Gratitude … goes beyond the “mine” and “thine” and claims the truth that all of life is a pure gift. In the past, I always thought of gratitude as a spontaneous response to the awareness of gifts received, but now I realize that gratitude can also be lived as a discipline. The discipline of gratitude is the explicit effort to acknowledge that all I am and have is given to me as a gift of love, a gift to be celebrated with joy.
– Henri J. M. Nouwen
Several years ago I had the opportunity to attend an education conference in San Francisco, CA. While I was there, I learned many exciting findings from the “science of happiness.” That weekend revolutionized my perspectives related to teaching and parenting. Since then I have been on a quest to create a happier classroom and to help other teachers do the same thing.
One lesson I learned at the conference pertains to the relationship between happiness and success. As recent research has shown, success does not always lead to happiness. Many of us know this from experience. For example, landing a highly coveted job and buying your dream home may not necessarily result in a blissful state. On the other hand, people who are happy tend to find success in school, at work, and in every domain in life. read more →
Some children spend more of their time awake at school than they do in their own homes. That’s a big thing when you’re still growing and learning. It’s a big thing too for parents to entrust their precious ones to others, sometimes strangers, during these vital years. Especially as much of a child’s developing personality and morals can be so easily influenced by those around them.
During the early years of my own children’s education, I worried about the role models they would encounter at school. It concerned me that my hard work instilling good values may be lost if character education wasn’t a priority in the classroom.
Fortunately, these days, educators are more aware of the need to prioritize social and emotional learning at school. They realize the important role that kindness and empathy have in nurturing happiness and self-esteem.
“It’s no secret that kindness sparks kindness. The secret is that kindness takes wings when it is modeled and taught with passion and purpose. When we intentionally help and encourage our students to put kindness into action through their thoughts, words, and deeds, then the world will truly be a gentler, more peaceful place. Simply put, we’ll be better.
Kindness in schools can look like a smile, feel like a hug, sound like a sweet greeting or a sincere compliment. A genuine inquiry about how someone is doing can mean so much. And when we have created that climate of kindness and caring inside our school walls, the natural next step is to take it home to our families, out into our community and then beyond our borders into our global world. And when kindness ripples, prepare to bathe in a tsunami of goodness.”
“At the end of life we will not be judged by how many diplomas we have received, how much money we have made, how many great things we have done.
We will be judged by ‘I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was naked and you clothed me, I was homeless and you took me in.”
– Mother Teresa
In September of 2007 Jon Linton began gathering imagery to document the homeless on the streets of Phoenix Arizona. That Fall he had volunteered both time and resource at a local homeless shelter to better understand the circumstance and plight of those without a place to call home. His project took shape, when the first man he photographed wept as he asked him his name. “You have no idea how long it has been since someone cared to ask my name”, he stated.
Through the course of this journey Jon has met many souls that through a bad set of circumstance, addiction or mental illness find themselves without a door to walk through at day’s end. They had fallen into what some had referred to as an “Invisible World”. The I Have a Name Project is a humble attempt to bring dignity and humanity to those less fortunate among us.
Jon encourages you to go out and help another in need. He says your soul will thank you and reminds you to always practice compassion with these 10 tips that will help you better understand how you can help someone in need.
What You Can Do To Help The Homeless
1. Respect the homeless as individuals
Give homeless people the same courtesy and respect you would accord your friends, your family, your employer. Treat them as you would wish to be treated if you needed assistance.
2. Respond with kindness
We can make quite a difference in the lives of the homeless when we respond to them, rather than ignore or dismiss them. Try a kind word and a smile. read more →
Pet ownership can teach kids many important values and
build positive character traits like giving, empathy and kindness.
One of the overlooked opportunities of pet ownership, particularly if it is the right pet, is teaching our children how to care for something dependent on them. Kids can learn the art of kindness and compassion through caring for another creature and putting its needs first. The attachment to a pet is also incredibly important for developing empathy in older children.
At What Age Should Pets be Introduced?
In younger kids there are some benefits to emotional intelligence and pet ownership, however the reality is that kids under 10 years of age can’t really be responsible enough to manage the day to day care of their pet. Piaget, the developmental psychologist proposed that the concrete operational stage between 6-12 years is the time when kids start to become less egocentric and are able to see outside their own needs. It is generally assumed that introducing kids and pets any earlier than 6 years is therefore probably not necessarily going to teach kindness and empathy. The period of greatest attachment to pets appears to be amongst 9-10 year olds. Of course the health benefits of pet ownership tend to come at any age, particularly in relation to allergies. read more →
When I was young, I loved to listen to stories. I would urge my mother to tell me about my maternal grandfather, who went to be with God long before I was born.
She told me how my grandfather had been a wealthy man in the late 1930s. He owned a few trishaw (a bicycle with a sidecar that’s powered by the cyclist) companies and rented out his numerous trishaws to generate a passive income.
Grandfather was unfortunately quite naive and trusted his employees to take care of his affairs. A lack of business acumen led him to be swindled out of his fortune and businesses by his so called “trusted” associates.
Long story short, grandfather lost all his financial assets and hit rock bottom. He was living with his aged parents, wife and four young children and had to support them as a sole breadwinner. In that darkest period of desperation, he had no choice but to earn a living by being a trishaw rider with the only trishaw he had left. read more →
Phrases like “random acts of kindness” and “pay it forward” have become popular terms in modern society. Perhaps this could be best explained by those who have identified a deficiency in their lives that can only be fulfilled by altruism.
It seems that we just can’t get enough of those addictive, feel-good emotions — and with good reason. Scientific studies prove that kindness has many physical, emotional, and mental health benefits. And children need a healthy dose of the warm-and-fuzzies to thrive as healthy, happy, well-rounded individuals.
Patty O’Grady, PhD, an expert in neuroscience, emotional learning, and positive psychology, specializes in education. She reports:
Kindness changes the brain by the experience of kindness. Children and adolescents do not learn kindness by only thinking about it and talking about it. Kindness is best learned by feeling it so that they can reproduce it.
A great number of benefits have been reported to support teaching kindness in schools, best summed up by the following.
Happy, Caring Children
The good feelings that we experience when being kind are produced by endorphins. They activate areas of the brain that are associated with pleasure, social connection, and trust. These feelings of joyfulness are proven to be contagious and encourage more kind behavior (or altruism) by the giver and recipient.
Increased Peer Acceptance
Research on the subject has determined that kindness increases our ability to form meaningful connections with others. Kind, happy children enjoy greater peer acceptance because they are well liked. Better-than-average mental health is reported in classrooms that practice more inclusive behavior due to an even distribution of popularity. read more →