Building a Culture of Kindness

This reflection from a day at the All in the Circle Camp was written by Erin Pratt, former program director at MNIPL.

Camp was beautiful today.  Our camp is truly diverse- interfaith and multi-cultural and this is leading to very rich and thoughtful conversations. In nature class, each group had a council to create a group agreement of how they wanted to treat each other based on the three rules of camp: Be Kind, Be Kind, Be Kind.  Bob Klanderud our dear friend and Dakota Elder led the groups in smudge ceremonies in preparation. The children listened in rapt attention and thanked the sage for helping to clear anything negative and refresh their minds. Then each person shared what kindness and respect meant to them and what they wanted their group to be like.    

In the 1-2 grade group, one camper shared wisdom from Aung San Suu Kyi – “love heals fear”.  She said that from studying Aung San Suu Kyi she learned that what makes her a hero is her acts of kindness.  The very kinds of acts of kindness that we were agreeing to-  to caring for one another, resolving conflicts with compassion, helping each other, working to include everyone, encouraging each other and looking for the positive, communicating our needs using our words- are what makes people heroes of peace.  The camper said “I think when we act with kindness we have little super heroes in our hearts.”  

When the talking piece came to another he said- “These are things the world needs to learn.  Right now black people are being hurt and killed by the police just because of their skin color.  Black Lives matter is working to change it.”  Another camper said- “My mom has been to every one of their protests”, another “It is not kind to hurt people because of their skin color.” Yes said another “we are all special and important and what counts is our hearts and how we treat others.”  We reflected that the agreement we were making was what the world needed and what our larger communities need. And so our efforts to treat each other with kindness means that we are doing what the world needs most. We had something to learn and would then have something to teach our communities.

In another group, a camper said, “Can we also say how we want the world to treat each other?”  I said “Sure”.  We kept finding that what we wanted from each other is what we wanted in the world: To Listen with our hearts, to accept each other even when we make mistakes, to notice when someone was hurt or lonely and ask if they could help, to assume that everyone is doing their best instead of rushing to anger, to take care of nature and understand that nature is helping us.  

We celebrated our agreement with cheers and bird calls and made bird prayer flags to send our kind intentions on the wind.