“Can you believe they’d hang a sign like that in an elementary school?!” my neighbor fumed.
I was embarrassed to admit that I had a hard time noticing what was wrong with the sign.
“Hate has no home here,” it read.
The sign hung prominently in the lobby of our neighborhood elementary school.
It seemed like an okay message to me to spread to a bunch of kids… hate is never the answer. So why not teach the kids such a valuable life lesson? What was wrong with that?
My neighbor’s tirade continued, “Why couldn’t they say, ‘Love has a home here,’ or ‘We teach love here?! Anything but hate!'”
I suddenly realized the point she was trying to make and it cut me to the core. In drafting an important life lesson, school authorities had chosen to focus on something negative. Knowingly or not, they were spreading a message centered on negativity.
In an era where negativity is so often the focus, why didn’t those school officials spin the lesson into something positive? I was as perplexed as my neighbor.
Political views aside, I’m sure one thing we can all agree on is that our world needs more positive messages.
Especially after this weekend.
The news out of Charlottesville on Saturday left us all confused and upset.
In 2017, it seems like the story of a white supremacist plowing his car into a group of human beings is something that would have happened in a bygone era.
I poured over the news all weekend trying to find some solace in why another human being could be driven to do something so hateful and senseless.
And then I saw a headline from the Washington Post. It was geared toward teaching our kids about the unfortunate news but it left me more upset than before.
Really? The first thing teachers should do is talk about hatred?!
I was suddenly just as fired up as my neighbor once was over the sign in the local elementary school.
While I give the newspaper props for encouraging adults to include kids in the conversation, there was something terribly amiss in their headline.
If we really want our kids to learn something from the weekend’s happenings, hate should not be the starting point.
Yes, we can all admit what happened in Charlottesville was an act of hate and bigotry and it’s important to talk to our kids about these things, that they exist and are very real. But if we want to teach our kids anything valuable out of this, let’s revamp the message.
Why not start with talking about love in America. And service. And the courageous men and women who are actually working hard to make our country a better place. Hate is the aftermath of what comes when people utterly fail at this.
Focusing on such negativity spreads messages of fear, pain and insecurity.
Instead, let’s inspire our children and teach them how to spread love instead. Let’s teach them that hate has no place in the world because love conquers all. Let’s teach them that God loves everyone the same and that true happiness comes by spreading that love.
Let’s teach them to look around and do good in the world; teach them to lend a helping hand to a neighbor, even if they are different; challenge stereotypes around them and foster self-esteem. A child who feels good about themselves won’t have any room left for hatred. Above all, be an example of that love you are trying to teach.
So when the school doors open in the coming days to our kids heading back to school, I hope the first thing teachers talk about is the good happening around them and that love has a home in their classrooms, despite the negativity happening around us.
Ditch the hate mantra. That lesson isn’t doing any of us any favors. Especially not our kids.
Thanks to my neighbor for helping me view things with a new perspective. Love is always more powerful than hate.
Former news reporter and Capitol Hill press guru, wife, mom, and pastry addict.