I share this story to offer parents and educators one example of how a mother and teacher can dialogue about the 2016 election results.
A Conversation of Love, Hope, and Compassion
I woke up this morning to my four-year old son asking me, “Who won mama?” As I spoke the words “Donald Trump” I saw his face drop and I asked him how he felt about the results. He simply asked, “Momma how can he win if he is so unkind?”
I knew in that moment the power of where we are at as a country and world. As an early childhood educator who is committed to teaching children the power of love, forgiveness, accountability, mindfulness, and kindness, I knew that this decision would create confusion and fear for the little people who are wise enough to know that kindness should win.
I responded to my son saying, “Some decisions are out of our control—no matter how hard we work—and now it is our job to react with love and kindness. It is our job to share compassion and hope, even when we don’t fully understand.”
Later that morning, on the way to school, I stopped at the coffee shop. My son sat quietly drinking his milk while waiting for the coffee to be prepared. The mood in the shop was heavy and individuals walked in and out with somber and confused faces. As they exited the shop, hot drinks of joy in their hand, my son blessed them wishing them a good day. Faces lit up and I realized the power of a child could transform one’s sadness into joy with a simple act of kindness. One gentleman was so moved he went out to his car and brought back a dollar bill for my son and thanked him for his politeness. The man’s spirit had shifted from gloom to a sense of hope.
My son was my teacher in that moment, reflecting back to me my words from earlier as he practiced kindness. He helped me to claim the peace within myself; to act with love, despite the sadness present within my body.
I arrived at Roots & Fruits Preschool to children who were all holding many emotions: joy, anger, excitement, sadness, confusion, hate, and love. I knew this morning needed to be transformed into an opportunity of growth, hope, and practice in radical love. I knew a conversation needed to happen with the children. My fellow teachers were already setting a tone of calm hope by transforming the children’s fear and anxiety into thoughts about how we can take kind and loving action through dialogue, connection, and peaceful change. Children were playing and talking to teachers about their feelings and thoughts as they processed the election results.
The teachers, our 26 children from many cultural backgrounds, and I began our morning Circle Gathering with the daily rituals of Our Kindness Pledge and Peace Promise, then I opened up the conversation in a more direct way. I asked, “Who knows who won the election last night?” Many hands rose and all answered, “Donald Trump.” I validated and said, “Yes, he has won and will now be our next leader of the United States.”
I then asked them to take a moment and share how they feel about Donald Trump becoming our president and why. The children passed around our talking stick (a Native American tool for conducting dialogue in circles) and shared their feelings. Below are some of their responses:
4-year-old: “My big sister felt sad. I feel sad.”
4-year-old: “Donald Trump is a bully.” I replied, “What is a bully?” The child stated, “Someone who punches.” I replied, “So I hear you saying that a bully is someone who is making a bad choice? “ The child stated, “Yes and I feel sad.”
3-year-old: “I feel sad.”
3-year-old: “Not sure.”
4-year-old: “Sad. Upset. But I don’t know why.”
4-year-old: “I feel sad because Donald Trump hasn’t been nice and others are going to follow him and be unkind.”
5-year-old: “Donald Trump isn’t nice.”
5-year-old: “Donald Trump is going to make a wall somewhere.”
4-year-old: “Donald Trump won’t make good choices.”
4-year-old: “Donald Trump is telling them to build a wall. If our best friends build a wall, they won’t let us into their houses.”
4-year-old: “If people aren’t nice to Donald Trump, he will run away. The butterflies will come to save the people, but if Donald Trump runs away, a wall will keep him safe.”
5-year-old: “I feel angry. My mom and dad are sad. They said he is going to undo all of Obama’s things. I don’t want him to undo Obama.”
After each child expressed their feelings, I shared:
“Your feelings are real and important. Donald Trump has not shown kindness and has made bad choices. Yet, sometimes, even people who make bad choices can still become leaders. Some people believe he will be a good leader and chose him.”
I asked what have we learned about people, all of us, who make bad choices – what does their Bucket look like? (From the Book – Have You Filled a Bucket Today? by Carol McCloud)
They said, “It’s empty.”
“Yes,” I said, “when our buckets are empty we dump out others’ buckets. What can we do to help fill each other’s buckets?”
“We can send them love and teach them to be kind,” the children said.
I replied, “Yes, as peace leaders we support each other and give each other love. We, as your teachers are here to support you, love you, and protect you no matter who is leading. When you are feeling scared, angry, or sad you can come and get a hug and know we have your backs! Always!”
I explained how the job of the president is to listen to the people they lead. It is their job to hear our messages and now it is our job, as peace leaders here at this peace school, to teach Trump how to be a peaceful, kind leader. I asked the children to close their eyes, put their thinking caps on, and think of one message they would like to give to Donald Trump before he steps into this job.
“What do you want to say to him? I will write your messages up and mail them to him to read. This is how we can help our leader. You each have that power, as a little peace ambassador, to transform meanness into kindness, transform hate into love.”
Here are their responses and messages to Donald Trump:
5-year-old: “We need you to be more kind.”
4-year-old: “Please sing the I Care Bear song.” (Lyrics: We listen to each other, we use our hands to help, we care for the feelings of others and ourselves. We use kind messages when we talk to all our friends. And, if we make bad choices, we turn it around, before the day ends.)
3-year-old: “Send him love.”
3-year-old: “Send sparkling love.”
4-year-old: “Be kind and give love.”
5-year-old: “Love other people. Don’t undo Obama’s things.”
3-year-old: “I love everyone.”
4-year-old: “Peace, love. Show peace and love.”
3-year-old: “I just want to love him.”
4-year-old: “Don’t say bad words please.”
4-year-old: “I think he doesn’t brush his teeth in the morning. That he can give different
messages. Let’s not build a wall.”
3-year-old: “Be helpful.”
3-year-old: “Peace and send Elsa (from the movie Frozen) Love.”
3-year-old: “It makes me mad. It makes me happy if he brushes his teeth in the morning.”
4-year-old: “You’re being bad, so please turn it around.”
4-year-old: “Please read books with his mommy and daddy. Read ladies’ books.”
4-year-old: “Bring people together.”
4-year-old: “If he’s sad we can send him love.”
4-year-old: “Donald Trump needs to be nice and protect people around the world.”
4-year-old: “Just to turn it around. Let’s put rainbows around him.”
5-year-old: “You have to be nice.”
5-year-old: “Please turn it around.”
4-year-old: “Rainbows make you feel good when they are on your body.”
3-year-old: “Please say sorry for being mad.”
Let our children’s words be your teachers in this challenging time of divisiveness and recognize our opportunity to join forces and become one community.
Smiles and peace,
Founder & Director, One Tree Center