Our world is full of variety. It is full of colors, shapes, tastes, sounds, and smells. We have our country music fans, rap fans, oldies but goodies fans. We have those who cheered on the Patriots and those who were diehard Eagles’ fans. We have those who love to sing and others who warn friends and families before they belt out a tune. We have our cat people and our dog people. We have those who love science fiction and those who love fantasy and history. We have our athletes and those who would prefer to spend their time on the stage. We have students who come from large families, others from small, and yet others from a mixed family who come together as one. Our crayon box from our early years of learning did not include just one color. And with it, man, did we draw and explore and appreciate what those colors could create!
Here at Mattawan, some may say we do not have a diverse student body or teaching staff when it comes to the color of our skin. We may not have a diverse population, but we need to celebrate we do have…every single day. We cannot tolerate racism. We cannot stand behind bullying, whether it’s face-to-face or behind a screen. We are so blessed with a multitude of personalities, strengths and weaknesses, talents, and dreams. We need to recognize and celebrate even the smallest of acts and gifts. What would our schools be like without color, without different interests and career goals, without the unique characteristics that make up the people we learn with, perform with, or compete with on the field? Helen Keller once said, “The highest result of education is tolerance.” We have so much to learn, so much to teach. We can all do our part to teach tolerance and value difference when so many come together creating one voice.
If there is one thing, one trait, one characteristic that could create an atmosphere of safety and belonging, of well-being and peace, a world where all the colors in the crayon box got along, it would be kindness. Kindness just for the sake of being kind. Kindness brings tolerance. Kindness brings an open-mind. Kindness eliminates prejudice and judgment. There is no ranking or hate that comes as a result of kindness. There is a sign in my office that reads, “You will not regret being kind today.” I do not believe I have heard anyone feel bad about being kind. Our students, as well as our staff, come to us with many personal stories and experiences. We do not often know their unique day-to-day needs but we do know there is always a need for kindness.
With kindness in your hip pocket, tolerance of others will become a natural response. Tolerance means accepting and valuing the differences between people, appreciating that these differences enrich us. It recognizes that each of us has a limited perspective on the world and together, our tapestry of insights and virtues is greater than those of any one person, tribe, or culture alone. We are able to delight in the otherness of strangers and our intimate companions knowing that our own lives would be less rich if everyone were more like us.
“Tolerance is the mindful capacity to love, respect, accept the differences that make people unique. This tolerance exists so that all people can live in harmony without the exclusion of one over the other or the will of the few disaffecting the lives of the many.” ~Byron R. Pulsifer
Tolerance and kindness are free. To be tolerant and kind does not require training, and the impact remains long after the act. If a difference is to be made in how we treat each other, I believe it starts with tolerance and a random act of kindness. We owe it to each other and we certainly deserve it for ourselves.