As an educator, one of our greatest goals is to give our students the tools they need to be contributing members of the world in which they live. To use those tools to become law-abiding citizens who value their freedom and stand up for their rights. Who are willing to work for the things that have foundationally formed the democracy that we have so fortunately been born into. But maybe more than that, we want our students to be compassionate and caring individuals. People who look out for one another in a world that can be somewhat confusing to understand and difficult to navigate.

But what if you were born into a country where freedom and democracy are still relatively new? What if you lived during a time when you experienced the fall of communism and the rise of a democracy. What story would you tell your children? Which lessons would you teach your students? Would freedom be something you took for granted? Ukraine is showing the world that their freedom certainly isn’t something they take for granted. They are teaching their children that strength, resilience, determination, and grit are the very things that will keep their story, and likely their livelihood, going.

What Can We Do?

As we all are moved by the way Ukrainians are taking a stand for their country, it is difficult to sit back and watch. The feeling of helplessness is very real. So, what can we do, here at home, to take a stand with Ukraine? What lessons can we teach our students that will help them be good people, and ultimately, good neighbors?

I can’t help but consider a perspective from someone who made things sensical for me as a child. The many lessons I learned about doing the right thing and being a good human were modeled for me on a show many of us grew to love, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. Fred Rogers taught us a lot about patience and understanding and feelings and kindness. He used these as tools to model how to resolve conflict and appreciate differences. He taught us that while we all may have differing ideas and beliefs, these were the very things that made us special.

And kindness. He had strong feelings about the importance of demonstrating kindness. He considered it vital to our success. His every action, his every word, his every intention, was rooted in a tone of kindness and understanding. It’s these lessons that we can use to make a difference.

Be the Helper

While this world can be a scary place, he encouraged us to always look for the helpers. This is important right now. We need these helpers. Our worldly neighbors need these helpers. And we also need to reach a level of understanding which was stated so poignantly and simply by Mister Rogers himself, “Real strength has to do with helping others.” It is by helping others that we truly learn understanding, empathy, and compassion. It equips us with the tools we need to build the bridges and mend the mistakes. And ultimately, makes for peaceful neighbors.

*Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

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