Kindness & Kindergarten

You know that book, “Everything I need to know I learned in Kindergarten”? Well, it’s a great book because it’s true. I haven’t even read it, but it’s still true. Well, okay, I try to skim through it, but I don’t have the patience to read through the stories to find the gems that are, coincidentally, on the back of the book. The truisms are:

  • Share everything.
  • Play fair.
  • Don’t hit people.
  • Put things back where you found them.
  • Clean up your own mess.
  • Don’t take things that aren’t yours.
  • Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody.
  • Wash your hands before you eat.
  • Flush.
  • Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.
  • Live a balanced life – learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some.
  • Take a nap every afternoon.
  • When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands, and stick together.
  • Be aware of wonder.

An interesting thing about being a parent, which I never considered while pregnant, is the little tag-a-long friend I have on most excursions. For example, one of Levi’s favorite places to go with me is the Community Alliance of Tenants (CAT). Levi has gone with me to CAT since I started volunteering there in 2008, so since he was about 18 months old. At CAT, Levi has had to learn to interact with young people, older people, some people with strong accents different from ours. He’s had to learn to be quiet in meetings. He’s had to learn all sorts of things about general engagement with the public.

I feel fortunate that more often than not, we’re complimented on our son’s behavior. Why? Because it’s really important to me that one of the main lessons we teach Levi is basic respect for humanity. Sure, people can be jerks and prove to us why they don’t deserve our respect based on their actions, but everyone deserves respect simply because they exist.

We all have stories of sadness, hardship, persistence, love, and joy. We all live gray, murky, lives where we’ve had some successes, some failures, and hopefully many lessons learned along the way. If nothing else, this is the message I want my son to learn as he grows older.

My mother hammered into me (probably why I’m a social justice nut), that you must not judge someone before you walk a mile in their shoes. And, I want Levi to learn that same lesson. It’s more important to be kind than it is to be right. (My sister would probably argue with the last one since she was so good at calling me a know-it-all growing up! (Ha, ha Stacy))

So, it’s more important to be kind than it is to be right. You shouldn’t judge someone. You should always play fair, and you should say sorry if you hurt somebody. Now, let’s consider Robert’s Rules of Order for a moment. In Robert’s rules, there are about 9 notations on decorum. They are as follows:

  • Confining remarks to the merits of the pending question;
  • Refraining from attacking a member’s motives;
  • Addressing all remarks through the chair;
  • Avoiding the use of member’s names;
  • Refraining from speaking adversely on a prior action not pending;
  • Refraining from speaking against one’s own motion;
  • Reading from reports, quotations, etc., only without objection or with permission;
  • Being seated during an interruption by the chair; and
  • Refraining from disturbing the assembly.

While they speak to a different venue than rules in kindergarten, their focus is similar: don’t say mean things about others, pay attention to the one in charge, and be polite.

I think it’s interesting how, we – those of us who suffer under the human condition – have to be reminded of these rules, often. How would our attitudes changed if we ceased to question the motives of another when in a meeting? How would our work places change if people, more often, said they were sorry when they think they might have hurt someone. How would things change if we stopped making discussions personal and shared things over milk and cookies?

For more on civility and decorum, listen to the recent NPR story where a group of lawyers are working to bring civility back to the courtroom.