Friday, August 25, 2006

Love, Compassion & Respect for Life

Uncle Phil told me the following story on the phone last week:
[Next door to him lives a boy of kindergarten age. One day he found him squatting in the tiny yard of the apartment building, working earnestly at something with a trowel in hand. After a while, he stood up and then reverently chanted something with small palms joined together. When asked what he was doing, he said "My pet hamster died, so I prayed he would be born a human being in his next life.”]

The little boy was conducting a funeral ceremony for his "little friend." He said it had been his own idea and not a suggestion from his mother.I could not suppress a smile when I heard this story. I think the boy's action has profound significance. I regard his spontaneous emotion as a reflection of a vivid and lively awareness of life.

I believe children act as their natural emotions dictate. Through such actions, I am sure, they nurture a sense of familiarity with nature and friendship with other children, thereby enriching their hearts. When people develop respect for life in childhood, they most unlikely, when they grow up, to harm things. And they will be even less likely to commit suicide or jeopardize the lives of others. The story impressed me all the more because I have recently heard of many such tragedies; a series of sad and painful incidents which took place within the world of children; violence, suicide, murders...

The light of peace begins to shine where adults regard children as precious; and they instill important universal values such as non-violence, compassion and respect for life in them. This must be the fundamental basis and origin of peace.

No matter what happens, suicide, one would think, would be the farthest thing from children's minds. That children, who are synonym for hope, should easily choose death must be viewed seriously as an extraordinary state of affairs.

Japanese children and teenagers seem as fragile and easily broken as glass. In order to change that brittleness into tenacity and flexibility, like that of the bamboo, I think the time has come when we must consider, on a fundamental level the educational influence the family, school and society at large have on children.

I think no one who is a parent or a teacher is indifferent to the growth and development of children. However, in what direction children's growth should be guided is quite another matter. When children are raised without strong messages of love, compassion and respect for life; then they may be much more likely to take their own lives when frustrated. They can never develop the resilience of the bamboo, which patiently perseveres under the weight of fallen snow and eventually spring back again, shooting up in the warm spring sunshine.

I sincerely pray that parents and teachers will live every single day filled with a wealth of vitality so that they can offer a warm human touch like the sun, not only to their own children and students but also to other children, students and adults with whom they encounter as well.

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