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  • Linda Zunda

A Season of Giving...

Much has been said about today's youth and their lack of empathy and compassion. In years past, empathy and compassion were learned naturally by opportunities offered in everyday life. Neighbors knew neighbors. Neighbors knew when neighbors needed support. Families remained connected and pitched in to help when help was necessary. What opportunities do our youth have to make a difference in the world? As late as 50 or 60 years ago, our children had the opportunity to contribute in meaningful ways to their family. The five year old on the farm gathered eggs so that his or her family could eat a healthy breakfast and have enough stamina to work the farm. Without the five year old's contribution, things wouldn't have worked. The message to the five year old? "You are an important part of our family and what you do helps all of us." That child's feelings of belonging, appropriate empowerment, and mastery were reinforced by his contribution.

Fast forward to today. What are we doing to help our children develop empathy and compassion? These are such important skills! At Ives School we strive to instill these skills. Each child at Ives School in engaged in some type of community service. Our students volunteer at local churches, they recycle and do things to help the environment, they engage with seniors who often have few people in their lives with whom to interact.

This school year, we are using the Jesse Lewis Choose Love Program. Jesse was one of the victims at Sandy Hook Elementary School who is credited by saving the lives of some of his classmates by encouraging them to run while the shooter unloaded. His mother, Scarlett Lewis, believes that had Adam Lanza had a program to teach him empathy and compassion... If he learned coping skills... If he had people in his life to let him know he was loved and cared about and could contribute to the world in meaningful ways, there may have been a different outcome to the horror that took place. Scarlett Lewis channeled her grief into something positive and affirming for our students. Courage + Gratitude + Forgiveness + Compassion = the Choose Love Formula. How can you go wrong? Check out her website at It contains a wealth of information for parents and educators. Please share your thoughts!

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