As we stand amid an era of political, racial and health injustice, many would argue that we as a nation are more divided than ever before, and yet, perhaps this moment brings just enough momentum to unite more deeply — to overcome mere tolerance of our differences and move into true unity and celebration of diversity. If unity is to be achieved, it must be done intentionally and actively. But how do we do it? Where do we start? We start with our children.
Historically, American society has dealt with differences in identity, opinion and behavior in two ways: active intolerance (e.g. aggression, forced assimilation, colonization) and passive tolerance (e.g. co-existence with an “us” and “them” mentality). With active tolerance, those that do not conform are rejected, discriminated against, and/or segregated from the mainstream societal hub of power. With passive tolerance, and without a deeper connection to a greater collective “all,” the competition for power gives way to divisiveness, domination and polarized notions of righteousness.
Perhaps now is the moment to create a third narrative in America, one that exists in other parts of the world – unity and harmony without fragmentation. A unity steeped in a belief that we are all interconnected and that our individual happiness and success are connected to that of our community, and our country. This unity embraces diversity, recognizes differences as enrichment, and breeds curiosity that increases the exchange of ideas and strength of our collective humanity.
Making up nearly 25% of the U.S. population, our children stand ready as an army of change agents, if we as parents, educators and community leaders do our own inner work to model and norm the value of interconnectedness in them at a young age. We need to help this next generation feel connected to each other by way of their communities and inspire them to co-create a world that values inclusion and builds momentum for a positive societal cycle of change. In other words, to catalyze societal transformation, we must turn up the HEAT: Humility-Empathy-Action-Togetherness.
Here are some ideas about fostering each of the pillars of “kindness activism” in our children.
Humility: A modest view of one’s own importance. Humility helps create space to observe our surrounding environments because it removes the focus from ourselves.
Empathy: The ability to understand and share the feelings of another. The recognition of our own privilege motivates us to help others. We must model and instill a core value that we are all interconnected; our ability to care for others and our planet, helps us live a safer, healthier and more fulfilled life.
Action: The fact or process of doing something, typically to achieve an aim. Support your child to act upon an interest area or cause. Remember the “humility” aspect of our activism should focus on our ability to partner with people and organizations, not save or co-opt the autonomy of their voice/efforts.
Togetherness: The state of being close to another person or other people. Being and “doing” together as a family in a consistently safe environment creates security and a sense of belonging. With that foundation, children are more likely to stay humble, and therefore motivated to take action.
The more that we as parents and caregivers actively promote an ethos of humility and empathy in our children, the more inspired they will be to actively influence their surroundings. Continuing to create an emotionally safe space of togetherness serves to help them stay open to learning and practicing their voice for change. The aim is not perfection, but rather the optimism and resilience to try our best, again and again, and to live our lives with intention.
Aila Malik is an author, nonprofit executive, and parent of three children. Aila recently wrote a children’s book, “Mommy, Am I American?” to remind our children that to love our country is to love ALL of its people. For more thoughts on parent activism visit AilaMalik.com and connect via Instagram on @AilaMalikAuthor and @Franklin_Street_Globetrotters.
This content was originally published here.