New worlds open when we turn to wonder.


The Realm of Possibility

Last Friday morning, 64 kindergartners gathered in a packed auditorium for their Promotion Ceremony, a ritual on the path toward primary school greatness. In his remarks, Principal Greg John praised the students for making it through "not the year you had hoped for but the year that life gave you." His comments brought to mind "Emma," a brilliant girl prone to outbreaks of rage, who had transferred into the class mid-year. Fear swept in as parents warned their children to stay away from "that crazy kid.” Rumors swirled about a campaign to get the child removed from the school.
Fear is powerful. It can blind and paralyze, allowing us to see only win-lose choices that often serve to create deeper divides. But children are different from grown-ups at times. For example, while the staff developed a plan to support Emma and ensure a safe classroom and parents scurried on with various agendas, children found ways to work through the challenges all on their own.
Some did what their parents told them: they ostracized Emma in all ways a five year-old can. However, a kindergartner is a pragmatic being. Many began to see that, 90% of the time, Emma was just fine. The conjectural fears of the elders did not manifest on the ground. Soon, "that crazy Emma" became "my friend Emma." And when Emma had her moments, children found help for their friend.
During graduation, each child shared what he or she learned in school. "I learned about frogs," said Zoe. "I learned about writing," said Henry. "I learned about math," said Asha. "I learned about courage," said Principal John. "And," he continued as he pointed to the students, "I learned that from you."


Principal Greg John with some of the 2015 promoted kindergartners watching their classmates be recognized.

He told the students (and their families) about how courage - living with heart - can be tool for fighting fear. By living with open hearts, they would have no desire cause harm.
Likewise,  courage to overcome fear arose last week in Phoenix, where a self-proclaimed patriot organized a protest against a local mosque. Among 250 protesters were Jason Leger and Paul Griffin, both of whom were wearing "F--- Islam" t-shirts. When Usama Shami, President of the Islamic center, invited the protesters to join his community in prayer, Messrs. Leger and Griffin accepted. They emerged as changed men.
"It was something I've never seen before. I took my shoes off. I kneeled. I saw a bunch of peaceful people," Mr. Leger said. "They made me feel welcome, you know. I just think everybody's points are getting misconstrued, saying things out of emotion, saying things they don't believe."
"I promise, the next time you see me, I won't be wearing this shirt," Mr. Griffin said. "I won't wear it again."

As Mr. Shami told The Washington Post - "A lot of them have never met a Muslim, or they haven't had interactions with Muslims. They are filled with hate and rage. So when you sit down and talk like rational people, without all these slogans, without being bigots, without bringing guns, they will find out that they're talking to another human." They promised to continue meeting and building friendship and understanding among their communities.

Fear is primal and necessary instinct we possess as humans. It also has a capacity to cloud our judgment. Even where threats are real, we can move beyond the fight|flight|freeze response.

The kindergarten class at Principal John's school offered a way forward by turning to wonder. I wonder why she yells and kicks? I wonder how I can help my friend? Inquiry, kindergarten style, allowed them to find humanity beneath fear.  They found little to be afraid of and made room for the newcomer.

These 5-year olds, along with Mesrrs. Usami, Leger and Griffin demonstrated the courage and wonder to see and act beyond our fears. The power of personally connecting with our hearts and inviting the hearts of others into our circle opens up the realm of possibility for us to peacefully co-exist in this increasingly complex world.


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You can watch the full interview the Messrs. Leger and Griffith by clicking this link. The fifteen-minute interview begins at 7:20.

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