We all watch others. Sometimes we see good actions we want to emulate, and other times we see actions that are driven by selfish behavior. This is life—and life is embedded with choices. Other than our homes, there is no place better than our schools to start understanding what those choices look like. This is why the focus on building community within our schools is critical because it is people-focused and relationship-driven. Building community is a dynamic process that creates reasons to focus beyond self while embracing respect for the presence of others. The choices we make during challenging seasons in life define our character.
AT THE SCHOOLHOUSE: LEARNING FOR LIFE
For many of us, school is where we first learn that the world does not revolve around us. It certainly was for me in elementary school decades ago. Somehow, my grandpa and grandma did not get the memo that I was not the most important person on the planet. However, I was able to learn some of these basic life traits through teachers and staff at school.
As a young student I learned that sharing was a necessity. Unselfishness became an essential element of expected good behavior. Groups were formed, and new relationships were established. Waiting one’s turn was learned (but not easily). Following instruction became necessary instead of running and jumping at will. And of course breaking in line was not acceptable. Nevertheless, as we course through life, we learn that the principle of building community is never-ending. The things we learn from childhood carries on through our adult years. Today many of us are still pondering and living out the challenge of what it truly means to let unselfishness be a guide to the choices we make.
WHAT DO WE WANT THEM TO SEE
Building community is the continual process of unpacking unselfishness. Inside this one dynamic word, “unselfishness,” are hundreds of community-building actions to apply (and even more yet to be discovered, unpacked and lived out). The everyday process of learning to be our best selves is what encapsulates community building. Personal acts of kindness we employ each day becomes our “character” displayed.
Community and character are both the beneficiaries of unselfishness—the driving force to respect, affirm and include others. They are much more than nice words. They are essential to shared life in a civilized society. They become a clarion call to personal action through intentional positive, caring responses and actions to those around you.
If this could happen globally, what a difference we’d see in our world!
However, there is no better starting place than our homes and schools to learn that individually we are not the center of the universe. Why? Because others matter. Embracing the idea that others matter is what I learned at home and was reinforced in school while growing up on the Mississippi Delta. This is what community and character still demand of me decades later within my home, where I work, play and share life with others.
Our youth can receive no greater gift than that of understanding that we share this planet together. Building community—employing those small acts of kindness on a daily basis—will in fact result in the kind of character needed to build and sustain caring productive communities around the world.
Clifton L. Taulbert is a member of Character.org’s Education Advisory Council. He is an entrepreneur and Pulitzer nominated author who consults on the Power of Community—through forums, workshops and keynote addresses—with academic institutions at all levels as well as corporate and governmental entities around the world.