Written by Aqueelah Ligonde
I have a seven-year-old niece who has a beautiful heart. One day, as she entered her Sunday school class, another little girl was crying because she didn’t want to leave her mother. My niece walked right over to her, took her hand, and said, “Don’t worry, your mommy will be back. Come with me and I’ll be your friend.” She then sat beside the little girl the entire class and made sure she wasn’t left alone for even one minute. When the little girl's mother returned to class to get her, my niece told her mother, “She was a little sad, but I was her friend and she’s better now.” When I asked her what made her befriend the little girl, my niece simply answered, “Well, she was sad. And it is right to be kind to others.” She was four years old at the time. This may just seem like a simple story about a little girl living out her Sunday school lessons, but it is way more than that. It shows what happens when we plant the seed of kindness in our children by speaking the language of kindness to our children. You see, my niece is learning what it means to be kind from Sunday school, from family members, from teachers, and from that stirring in her own little soul. She is living out the language of kindness that is being put inside her from those around her everyday.
It is so very important, especially in this day and age, that we teach our children to be kind to one another. It is crucial that they are learning, early on, that being kind is part of God’s call for our lives. In a world that uses language like “Focus on you” or “Do you” we have the enormous challenge of combating that type of language and replacing it with the language of kindness.
Teach it by living it. I realize that the young people in my life are watching everything I do and listening to everything I say. Oftentimes the things they remember are how I interact with others. For example, am I saying “thank you” to my husband for passing the butter at the dinner table? Am I helping the woman in the grocery store parking lot with all the bags? How am I reacting to the guy who cut me off in traffic?
Being kind to yourself is important, too. When my niece hears me forgive myself for a mistake I’ve made it shows her that kindness isn’t just for everyone else. It shows her that she deserves to be a recipient of kindness, too. It teaches her that kindness begins with her and in her. When children can learn to forgive themselves, they are more forgiving of others and can show kindness in a genuine way, from the heart.
Imagine if we all learned to speak this language of kindness everyday to everyone. Imagine if we learned to teach kindness by living it. Imagine if we learned to be kind to ourselves in order to offer kindness to others. What an impact it would make!
It starts at home. It starts with us.
AQUEELAH LIGONDE is an enthusiastic speaker and leader for today's generation of women, girls, youth, and leaders. She has worked with organizations such as Princeton Seminary Institute For Youth Ministry and Youth Specialties. She is a Staff Consultant with Ministry Architects. For over a decade, she served as the Associate Pastor at the First Presbyterian Church in Jamaica, Queens, NY.