I truly believe empathy and kindness are the most important virtues a person and society can have. There is a reason every major religion has some version of the Golden Rule. As parents, children change us in way that we want the Golden Rule to be followed more than ever. We want nothing more than our children to be treated with empathy and kindness.
To live in a society that treats their kids the way they want their kids to be treated.
That said, I do understand that no one will see my children the way I see them. I don’t expect other moms to run hands open into my kids’ vomit or laugh at all their terrible fart jokes. That no one else will have the same intense love and fierce sense of protection for them. I also know that there will be times I cannot protect them. That they will go out into the world and it will be hard and cold and unfair and it’s my job to prepare them for that. To remind them it’s their responsibility to treat others the way they want to be treated. Regardless of how others act. And to always look for the helpers because I promise they are there.
I have learned from neighbors and teachers that there are so many people who care about children that are not their own. People showed so much kindness to me growing up like my 5th grade teacher, Mrs. O’Brien, who took time to help me process my parents divorce. My neighbor, Renee, who was always around with a ride or ice cream sandwich. There are so many unsung heroes who show so much love and grace to kids.
I started thinking about this when I overheard a conversation at Starbucks. I was with my daughter and I ended up sharing a table with three women. One woman was monopolizing much of the conversation and I overheard her talking about these “annoying friends” of her daughter who overstayed their welcome and would eat her food.
I don’t know the whole back story about these kids or their parents, but what got me was her reaction to the children. She complained about having to give them snacks and how now she has to buy a bag of “crappy apples” because she didn’t want them to eat her expensive honey crisps. Then she went on to say that sometimes she would prepare lunch for her girls in a effort to “shoo the kids away” and how she was pissed if they would ask to stay. The woman went on to say, “I guess I felt bad or something, so I would make them a peanut butter sandwich, but there was no way I would give them my expensive lunch meat. I am going to start buying a thing of Jif for just when they come over.”
I was horrified. This woman in her Lululemons, drinking her expensive Starbucks latte was complaining about feeding children?! Then she went on to say that she wants to teach a kindness class in her daughter’s class. Which I found even more confusing. I mean….maybe take a kindness class first. Jeez.
Really, this struck a chord because I was that neighborhood kid. I relied on my neighbors to help me because my parents (who worked hard and are wonderful) sometimes couldn’t. It breaks my heart to think people would see me in this light — as an annoyance who didn’t deserve the good peanut butter.
So to the good people of the world who help the wayward neighborhood kids and do their best to follow the golden rule: THANK YOU! Your love and kindness means the world. Truly. I am so proud and so lucky to have grown up in a community that cared, that didn’t have much but whatever was had was shared openly and with love. And I promise that if there is ever a time a kid needs a meal or some extra love and attention; I’ll be there, and not with the “crappy apples.”