ROXANNE ROWLEY: Opening your heart is a good thing

By ROXANNE ROWLEY
Guest Columnist

We were at JFK International Airport in New York City a while back and the United Nations General Assembly had just adjourned. What an exciting time to be at the airport, especially as a people-watcher.

There were groups from all over the globe; people of many cultures, races and ethnicities traveling back to their own country. Many of them were clothed in the brightly colored traditional attire from their respective countries. The best thing was most of the people were smiling and friendly. It was easy to feel like a citizen of the world, especially as the languages and accents from many countries brushed past our ears.

Since we had a longer layover at JFK, there was time for a leisurely dinner.

We had gotten our sandwiches and found a table to enjoy them when a trio of young ladies approached and asked if they could join us. We said sure!

During the course of our conservation we found out they had been part of the UN General Assembly representing their country, United Arab Emirates.

The young women were modestly attired in long flowing dresses with their heads covered, as is the custom in Muslim countries. They were full of enthusiasm about the city of Dubai, where they lived. They told us about their favorite places as they encouraged us to visit their country. They were enthusiastic about their visit to New York and had traveled to quite a few places in the US. What delightful young women they were. We had a good meal and a memorable conversation.

After that encounter with those young ladies, I thought about civility and kindness or the unfortunate lack of it that seems to permeate society today.

I suppose we could have told those young women they were not welcome to sit with us, but the thought never occurred to either my husband or me. For us being able to connect, even in a small way with someone who lives on the other side of the world, is always very enjoyable. That is one of the reasons we like to travel here in the US and abroad. Plus traveling really gives you the opportunity to open your mind and your heart to other people.

I believe civility and kindness are purposeful actions. We do have a choice how we treat others, even though sometimes the option to do the right thing can be difficult.

As an early childhood educator for many years, my assistant and I tried to create an atmosphere of kindness and civility when setting up our classroom. It took a lot of effort, including setting up guidelines and role-modeling behaviors, but the children responded very well. It made for a pleasant work environment for us, and a better learning environment for the children.

We have a responsibility to ourselves, our fellow citizens, and to our children to try to make the world a better, kinder, more civil place. The seeds of kindness and civility can spread out from our little corner of the world. Who knows where those seeds could end up? As the Greek storyteller, Aesop (620-564 BC) said, “No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.”

Roxanne Rowley is a retired early childhood educator and consultant. She enjoys writing and has had numerous articles published related to early childhood issues.

 

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