We live in a unique time. Never before has the world been so small and accessible. People from distant lands can board a plane and within hours travel to the other side of the planet populated with individuals who share a different culture and value system. With the click of a few buttons, we can connect face-to-face with those living in various time zones and engage in conversations that challenge our thinking and expectations. Information is doubling at a pace that far exceeds our ability to consume it. New ideas saturate our living rooms and bookshelves as they are published and put on the air at a once inconceivable rate. If you had asked a person even 25 years ago what today would be like, I would venture to say it would have been a stretch of the imagination at best. And while these advances may generate some unique challenges, I believe that our exposure to each other, our individuality and diverse thoughts is actually a gift.
What makes a gift so special? Is it the wrapping paper covering the package with colors and patterns that pique our curiosity and insight emotions of excitement and anticipation? Is it that the gift was unexpected and an expression of someone’s care for us? There is probably an endless list of reasons why gifts feel significant to us. I would like to suggest that the reason that gifts are generally received with joy is that they represent goodness. That goodness is not wrapped up in paper or delivered with a bow. The goodness is actually felt and discovered in the unseen positive motivation that we sense from the gift giver themself. And that goodness is available to us every day.
Goodness is all around us. It is found in the new people we meet and the new ideas they The Gift of Goodness share. Goodness is easily visible if it is sought with intent. Discovered goodness breaks down stereotypes and holds space for individuals to authentically show up and be seen. Adults and children alike have goodness, and when we intentionally look for it, we can see their humanity and become a source of encouragement. Alexs Pate in The Innocent Classroom writes, “People learn better from people who they believe care about them.” What are some things we can do to effectively foster the relationship-building process in both students and each other? Pate has three suggestions:
- Believe that good exists in each of the children [and adults] we work with;
- Believe it is possible for us to discern the good in each of them; and
- Believe that responding to their good will affect their engagement level and create an environment without the weight of negative narratives, stereotypes and iconography.
Each of you… your talents and ideas, your personalities and cultures, your backgrounds and skills… no matter from where in the world you come… all of those things that make you different constitute a gift you offer to the world. When embraced in others, those same things are a gift received by each of us individually that blesses our lives. As you round the final days of this year, may you intentionally find the good you carry and seek it out in those you meet.
DR. STEVEN WURTZ
Chief Academic Officer