In this hardened world that celebrates cynicism and practically mandates narcissism, it's easy to feel like a rube in the role of kindness crusader. Miss Third-Grader was just asking me to explain why, when she works hard to be kind and respectful to others, that doesn't guarantee they'll be kind and respectful to her. This was not an easy conversation to have. I'm not necessarily a born pacifist. Though peace-loving in general, I'm more than ready to sound a battle cry when someone hurts my children.
Thankfully, the more cerebral portion of my gray matter intervened, and insisted on a measured, big-hearted response to her questions. While we can't control the actions of others, we can control our responses. We can choose kindness.
We can be big-hearted even when others don't return the favor.
Imagine my surprise when my family settled in to watch Little Orphan Annie and heard the classic assertion of power players everywhere, straight from Oliver Warbucks' lips to FDR's ears:
“It’s mistaken foolishness. Big-hearted and empty-headed”
Of course, the line is a capitalist's lament over New Deal policies, a political argument I have no interest in digging into here.
My concern is that the combination of those two ideas, big-hearted and empty-headed, are often and unnecessarily linked. They contribute to the misguided sense that kindness is only for the naive, the unprepared, or the powerless.
Here at Big-Hearted Families, we encounter this critique from time to time, even though a wonderful article from the New York Times, “Raising a Moral Child,” reported that parents in the United States unanimously value caring over achievement.
Parents also worry that teaching kindness will leave their kids too vulnerable, too unprepared for the "real world."
But the real world needs big-hearted kids and parents alike, now more than ever.
Evidence is all around us that big-hearted kids are often astonishingly clever.
Follow the links for 22 examples of big-hearted and brilliant ideas:
Read these stories with your children and discover together the immense good that can grow from one small act of kindness and one big-hearted kid.
8 Kids Who Changed the World from the Mother Nature Network
This collection of kindness entrepreneurs is absolutely remarkable. I especially love that most of these kids started with a relatively simple idea, which became a small first step, which then grew into a movement all its own. Alexandra Scott's lemonade stand, for example, has inspired my own little ones to take on a big-hearted small business effort this summer!
Given in honor of Charlotte Bacon, a victim of the Sandyhook Elementary School tragedy, this award honors kids who think kindly and act boldly. Watch the videos in the link above to see what these amazing kids have accomplished.