The Village Starts Here

BY MELODY SCHALM

 

I have recently been asking myself:  How do we best become 'the village’ that helps raise kind, happy and resilient kids?

It is easy to feel helpless in the face of the enormity of some of the problems we see today in our families, playgrounds, communities and world.  Many of us wonder: How could I possibly make a difference? However, as it turns out, making a meaningful difference is simpler than most of us think.

I did a self-reflection exercise the other day, it goes like this: Imagine you are at the end of your life, whether that be next week, next year, or a decade or more down the road.  Then cast your memory back across your whole life, and bring to mind two good deeds you have done, two things you did that were good.  

If you complete this exercise, you will likely note that those things that stand out among a whole lifetime of words and actions, are in fact remarkably simple things.  They would never be written up in the newspaper.  In fact, in my case, I hadn’t ever really much noticed or thought about my good things before.  And yet, when I reflected on them now, I had to acknowledge that they likely had a profound positive effect on others’ lives.

This exercise helps us notice that the things that matter most in our lives – and, indeed, the ways we can perhaps make the most meaningful difference – are normally not fantastic or grandiose.  Instead, they are the moments when we touch one another with our hearts.

Recently my eight year-old daughter out-of-the-blue turned to me and said: “Everyone in the world is annoying in their own special way.” I had to suppress a laugh at this ‘out of the mouths of kids’ insight, perhaps sparked by grumpiness at her six year-old brother, but her comment also struck me on a deeper level. 

In our interactions with others, how often do we see only their “annoyances” and other superficial outward differences, and neglect to see their inner goodness and connect with their hearts?  

Spoken word artist Shane Koyczan reminds us that ‘the one that grows is the one you feed.’  If we chiefly see meanness in the child, parent, teacher or neighbour in front of us, we will feed that quality.  If we instead look deeper, seeing and relating to the inherent goodness deep within, we will nourish and help bring forth that quality of goodness in both ourselves and them.  And, like social media, that goodness will spread, helping to create and sustain caring communities.

I have an easy trick to remind me of this lately, as I can’t get the song “Everything is awesome” from the LEGO movie out of my head.  For me, “everything” has mutated into “everyone,” and so I have a running backdrop of “everyone is awesome” permeating my worldview of recent.  This serves as a convenient reminder, particularly when I am with people whose goodness is buried pretty deeply.    

So if we wish to ‘be the village,’ we can start by asking ourselves some straightforward questions:  

Am I able to open my heart? Can I seek to touch others with my heart, and nurture the goodness – indeed, the awesomeness – in each of us? Can I serve with kindness in even the smallest of ways – and receive the acts of service and kindness of others? Will I nourish myself, so that I am able to, in turn, serve others? Can I help make goodness flourish?

If we all take these small steps, our villages will grow stronger and nourish the hearts and minds of all within.

Melody Schalm is the principal of Kind Kids.  She teaches kindness, mindfulness and related social and emotional learning to kids in school and after-school programs in greater Vancouver.  She is the parent of three elementary school-aged kids, who teach her as much about  being mindful and living life to the full as she teaches them.   

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