By Laura Seil Ruszczyk
During the time I worked as an elementary school counselor, I spent 12 30-minute blocks yearly teaching our kindergarteners the I Care Rules. These five rules were reinforced through the children’s primary school years and were an easy reference to promote responsible behavior toward self and others. I wonder whether the I Care Rules would be helpful for our country, as the climate at times seems less than caring.
The rules, developed by the Peace Foundation, are simple but succinct. They are: we listen to each other; hands are for helping not for hurting; we care about each other’s feelings; we use caring language, and we are responsible for what we say and do. I explained the fifth rule to the children as the magic guideline because when we are responsible for what we say and do we are indeed following the previous four principles and will typically have a successful day. Making responsible choices promotes kindness and peace throughout the school, family and community.
The 5- and 6-year-olds I taught loved to learn and practice the lessons. I imagine the hand puppet, named the I Care Cat, was helpful in their learning. They also seemed to enjoy stories, songs and activities that reinforced the lessons.
About 10 years after teaching a particular group of kindergarteners, our daughter transferred to the high school in which these students became her classmates. I was surprised to learn several of these kids asked if I was her mom. After they discovered this fact the kids reminisced about the I Care Cat and rules. I hope this is an indicator that they indeed are making positive choices in their lives.
I realize the I Care Rules may appear simplistic to adults. Human instincts and impulses, however, may hinder us from making good choices and we benefit from reminders to do what is correct. The I Care Rules promote kindness in all of us.
Read a newspaper or turn on a television news show and you will view people in the political, public and private sectors making horrendous choices and spouting uncaring language.
Have we lost sight of the fact we are all human beings? Are we too selfish to care for our neighbors? If we strive to love rather than hate, to be kind rather than nasty, won’t this improve our lives and the lives of those people in which we have contact? When we subscribe to the golden rule we will treat each other as we would like to be treated and spread peace in a world that desperately needs peace.
Of course we all meet people whose company we do not enjoy. When this occurs, I challenge myself to assert kindness. Perhaps the person has physical ailments that produce anger and sadness, is dealing with grief or is discouraged by a family situation.
We never really know what other people are dealing with without talking with them and listening. And listening, as I taught the kindergarteners, is an involved process in which we are active participants. We use our mind to think about what is being said, eyes to look at the person, ears to hear, mouth to remain shut, hands to keep still and away from items that will distract us, and heart to experience feelings related to what the person expresses. And even if we are proficient listeners, people will not always share what is in their heart and mind.
Kindness, according the Cambridge English Dictionary, is the quality of being generous, helpful and caring about other people; friendly, generous and considerate.
Perhaps we have to take a lesson from the children practicing the I Care Rules and be kinder to one another. After all, life is easier when we practice kindness.