Our Children: Seeds of Peace #TeachMeTuesday

By Ellen Kelner

“By growing up together, they are coming to know each other intimately, embracing each other’s stories and consequently not fearing that which is different from their own experiences.”

A Muslim, Christian and Jew sit in a sandbox—sounds like the beginning of an offbeat joke. Fortunately this is no joke, but the beautiful reality of many children currently growing up in multicultural Toronto. The punch line, ironically, is that while the kids may possibly be fighting, as their ancestors have for centuries, this conflict focuses on who gets the sparkly shovel or the bigger dump truck. These children are blissfully unaware of the legacies they have inherited; they are simply three friends playing in a sandbox. And therein lies our collective hope for a more peaceful and tolerant world.

In the wake of the Paris attacks, the media has focused on the ever-increasing divide in French society and the marginalization of its Muslim and Jewish citizens. Although the news is daunting, it has made me grateful for the richly diverse community in Toronto; one of the most multicultural cities in the world where half of the population was born outside of Canada.

My children go to our local elementary school where every culture is celebrated. They have participated in winter concerts where kids sing joyfully about reindeers, Kwanzaa and dreidels. They are aware of their Muslim peers who fast from dawn until sunset during Ramadan, and of the struggles of their African Canadian classmates, whose families’ stories are shared during Black History month. My children’s peers are well versed in the miracle of Hanukkah and the taste of deep fried potato pancakes smothered with applesauce due to my annual latke-making appearance.

And that is just the tip of the iceberg. These same children come from families with two moms or two dads, single-parent families or recent-immigrant grandparents who don’t speak a word of English, adopted kids or families from mixed racial backgrounds. Today’s children understand the word ‘family’ in a far broader sense than we, their parents, ever did. There is no judgement for them and this is just the world as they know it.

These children fill me with hope. I am awed when I walk through the hallways of my local public school and am greeted by “It’s okay to be gay” signs, when I hear children passionately discussing the importance of transgendered bathrooms, when I see their teachers proudly bringing their same-sex partners to school events. These pioneers possess the open-mindedness to realize Martin Luther King’s dream where people are not judged by the colour of their skin (or might I amend, their religious affiliation or sexual orientation) but by the content of their character.

These sandbox dwellers are the seeds for a better future. By growing up together, they are coming to know each other intimately, embracing each other’s stories and consequently not fearing that which is different from their own experiences. They are actively breaking down the stereotypes that are polarizing the world around them. As we continue to be bombarded by daily news report of increasing hostility among racial groups, let us look to our children as beacons of hope for a more tolerant tomorrow.

 

Ellen Kelner photo

ELLEN KELNER holds a Master’s Degree in Education and is a resource and math specialist at a private school downtown Toronto. She is a long time resident of the West Village Community. ellenkelner@live.com

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