Critical Kindness

Posted by on May 14, 2011 in Ingredients, Micropeacebuilding, Peacebuilding Organizations | 0 comments

I taught at a Montessori school for five years, and we talked a lot about “peace curricula.” At one particular staff meeting when this topic managed to make it onto the agenda again, I noticed my mother, who worked at the school with me, was getting increasingly irritated. Finally, she blurted out “I’ve had it up to here with peace!” Everyone was a little taken aback by this confession. How could anyone be tired of peace? However, as she began to explain herself, it became clear that despite the words chosen to express her frustration, my mother hadn’t “had it” with “peace” as a concept, she had “had it” with the word “peace” and its ambiguous,  amorphous nature. She was right. Everyone was talking about reaching this desirable, exalted state of “peace,” while simultaneously making it impossible to achieve. She decided “peace” had been put on its pedestal for long enough and it was time for it to be brought down to a level that could be understood, executed, and accomplished. She quickly replaced “peace curriculum” with “kindness curriculum” in her classroom and began to take action.

This got me thinking about how simple acts of kindness collaborate with building peace. Perhaps the concept of “peace” is too vague or seems so vast, it is perceived to be unobtainable. Actually achieving peace in this world may require altering expectations or perhaps even just something as simple as terminology. Maybe we just need to make “peace” more familiar, more modest, more obtainable. Let’s start with renaming it “kindness.” Peacebuilding should not be perceived as something that only occurs between nations and governments, because this rationale leaves us, human beings, out of the equation. It is then easy to forget that some of the most important peacebuilding actions are those that occur between individuals. These person-to-person acts of kindness are what larger peace processes are built upon and keeping this in mind as we go about our daily lives is crucial, because we can and should build peace, one act, one person at a time, every day.

My mother seems to have it right with her ‘kindness curriculum” because bullying in schools has become a hot-button issue in this country recently. 18 million children are bullied in the U.S. every year and many organizations have taken steps to combat this widespread, destructive phenomenon and instead create a culture of acceptance and kindness. Sundance and Emmy-award winning filmmaker, Lee Hirsch, directed a movie named The Bully Project, to remind us that being kind to one another really matters, can build peace, and make a world of difference individually and collectively.

Please watch The Bully Project’s trailer, follow five bullied kids and their families over the course of a school year, and experience the disastrous consequences of choosing to treat others without kindness.

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