We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men* are created equal,
that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights,
that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
Declaration of Independence
We have just finished celebrating Independence Day, yet my thoughts are conflicting about the original intent of independence for people in our country, i.e., the hope of freedom, and the lack of freedom for so many that I see every day in 24-hour news cycle reports about the inequality persisting in our country.
Waves of helplessness rush at me with a tsunami force threatening to leave me unable to rise above the surface. I am not alone as we gasp when we see unrelenting images–small children, babies trapped, imprisoned through no fault of their own–burned into our consciousness. We, the middle class, struggle to find “normal” in the dichotomy and hypocrisy exhibited by public figures exalted by TV and social media, as they discuss and disguise the real social issues of our time.
The detour we have taken from the ideals the founders of our nation immortalized in the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution, and the Bill of Rights, seems to reflect the consequences of an entitled population. Who have we become?
With summer here and schedules relaxed, we have more time to ponder and find ourselves facing uncomfortable realities: Are we doing enough? What more can we do? How are we complicit?
THINK GLOBALLY, ACT LOCALLY
As parents with children, adults who work with children, and community members who support children, we turn our attention to the children in our lives as we attempt to provide them with a childhood filled with values, morals, compassion, kindness, and selflessness.
We strive to teach our children to take empathy seriously, to listen with their hearts, and to develop independent thoughts. In these challenging times, cultivating patience is a skill that we all need to develop and practice. Teaching this to our children by example has a subtle yet important impact on their ability to practice patience with their friends and siblings, and, as they become teens, with us, too.
It is easy to do things for our children, to quickly supply an answer, to finish sentences, prepare lunches, and select clothes for them. It is difficult to exhibit patience while our children take the time to think through and formulate answers to questions, and then listen as they share their ideas with us.
It takes patience to give our children the freedom to select their own clothing, but doing so validates their ability to make choices and encourages their independence. It takes self-control to avoid purchasing processed foods, and diligence to bring healthy foods into your home.
What action is more local than parenting? We all know that it takes a family working together to run a household and we can:
- Read books to our children that focus on values we hope to instill.
- Ensure that our children have household chores, such as making their own lunches, a small chore with big lessons about the importance of good nutrition, modeled by parents providing healthy choices.
- Encourage children to assist with personal chores: making their bed, putting away their clothes, organizing school supplies, taking care of pets, care for their hygiene (bathing, brushing teeth, hair, etc.).
- Demonstrate the fun of sharing in household responsibilities of cooking, setting the table, washing dishes, vacuuming, dusting, mowing the lawn, taking out the trash.
- Display a chore chart so a child can see her progress.
- Take the time to listen to our children’s thoughts. Sit with them at their eye-level as they share their ideas and opinions.
- Assure non-judgmental conversations, so they feel comfortable expressing ideas and independent thoughts.
While parents can help the world through awareness, compassion, donations, and actions, they can’t change or fix every perceived injustice. The cure for that frustration may be more local than we think. By helping our children, day by day, to grow into independent adults, we can have a lasting impact.
*California has ratified the Equal Rights Amendment so I would include women in this quote.