Glass Half Full: Seek to understand, be compassionate
I have been struggling over the last 10 days to reconcile deeply conflicting feelings and experiences. Perhaps you have felt the same.
During October break, my husband and I traveled to Jackson Hole, where we are fortunate to have a family ranch, and invited a dear young friend and his mother to spend the week with us. They brought with them a sense of wonder that carried us through snowstorms, two days in Yellowstone, and even a visit to the local cemetery where my parents and grandparents are buried.
They were thrilled by everything they saw, attuned to the colors of autumn splashed across snow frosted mountains, the bugling of elk in the trees just outside our cabin, and the miracles of one of our most amazing national parks.
We spoke of our collective appreciation for the vision of Teddy Roosevelt; we shared cooking and clean up duties; we played amusing games of “Mexican Train” in the evenings.
In short, we vacationed happily and were keenly aware of that gift. The Las Vegas shootings, therefore, came as an even greater shock than they might have.
As I grieve for those losses in Las Vegas, I find myself thinking constantly of the children in my care at school and how their existence relates to what happens nationally. I believe that we all carry within us a unique sum of experiences.
Each of us can recall situations in which we made mistakes; in which we made poor choices; in which we were human in ways we have later regretted. Especially when we were children, the ways that others reacted to us made a profound impact.
If there is one change in school cultures over the last decade that troubles me, it is what I perceive as a lack of adult empathy and patience in dealing with young people. The “bully” word immediately raises its ugly little head the moment children have a disagreement, use unkind words, or get the least bit physical. Please do not misunderstand: There are times when children are malicious, and true bullying exists.
More often, in my opinion, children don’t know how to express their feelings appropriately. They feel awkward, lonely, misunderstood. Their behavior choices frequently reflect what they see in adults.
I can guarantee you that every child in every school carries some secrets from home. They may be minor; they may be of a nature we would be shocked to discover. Whatever the level, I believe it is our responsibility to try to understand, to be patient, to create environments in which our young people are given time and support to learn the skills to express themselves responsibly.
When we seek to understand, to be compassionate, we can create a path to acceptance rather than to anger that will ultimately be unleashed on others. I believe in the power of kindness, and that our children need to learn alternatives to fear and hatred. That is part of the reason I am passionate about what I do.
Ruth Glass is headmaster at Lake Tahoe School. She can be reached for comment through her blog at http://www.laketahoeschool.org.