Category: Kindness

School Shootings – What Can We Do?

School Shootings – What Can We Do?

Despite the walkouts and protests and demonstrations and promises,  school shootings continue. Today’s was painfully close to home. As I write this post, we know that ten lives have been lost. Ten families have been changed irreparably. Why is this happening and how do we stop it?

I won’t pretend I have the answer, but here’s what’s been whispering in my ear, nagging me in my car, keeping me up at night.

First, let me be clear–I’m not against the conversations surrounding gun control. Those conversations need to occur, but with the appropriate knowledge and understanding of existing gun control laws, the second amendment, and history (both recent and distant). I confess that I’m not knowledgeable enough on those topics to have an intelligent conversation at this point, but I encourage people (including myself) to educate themselves so that we can talk not with vague ideas but practical suggestions. Guns and gun control are important pieces to this puzzle, but not the only ones.  Guns are a method, but not the message. With limited access to guns, other weapons will surface. Use your imagination, I’m sure you can think of a few.

So while the country sorts out the issues with gun control, is there something we can do to solve the root of this problem?

What are the other pieces? Video games? Mental illness? Bullying?

Video games? I have three girls. I don’t even feel qualified to discuss that topic.

Mental illness? I have some personal and professional experience with this, but let me be clear–the majority of people with a mental illness do not want to destroy other people’s lives. They want to survive their own. It’s a piece but not the whole picture, and not something that’s easily fixed.

Bullying. As I listen to the news, I can’t help but feel helpless. The violence is spinning out of control and becoming more than a sporadic occurrence. But there are ways that we CAN make a difference. Maybe we can’t stage a national campaign to end violence, but we can start a personal campaign to make a difference in the lives of people we encounter every day. And maybe that small difference will create a ripple that turns into something bigger.

Students–I had a conversation with one of my daughters last night. We talked about how hard it is to navigate the social landscape of middle and high school and how many kids (and sadly, adults) need to learn about treating others with kindness and respect.

Do kids trash each other? You bet. Adults, who should know better, do too. But are we teaching and encouraging our kids to shut down those destructive conversations? My daughter told me a story about Girl A who said something that could be construed as unkind about Girl B. Girl C, who overheard Girl A, ran to Girl B and relayed the whole conversation, causing anger and hurt feeling and a situation that spiraled out of control. Did Girl C help the situation in any way? I don’t think so. What should she have done?

There’s more than one answer or opinion. Mine would have been to stand up for Girl B and politely remind Girl A  that it’s not nice to talk that way about others. But, I’m an adult with years of experience and less concern about what others think of me. Kids don’t always have the courage and the self confidence to do that.

If you can’t confront someone about their gossip or unkind words, I understand, but don’t SPREAD that gossip and give it power–the power to scar or warp or crush another human being. Gossip loses its appeal if you don’t reward it with your attention.

Be a role model. Don’t say mean things about others. Think of something positive to say instead of malicious rumors or snarky comments. Maybe your positivity will inspire someone else to do the same. And don’t be discouraged if it feels like no one notices your considerate gestures or comments. They will. And you WILL make a difference.

Teachers–you have an extremely hard job that I could honestly never do. You have my utmost respect and you are not paid nearly enough for all the roles you play and the time you spend with our children. You are also in an extremely important and influential position. Please be a good role model.

I’ve heard stories about things teachers said to children that would make you cringe (or storm the school with torches). Words and insults that sound like they come from fellow students, not from people entrusted with teaching by good example.  Please remember that as a teacher, your words and actions can inspire or destroy your students. Be the person that students come to and confide in, not the one who makes them doubt their self worth. Not a ringleader who stirs up drama. Not a drama queen or king with teenage subjects.

Having said that, for every drama queen/king, there are twenty (or more) amazingly compassionate and energetic teachers/heroes. Thank you to those who look out for the loners, the outcasts, the unpopular. Thank you for befriending and encouraging them and being their cheerleader.

Parents–this role I know. It’s not an easy one. We need to be good examples too–we’re our kids first teachers. How do you talk about others? Kids, unlike myself, have excellent hearing. Even if you don’t think they’re paying attention to your conversations with others, I’m pretty sure they are. (I won’t digress into whether they pay attention to our conversations with them … ) Be careful what you say and how you say it. Kids learn from what they’re surrounded by. And … I’m not perfect. I have bad days. I mess up and word things differently than how I would if I were better rested or under less stress. (Let’s not even discuss the words and gestures that may or may not slip out in urban traffic.) But … I can admit my mistakes, apologize for them, explain to my kids why I was wrong, and strive to do better next time.

We can also do our best to build our children’s self esteem and confidence. Children who feel loved and respected at home are more resistant to the wounds inflicted at school. Love their friends too. You never know what their home life is like or what their parents are going through. Be compassionate. Be loving. Be kind.

Guns are one piece of a large puzzle. Try not to ignore or minimize the other pieces, and at the same time try not to let them overwhelm you. Do not let the news today immobilize you with hopelessness. Let it inspire you to make a statement, a change, a difference.

 

YOU matter … be kind to yourself

YOU matter … be kind to yourself

I have a dear friend who is truly WONDERFUL. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t love this amazing woman … except for, perhaps, herself.

And that KILLS me.

She loves her husband and her children—their pain is her pain. Their joy is hers, too. She volunteers at school, even though she has a thousand other things she could be doing. She creates fantastic memories for her family by organizing trips and playdates and sleepovers. She’s hilarious (and should probably have her own blog). She puts people at ease with her friendly personality. She has a HUGE heart.

Okay. Her house is not the cleanest one in the neighborhood, but in the grand scheme of things, how important is a picture-perfect house? What’s that phrase? Dirty kitchen, happy kids? Here’s an even better one: Happy mom, happy kids.

We need to be kind to ourselves. Heaven knows, there are enough people in this world who won’t treat you (or anyone else) with the dignity and respect that every human being deserves.

1. FORGIVE yourself.

We all make mistakes. Personally, I seem to make the same mistakes over and over again. How many times have I vowed not to overschedule myself and take on too much? More times than I care to admit.

Sew costumes for the play, even though I’m working more than full time, shuttling three kids to every afterschool activity, supervising homework, cleaning my house, and feeding my family …? Sure! I can do that!

No, wait, I really can’t. Not without becoming a raving lunatic, that is. And “lunatic” is not the image I’m striving for.

It’s okay. We’re HUMAN. I forgave myself and learned. Do I still take on too much? Sometimes. But I’m getting better.

2. DON’T COMPARE yourself to anyone else.

In this age of social media where everyone posts snapshots of the restaurant-worthy meals they cooked, the blissful family vacation they took, the straight As their kids got—it’s easy to get discouraged. Believe me, I know. I avoided Facebook for close to two years because logging on depressed me.

Sometimes I feel like social media can become an adult version of a high school popularity contest—IF you let it become one. So-and-so has over 400 friends. I have 130. So what?! And who cares how many likes your post got? Post what you’re passionate about and don’t worry about who likes it. And, if social media really bothers you, take a break. Restore your soul and your identity. Then, when you’re stronger, return to the arena.

The only person you need to compare yourself with is YOU. Try to become a better person today than you were yesterday. And if you don’t succeed, forgive yourself and try again tomorrow.

3. SMALL STEPS. If there’s something you really want to change about yourself, set achievable goals. “I am going to lose all the weight I gained over the holidays in one week.” Definitely not achievable or healthy. (Trust me, I might have some experience with that one. #failednewyearsresolutions.)

4. Focus on the POSITIVE. Okay. For all you older Saturday Night Live fans, this one reminds me of Stuart Smalley. “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and—doggone it—people like me.” His character was meant to be satirical, but daily affirmations are actually a helpful thing. You don’t need to talk to yourself in the mirror, though, unless that’s something that really help you. If it does, go for it, but be prepared to explain what you’re doing to your family or roommate!

Instead of beating yourself up for what you can’t do, or what you can’t do well, think about what you CAN do. And be HONEST with yourself—give yourself some credit. We all have our different strengths. I can clean my house like a pro (although I don’t always do), while my dear friend can fix any household appliance. In fact, she saved me thousands of dollars by helping me replace the bearings in my old washing machine instead of buying a new one. (My kitchen looked like a warzone until we finished, but think of all the money I saved!) Strengths—we all have them, just not necessarily the same ones.

So, my friend, until we talk again—be kind to yourself.