The recent controversial kneel-downs by athletes at professional sporting events during the national anthem typically ends up in a discussion about respecting the flag and the heroes who have died fighting for it. Often athletes and first responders are thrown into the mix of heroes we should be honoring. But what about the women and men who wield pens, books, whistles, scalpels, and listening ears instead of guns? Why do we not include people such as teachers, coaches, doctors, social workers, and counselors in discussions about who we honor and revere? Further, what are we teaching children about what’s really important and what we should most value?
Kids learn pretty quickly that leaders are peers who are president of the student council, team captains, the best athletes, the most popular kids, and the class’s queen bee or alpha male. Are these really the only kids who are being powerful and deserving of recognition? I think not.
We need to start valuing different kinds of leadership than the above-mentioned. This would include kids who: don’t give their power away to others, stand up for themselves and others, don’t care what others think about them, don’t allow words or gossip to bother them, set clear, firm boundaries, are kind to and include everyone, don’t allow themselves to get sucked into drama or gossip, handle conflicts directly and peacefully, hold their peers accountable, are focused on making everyone successful, aren’t afraid to take risks and make mistakes, and who are committed to bringing their community together.
7th grader Madeline stood up for a girl who was being teased because of her awkward gait that is the result of having cerebral palsy. Her friend group didn’t like being called out like that, and they ditched Madeline. This brave girl didn’t care because she knew she was doing the right thing. To me, Madeline is a heroine. The kids who exhibit this kind of power too often get short shrift at school in lieu of students who are more loud and racy. This signals to everyone who and what is most valued, and thus qualities like compassion, collaboration, championing the success of others, selflessness, and kindness take a back seat.
It’s high time we begin to acknowledge kids and adults who serve our world as nonviolent peacekeepers, good listeners, community builders, healers, teachers, counselors and mentors, and people who lead with compassion, collaboration, inclusion, humility, connectedness, and a win-win vision. Soldiers and first responders are one type of citizen who deserve credit for their service, but there are many other types of heroes who also merit our recognition and honor.