In a land founded by oppression you would think compassion would be in our blood. Yet, if you tune in to any of the election talk this year you will see that, sadly this is NOT the case. Instead the channels are filled with sharp criticisms of minorities, degrading remarks about women and intentional blaming for anything gone wrong. Sadly this incredulous behavior has already had devastating effects on my own family.
You see, I am a mom to 5 kids through both birth and adoption and two of my children happen to be black. My 10-year-old black son has already come home from school twice this year in tears as a direct result of what is being portrayed in the media. The first time a student told him, “you should go back to Africa where you came from.” That was extremely hurtful as my son was adopted from Ethiopia at age 4 and has horrific memories of growing up in Africa. And, just a week ago another student on the playground refused to play with my son because “all black people do is start riots!” Talk about a difficult conversation. My heart was broken for my son and I was filled with anger. Children are not born to hate. They are learning that hatred is an acceptable response to ignorance from our current society. It’s horrific!
As I am sure many would agree, there is no fury like that of a defensive mother but we can’t beat hate with more hatred. As Maya Angelou once said, “Hate. It has caused a lot of problems in this world, but it has not solved one yet.” So, instead of fighting back or sheltering our kids from the election coverage my husband and I decided to do the opposite. We are tuning in and teaching our kids to be more compassionate human beings!
What is interesting is that by exposing our kids to the election coverage we are able to help shape their thoughts, answer the hard questions and give them answers that reflect our own family’s values. We talk about diversity, generalizations, discrimination, racism and sexism. We discuss the importance of treating each person we meet with kindness and compassion regardless of their beliefs, race, gender or religion. And, we hold tight to the “Golden Rule” of treating others the way we would like to be treated because to me that is who America is. A land of freedom and opportunity for all!
To make sure these talks really resonate with our kids (ages 3-13 years old) we also started volunteering as a family within our local community. Helping to pack boxes of food for the homeless shelter, collecting new and used soccer balls for kids in need and helping to set up and host a barbeque for lower income families. These activities have allowed my kids to experience one of the greatest gifts. By volunteering their time and talents our children are learning that helping others feels good. It also helps them come in contact with people from all walks of life. They are able to see that those families and individuals have much more in common with us than they do differences.
My hope is that by interacting with people of different cultures, backgrounds, income classes and religious beliefs my children will remember these individuals. That way when the media tries to dehumanize an entire class of people my kids will be able to see right through it. Instead, they will remember the conversations we had and the agreement we made about treating people with kindness and compassion. And, someday maybe they will grow up to teach our society a lesson or two in dignity, fairness and respect!
Do you allow your kids to watch the election news?