By Anne Collier
Well, two great back-to-school messages, actually. I’ll get to the one from two organizations in a minute. First, one from a parent: At a time when so many families are feeling swamped with stuff added to schedules and school supplies lists – and that’s on top of run-of-the-mill, everyday parental pressures that probably include worries about what young peers are up to online, in games, and on phones, as well as at school – take a moment to read a back-to-school message that might calm the chaos: “The Talk,” by parent and blogger Glennon Melton. It puts these things into perspective and points not to a priority list, just to what goes at the top of one. I wish all kids could have the kind of unconditional love that sent Chase off to 3rd grade, but at least we could work toward all kids getting unconditional kindness. Note that in this snippet from the post, though, the child isn’t just a passive recipient of kindness: “We send you to school to practice being brave and kind. Kind people are brave people. Brave is not a feeling that you should wait for. It is a decision.”
Kindness and bravery are a decision we all have to make multiple times a day, of course, now in digital spaces as much as physical ones – hopefully, for our digital natives, more and more in digital spaces in school, where they can practice safely and with a teacher’s kind supervision. But of course we can’t expect kids to make this decision if we don’t – we need to model it, to borrow from Gandhi, be the change we want to see in our children.
Glennon’s pairing of kindness and bravery is especially meaningful now, with this year’s launch of two projects aimed at supporting young people’s own work toward a kinder, braver world, online and offline: the Platform for Good, supported by a coalition of tech and social-media companies and the MacArthur Foundation, and the youth-led, grassroots Born Brave Movement to which Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation is bringing attention, support, and celebration. Platform for Good launched today (9/12/12), and the Born This Way Foundation just convened its 24-member Youth Advisory Board’s first summit last month. Here are posts by two of its members, Ruby Chaffee in the Huffington Post and Austin Laufersweiler at MTV.com. [Disclosure: I am honored to chair this Board this year, so I’m biased.]
How do we make this a kinder, braver world (see this post about it in the White House’s blog)? A lot of people would probably agree with a tweet by Jason Rzepka of MTV during the Born This Way Foundation launch at Harvard (quoting Lady Gaga), “‘How can we create a support structure around every single human being on this earth?’ wow – what a moonshot goal!” It is a moonshot goal, the 21st century’s “moonshot,” probably, and aren’t we, as a race, more responsive to messages about the best in us than the worst? Creating a kinder, braver world is also completely doable when it’s one small decision at a time, as Chase’s mom tells him, and when we know people we love will support us in the process. The launch of the BTWF’s Youth Advisory Board (YAB) was all about that. These are young people who’ve been through enormous challenges in their short lives so far, and they have already started helping others while they’re in the process of healing (I am in awe of that and them). And there are many other examples, such as Canada’s national Pink Shirt Day, which started with one act of kindness, and the collective kindness of high school students in Iowa. And then there’s high school student Annmarie Haubert, who just wrote to her fellow YAB members on September 11, “I know that we can lead by example to bring out every day bravery and kindness in others.” Among other things, the Platform for Kid will be celebrating this kind of connectivity and community.