Thursday, March 24, 2011

Teaching Our Children Compassion

I just heard the story of the parents at a Florida elementary school who are embroiled in a battle over procedures their children must follow for the safety of a child with a peanut allergy. To protect this child, the other children must wash their hands twice a day, rinse their mouths out after lunch, and avoid bringing any foods with peanuts to school. Seems reasonable to me.

Unfortunately, these parents are having their “healthy” children walk a picket line with signs reading “what about my rights?” Really….is this serious? These selfish parents are not only missing out on a wonderful lesson of compassion, but they are teaching their children that the only thing that matters is what happens to themselves – the rest of the world be damned.

There are so many important issues in our world today worth picketing over. If parents want to teach their children social justice, there are many productive things to fight for. Our economy is in shambles, our soldiers are fighting in many wars, school budgets are diminishing. But to teach your children to fight for a little inconvenience to save another child is hard to fathom.

I am incredulous. Where I teach, the entire school is peanut and tree nut free. Thank goodness, our parents have no problem adhering to the rules, because they are teaching their children that we all must make some sacrifices for the good of society. This could be such a wonderful lesson in compassion, teaching all of the kids how they can help someone less fortunate.

Peanut allergies are life threatening. This is a serious issue, not a matter of convenience. What if the unthinkable should happen and the child become ill because a classmate’s parent has said he doesn’t have to wash his hands?

I saw a mother interviewed who complained of the time wasted while the children wash their hands. In our non-peanut school, we take time to wash the kids’ hands every day to stave off germs in hopes of keeping the kids well through flu season. Nothing bad can come of hand washing. There is plenty of down time in a school day and doing something productive shouldn’t be a hardship.

I hope these parents soon see the error of their ways. This poor child with the peanut allergy is afraid to return to school. I don’t blame her. I can only imagine these self-serving, mean-spirited parents doing something outrageous – or worse, teaching their kids to do an awful deed to get rid of this poor child.