” I think the world is going to be saved by millions of small things.” –Pete Seeger
Pete Seeger. A name from the distant past, still as relevant today as he was protesting in the 1950’s. As I pull today’s t-shirt out of the drawer, I am comforted by his words.
I see Pete Seeger not only as the father of a movement, but also as an archetypal father: one who cares for the world and everything in it. This father-archetype is clearly etched in my soul. I married a man like Pete, someone who loves the world and everything in it, even me!
Today we are reeling from masculinity of another kind, a toxic kind that fosters hate and destruction. Pete is right. It’s the “millions of small things,” not the big terrifying things, over which we have power. Each day we can decide what small thing we will do.
Teachers, parents and other adults who are around children feel the power of small things each and every day. We are fortunate to have these beings who remind us that each action counts. Children provide us with a course in mindfulness if we let them into our hearts, souls, and attention.
In the ’50s there were icons like Pete , whose hearts were so full that they splashed their good everywhere. You might think that good is hard to find today if you focus on the news, but it’s not.
Science is leading us. “Social Emotional Education” is slowly percolating through our schools. It’s shorthand for the idea that far more important than filling kids’ brains with facts and figures, we adults must fill their hearts with compassion and heads with dreams of how they will heal the world.
SEL, the shorthand version of “social emotional learning,” evolved out of research that describes the basic functions of the brain in learning. The pre-frontal cortex “leads the band” when our brains are in equilibrium, giving us space and time to choose our actions wisely. The amygdala, a retrofitted part of the brain, alerted early humans to pay attention to the many dangers in their environment. The pre-frontal cortex does not work well when the amygdala is calling the shots.
Wise educators and other adults help children (and themselves) manage the amygdala and its functions to allow for best use of the pre-frontal cortex, the part of the brain that takes in information and makes wise choices.
Nothing could be more important to building a kind and compassionate world. Millions of actions each day, one by one.