“We have to be compassion. We have to be love. We have to be kindness. We have to be those things we want to see in the world.” These were the words of Tavis Smiley on Democracy Now earlier this week, and they were precisely what I needed to hear.
Much has been on my mind lately, as the most emotionally trying six months of my life seem to be coming to a head, and it all has to do primarily with relationships. There are moments when I want to run off and hole up someplace with no one other than Andrew and Annabelle. There are moments when I’m angry, and when I place blame. There are moments when I look at others, and I try not to, but I honestly do judge them. I have noticed this in particular more and more lately, as Annabelle gets to an age where she is watching intently and observing what people do. She will see me gritting my teeth in traffic. She will see my disapproving head shake when the driver of the car in front of me drops their cigarette butt out the window. She may even feel me tense up with frustration when I see other parents treating their children harshly in public. She will see these things, and she may even follow my example, unless I change.
I must learn to model the values I consider important without passing judgment on those who don’t agree.
Smiley’s words above were part of a discussion of Martin Luther King’s speech, Beyond Vietnam, which includes a great deal more that resonated with me. “Here is the true meaning and value of compassion and nonviolence,” he says, “when it helps us to see the enemy’s point of view, to hear his questions, to know his assessment of ourselves. For from his view we may indeed see the basic weaknesses of our own condition, and if we are mature, we may learn and grow and profit from the wisdom of the brothers who are called the opposition…
…We must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered…
Every nation must now develop an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in their individual societies.
This call for a worldwide fellowship that lifts neighborly concern beyond one’s tribe, race, class, and nation is in reality a call for an all-embracing — embracing and unconditional love for all mankind. This oft misunderstood, this oft misinterpreted concept, so readily dismissed by the Nietzsches of the world as a weak and cowardly force, has now become an absolute necessity for the survival of man. When I speak of love I am not speaking of some sentimental and weak response. I am not speaking of that force which is just emotional bosh. I am speaking of that force which all of the great religions have seen as the supreme unifying principle of life. Love is somehow the key that unlocks the door which leads to ultimate reality.”
Dr. Montessori, too, spoke of love in The Absorbent Mind, and she described it as having its source in the child, saying: “I have already said that prophets and poets speak often of love as if it were an ideal; but it is not just an ideal, it is, has always been, and ever will be, a reality.”
Love is already a reality in Annabelle’s life -she has taught and will continue to teach me more about love than I could ever teach her. My responsibility is not to teach her love and compassion, because she is inclined toward these values already. My responsibility is to protect these forces within her, to nurture them, and to take care not to model behaviors that are in opposition with them. I must be these things that I already see in her, so that she can hold onto and carry them into adulthood, being those same things for the next generation.
How do you model compassion, kindness, and love for your children? How do they model the same for you?