There is something natural and inspiring about the way young children handle diversity before they are corrupted by media and the heartaches of life. I think there is much we can learn from them about acceptance.
I have been heavily involved in diversity education for years, helping teachers, parents and students learn to accept the differences among people rather than being afraid of those who are different from them. I write programs, run activities and deliver presentations to help them recognize that even behind a person who seems very different there is a human being just like them.
Last month, I saw with my own eyes how this lesson could be taught without lesson plans, without intention, just by letting circumstances unfold and allowing kids to observe.
It was Sunday and our Diversity Tent at the Queensland Multicultural Festival was full of children doing arts and crafts. My daughter Eden (22) came to help me set up early in the morning. When the volunteer who promised to come and help did not show up, my 10-year-old daughter Noff also spent the day with us, helping kids her age and younger draw and paint. We wrote the kids’ names in different languages and they were all very happy and excited to see their names written differently.
About half way through the day, a 12-year-old boy came and sat at one of the tables. A gorgeous little girl, who was about 4 years old, wandered over to him and climbed onto one of the seats. The little girl was teeny tiny and did not have any hair. She had a tube taped to her nose with a band-aid. She wrote her name, Joelle, on one of the bookmarks. She was beautiful and it was obvious she was sick and had come straight from hospital for a day of fun at the festival. Everyone looked at her with sadness, feeling a bit uncomfortable. Her brother, who sat next to her, looked up from his coloring and said, “I’m Ashton and this is my sister. She has cancer”.
Read more about my lesson in acceptance…