One thing I know for sure, even when I seem to understand little in this world, is that young people “get” kindness.
While in my coach/mentor role covering a first-grade art class so that a new art teacher could go observe a master art teacher, I became disoriented in the middle of my lesson using Wickie Sticks to teach braille letters. I’d been wandering the unfamiliar classroom without my guide dog Nacho who was watching from the corner, using the chirpy voices of the six-year-olds to guide me, but I lost my direction and was stuck. Then, a tiny hand grabbed mine and led me flawlessly to the last table of students whose work I had not yet checked.
This little girl would have had little chance to encounter blindness in her young world, but she instinctively knew I was lost, and she knew the right thing to do. She even guided me in a very acceptable way, not speeding or swerving or pulling. We were two ladies strolling slowly through the sea of mini Picassos!
I was entering a middle school to relieve a special education teacher another day, giving her time to catch up on IEPs. When I walked in her room, the kids remembered me from a convocation I had done at their school last year. One of the boys walked up to me and said, “I remember you. Are your eyes all better yet?”
Here was empathy in the body of a twelve-year-old with special needs. His hopeful voice wanted to hear me say that I could now see. He didn’t have to remember, nor did he have to care. The smile that accompanied my answer was huge. As I told him I was still blind but still very fine with it, Nacho nudged the boy’s knee, as if he too was struck by the goodness of this young man.
Much in this world shouts negativity. It is global, continental, and national. It is alive and well in our states, cities, schools, and personal lives. I have wept three times just this weekend under the weight of things that press me down. Yet the prospect of meeting another compassionate child in my privileged role of teacher is part of what lifts me up.
As the holiday season unfolds, may we be reminded of what we tend to forget as we move away from childhood. Kindness is worth cherishing, protecting, and celebrating, and those little ones who live it daily in their selfless, youthful hearts can teach us all how to do just that.