Thursday, May 23, 2013

How a Boy on a Bike Won the Nobel Prize

Desmond and the Very Mean Word

The weather is warming up, and so are tempers in the city.  Over last weekend in Chicago alone, eighteen people were shot.  It is remarkable that could happen in a single weekend, and far more remarkable that it didn't even make the national news.

Every time I open up the news, I cringe.  Violence,shootings and bombings are no longer something rare, but where today

I am weary and distressed about the daily violence, the taking of human life.  Even Jesus said, that is enough.  When one of His disciples struck off the ear of the high priest, Jesus said, "No more of this!"  And He touched his ear and healed him.

If we want things to change, we need to do something different.  It doesn't have to be that way.  There are better responses to resolving conflict than shooting people.  We just need to teach it, engrave it on our hearts, and do it. 

I was overjoyed this week to read Desmond and the Very Mean Word, a children's story based on a childhood incident from the author, Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

The short tale introduces children to a different language in the face of confrontation, not that of violence but of forgiveness. The story increases a child's moral imagination -- how different things can be.

In the story, Desmond is stirred to revenge in the midst of an on-going confrontation with a gang of boys.  The priest in the book advises young Desmond, "When you forgive someone, you free yourself from what they have said or done." Desmond had a hard choice to make.

And in that freedom, the situation changes, because we see it through different eyes. 

I have observed young children repeat the exact words they hear in stories.  I have seen kids copy behavior from what they see in movies and tv shows.  This story shows how real life can look different.

The newly-released book is not just a made-up story, ending with a nice artificially-sweetened platitude.  The actual incident changed the course of the author's life.  And as a result, for working toward equality, justice and peace in his native South Africa, Desmond was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984.

Our children need role models for good, and new ideas in how to live responsibly.  Tell your kids, "Make the headlines for goodness sake."  This story is a good place to start.  And the beginning of a great conversation with them.

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