The two weeks since the death of George Floyd have been a significant time for listening and learning. I wanted to share with you some responses that I will be making at Growing Gratitude, and some reflections on why nurturing our children’s spirituality is essential to ensuring that systemic and institutionalised racism is not handed down to yet another generation. First of all, what do I mean by ‘spirituality’? When we talk about children’s spirituality, what we’re really talking about is helping children to behold, enjoy and participate in life as it fully and really is. At Growing Gratitude, we summarise this full and true reality as Diversity, Connection and Worth. (Subscribers who have been part of this community for a while may recall the blog post and daily reflections on this). At all times, in ever more elaborate and marvellous ways, the universe unfolds itself into diversity, connection and worth. Life evolves toward ever more complexity and diversity. All things are connected and part of this wonderful whole. And therefore all things have innate worth. This is the way the universe is, and it’s our spirituality that draws us to perceive it and participate in it fully and joyfully. Racism is such a malign and destructive force for individuals and society precisely because it moves counter to the fullest truth and reality of the universe: it abhors diversity, breaks connection, and denies worth. It is never too early to help our children celebrate the marvellous diversity that surrounds them, the strength that comes through the interconnection of all that exists, and the worth that this bestows on every single particle, place and person. And this is where gratitude comes in, because gratitude opens our eyes to see the world as it REALLY is, and invites us to join in. Gratitude shows children that the goodness in their lives originates from a source that (at least in part) is not them and that is different to them. Gratitude shows children that it is precisely because of differences that they are able to benefit from others’ strengths and attributes, whether it’s the cloud’s ability to rain, the tree’s impetus to bear fruit, or Grandma’s superior skill at making puddings. What we see is that diversity brings strength to the Earth community - but only to the extent that all parts are able to thrive and exist in the fullest expression of themselves. Nurturing our children’s spirituality (and our own) means that we intentionally bring the depth and breadth of our connection to conscious awareness, with a sense of wonder and joy - which is what happens when we practice gratitude together. We help our children to perceive the world as it really and fully is. And then we help them to participate in it, by living, playing and working in ways that are aligned with this reality. We attune our ears to Earth’s melody, so that we learn how to live harmoniously. As we practice living in harmony with the tune of the universe, we find that we become more perceptive and responsive to aspects of life that are out of tune. We will notice too that it becomes impossible to think of problems as ‘over there’: when we perceive connection in all things, we see that any problem ‘over there’ is also a problem ‘over here’. A problem for my kin is a problem for me, and when it comes to systemic racism, a problem in me. None of us can afford to consider ourselves outside this problem - we are all connected. Racism means that some children in schools today will not thrive. This will have devastating consequences for them, and for a community deprived of yet another life in full-bloom. Only proactive and persistent action will undo generations of institutionalised and systemic racism, so that everyone can thrive and participate in life as the fullest and truest expression of themselves. Perceiving the wonders of diversity is just the beginning. Healthy spirituality will always lead to action.
Action Growing Gratitude is taking:
I reviewed the content of our resources and training materials this week, looking for oversights, and found some that I am in the process of putting right. Much of this relates to language: I have changed the training course-book for ECE teachers so that all emotion vocabulary lists now include Te Reo and English, for example. Our ‘Word of the Week’ postcards will also be updated to list words in both English and Te Reo.
Throughout June 2020, I will be meeting with 8 ECE teachers from diverse settings and backgrounds. They will be reviewing the content of the Nurturing Spirituality through Growing Gratitude training course, to ensure that both theory and practice are relevant and accessible to children of all backgrounds.
I will be seeking the input of an Education Consultant who works to promote culturally sustaining practices, to help identify blind-spots and ensure that our training courses and resources do not contain any barriers to Māori, Pasifika and other minoritised children.
There are many things we can do in our families and schools to dismantle systemic racism. By helping our children to grow gratitude, we are starting where all change begins: in the heart. Use your times of gratitude with your children this week to focus on the good that comes to you because of others' differences. Then let your transformed perception draw you into participation. Questions to use in your times of gratitude, with school-aged children: Today, who brought some goodness into your life? What makes them different to you, that meant they were able to bring that goodness to you? (Help children to identify something about the person that is different to them, such as a different skill, having different possessions, having different knowledge or viewpoint, living in a different place). In whatever way you celebrate your gratitude together, be thankful for these differences that bring goodness into our lives.