Wisdom Thinkers’ story started in response to a post 9-11 arson attack. With a climate of fear stoked by the media, 4 teens got drunk, and thinking the Sikh community with their distinguishing turbans were supporters of bin Laden, decided to perform their patriotic duty and burn out the invaders. They attacked my place of worship in Palermo, New York.
Being the first such attack, it received a good deal of publicity. I responded to this hateful act with a message of forgiveness that was heard around the world uniting communities and helping to transform the lives of the young arsonists. While in prison, the young men wrote, “If only we’d known your story, if only we knew what you stood for, we never would have done this.”
And so the idea to develop a series of stories for educators and communities to honor diversity, nurture character and develop a shared narrative for peace was born. Now almost 15 years after 9-11, while much of the country is still struggling to find solutions to the divisiveness, “Stories to Light Our Way,” has been embedded into many of the districts in the county, including where the arson took place. We’ve begun to change the story!
Our goal is to provide teachers with a framework, which on one hand aligns with elementary and middle level Common Core Standards domains and modules, and yet is flexible enough that teachers can adapt it to their particular classroom settings. They can even integrate it into “extras.” The stories are short enough that they can be dropped into teachable moments, so the characters are referred to and reinforced throughout the day creating a shared narrative. The cross-cultural pieces speak to honoring diversity, a critical piece in creating a respectful and safe class climate.
With another school year just around the corner, let me share some of the ideas, which our teachers have used successfully.