My son came home from school, last month, excited about his purchases at the annual book fair. Thrilled as he was about the new books he could add to his collection, he was just as enthusiastic about the change he brought home.
Without prompting, he took a few of the coins from the bag of change he held in his hands and put them into his tzedakah (charity) box.
This tzedakah box has slowly been filling up ever since my son got it from his Hebrew School teacher earlier in the year. We don't always remember to put change in each day, but we do our best to add to it whenever we have a spare coin or two.
My son intends to give the money to an organization which is working to fix up our local playground. He saw how much was still needed, and was motivated to do what he could to help.
Encouraging our children to be kind is a goal many of us share. In a world of instant gratification, reduced human interaction and sheltered existence, it would be easy to assume our kids are clueless about how to be good humans.
And, truth be told, there are plenty of stories to prove our youth has little empathy for others. Stories of bullies and tormentors permeate our social media feeds, reflecting the ugliest aspects of our society. Even our littlest ones are not immune from the cruel taunts of peers or even us grownups.
Yet, these are not the only stories. Look around, and you will see children engaged in acts of kindness; tweens leading clothing drives; six-year-olds working together to clean up their neighborhood; and high school students fighting for more inclusive social functions. Some acts are big enough to garner national attention, while others are only known in small circles.
As parents, we have a responsibility to model kindness for our children. They look to us to guidance, and our actions shape their behavior. However, our children already have a whole lot of kindness already inside of them.
Our children are part of a generation born with the greatest access to information. They benefit from a society, while still far behind, which has come a long way in embracing and understanding people of all economic backgrounds, races, religions, genders and sexual orientations. Technology enables them to connect to folks beyond their geographical borders, and helps make our large world feel a bit smaller.
All of this fuels their empathy, and inspires them to do better than we ever could.
Will this generation be the one to create a kinder world?
I don’t know for sure, but I have high hopes.