Anti-poverty march 2005. Andrew’s first..
Do as you would be done by. The Golden Rule. It was my Mum’s mantra when we were little and it is the one piece of advice I will never tire of giving to my children. It seems to satisfy their beautiful logic, their natural instinct of course being retaliation which is the other side of the coin. The determination to avenge themselves seizes the boys suddenly and often, always for something vitally important of course, such as:
‘Three weeks ago on Tuesday I was playing with [the car/particular trash pack/very particular block of lego] and left it there (particular spot on the floor – no, I know our house doesn’t come out of this well) and I was going to come back and play with it but now HE has taaakennnn it and I am going to KIIILLLLL HIIMMMM….
This usually has me rolling my eyes and muttering ‘give me strength…’ while the moment passes but some occasions warrant a sitting down of participants and a stern talking to. Here The Golden Rule will be utilised. “How would you like it….” Etc. I consider the development of the boy’s kind, empathetic selves to be one of, if not the, most vital part of my mothering career. In fact, if I do not turn out considerate, compassionate individuals I will feel I have failed. In today’s non-stop, access-all-areas world, I think small (or big) acts of kindness and compassion are paramount to living a more balanced and satisfying life (as per The Golden Rule).
I believe kindness is inherent in us all. When coupled with a child’s logic set against a backdrop of grown-up knowledge it can be heartbreaking. Once in Nairobi we were in the car when we were approached first of all by the usual hawkers and when we moved on a little by a group of street children, hands outstretched, hunger showing in every ounce of their skinny selves. Some of them looked about William’s age (five then). The traffic was moving slowly which meant they drifted along beside us, patiently hoping. Our boys asked us what they wanted so we told them, money for food. At this William excitedly said, “You’ve got money there Mum, in the front, let’s give it to them.” Much pointing and jiggling up and down went with this easy solution (if you can call a few hundred Shillings a solution), but we had to let him down. We had to somehow convince him that giving away some loose change would not help – but perhaps it was only selfishness talking, worrying that our car would be remembered and pounced upon ever time we went out. For William, and I think every child, the logic is simple: we have plenty, they have nothing, therefore if we give them something it is all fair and everyone is happy. It is not of course that simple, but it should be.
As well as inherent kindness perhaps we all have the capacity for greed too. As I have mentioned before, we are incredibly lucky to live in an area with access to everything we need in life. The term ‘gilding the lily’ could have been thought up for Sydney’s Lower North Shore where often it can often feel like its citizens take their good fortune for granted. I cannot help feeling dismayed following a recent episode which showed great ugliness within our beautiful school. In a nutshell, a six-figure sum was raised at the annual fundraiser and the suggestion to donate a small portion of that to charity has been re-buffed. It was put to the fundraising committee that 5% might be given to a cause such as a hospice for terminally ill children or a school in a disadvantaged area. The idea was for it to be both an acknowledgement of the incredible generosity of parents and a lesson in altruism for the pupils. As one mum commented ‘5% of [say] $100,000 is hardly going to take the bread off our table.’ And yet someone has pointed out that the wording of the P&C (parents and citizens) handbook stipulates that money raised on behalf of the P&C must be spent on the school. Surely, surely we should be reading that and wondering how we might get round it, make the contribution work rather than closing it down and admitting defeat. I am saddened beyond belief that it is considered acceptable to exhibit such greed and self-interest and by doing so imbue all of our children with those same morals.
As disappointed as I have been this week with one school so I have been delighted with the other. Sam’s gorgeous class got talking a few months ago about people less fortunate than themselves and in the spirit of the school they were allowed the time and means necessary to explore this idea to their hearts content. The conclusion of this exploration came last Tuesday when I had the great pleasure to help cook what felt like a billion sausages for children, parents, teachers and three representatives from The Red Cross. The class presented a cheque for $191.25 which they had raised themselves through means such as doing chores at home, a cake stall and door knocking neighbours. The occasion was overflowing with pride in themselves and spirit of generosity amazing in children so young. It was humbling to watch. Their engagement in the discussion of how the money might be used was incredibly moving; their knowledge and understanding of war, earthquakes, refugees, orphans was both overwhelming and terribly sad. There is something about listening to your five year old son describe the fall-out from war and what can be done to help those suffering that can bring you to your knees. What Sam meant, though he didn’t realise it, when he said “[War is] when countries fight and people get hurt and then lose their families and we have to help them find each other again” was ‘do as you would be done by’. Amen to that, may we forever strive to instil in the next generation what appears sometimes to be missing in our own.
Hopefully the boys social conscience will emulate from here… Gorgeous inspired husband!