Beauty, Kindness and Hope - From the Mouths (and Hearts) of Boys
No matter your political beliefs or where you live, I think we as Americans and humans can all agree that the last few months and years have been pretty rough. Beauty, kindness and hope have not seemed to be abundant in our world. However, given that the focus of my work the past 30+ years has been violence prevention, I continue to seek out rays of light, however hidden they may be; perhaps in part to convince myself that we just might make it through these dark days, in spite of ourselves.
I recently had the privilege to work with a group of incredibly wise people, who have in fact (re-) instilled in me the possibility that we humans do carry within us the sparks of beauty, kindness and hope.
When these wise souls were asked what they would commit to doing together to assure they could do their best work and be their best selves for and with each other, regardless of how stressful and trying the circumstance, here is how they responded:
And my personal favorite,
Think about the place you work, and the people you work with; think about your family and friends; think about how we adults, especially people in various positions of leadership, have been behaving lately. How many of us experience and practice this degree of clarity, compassion and wisdom in our lives and relationships?
The guiding principles listed above are direct quotes from the Minnesota Boychoir Cantar Ensemble, written by boys between the ages of 6-8 years old earlier this Fall.
I have had the privilege of working with the staff and members of the Minnesota Boychoir the past two years. Given the prevalence of bullying in our culture, their Board and parents wisely direct that each year all members of the four Boychoir Ensembles, roughly 150 boys ranging in age from 6-18 years old, participate in annual bullying prevention workshops.
Given the fact that the boys rarely, if ever, have exhibited bullying behaviors toward one another, for the past two years we have decided together that rather than focusing on the problem of bullying, we would use an "Appreciative Inquiry" approach with the boys, focusing on what we all seek: in this case, respect and kindness.
Our conversations have been wide ranging and highly enjoyable (certainly for me, I hope so for the boys). We have discussed our brains, amygdalas and limbic resonance; distress and eustress (how stress can actually result in us doing our best); how music can connect and convey the most beautiful parts of humanity; and how we can choose to exhibit respect and empathy in our time as members of the choir, and throughout our lives as members of the human race.
Each time I leave one of these conversations, I am stunned. Stunned by the beauty of the music these boys create together. Stunned by the kindness exhibited by Boychoir staff toward the boys, and by the boys to each other. Stunned by the hope that the music and community created by the Boychoir demonstrate that we humans are truly capable of such beauty and kindness.
Each of the four Ensembles shared wisdom and insight this year when they were asked what they would commit to doing together, to assure they could do their best work and be their best selves. Here are a few selections from the "elders" of the Boychoir, boys ranging from 9-18 years old:
When I think about how we adults struggle in our interactions with one another at work and home and life, I believe we all have a great deal to learn from the mouths and hearts of these boys. I invite you to listen to the beauty of their music, and think about the beauty and wisdom of their words: visit boychoir.org/listen/
I believe that the environment created by the staff and families of The Minnesota Boychoir make much of the boys' wisdom possible, starting with their stated Purpose: "We develop responsible, caring, creative young people capable of becoming productive citizens with a passion for community service." I can tell you from seeing and hearing their work in action, that the Boychoir certainly lives up to this beautiful Purpose statement. The rest of it comes from the hearts and souls of the boys.
These boys have much to teach our world. Now, if we will only listen to them.
--Donald Gault, November, 2018