Benches #1

The most recent racist rhetoric around exclusion of Syrian refugees reminded me of a kindergarten class I visited about 15 years ago. At that time, refugees were fleeing Kosovo. The kindergarten teacher often used current events to connect her students with the world and to nurture empathy and equity-centered emotions in their hearts and minds.

Refugees from Kosovo, 1999.

Refugees from Kosovo, 1999.

She spoke with the class about the women, men, and children as young as they were running for their lives. Then the students dispersed for a free choice period, a time for their imaginations to soar without teacher intervention or direction.

Several of the students were using play dough to make objects that came to their minds. As was her practice, the teacher came around to look at the display of objects and asked the students to talk about what they had made.

Items made from play dough are not always recognizable to the adult eye, so the teacher pointed to some items that she was wondering about and inquired. The students explained that they had made benches for the people who were running from the war. 

They thought that these people, especially the little children, would need benches to sit on when they were tired from running. 

I have been wondering lately whether you have to be 5-years-old to recognize the human need for benches. I remain hopeful, however, that people of all ages can be moved to compassionate action.