Kindness Doesn’t Cost

Photo by Chad Madden on Unsplash

Tomorrow, November 13th, is World Kindness Day. The person associated with this concept is Mr. Fred Rogers, and so we are being asked to wear a cardigan to celebrate kindness and to honor the gentle soul of Mr. Rogers.

My son grew up watching Mr. Rogers with me and I loved his show for a couple of reasons. First, it was calm. There were no loud noises to startle us, people spoke to one another in a pleasant tone, and there was a simplicity to it that I found comforting. Mr. Rogers taught values, decency and understanding. I suspect that Fred Rogers would be pretty disheartened were he to spend about an our on any one of our social media platforms.

Promoting kindness is not a new idea. Buddha is quoted as saying, “When words are both true and kind, they can change the world.” Sadly, the lack of civility has run so rampant in our world today that we have to declare a day for kindness. Really? We need to put a day in our calendar to remind us to be kind? That in itself is concerning.

I am a strong believer that the Universe gives back to us what we focus upon; I try to keep my focus on gratitude and the goodness in the world. So, here’s my bottom line. I will wear a cardigan tomorrow to honor my respect for Fred Rogers. I will NOT wear it to remind myself to be kind. Tomorrow and every day I try to practice kindness.

Now, kindness isn’t just a social thing, kindness is a physical thing too! Researchers have determined that acts of kindness release hormones that make us feel good, reduce anxiety, and lower stress. People report that being kind increases happiness and the doctors tell us that increased happiness can actually lead to a healthier heart. Apparently, people who are consistently kind age more slowly, have better relationships, and stronger connections with friends and family.

My father used to tell me that people can’t help the face they are born with, but they earn the face they die with. Have you noticed that the face of a person who lives angry and bitter is noticeably different from the face of a person who spends life smiling, loving, and laughing? Look around…I promise, it’s true!

As Mr. Rogers said, “There are three ways to ultimate success: The first way is to be kind. The second way is to be kind. The third way is to be kind.” Think about it, kindness doesn’t cost a thing and it is a lot less painful than a facelift!

Winter Fest!

I have been so fortunate in my life to have lived in many places around the world! Moving so often was challenging, but on the other hand, it afforded me the opportunity to experience different cultures and traditions. No matter where I lived, Christmas was always a big deal. Like any child, I was fascinated by the twinkling candles, strings of sparkling lights, colorful wrapping paper. I loved singing the traditional carols, getting all dressed up for midnight mass, and coming home to await the arrival of Santa. I always tried to stay awake, but never was successful.

As a child, I spent several years living in Europe. This allowed me to experience the different holiday traditions in Holland, Italy, Germany, Switzerland, England, and France. What I discovered was that it was a joyful, exciting time of year no matter where I found myself waking up on Christmas morning.

I have lived in two predominantly Jewish communities during my lifetime; one in New York and one in St. Louis. Living among my Jewish friends allowed me to experience the wonderful holiday of Hanukkah. I remember wondering whether it would be more fun to get gifts for eight days rather than getting all the gifts at once on Christmas morning.

Today I live in South Georgia and have also enjoyed experiencing Kwanzaa with my local friends. I love the intention behind the seven principles of Kwanzaa. They encourage us to be the best we can be and in turn to give our best to our community. These are principles we should all live by.

Having these wonderful experiences prompted me to share them with my students over the years. I called it “Winter Fest” and it was an opportunity for students to read, think, write, and expand their world a bit. It has always been one of my favorite units to teach. It allows me to focus on the true meaning of these holidays: kindness, giving, and self-improvement. But the best thing is that the actual learning is tucked away behind the fun. It is a great way to tap into the students’ holiday excitement.

So, here is the resource that celebrates my travels and my holiday joy!

Happy Teaching! Happy Memories! Happy Holidays!

9/11/2001~Looking Ahead

I lived in Northern New Jersey until 1981 and can remember my visits to New York City. I enjoyed watching the progress of the Twin Towers being built.  Once the World Trade Center was complete, my family and I enjoyed eating at the restaurant at the top of the tower, Windows on the World. I have wonderful memories of this place.

If you were alive on 9/11/2001, you probably join me in remembering exactly where you were when the news hit of the vicious attack on the World Trade Center.  I was in a meeting. I distinctly remember the feeling of blood leaving my head; the sense of horror was overwhelming. The meeting was quickly dispersed; we left in silence to return to our schools.

Like everyone else, I sat glued to my television watching the endless newsfeed reporting this attack on American soil. However, for the purpose of this post, I want to focus on the aftermath, I want to remember the America of September 12, 2001. 

Once we began to recover from the numbing sense of shock and grief, the strong, fighting spirit of our ancestors soared. American flags flew everywhere! We put everything aside in order to rally our support for the citizens of New York City, the victims’ families, and the heroic passengers on Flight 93.  

In that tragic moment, our country came together in a way I had not seen in my lifetime.  We were passionately unified and fiercely focused on sending the message that we would not be defeated. Across this nation, we proudly flew American flags, held hands while singing patriotic anthems, and knelt in prayer at houses of worship without regard for denomination. 

September 11, 2001 was a Tuesday.  That Friday, September 14th, I clearly remember gathering around the flagpole with staff and students at our elementary school. We joined hands to sing America the Beautiful, our national anthem, “God Bless the USA” by Lee Greenwood and other patriotic anthems. All 850 students were waving small flags, everyone was dressed in red, white, and blue, and there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.  

If we look back through history, I believe we will spot a pattern. Our patriotism is never more front and center than when we feel under attack; we put aside race, religion, politics, and economic differences in order to wave our flag in the face of the enemy. 

It seems to me that we Americans are really no different than a big family.  I remember being fifteen and so frustrated by my ten year old sister. That is, until someone else commented that my sister was a pest.  Suddenly, my sister was perfect and my focus shifted to this perceived attacker.  Yes, the old saying, “I can talk about my family, but you can’t!” is true.

I have gotten to the point today where I dread looking at social media because it is filled with hateful political rants. Our country is broken and divided.  I see women pitted against men, anger manifesting itself in racial division, politicians debating with vicious rhetoric, and violence in places where we should feel safe.  

America is gloriously full of diverse and imperfect people. Each and every one of us has a story; it is this story that forms who we are, what we think, how we feel, and our vision of the world. Let’s communicate about our differences; that means we both talk and LISTEN!  I guess today my prayer is that we can all tap into the love and pride we felt for our country on September 12, 2001 without having to first endure another tragic event.

MLK, Jr. ~ Freedom Fighter

Bring Learning to Life!

Martin Luther King, Jr. changed the world I live in and I always love taking time in the school year to celebrate his life and his work. I have posted a unit of ready-to-print-and-use activities. This unit includes:

  • a biography
  • words to know and use
  • fiction writing
  • informational/non-fiction writing
  • research
  • graphic organizer
  • art
  • bulletin board post-its
  • materials for a timeline
  • poetry
  • student self-evaluation
  • teacher resources for extending learning

Golden Globes + Black Dress = Big Deal?

I have been reading and seeing on the news that several high powered Hollywood actresses, the movers and shakers, are planning to wear black dresses to awards events such as the Golden Globes and the Oscars. Their purpose is to draw attention to the ME TOO movement that is sweeping the nation. Keep reading to find out why I think the black dress protest is definitely NOT a big deal.

The Facts:

  1.  I definitely want the men and women of Hollywood to use their fame in positive ways that support needed social and environmental changes. Today, an important issue is that of female empowerment!
  2. I am a 69 year old female, a retired teacher, and certainly not an expert on life in Hollywood.
  3. I was a young woman who fought for women’s rights throughout the 1960s.  During summer breaks from college I worked as an office temp; I remember the “girls” at my first office job had to threaten a walk-out to be allowed to wear a PANTS SUIT to work!
  4. I support the “ME TOO” initiative; no one should be forced to compromise her/his dignity in order to get or keep a job.

The Problem:

The women of Hollywood are beautiful.  We all love seeing them close up on the big screen; they are who many young girls aspire to become.  Female empowerment is a serious issue, not just for women of Hollywood, but across our country. Serious issues need serious solutions.  Now is the perfect time to take a stand for this issue, while it is in the public eye.

My Questions:

Many of us watch the pre-show and the Awards ceremony because we want to see what everyone is wearing.  The  iconic Red Carpet question is always: “Who are you wearing?” Does it matter that the gorgeous, incredibly expensive dress being worn is black instead of red or blue? Is wearing a black dress to a glamorous awards ceremony a SERIOUS SOLUTION?

My Answer:  No!

My Solution:  

As I said, Hollywood actresses are beautiful!  They would be beautiful if they showed up in a burlap sack.  So, instead of wearing a $75,000 black dress to the ceremony, wear a $1,000 dress and donate the other $74,000 to a program that supports women’s shelters.  When asked “Who are you wearing?”, I would love the answer to be Kohl’s or Belk’s, or any average department store in the area.

OR, how about wearing the same dress you wore last year and donate the entire $75,000 you would have spent to women’s shelters. We need to make it less frightening for women and their children to escape from abusive situations.

Not interested in women’s shelters?  There are plenty of single mothers and their children living in homeless shelters or on the streets.  All I am saying is that women need to stand up for women in a meaningful way. Change is a possibility that resides within each of us.

 

Santa Claus is Coming: Please Consider This!

dec10_button1This is a letter to parents of young children who are so excited that Santa is coming to visit.  Santa is just amazing, isn’t he?.  He allows us to focus on the spirit of Christmas: kindness, giving, and some old fashioned magic.  But, this is a letter to parents asking that we look at Santa through different eyes.

This is such a busy time of year, I hate to even suggest that you think of one more thing. However, this is important to me and has been weighing on my heart.  I just want to join my teacher friends in raising awareness and sensitivity.  Every community and every school, no matter how affluent or how poor, has children living in homes from a variety of financial levels.

I live and work in a community where about 75% of children live in poverty.  However, that leaves 25% who are not living in poverty.  Now, I want you to think about this scenario: Johnny, Luis, and Latricia are in the same class.  They all celebrate Christmas and Santa visits each of their homes.

Luis is an only child; his family has a lovely, decorated tree. Under the tree there are lots of presents from family and extended family.  Santa will come to the house, and as is their tradition, Santa will leave just one gift.  Santa has an iPadPro and an Apple Pencil (cost = around $1000) for Luis this year.

Latricia is one of three children. Her mom and dad both work, but money is always tight.  Nevertheless, there are presents under the tree for all of the children. Under the tree, there are lots of little presents for the children from mom and dad (pajamas, books, dolls, crayons, action figures).  This year, the three children will have a visit from Santa and he will leave an expensive gaming system for them to share along with some games (cost = $550.00).

Johnny is our third student. He is one of four children living with a single mom who is out of work and depends on welfare and occasional part time work to make ends meet.  They have a small tree and a few presents.  Santa is coming to Johnny’s house too. However, Johnny will find a new pair of much needed sneakers from Santa (cost = $20.00).

Now, travel forward with me to January 4, 2018.  The children are back at school and excited to share about what they got from Santa. There is a big difference between what Luis got and what Johnny got.  My fear is that Johnny is left wondering why Santa likes Luis so much more than he likes him.  He worries that he was not a good boy or that his is not smart enough or didn’t do a good enough job helping his mom around the house. How sad!  We know that Santa loves all children equally.

So, here is my request.  Please think about all the Johnnys in your child’s school.  When it is time to put out the cookies and milk for Santa, please leave a note asking him to leave small gifts for your child.  This will not diminish your Christmas morning at all since you can proudly put your name on the big ticket items for your child. I promise that Santa will appreciate how you are helping him look out for the happiness of all his boys and girls.

Merry Christmas from my home to yours.

Holiday Lights: More than just Twinkle!

Screen Shot 2017-12-19 at 4.37.56 PMWhat is it about the lights? At this time of year, I love driving around the streets to see the holiday light displays.  The minute I wake up in the morning, I turn on the Christmas tree lights and the lights across the mantle above the fireplace.  My house is filled with candles that flicker during these long winter nights. I can sit in a trance for hours in front of the fireplace watching until the last ember dies. Yes, I admit it; I am a light junkie.

Lights can brighten even the darkest times in our lives; they have always figured into human history. Our ancestors lit candles and fires to celebrate the Winter Solstice. Today, candles and lights play an important role in Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa celebrations. Lights, twinkling like stars, remind us that we are part of the Universal Spirit; they remind us to find ways to light the world around us, bringing joy to others.

As I enjoy the Christmas lights scattered across my community and throughout my home, I realize that each light flickers to remind me of treasured past memories, but also with the promise of precious memories still to come. And so today, as I sit sipping hot chocolate by the fire, I can’t help glancing at the twinking Christmas tree lights. They remind me to think about those who are gone, of their love for me and mine for them. But I am also mindful of how blessed I am to be surrounded by loving family and friends and of the wonderful memories we will continue to make together.  So thank you all for being the light in my life; my days are brighter because of you. Merry Christmas! I love you.