Have you ever seen the musical South Pacific? There is much to be learned from this World War II story. In particular, Rodgers and Hammerstein included a song titled, “You’ve Got to be Carefully Taught,” which reminds us that fear and hate, especially of those who are different, is not something we do naturally. These are things that are taught.
Whether we are cognizant of it or not, our words, our actions, our habits, our practices, our off-the-cuff comments teach our children. They are what we learned from our own parents and, with the choice of free-will, we opted to include or exclude from the way we live and interact with others. These things have influenced our religious and political beliefs, our morals and values, our feelings and thoughts, just as our own experiences have.
Understanding that we are products of our upbringings and experiences, as well as the potential influence we have on not only the lives of our children, but on generations to follow, it is time to stop and reassess what it is we are teaching. Self-introspection is not easy. It means facing and accepting that at times we may have been wrong. When we speak in generalizations we are particularly vulnerable to error because we may be saying or doing something against those whom we never intended to offend, insult, critique, or oppose.
What a different world we would live in if we consciously taught tolerance and acceptance of differences, if we promoted inclusion, if we spent more time exercising empathy and less time seeking to put down, isolate, and segregate. What if we challenged ourselves and our children to sit with someone new at lunch and engage in conversation to discover that we are more alike than different.
Every one has a story. Every one has a cross they bear that you know nothing about. We are all guilty of judging too quickly and projecting our own ideas and beliefs into situations without considering how unfair we are being.
Do you know why she may seem to sit more often than stand? Do you know why the one over he is standing alone or quiet? Do you know why she is crying? Do you know why he was absent? The scenarios of why are endless and the answers just as plentiful. Perhaps she is suffering from a pain or illness they never speak of as they quietly fight to overcome and endure, rather than complain. Perhaps, he is grieving, worried, upset, or simply forgotten because no one took the time to make him feel included. As for the one crying, it could be anything, pain, fear, grief, worry, loss, loneliness, etc.
We cannot assume to take on the burdens of the world as those are far too great, but we can lighten them by teaching kindness, offering help, inviting and including, welcoming and understanding, discovering similarities rather than focusing on differences.
In a recent Facebook post I wrote, “we are all threads in life, but it is only when we are woven together that we create a beautiful tapestry.”
Don’t teach fear or hatred. Don’t teach our children to see the differences. Teach them they are wonderful, but they are no better nor worse than anyone else. Teach them to value their uniqueness and make it a gift to add beauty to another’s life.
What we choose to teach is critical. It holds the power to help, heal, and unite. A drop of kindness may go on forever. Yes, we’ve got to be carefully taught.