On Sept. 21, UN World Peace Day was celebrated across the globe. Marked as a fixed day on the UN calendar through the efforts of Jeremy Gilley at Peaceoneday.org, Peace Day calls for 24 hours of ceasefire in war-torn areas, making it possible for hundreds of relief agencies to rush into areas where battle may inhibit distribution of vaccines, books, food, and medical care. Over the years, millions of people living in conflict have benefited from the life-saving efforts made possible by the ceasefire. On a global scale, Peace Day is proving to have a powerful, positive impact.
But what impact does Peace Day have in areas not rife with war?
In non-conflict ridden zones, Peace Day can be an important day, as it helps to facilitate the discussion of peace building and what we can all do, on a daily basis, to contribute to building a more peaceful world.
At the United Nations International School (UNIS) in New York, teaching about peace is imbedded in the educational practice. Children who experience conflict on the playground are encouraged to have a seat on the peace bench, where they work out their difficulties. Junior school classrooms have peace tables prominently displayed so that children may have a place to reflect on peace and work through their differences with others. It isn't uncommon to hear "Be a Peace Builder!" as children are ushered through the halls. For the students at UNIS, every day is peace day, and Sept. 21 is a special calendar day to reflect on what this means.
Who will you make peace with?
This question, posed by Peaceoneday.org, inspired great conversation in the grade three classrooms at UNIS. An inquiry into what it means to make peace with others led the children to ask more questions: Do I have to be in conflict with someone to make peace? Can we spread peace to people we don't know? Are we open to others who try to make peace with us?
To deepen their thinking and support discussion, the grade three children at UNIS read the book Each Kindness, written by Jacqueline Woodson and illustrated by E.B. Lewis. In the book, a new girl comes to school and tries to make friends with the narrator, Chloe, and a few other girls. Despite her many attempts at making friends, the new girl is met with constant unkindness. Suddenly the girl is gone from school, and a lesson from the teacher about how kindness is like ripples in water, helps Chloe to see how unkind she was.
Moved by the book, the children had lively discussions about kindness, and how Chloe should have behaved with the new girl. This discussion beautifully dovetailed into discussions about Peace Day, and what we can do to help spread peace throughout the world.
These clever 8-year-olds pointed out that spreading peace is what they are doing when they practice their Happiness Habit of committing Random Acts of Kindness. They noted that we can be kind to anyone and everyone, and this will help to spread peace throughout the world. The question amongst the five grade three classrooms then became: What can we do to help make peace and kindness ripple throughout the world?
Be careful what you inspire in children, because the smallest of ideas can grow into big steps of action! These third graders set out to make certain they were spreading kindness ripples into the world. During their morning circle times, the children shared ideas on how we can all help make kindness ripples. They also reported back each day on what happened when they practiced their random acts of kindness, and how they saw others do kind deeds for someone else as a result of their actions. "We saw the ripples!" they exclaimed.
As an educator, Peace Day has become my favorite "holiday," as it provides the opportunity to discuss peace building and to develop conflict resolution skills within students. For many of us, the idea of peace seems too big and unattainable -- what can one person do to impact the wars happening across the globe? There is an important mental shift we can make when we think about global peace, and can be done by embracing the idea that peace begins with the actions of the individual. Peace can be nurtured in the smallest of moments each and every day, through the smallest of actions. It is a big idea, yet easy enough for a child to embrace.
What will you do to make kindness ripple throughout the world? The grade three children have some ideas to share with you to help you get started. We'd love to hear about the results!
50 Ways to Make Kindness Ripple Throughout the World:
1. Smile at a stranger.
2. Say thank you to the bus driver.
3. Help someone carry her heavy groceries.
4. Hold the door open for someone else.
5. Leave a kind note for someone whom you usually don't get along with.
6. Give your Mom a hug and tell her you appreciate her.
7. Sing a song to your teacher!
8. Let someone else choose the game and play it -- even if you don't like it.
9. Let someone else have a seat on the bus or subway.
10. Say hello to the security guards and thank them for keeping you safe.
11. Leave happiness notes on the apartment doors of your neighbors.
12. Leave a thank you note to the cleaners, thanking him for keeping your place so tidy.
13. Give a homeless person a smile and a piece of fruit.
14. If you see someone (even a stranger) who looks nice, tell them!
15. Say thank you to someone who makes your life easier.
16. Look for someone who seems lonely and invite her to play.
17. Invite someone new to eat lunch at your table.
18. Draw a nice picture for someone and leave it as a surprise!
19. Read a book to a child.
20. Help someone who seems to be having a hard time with his work.
21. Clean up after someone without telling her.
22. Give the secretary a flower from your garden.
23. Give someone a sticker! The smelly ones are the BEST.
24. Seek to understand someone else's point of view.
25. Use kind words when talking to others.
26. Use kind words when talking about yourself.
27. Forgive someone who has done wrong -- even without their asking.
28. Be patient with others.
29. Donate time, money, and supplies to an organization in need.
30. Respect the feelings of others
31. Know that different is good.
32. Praise someone for being brave enough to be different.
33. Listen to someone else when they are talking and ask questions so you can better understand them.
34. Ask someone how they are -- and really listen to the answer.
35. Say please when you ask for something. Say thank you when you get it.
36. Try to make someone else laugh.
37. Make someone who is sad smile.
38. Don't fight with your sister -- help her instead!
39. Turn off the lights when you don't need them.
40. Recycle when you can.
41. Share your favorite toys with someone.
42. Even if you don't have a lot, share your cookies with someone who doesn't have a snack.
43. Encourage someone when he is playing soccer, or running a marathon, or trying something new!
44. If your friend is injured, take them to the nurse and help them to feel better.
45. Stand up for someone who is being picked on.
46. Remember to have fun with people!
47. If your friend is nervous, give them confidence!
48. Play cards or football with someone.
49. Be a good looser and a good winner.
50. Hug the people you love, and tell them you love them every day.
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