When I was a smart-aleck teenager, I remember singing “let there be peace on Earth, and let it begin with me,” only I would change the “me” to “you” as I sang it to my sisters. At that point in my life, I obviously thought any fight I had with my sisters was their fault. As I have grown, I understand just how complicated peace can be.
This week I had a conversation with a mother who is from a different ethnicity and socioeconomic status than I. As we processed the events of the past week, discussing our feelings about people entering and desecrating the U.S. Capitol Building, we realized we share a common goal: raising a generation of people who are better than we are.
This past year brought a lot to the surface, for me and for a lot of people. I have been working hard to notice where I fall short, and to be aware of my own unconscious biases. I have been working to be a better person. I would love to leave the world a better place than when I joined it in 1974.
This other mother and I discussed how the year’s events have felt to us. Five steps forward, two steps back. Three more steps forward, six steps back. It seems like there are good, kind people in the world, and then it seems like everything is falling apart, and hatred and division reign.
When images came across the screen of the Capitol being entered and defiled like we live in some banana republic, it felt like there wasn’t much I could do about it. The problems of this year seem too big for me to fix.
At the end of the conversation, this other mother looked at me and said, “Well, all I can do is raise my kids to be good people, and all you can do is to raise your kids to be good people. And that’s where we start.”
Indeed, as parents, that’s where we start.
We teach our kids to be friends with people who have different life experiences, who have less than or more than we have. We teach our kids to ask their friends from different religious backgrounds what their experiences are like. We teach them to find common ground where we can, and to be on the right side of history when there is a choice. We teach them to listen more than they talk.
We model for them what it looks like to disagree with someone and still have civil discourse. We watch the rhetoric in our home, sure that what our kids will say as they grow up will either sound like us or sound like the opposite of us with equal intensity. We teach them to back up their developing opinions with real research and sources from both sides and to learn to identify misinformation online.
I consider myself fairly open-minded, but even so, my children have pointed out my unconscious biases when they see them. And instead of getting offended or defiant, that makes me proud. I am proud that my kids are better people than I. And that, dear parents, is where we start. Let the peace begin with us.