Recently before a middle school dance, parents gathered to take photos of the kids all dressed up. Groups were formed and kids were striking a pose for the many cameras taking pictures. It became quickly evident that not everyone was being included in the groups for pictures. A simple act of kindness by a high school student, who offered to be in picture with a girl who was being excluded from group photos, exemplified the true meaning of The Golden Rule.
In a TEDTalk, Karen Armstrong shares a concept: “Let’s Bring Back The Golden Rule”. The idea of treating others as you wish to be treated goes back in time and is recognized by all major world religions. Showing respect and empathy is a corner stone of living in harmony. If we apply this philosophy to middle school imagine how different the day could be for a girl who is excluded because she is different, or for a boy who might have a lisp and is never asked to join in group projects.
Inclusion is one of the hardest things that happens both at middle school and high school. That feeling of belonging and as many kids will say “I just don’t want to be different, I want to fit in”. Imagine what would happen if the golden rule was not only taught but was part of the mission statement of every middle school-“We believe all kids should treat others as they wish to be treated” and they lived it. While this may sound idealistic and dreamy everything is possible if we see the real opportunity.
Five ways to bring the golden rule into everyday life:
Start the day with a grateful heart: Sharing appreciation for even the smallest gesture is an act of kindness that the recipient will remember. Everyone wants to feel a sense of love and thanking someone for something they are doing or have done will lift them up.
Look around for the person standing alone: For kids this could be the boy or girl sitting alone at lunch. Invite him or her to join the lunch table. It could be at a networking or business function where a person enters the room tentatively not sure where to go. Extend a warm welcome to them and they will feel relieved to be included.
Show a random act of kindness: At school something as small as helping a student unstick a locker door or pick up fallen books will be welcomed. Riding public transit? Give up a seat to someone who looks tired or offer directions to a person who seems lost.
Be golden and hold back from negativity: It takes fewer muscles to smile than to frown and yet people find it easier to show negativity than to be positive. Instead try finding one positive gift that each person offers.
Stand up for someone who needs it: Showing empathy is one of the most powerful ways to live The Golden Rule. Just as the high school student demonstrated in the story above, responding with kindness will pay dividends to both the giver and recipient. Without realizing it, this can really make the difference for their future.