I’m a primary school teacher, which means that I go to school every day, spending most of my energy not explaining to kids how to do math or where the weather comes from, but trying to explain how to treat each other well.
I tell them that everyone is different in a different way and that that’s a good thing. I tell them to never ever exclude anyone from the group or from the game they are playing during the break. I tell them to put themselves in the shoes of someone they don’t like or find weird and wonder how it feels to be them and then to adjust their behavior towards that person accordingly. I tell them to never insult anyone or deal with conflicts in an aggressive manner. I tell them to listen to each other. I tell them that whatever problem we face in the small universe that is our classroom, we can only make it better by helping each other.
I tell them all those things, again and again and again, because I believe that if they become successful at treating each other well, they will be successful in life.
But then days like today happen.
When the kids see on TV that actually you can be successful in life when you act like a bully, exclude people, blame others, throw around insults, and spread nothing but fear and hate.
How am I going to justify what I’m preaching every day about being a ’good’ person? How on earth am I going to explain to them that oh so many people are in favor of someone who says the most atrocious things?
What message are they going to take away from all this?
I’m feeling very lost with these questions at the moment and helpless about all the bad things happening in this world. Terrorism. Countries wanting to see immigrants leave. All the mistrust, all the fear. Humans turning against each other because they don’t know how to deal with each other.
The only thing I can really think of right now is what I always tell my kids when they are complaining about someone or pointing out what another kid is doing wrong. I tell them to instead check if they are doing things right. And if so, to be a role model to others. Because sometimes, that’s all you can do. And sometimes, that has to be enough.
Of course I want to point at Americans and shout: “How goddamn stupid are you to let this happen?!“ I want to despair over how many people are guided by fear and willing to blame others for their misfortune, and talking about building walls to keep them out.
But that’s not going to change anything, is it?
To stay sane in this insane world, all I can do is check if I’m doing things right and if I’m living up to my own expectations of being a ’good’ person. I invite you to do the same. If you can look in the mirror and see a decent human being who respects others, no matter their skin colour, their sexual orientation, or their social status, and who genuinely tries to be kind to others, not everything is lost.
Or so I hope.