When our firstborn child, Meghan, graduated high school her graduating class asked Deb and I to present the Parent’s Address to the grads. We worded our speech around the classic Robert Fulghum poem “All I Really Need to Know I learned in Kindergarten”. This past weekend our youngest child, Emily, graduated from Kelowna’s Centre for Arts and Technology’s Event & Promotions Management Program and one of her instructors gave an address to the graduates which delivered a similar theme and tone.
I won’t recite the complete Fulghum poem but the gist of the message can be described in the opening lines “All I really need to know about how to live and what to do and how to be I learned in kindergarten. Wisdom was not at the top of the graduate school mountain, but there in the sandpile at primary school.”
In the poem the writer states the things that he learned such as- “share everything, play fair, don’t hit people, put things back where you found them, clean up your own mess, say you’re sorry if you hurt someone, don’t take things that aren’t yours and wash your hands before you eat” are rules every person should strive to live by. In the poem Fulghum writes that “Everything you need to know about life is in there somewhere. The Golden Rule and love and basic sanitation and ecology and politics and equality and sane living.” In other words, the world would be a far better and more peaceful place if everyone were to adhere to these basic human principles throughout their entire lifetime.
The instructor’s address from Emily’s grad exercises quoted more wise words from another wise man but this time it was a fictional character not the writer whose words were quoted when the words of the great wizard from J.R.R. Tolkein’s novels “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings”, Gandalf the Grey, stated, “I found it is the small, everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay.”
The instructor followed Gandalf’s wise words with more of his own by telling the graduates that it is his “deepest belief that all of us were put on this earth to do something greater than simply take care of ourselves.” And he feels that, “there is a lot of evidence that things get pretty bleak when we disregard others.” Listen to any 24 hour news station and we can see how our mixed up world got so mixed up. Greed and intolerance and envy and selfishness have pushed mankind to the scary place we find ourselves in today.
With so many on the planet pushing their own agendas we find ourselves in a world threatened by Radical Fundamentalism, an exploding world population, Global Warming, continuous economic uncertainty, a nuclear North Korea and Donald bloody Trump. What can ordinary folk like us to do at times like these?
It may seem completely unrealistic and naive but the only way out of this mess is through each and every human act of kindness. One good deed at a time and pay it forward. Or as Emily’s instructor stated, “Smile. Say thanks. Compliment someone. Donate blood. Teach something. Be gentle with your words. Save water. Shop local. Recycle. Buy someone else’s coffee. Vote. Laugh at yourself. Be grateful. Be gracious. Offer a hug. Turn off the lights. Give stuff away. Practice patience. Listen fully. Share fully. And choose to be peaceful.” In other words, or to quote another famous human, Ghandi, who said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”
Everyone can have an impact on their world and every small deed will affect change. The world will only truly change when we do.
“When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life.” –John Lennon (1940-1980).