Thursday, November 9, 2017

Not Fun and Games

My husband was playing a quick round of Clash Royale this morning. He’s a serious gamer, but his face folded into even deeper creases than usual as he tapped the screen. Then he growled, “I’m playing against someone who’s screen name is a Nazi’s name.”

I confess that I’m paraphrasing him. He said the name, along with some colorful adjectives. We both knew the name. We knew the name was intentionally chosen. I choose not to put it down in print yet again.

I’ve written before about the importance and weight our words have, in The Word Soup We’re Living In.  I also went into the concept of constructive or destructive words back in January, with Are We Cultivators or Killers. That piece, in retrospect, is child-like in the examples I shared of destructive words. I think the overall validity of its message remains true, however.

Where we let our minds linger affects us all.

All too often, we hear excuses such as, “I was just joking.” or “I didn’t do anything.”. In this world with more information at our fingertips than ever before, we also repeatedly hear “I didn’t know.” and “It wasn’t *that* bad.”. There is a real or perceived disconnect between self, one’s actions and others.

Excuses. Feigned Ignorance. Self-Preservation. Anger. Fear.

It doesn’t matter which one it is, we have to stop. It’s possible to change and imperative to do so. I’m still a firm believer in the potential good that each individual human can cultivate, despite the vast array of examples on the opposite side of the spectrum. I believe our potential altitude goes both positive or negative: for however far down someone falls, I bet there’s someone somewhere doing something that much better than was done before.

Positive messages are out there.

Organizations such as Playworks bring inclusive play and social skill development to playgrounds and schools. Restorative justice systems exist that bring victims and their offenders together for real healing and growth. Grist magazine publishes a list of 50 Fixers who are putting their skills and passions in building better ways around the world. Musicians are stepping up to improve the lives of diabetics (Nick Jonas’s BeyondType1) and children worldwide (BTS’s campaign with UNICEF).

We all can participate. Every time someone helps a neighbor or volunteers at a school- no matter how insignificant it may seem- they are exemplifying the idea of constructive living.

Constructive lives don’t have space for destructive ideas and ways.

Teachers around the world are working hard to create environments that offer opportunities for personal growth for their students. Increasingly, there are pushes for students to create products during their learning that can be offered to their world at large. Whether large scale like Design Learning's problem-solving competitions, or in more homegrown projects, I believe we need much more of this. We need to embrace this as an expectation of our youth: you try and you give. Don’t do something for grades. Do something to help and connect.

When youth connect with their communities and our communities see the talents and energy our youth can provide the whole, real change and improvement can occur. We can teach each other. We can learn from each other. Working together, we’ll have far less time and temptation to “joke” about (or, let’s face it, not joke, and emulate) such horrifying people and times as was exemplified by the Nazis and the other groups who seek to divide and belittle the “other” to this day.

The more purpose we feel, the more optimistic we feel. With optimism, dark times & people will lose their appeal and they will go back to what they should be: painfully acquired lessons on what NOT to do and be.

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