I have seen and heard many different reactions today about the election and the state of our country. Friends and acquaintances have expressed sadness, anger, joy, and triumph. The most heartbreaking words I have read are those of hopelessness, blame and disrespect. I have seen articles and heard people question what we should tell our children about this historic event, this moment in time. I would like to turn the tables and ask, what can our youngest citizens tell us about how to act as we move forward?
I have the privilege of working with young children every day and seeing the way they embrace each new day with hope and wonder. They teach me about appreciation for the simple things: the cool wind that blows the leaves off the trees and provides the perfect game of leaf tag, the smell of a new book and the sound of the creaking spine as you open it for the first time, and the smile of a friend who asks to play. Children have much to teach us about the important things in life.
Here are a few lessons I have learned.
- Be Resilient: Imagine being a young child, facing the world anew and living in the expectations put upon you by someone else. There are good days and bad days, joys and sorrows, but each day there is a new opportunity to start again. Challenges come, but children tend to embrace them and rise to the challenges that eventually make them stronger and more equipped to tackle the next one. Americans are also resilient. Against all odds, from our very beginnings, through 9/11, and through difficult political eras (not just this one), we stand tall and we try, try again.
- Be Forgiving: On a daily basis, I see children argue, call each other names, take a toy from another, and even make each other cry. Once each expresses his side of the story, there is a compromise and usually a mending of the relationship. Within a short time, they are back to their play, enjoying each other and moving on. I am not suggesting that everyone should just move on from today, but I do think there is a time for forgiveness and restoration. This leads to my next point.
- Be Supportive: I am constantly humbled by the care the children in my class show to one another. When someone is hurt, physically or emotionally, there is always someone who will sit quietly comforting her friend, holding a hand or patting a back, getting an ice pack (because ice packs make everything better) or “admiring” a new battle scar. If only we could all learn to sit quietly and offer our support and our sympathy, even when we don’t have firsthand experience with the pain we see before us. Listen and don’t judge.
- Be Accepting: They love without seeing gender, race, family structure, size and shape. They care deeply for their friends and they accept them on the belief that we are all worthy of love and acceptance. I see it every day. We all want to be accepted and we thrive on feeling a sense of belonging. We are all Americans…we ALL belong.
- Be Hopeful: Young children are constantly dreaming of what they will become, how they will lead their lives and what they will see and do along the way. There is something beautiful about the innocent idealism of the very young, but it is also what gets them through the challenges of this world. We are already expecting so much of our children…do we really want them to carry the burden of our fears and faithlessness? I do not.
- Be Creative: My favorite part of every day is watching children problem solve. I set the stage and then watch my class of preschoolers question, investigate and create new knowledge. This is learning. As adults, we need to embrace creativity and look for ways to build bridges and respectfully create new knowledge and new understandings of each other, our nation and our world.
My son wakes up every morning, ready to see what the day will bring. He loves his life and the people in it with intensity and enthusiasm. When he falls, he gets back up and tries again. There are tears and there is pain, but he perseveres. This is what I want for all our children. I want them to love fiercely, forgive selflessly, and persevere, even in difficult times.
Whether you were horrified or elated about the election results, please consider how your responses will affect your children and look for ways the children can teach you to keep getting up each morning, excited for the possibilities and looking for ways to positively effect change for the people in your life. We are America, each and every one of us, diverse and yet the same.
I will be praying for our country and those who lead us, but I will also be praying for my friends and neighbors from all political viewpoints, and especially for our children.
Our words and our actions are what our children will truly remember.