Five Simple Words

Sunday morning at 8:15, you can find me on my mat. For the last three years, I have been practicing yoga with the same teacher (virtually for the last 10 months) and have found that not only am I stronger physically but mentally too. Yoga has many benefits, not the least of which is the last few minutes which are spent entirely at rest. Each week as class closes, my yoga teacher imparts some universal yogic wisdom that transcends any one specific religion; the message is often about how we can be our best selves and do our part to make the world a better place. This MLK weekend, the message came from an unusual source – the fairy tale Cinderella. Her late mother loved the movie and would repeat Cinderella’s mother’s blessing, “Have courage and be kind.” 

These five words stayed with me all day. Have courage and be kind. It’s a simple message that is incredibly important and relevant right now. There is a lot of brokenness in our world and it saddens me that our children are growing up with the fear of Covid over their shoulder while they see anti-semitism, racism, and alt-right platforms becoming mainstream. It is a lot to process, and as educators we are trying to help children know that they are safe. My kids will be 14 and 18 next month, and we have spent a lot of time processing all that has happened the last few months; it hasn’t been easy. 

You might be thinking, my kids (or grandkids) are too young; they don’t really know what’s going on/they can’t really understand it. However, research shows that children of all ages know more about current events than parents realize; children learn bits and pieces from unsuspecting places.  Some children will see images on TV at home, or in the pizza place while waiting to pick up take out. Some will hear their parents talking on the phone, or they will hear the car radio, or their older brother/sister facetiming with a friend.  Some will see headlines in the morning paper or alerts on their parents’ phones. Older children will have googled and surfed and consumed content on Instagram and Tik Tok and other social media platforms. One thing is proven, children of all ages form opinions based on what they hear, see, overhear, and read. It’s important that we help them process what they know in direct, honest, and age-appropriate ways. We need to show our children that they are safe and tell them to have courage and be kind. Reverend Raphael Warnock, the newly elected senator from Georgia, recently said, “We must try to embody in our speech the kind of future we want for our children, all of our children.” 

Children need the courage to speak up and speak out when they hear or see injustice. They need the courage to be independent, innovative, and entrepreneurial. They need the courage to persist and persevere when faced with adversity and disappointment. They need the courage to be hopeful and optimistic and to choose kindness. Epstein Hillel students learn all these lessons, along with math, language arts, Hebrew, and science, from teachers who care deeply about their growth and development. Teaching is truly holy work, especially in these times, when our children will try to repair a broken world and shape the future. 

Martin Luther King Jr. would have been 92 years old this year; if he had blown out candles on his cake, his wish just might have been for all of us to have courage and be kind. Our children will lead the way into the future with this message and with the hope for brighter days ahead.