I keep a memory jar filled with happy memories of days when something good happened that I turn to when life gets difficult. It’s a time to turn my focus away from problems and reflect. Feelings come tumbling in; they run the gamut from outrage to despair, contentment to joy, as I sort through the remnants of lessons learned from past mistakes, and reminders of experiences that allowed us to grow and move forward.
Our children learn by watching us, often by listening to our conversations, and reflecting on what they hear. We are the role models they observe as they form their opinions and decide on actions. By helping our children learn to treat others with respect, to learn responsibility, and cherish relationships, we can demonstrate to our children the character traits we admire.
Last year’s mid-term elections gathered momentum as people who were never involved in politics, felt a calling to step up, as they evolved into more active participants. Those who chose to ignore this or remain on the sidelines, witnessed change in progress as election results reflected the change that can happen with organized involvement.
Last year also saw active battles in public schools as states such as West Virginia, Oklahoma, and Arizona, had strikes, while Kentucky, North Carolina, Colorado, Georgia, and Virginia saw protests and job actions. Here, in Los Angeles, the United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA) went on a week-long strike in January against low wages, inadequate school budgets, large class sizes, and lack of support personnel such as nurses, psychologists, and counselors. We won after months of unsuccessful negotiations by UTLA with LAUSD, resulting in an impasse, even after working with a state mediator and entering into fact-finding with a three-member panel. UTLA, teachers and kids fought to save our public schools from a takeover by private, unregulated Charter Schools, a move that not only hurts our public school system but leaves many underserved and special needs students lacking school options.
UTLA made a strong stand, inspiring Denver teachers, who struck and won their demands for a fair wage, as well as California teachers in Oakland, who voted to strike, and Sacramento teachers, who are also voting to authorize a strike. The movement for quality education for all children, a living wage, and improved working conditions for teachers has moved to the forefront.
EYES OPEN/BLINDFOLD OFF
As adults react to news headlines, both local and national, children stand by as witnesses. Following last year’s shooting at Marjorie Stoneman-Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, we witnessed students who became vocal advocates for gun control. They traveled nationwide registering 18-year-olds and non-voters to become first-time voters. Even those who were unable to vote themselves worked to encourage voter registration and witnessed the lessons from civics classes come to life. The contagious energy spread by this activism and the empowerment felt during marches and rallies created a new generation of involved citizens.
REACHING OUT/STAYING IN
2018 was a year that brought the tragedy of continued gun violence, the loss of life, of any sense of security, and the devastation of our beloved Santa Monica Mountains and other sacred spaces and communities.
In the face of the overwhelming sadness brought by these events, we have opportunities to be part of the change through voice and action. We can reach out through our social networks, through writing, speaking, art, and by joining marches and rallies. For those unable to act right now, they can stay informed, read about the issues and be part of discussions. We can act as a community to support and help those in our own and neighboring communities as they struggle to rebuild by donating money, goods and time to those in need. Though there are levels of comfort for involvement, whether by reaching out or supporting from within, some form of action creates a feeling of hope, for the possibility of something better to come and the affirmation that most people are coming from a place of goodness.
Every day is an opportunity to carry forward ideas of gratitude. We can help our children recognize the things in their lives that they can be thankful for and give them the words, the tools to express what they feel. Children can take part in reflecting about the good things that happened during their day. Teaching children to focus on positive things is a gift we can give them.
It is time, once again, to take a look in my memory jar, time to remind myself that there really have been many good days, and, on days when I get to add a good memory, I exhale, reminded of what I have.