I haven’t been able to sleep well lately. This year has been one for the history books…milestone year on the calendar…2020 had such a nice ring to it. But then came a global pandemic. Then murder hornets. Now race riots are taking over the country. It’s just been one thing after another and I find myself laying in bed some nights thinking about the world my kids are growing up in.

I’m betting I’m not alone.

Moms Solve Problems

As moms, we want to fix things. You fell off your bike? Let’s get it cleaned up. Failed your test? We’ll help you prep for the makeup exam. Trouble with friends? We can talk through resolution options together. We solve problems all day long. It’s what we do.

So it’s natural that we want to find a way to fix what’s going on in America. There has to be a way that can we find a resolution to this heightened state of tension in our communities, our governments, our schools, our workplaces…right?

Racial tensions are not a new problem, nor are they an American problem. Fighting between different groups of people is as old as human beings. We are sinful, broken people and therefore will make sinful, messed up decisions time and time again. However, we should be able to learn from these bad choices and make improvements as generations pass. Especially in America, where our country was founded on certain ideals, principles, concepts, and was intended to be a place to live and flourish, we should be able to improve our society from within.

As mothers, I believe that we hold a unique opportunity to change culture from within because we are nurturing and growing future generations each and every day.

Respect + Dignity

Every problem that crops up has a lack of respect and/or dignity at its core. There is either a lack of it for others, a lack of it for one’s self, or both. Let’s take racial tension, for example. If police officers don’t have respect and dignity for the citizens they’re charged to protect, then the citizens don’t have it for the police. The result is hostility, contempt, and eventually the riots we have been seeing recently.

Take a look at our elected officials at both the state and national levels. Many of them clearly don’t have respect for the other elected officials. You can see it in the way they speak and write. When it comes time to work together or find common ground, there’s nothing to work with because of a lack of respect.

This doesn’t just happen in government or large-scale issues. Take your kid’s sports team. If the coach doesn’t have respect for the kids they’re coaching and treat them with dignity, then your son or daughter is going to have an awful season and potentially bring home some emotional scars. Or maybe there is a kid on the team who doesn’t give a flip about anyone else. They’re out for their score, their basket, their award, regardless of anyone else on the team.

This is everywhere and permeates all things. Look at traffic. Anyone else notice a major lack of respect happening when it’s rush hour? Some car flying past you does not care who he hits or what happens because their time is more important than yours. Another person runs the red light because they just can’t stand to wait in line with everyone else. That’s a lack of respect for others showing its face.

Change Starts With Us

Not to give moms too big of a head, here, but I truly believe that if there is going to be any lasting, impactful change in our country, it’s not going to come from policy makers. You can’t FORCE people to like one another. You can’t MAKE people have respect for those who have a different point of view. Sure, you can write a law against behavior and actions, but what’s inside a person’s heart is up to them. To effectively work through the issues with racial tensions in America, we need to get to the heart. We need to teach people to have respect and dignity for those around them, especially people who are different.

This change in the heart starts with us. At home. With our kids. It will take at least a couple generations to make real change. Expecting that one law or policy change can accomplish this monumental task is a fairy tale.

Alright, Mama, time to look inside yourself. How do you teach your children to treat others? I’m not just talking about  how they treat your social circle or when you’re having people over. Not just with their siblings or friends. How do you show your kids to treat people who disagree with you and who are different than you?

Take a look at your behavior and the subtle things you do. When an actor or actress comes on tv, do you make comments about them that are negative based on any of their characteristics? When you see a magazine in the grocery store, do you say anything about the headlines or the person on the cover? Are the things you say coming across in a positive way that demonstrate you respect them? Or are you making comments you don’t even think about, which sends other messages to your kids. It doesn’t have to be just negative comments, saying positive things goes a long way, too. Maybe you comment on how much you enjoy their movies. Or how you have a lot of respect for how they handle themselves in their private life. Kids notice everything.

How do you speak and act when you pass a homeless person? Rich neighborhoods? A trailer park? The Food Bank in your city? Expensive car dealerships? A thrift store? Certain restaurants, even? What you say and how you act demonstrates to your kids how much – or how little – respect you have and how much dignity people who live, shop, and think differently deserve.

What do you think and say about people who disagree with you politically? Are they spoken about as “the other side” or “those people?” Divisions in our culture and country are not just based on the color of our skin. That’s just the most obvious one. The way we speak, think, and talk about people who disagree with us demonstrates to our children how to love and respect others.

We need to teach, through our actions not just our words, how to live together with those around us. We need to teach them how to make the world a better place through care, compassion, and thoughtful expression of our ideas and beliefs. Shoving – or demanding – that someone believe what you believe gets us (and the idea you believe in) nowhere. Protesting has its day, but raising up a generation of capable adults who will be able to make sustainable change, and then raise up another generation to do the same thing is far more lasting.

Bit By Bit

I’m not pointing fingers here, this message is for me, too. My kids have seeds planted in their heads about people, ideas, etc. But they’re not too old for me to write their story. We CAN change the narrative for their generation.

We have a saying in our house – “It’s okay to be different” – and we say it often. We are Christians in a place where not a lot of others are. For seven years, we’ve been a homeschooling family, which sets us apart from most others. We are pretty conservative in our thinking about government – we do our thing, you do yours – which puts us in the minority where we live. There are a lot of times when our kids bump up against other thoughts, ideas, people, backgrounds, family situations, and more. They often come home with questions, which is great. That’s an open door for me to talk with them about why we’ve chosen to be different, and how it’s okay for us to be that way, and how it’s okay for other people to choose something different. Not good vs. bad, or right vs. wrong choices – just different choices.

My hope in repeating this refrain, “It’s okay to be different,” will grow the seed planted in my kids that they don’t need to fit into anyone else’s definition of who they need to become. We are all created to be different, and then we spend a lot of time trying to be someone else. It just doesn’t make sense. But by frequently telling my kids that it’s okay, and then showing them through relationships and actions that I actually believe it, maybe they’ll grow up to be who they want to be and feel comfortable in their own skin.

When it boils down to it, all we really can control is our own actions. How will your actions today and in the days to come help make the world a better place? It starts inside the walls of your home, with your kids, and their future.

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