On Finding Hope and Positivity in Hard Times

You may have noticed that I've been silent for a while. With so many horrible, gut-wrenching tragedies (it seems like every week there is another piece of my heart breaking) in the news, both here in the United States and internationally, I just haven't found any words. But after Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, the Dallas sniper shootings, and now the news in Nice and Turkey (and that's not even mentioning Orlando, which, after so many other tragedies have happened, seems like much longer than a month ago, and there was Paris last November, and, and, and...) I felt I must say something, even though it may not come out right, I can at least try. These words come from my heart, simply as a mother, former teacher, and human being.

Connor Dwyer for Stocksy

Connor Dwyer for Stocksy

The part of my early childhood teacher training that had the biggest impact on me, both as a teacher and a person, was learning about anti-bias curriculum. The idea is that all of us have biases, and the only way to counteract this is to be proactive...and what better way to do this than by teaching young children? When I was teaching, I saw firsthand how quick we are, even at the youngest age, to lump others into groups, to generalize. But I also saw how simple it was to open minds: with questions, with stories that are inclusive of a very wide range of people, and by teaching peaceful conflict resolution. If only the grownups of the world could be so accepting and empathetic! 

So when I hear news like we've been hearing lately, I react first as a teacher and a mom. My heart breaks for the children who have been  hurt, and at the same time I worry about the impact of all of this violence and negativity - even the news of it - even the impact of it on the adults and how it filters down to little ears and hearts and minds - and I fiercely want to protect an optimistic spirit in my child, and the children around me.

I am fundamentally an optimist. Whether that comes from nature or nurture, I cannot say. Part of being optimistic is keeping one’s head pointed toward the sun, one’s feet moving forward. There were many dark moments when my faith in humanity was sorely tested, but I would not and could not give myself up to despair. That way lays defeat and death.
— Nelson Mandela

The world today seems full of dark moments, and while it's true that most of us want to stay informed, I think there comes a point where soaking in too much of the endless stream of bad news is harmful for our souls. So what I am trying to do is check the news, yes, but then do something positive afterwards: Pray. Meditate. Donate money to a worthy organization. Reach out to a friend or neighbor. Help someone. Be kind. Make someone's day. Teach your children what it means to be peaceful, open minded, and kind. Because as awful, as sickening, as horribly, horribly sad as all of the recent events have been, when it comes down to it, we must do the best with what we've got. That's all we can do, and we must do our best.

So I am focusing on what is in front of me: a bright boy who I hope to raise with the skills to resolve conflicts peacefully, to recognize bias, bullying, discrimination, and cruelty, and have the courage to say something when he sees it. I am focusing on spreading kindness where I can. I am meditating on peace.

And honestly, I am an optimist. I do believe that the majority of people in the world are good, and that we will collectively find our way to peace, eventually. 

What about you? How are you feeling lately? How are you coping? Have you found ways to help, or ways to nurture yourself and your family? Please chime in with your own thoughts in the Comments...we are in this together!