The Center of the Road
Be Kind...Change the World
Change the World.
This is the message on my son’s school pride shirt. The Kind Campaign which was started in 2009 by two Pepperdine students is a nationwide movement to teach school age children and young adults a simple message: “Be Kind…Change the World.”
Every Monday at our elementary school, 5-12 year olds have the option to put on their shirts to spread a simple but powerful idea: if we all take the responsibility to simply be kind to one another, we can indeed change the world.
As a 35 year old parent, I love it for two reasons. First, it’s a reminder of the behavior we expect of our children. My wife and I teach our sons to be respectful, to listen, to follow the rules, to think of other’s needs and feelings. In short, we strive for them to learn how to be kind. Second, I love it because it’s a reminder for us parents who watch our little ones run off to school with smiles of almost complete ignorance that the world outside of their school isn’t very kind and the world needs changing.
Why is that?
Why is it we as parents work tirelessly to take little humans from birth and watch them every second to make sure they are growing up with kindness in their hearts, but somehow we have accepted that anger, not kindness is the way of the “real” world.
People are angry at government. Over and over we hear how the “angry electorate” is shaping the 2016 race. People are angry at their circumstances. “Where is mine?” is the too often refrain from the parents of these little children. People are angry at the perception everyone else is simply taking from their hard work. Never mind that the vast majority of us are living in the highest standards the history of the world has ever known. Never mind we live longer, healthier, more material filled lives than any king in history. And yet people from every socioeconomic class are angry.
People are angry driving. Really stop and think about that. We are all going from A to B. Some in a hurry. Some not so much of a hurry. And yet we hear with increasing frequency about ridiculous instances of road rage that is somehow becoming commonplace. For the record, it’s not ok to exit your vehicle and verbally or physically assault someone because they didn’t see your car when they moved into your lane. I can’t believe that actually has to be written down somewhere, but the “real world” out there apparently requires it.
When did being angry become so part of the everyday life? When did being angry become so commonplace that we had to create campaigns and put our children in shirts, to simply remind them to be kind? And if they did that one little act over and over….they could literally change the world.
Ancient philosophy is replete with admonitions against anger. Aristotle. Confucius. Buddha. Both east and west. The Old Testament and the New. Jesus of Nazareth, the greatest rabbi the world has ever known said, “You have heard that it was said to our people long ago, ‘You must not murder anyone.Anyone who murders another will be judged.’ But I tell you, if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be judged.”
Modern art has continued the warning. One of the most famous quotes from one the biggest film franchises of all time came from the tiniest character Yoda, who said, “Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”
This isn’t new.
And here we are. Millennia after the greatest philosophers spoke. Millennia after Jesus finished his ministry.
Decades later after those famous words from the little green man inspired the imagination of multiple generations. Here we are, finding new ways to be angered. Finding new ways to inflict suffering on ourselves and those around us.
We can’t all be zen or stoic masters. We can’t all be Confucius or Yoda. Certainly none of us can be Jesus. Anger has a place in life. It is a real, raw emotion that is just as human as love. Anger can focus us to action or create the immediate need for dialogue. Anger can help us finally seek the change we so desperately need.
But it seems to me that anger has been given an over-sized place and purpose in our lives. We all want government to work better. We all want to provide the most we can for our children. We all want to create the best lives possible for ourselves. We all want to get from A to B faster. But when did we stop being kind enough that we would actually enjoy the ride along the way?
When I drop my son off at kindergarten every morning, without fail he tosses his backpack by the class door, he goes running off to play. I watch as he laughs with innocent glee, creating little games within games with whoever he runs up to first. Never the same friend. That would be silly and limiting. They are all friends. They share ideas. They run off together. They form groups and teams and then come back running and laughing, and someone else creates a new game.
When I pick him up in the afternoon and the bell rings, they start all over. Game after game. The children literally shout with laughter at the fun, and only stop because a parent says it’s time to go.
There they are, in shirts that are usually too big to fit right on their small frames: “Be Kind…Change the World.” And it begs the thought. Maybe the kids don’t need the reminder. Maybe they are wearing those shirts for the grownups.
Be kind. Change the world.