“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’” -Martin Luther King Jr.
weekend we went to see the movie "Selma." Since it was PG-13 and we have a pretty mature kiddo, we decided to take Shelby with us to see it. I'd like to say at the onset that we took her because we had altruistic ideas of teaching her a profound civil rights lesson, but that wasn't the case. We heard it was a good movie and we all wanted to see it.
But man, oh man. It was more than just a great movie. It was a moving, heart-wrenching civil rights lesson for me and for Shelby.
Throughout the movie, as the countless injustices perpetrated against the black communities of our country were projected on the big screen, Shelby cried. Not a little tear here and there. But deep, gulping, mournful sobs. She wrapped her arms around me in the middle of the movie and told me how horrible our history is. But through the tears there was hope. She whispered in my ear, "But it gets better Mom, right? Barrack Obama is president and everyone can vote." I love her heart.
By all accounts, my children live a rather privileged life. When it comes to "things" they have everything they could ever want and when they don't, they ask for it and more often than not, we buy it. They travel to exotic places. They have good friend, a loving and involved family. They go to an awesome school and their future is bright with promise.
Yet, Shelby sees and understand injustice in a way that I never did as a child. Her heart breaks when she sees people who are hungry or homeless or marginalized. I wish I knew what exactly I've done as a parent to teach her to have so much compassion and understanding.
I grew up in a super small, rural community in Los Angeles county. It was all white, super conservative and not the most open-minded community.I'm grateful for my upbringing. I was blessed with loving, hardworking parents. I never went without. I always had food to eat,a warm home and clothes to wear. Education was important and school was a priority. My parents didn't graduate from college (eventually my mom went on to get her degree), but they were always hardworking, determined people.
Since leaving home and traveling the world and broadening my horizons, I've come to understand that I'm so incredibly blessed to have been born into the family was born into. I'm incredibly blessed for the community I've been surrounded by. I have had so much opportunity by virtue of my family, my place of birth and the color of skin. And with those blessings comes great responsibly to reach out to others and help them up.
We all deserve to be heard. We all deserve to be free. We all deserve to feel safe. I can't help everyone, but as a mother I can teach my children to be agents of change and goodness. When I send those two loving souls out into the world, they can create a ripple.
As they continue to grow, I want to make sure I teach them to respect other and they acknowledge the struggles of other. Here are three things I'm focusing as a parent to raise charitable children:
1. Talk to your kids. Really talk to them about what's going on in the world. Since Mike and I have been journalists, we're quite fond of the news. We might even be considered news junkies. It's no surprise then that our children consume a lot of news. More than most kids their age. And as they consume, we talk. We have a constant dialogue going about what's going on in the world and what that means to them and our family. If you're not talking to your kids, someone else will do it for you. And maybe the message won't be one you're comfortable with.
2. Encourage them to do something good. Everyone can make a difference. On our refrigerator is this quote from John F. Kennedy:“One person can make a difference, and everyone should try.” Small acts of kindness do make a difference. Listening does make a difference. Reaching out to just one person can start a revolution. Encourage your children to be the good they (we) want and need in this world. Shelby is constantly looking for ways to help others and her example is inspiring. Start a habit of compassionate service now and it will follow them into adulthood.
3. Listen. Listen to your children, their concerns, their fears and their struggles. Listen to the issues that matter to them. And when you hear what weighs on their heart, offer your love and support. Way back when Shelby was in kindergarten, she came home telling us stories of less fortunate children at her school. Children who were struggling with poverty. Children who were treated differently because of their immigrant roots. She was passionate about helping them. Had we not listened to her, we couldn't have found ways to help her serve her classmates.
With Martin Luther King Jr. Day just around the corner and all the recent unrest in the United States, this movie and it's message is so important: brick by brick we can build the path to a better, more compassionate world.
“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” -Martin Luther King Jr.