What better way is there to add handfuls of happiness to the world than to embrace diversity? This week in the classes what spoke about the word diversity and what it means. We discussed how Kirstenbosch, a beautiful botanical garden in Cape Town, has a diverse collection of plants – many different coloured flowers, different sized plants, different shaped leaves, different water and sunlight requirements, different smells and different textures. But all still plants.
We also discussed how people can be different – different religions, different skin colours, different hair and eye colours, different languages, different talents, different interests, different diets, different genders and more.
With the older children, I asked if any of them had had an experience of being in the minority and what that felt like. I recalled an experience from my own childhood when I went to a birthday party and was the only girl. So, my gender set me apart from the rest. The boys did not specifically exclude me but I felt isolated and was very aware of the fact that I was not “one of them”.
Some of the children also relayed stories of being in a group where they were the only one of their gender and how uncomfortable that felt. I explained to the children that being in the minority is really hard – whether it is gender, race, religion or something else. And even if the majority do not explicitly exclude those in the minority, the difference is felt. So, I suggested that if they found themselves in the majority, perhaps they could give a moment’s thought to the minority and extend a sincere hand of inclusion. It is not easy but a great start to add a handful of happiness to the world.
It was then time to bring out my chicken eggs. One white and one brown. I asked the children to note the differences. Colour was the most obvious. The eggs also differed slightly in size and one had more speckles than the other, but essentially it was their colour that told them apart. I asked the children if this meant that one egg had a brown yolk and one a white yolk. They all agreed that there was definitely no brown yolk but some thought there might be a yellow yolk from the brown egg and a white yolk from the white egg. I said I thought the white egg would have a purple yolk!
So, we cracked the eggs open to see inside. Both had yellow yolks! So, even though the eggs looked very different on the outside, they were exactly the same on the inside. Like us! We can look very different on the outside but we all have a brain, heart, lungs, skeleton, muscles, blood, etc. We are no different on the inside.
I then read the children the beautiful book “How many ways can you say hello?” by Refiloe Moahloli. A proudly South African story about how to say hello in 11 different languages. The book has beautiful illustrations and a lovely message about embracing differences. With the younger children, we also read the book “The day the crayons came home” by Drew Daywalt. A funny story about different coloured crayons and how life is much brighter and richer with all of the different colours living together.
For the creative time, I painted each child’s hand a different colour. We took the opportunity to notice how it felt – cold, squishy, ticklish, gooey. The children then shook hands with each other. Lots of laughter! And finally, they made handprints. What wonderful, colourful results. A lesson in how embracing our differences can result in something magically beautiful.
For the final meditation this week, I used the guided visualisation called “Fly Eagle Fly!” from Mindful Moments for Minis which is about an eagle who finds its wings and soars across the sky with strength and courage like the great, majestic bird that it is. It was a lovely way to end off the lesson by celebrating the individual after we had celebrated our diversity.
“No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.” ~ Nelson Mandela