I recently read a reflection by a college student who attends a Catholic college. He writes pointedly that the students are not living the ideals of the Catholic vision to care for others. His indictment is quite stinging, namely, that students care only for themselves.
Then I read the latest article from the Virtus on-line training program. It offers positive ways to counteract bullying by teaching and encouraging kindness. Our young people are filled with much goodness and are capable of great kindness. But the culture of individualism, the prevalence of alcohol, and instant gratification can draw our young people into a web of selfishness and blindness to the needs of others. These also lead to the prevalence of bullying.
The Virtus article by Samerr Hinduja, Ph. D. is entitled: Make Kindness Go Viral. He speaks about the need to be positive in counteracting bullying. What he says in the context of bullying applies to the concerns raised by the college student who decries the selfish tendencies of his peers. A negative approach leaves young people feeling they are being managed and controlled. A positive approach empowers them to do acts of kindness.
He offers several ways in which we can encourage young people to replace cruelty with compassion. Here are two:
Set Up a Social Media Compliments Page:
This idea was made famous by Kevin Curwick’s “OsseoNiceThings” Twitter feed and Jeremiah Anthony’s “West High Bros” Facebook compliments page. Now dozens of social media accounts have been set up by teens for the purpose of encouraging and praising their peers.
Participate in Random Acts of Kindness:
More and more individuals in all walks of life are realizing that it is is actually really cool to be kind. It is even cooler when kindness is dished out anonymously and unexpectedly. Encourage your students or children to engage in random acts of kindness in their school or broader community. Search online for examples of young people being kind to others to give them inspiration. Dozens of videos and even a Twitter hashtag (#RandomActofKindness) can direct you to ideas as well.
Our encouragement, our presence, and our love as adults will go a long way empowering our young people to be compassionate and caring for others. Our example will go even further.
Rev. James M. McNamara