Imagine this: In a classroom filled with tumult and chaos, there in the corner stands a little girl feeling anxious and isolated, unable to communicate as she speaks a language that others do not understand. It can be a jarring and alienating experience for a young individual thrust into the wilderness, solely responsible for her own survival.
But imagine this as well: Another kid bravely steps forward and warmly says, ‘hello.’ At first they struggle to understand each other, but after a few waves, a series of gestures and exchanges, they persist in their efforts in managing to bridge the communication gap and eventually understand one another.
A humble gesture, a modest act, and a small token of kindness become the starting point for a connection to form, as they patiently navigate through the initial language barriers and gradually unravel the mysteries of each other. This illustrates that one of the simplest ways to initiate and practice inclusivity is achieved not much through a grand act, but rather through the simple act of greeting one another.
A short ‘Hello,’ ‘Konnichiwa,’ or ‘Namaste,’ uttered with sincerity and goodwill, can serve as the catalyst for a powerful bond to blossom, one that is of high value, and one that shall last a lifetime. In that moment of exchange, barriers fade, and a sense of shared humanity emerges.
Hence, a simple "hello" in another language is a portal to a whole new world of different cultures, traditions, and people. In a multicultural classroom, the impacts that kindness bears go just beyond communication, serving as a bridge between a thousand differences, and allowing us to learn from and appreciate diversity.
We never know how far approaching each other through a simple greeting can take us. By taking the effort to learn to familiarize oneself of some basic key phrases of someone else’s language, we signify that we value their culture and are interested in getting to know them better. It is a vehicle for building bridges across nations and breaking down barriers that may exist about certain cultures.
In addition, by educating ourselves and taking an interest in each other’s identities and differences, we become more aware, more receptive, and more unprejudiced of the world around us, ultimately paving the way for us to develop a global perspective that is impartial to all. This frequently brings about an increased understanding, empathy, and compassion towards all people from unique backgrounds.
For kids, this may not mean much, but it is the start of something transformational and progressive, most particularly if such practices extend beyond the confines of the classroom setting. We can and we must do the same in the real world where bigger differences in identities and cultures exist, and where worst cases of exclusivity and alienation occur. If this act is extended to real life outside the four corners of a classroom and if we do the same whenever we see a stranger struggling to navigate the complexities of their surroundings, we have the power to create a more accepting, compassionate, and inclusive society.
This is precisely why it is crucial to start teaching children these types of behaviour at a young age. By extending one’s hand to those confronting obstacles and dealing with life’s adversities, regardless of their background or identity, we can unite around a common cause and create a sense of harmony among all of us. Whether it’s coming to someone’s aid, delivering a kind word, or simply taking the time to listen, through these acts we create a profound impact in someone’s life. Hence, let us seek to pursue the same tenderness and benevolence, and deliver what we cultivate within the classroom to the wider world among us.
Books such as "My Friends and I" by Grace Calaustro exemplify the type of media that children today should be engaging in. These books foster a sense of inquisitiveness and openness, the courage to learn from and embrace diverse perspectives, it teaches the power of communication and its essence in building relationships and understanding one another. At the same time, it also encourages participation in mutual learning and exchange, and most important of all, these types of book emphasize how small acts of kindness can make a big impact, conclusively creating a positive ripple effect in contributing to a more compassionate world and society. It is, after all, a universal act and language of kindness that can never go wrong, transcending walls and borders of distance and disparities.
by Angel Aiza Invina