You Can Make A Difference
By Peter Stewart

There is a Chinese saying: “Every child is a piece of paper and every person leaves a mark.” If this is the case, then some of us are leaving a mural -  a glorious, inspiring tapestry of hope!

On a similar note, Lynne Manfredi-Petit says, “Children are now being raised by parents and other people.” Let’s not sell ourselves short. Those "other people" are us! 

We have the opportunity to watch children make their first steps, say their first words, and participate in their first experiences of love and caring. How can we make more of a difference? The answer lies in getting back to the basics, “The Three R’s: Role Models, Relationships, and Rituals.” Let’s take a look at each one:

Role Models
Role models are like the sun. They give us hope. When we see a role model we say, “If he or she can do that, then I can do that!” The more we act like our role models, the more we become the people we want to be. In turn, we will respect ourselves as we respect our role models.

Relationships
We all need more connection with others in our lives. Our best memories occur when we make a connection with someone. Hug to hug. Face to face. Eye to eye. Laugh to laugh. Smile to smile.
Unfortunately, there is an undercurrent of disconnection today. We spend time watching television and working at our computer when we should be laughing, talking, and sharing with each other. Here are some amazing facts:

  • The average American will spend seven years of his or her life watching television.
  • 66 percent of American families spend their dinnertime watching television. That’s like having dinner with Dan Rather!

Remember, relationships with children are like water to a plant. They need to be watered often to keep growing. Let’s practice enjoying each other and build relationships among ourselves and with our children. Let’s spend more time telling jokes and stories, singing songs, and sharing the substance of our lives.

Rituals
Rituals are like the roots of our lives. They connect us to our heritage. Children love rituals. So do we. Rituals give our lives meaning and depth. Rituals in a classroom build community and a safe environment wherein children can explore. They can be songs, games, books, places, ceremonies, puppets, food, poems, or times of the day.

Enjoy sharing your heritage with the children you teach. Bring out the old quilts, stories, and other family heirlooms. Pass your heritage on so that children can pass it on to their children. There is no tomorrow...only today, for tomorrow they will be adults.

We are the elders. We are the role models. It is our duty to take the time to put children on our knee and share a moment. Make a memory.

Peter Stewart is a multi-faceted teacher, performer, author, and composer. Currently, he is the director of Sing and Learn Music, founder of of Project Pride, and leader of the Potato Chip Band. He can be reached by e-mail at PrideNow@aol.com.