to protect our own best interest? I don’t really know the answer, but I do know that I sometimes need to gently nudge the girls towards the more selfless path when given a choice or faced with a decision. The younger one sometimes has a hard time understanding this, and this was fairly evident when we talked recently about donating some of her toys to kids who lost everything during the storm. She agreed after some resistance to the idea, but I’m not sure she really “got it”. This is probably a typical response from any little kid so it makes me think, is compassion and selflessness something that needs to be taught and nurtured?
I’ve seen a lot of acts of kindness throughout the city the last few weeks. It’s unthinkable to even consider where we’d be if people didn’t step up to volunteer and help their fellow citizens. Kind of gives you hope for the world. But I think I’m most impressed by the dedication demonstrated by those people who gave their time and energy even while dealing with their own losses from the storm. This includes people that I know, many of whom are fellow small food business owners. I don’t know what motivates some people to roll up their sleeves and jump in. Maybe you draw on some past experience and know what it’s like to go through hard times yourself. Or maybe you were raised with these values and had exceptional role models. To feel compassion but to actually act upon those feelings are 2 slightly different things. I look at that “kindness wall” and realize that it’s not enough to talk. It’s probably best to lead by example and not just make it part of your vocabulary, but part of your way of life. I may not always succeed at this, but like any parent, you hope that some of this gets absorbed by your children so that they can grow up to be compassionate adults.