Google The Unplanned Homeschooler: Spark a positive change in the world

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Spark a positive change in the world

For all the negative imagery we see on the news and in social media, I really don't believe the world is falling apart. I don't believe we're on the brink of a race war, or that most men are out to victimize women, or much of anything the media might have us believe about our fellow human beings for the sake of ratings. I believe that at the heart of it, there is more that unites people than divides them, and if we could all just try to treat each other the way we'd want our kids, or our grandmothers to be treated, the world would be a much better place. 

But it's hard to get away from those constant messages of division and hate. 

Homeschoolers can live somewhat sheltered lives, it's true. Their circle of interaction is typically smaller than the hundreds of peers other kids pass in the halls of a public school And in many families, their exposure to social media is more closely monitored. We can choose to minimize their exposure to the constant stream of negativity, and instead emphasize the good in the world.

That's why I think homeschoolers, in particular, have a tremendous opportunity to change the world. All it takes is a little spark.

One of the lessons I am working hard to teach my kids is kindness. I've noticed that they go out of their way to hold doors for others. They offer to carry things for people, or pick up dropped objects. These little things may seem ordinary, and used to be thought of as just good manners, but consideration for others is a learned behavior. 

I've been working to teach my kids, both through discussion and example, what a difference a kind word can make. Yesterday, while my mom and I were sitting in a waiting room at the cancer treatment center, I noticed the elderly black man with the furrowed brow sitting across from me. He had taken three or four deep breaths in a row, letting each one out in a slow sigh. I didn't know if he was worried or just uncomfortable. Then I noticed his shoes.

This man, who looked to be in his eighties, had on a crisp white shirt and perfectly creased slacks. On his feet he wore a pair of soft, brown leather boots, laced tightly with black laces and polished to a shine.  

I leaned toward him a bit to get his attention and said, "I like your boots."

His whole countenance changed. "What? Me?" he asked.

I pointed to his shoes and repeated with a smile, "Yes. I like your boots."

Open the door with kindness

The old man's face lit up, and for the next 15 minutes he told me about his boots, which were 15 years old and had been purchased on a trip to New York. They were the real deal, not seconds like the two pairs he had bought in the years since. He had the brown ones that he was wearing, and a black pair that were the real deal, and someday he was going to get back to New York and get another pair. 

He told me how he used to use a toothbrush and Clorox to keep the threads in the sole white, and kept the boots polished with a spit shine that he demonstrated with an invisible rag, popping in the air. "You can't find anybody to do a real spit shine anymore, except one guy down at the courthouse," he said. "He does it right. Pop, pop, POP!"

I don't know what that man's name was, or the younger woman who sat with him, but I enjoyed his story, and I sure hope he makes it back to New York. What I did take away from that encounter was that black, white, Native American... we sat together and laughed and the world was a pretty good place for a little while. 

Just one little spark. "I like your boots." I told my kids about the man when I got home, and encouraged them, as I always do, to go ahead and pay that compliment to a stranger if it pops in your head. They might need it, and it's sure to brighten their day. 

The thing is, making one person happy, even for a moment, might change the way they interact with others down the road. Maybe I was in a mood to pay a compliment because one of the nurses earlier happened to say how much she liked my necklace, or the therapist told my mom how well she did on one of her tests. Spark, spark.

Raising good ambassadors

My son is an extrovert, like me. A few weeks ago, I sent him in a store to grab one quick item, and after a bit of a wait, he came out having offered to carry boxes for an older Hispanic man. Another time he came out of a store saying he'd made a black woman's face light up when he told her he liked her hair. 

I'm not saying that random compliments and good deeds can magically repair race relations in the world. But I think as a young, mostly white male, my son's behavior reflects on those who look like him, especially when interacting with those who do not.

We are always representing others when we interact with the public. We represent our families, our communities, homeschoolers, other members of our gender and race, other members of our religion, etc. It's important to behave kindly and respectfully toward others, because you are an example.

And if we teach our kids to be a good example, maybe, just maybe, they will affect the world in a profoundly positive way, one interaction at a time. 

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