Cultivating compassion through nature…

kids gaze at gardenAs humans on this planet, we are linked to life in glorious complexity.  Educators and parents teach about the importance of ecosystems in our world: complex communities woven together to support each other’s growth.

Watch a young child play outdoors, and you begin a journey of mindfulness and scientific inquiry about ecosystems.  Each blade of grass, each “rolly polly”, each pine cone added to the collection of natural fascinations, draws us into our own acknowledgment of our need for an interwoven web of life.  So we are both teachers and learners.

The natural world requires our tending.    Children know this instinctively what God directed us to do:  be stewards for the care of the world.  Adults who care for children are blessed to see this truth up close, and our hearts are opened in the process. Caring for nature heals the planet and we humans as well.

Once I worked in a wonderful school.  A decision to grow  quickly left some difficult challenges to the school’s ecosystem, a carefully woven web of human interaction, a well-crafted educational mission, and financial sustainability. Those in charge saw clearly the path to growth as being necessary to the mission of the school, and yet the decision to grow stressed the very reason for the school’s existence, a safe place in which to educate children.

The school culture provided an ecosystem of parent participation and a focus on helping children to learn interdependently.  As the school’s leader  I looked within the culture of the school, the tenets of the marvelous ecosystem of learning and compassion we had created, to find a path through the difficulties.

I realized that conflict is necessary as humans work together towards a goal.  It is how we mediate  conflict that matters.  We can start with our hearts or dig in to our righteousness. I chose to dig with our hearts.

As I walked the campus I saw an uncultivated piece of land, as an invitation to bring people together.  I gathered together the parents and asked them to help us create a garden for the class that was in turmoil..  As the children worked in the garden each day, side by side with adult leaders, they saw themselves as a group with a purpose instead of “newcomers” paired with those who had grown up in the school.  I was blessed to be a part of the journey.

I invite you to share your story with me so together we can weave an ecosystem of caring in the present time in our nation!  Let us be inspired to lead with our hearts.



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