As a child, growing up with my grandparents wasn’t always easy. My grandmother was very strict and old school, while my grandfather was equally strict and expected my brother and I to respect our elders. We knew the boundaries and sometimes we would get in serious trouble for just saying little things that really weren’t all that bad compared to some of the things our peers were saying. Simply making a joke would often get us in serious trouble. Any time at all that one of us said something that my grandfather didn’t approve of he would say,
“If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”
I can still remember sitting at the dinner table one day with my grandfather while he opened up a can of sardines to eat. Those sardines smelled so bad and being young and naive, I didn’t think before I spoke about how gross I thought they were. It was explained to me that it’s wrong to even say anything negative about what someone else was eating. It was drilled into our heads every single day. We were never allowed to make fun of people or say anything negative about others. We also learned to be kind to others at a young age and we weren’t even allowed to use the word hate.
Here lately, the internet, news, and radio have been nothing but nasty. Social media has been completely covered with negative ads, tweets, rants, and news containing everything from racism, people bashing the President of the U.S., nuclear issues with North Korea and countless negative information that I don’t want to see or read. With our young generation spending so much time online, I fear that they are witnessing too much hate and internalizing it. I worry that it’s going to get worse. Here lately I’ve been wondering, when did it get this bad?
Then, a few days ago, I had to call in to request a repair for our garage door which was recently struck by lightning. The man that came out was African American and is just an overall nice guy. I remembered him because he’s been here before and he’s just so kind and positive. As I stood out in my garage chatting, we got to talking about our kids starting school, summer flying by, and how he got lost trying to find my house. We laughed and carried on as my little ones were running around and my two older children were standing there listening to our conversation. As he explained what he repaired and got ready to leave, I offered him some freshly baked pumpkin bread to take with him. Then we got to talking about different breads and dieting. It was fun, but it was at that moment that I realized my kids were learning a lesson. It doesn’t matter what color our skin is or how different we are, we are all human and we are all unique in our own ways. At that moment, they were witnessing a positive social connection and they were witnessing this from an adult they love and respect. As we waved at the repair man leaving, my youngest son said, “He’s such a nice man.” I agreed and explained that it pays to be kind and makes you feel great inside. We went about our day.
This event got me thinking about how powerful we are as parents and how we are in control of our children’s minds. We have the power to mold them and lead them in the right direction. We can teach our kids while they’re young about caring for others and help them to understand that people have different colors, shapes, sizes, and cultures and that’s okay. Children learn ethical values from us, just like I learned from a young age from my grandfather. If we outlaw trash talking and teach our kids how to be considerate, we can help fight the hate. If people could just think before they talk and refrain from using words that hurt, so many problems could be fixed.
Here’s a beautiful song by Tim McGraw titled “Humble and Kind.” It says so much.