My youngest son just started junior kindergarten. This morning we had a little talk:
“My darling, I have a very important job for you.”
“What is it?”
“Well, there are going to be some kids in your class who are sad or scared. I need you to be brave and help them out. Maybe you can ask them to play.”
“Or to be my friend?”
“Absolutely! Do you think you can do that?”
“I don’t know. What if I’m one of the scared ones?”
“Oh love, that’s ok. You just have to take a deep breath and keep going. Helping people is the most important job in the world.”
Then, I took a long walk in a beautiful, quiet forest, and came up with the long answer.
To my sons:
Being brave doesn’t mean you aren’t scared. Being brave means taking a great big breath and doing the things you need to do anyway, even if you’re scared.
Some days that’s all you’ll manage, and that’s OK.
But sometimes, after you do those things you need to do, you might have a little bit of that big breath, a little bit of strength, a little bit of bravery left over. If that is the case, you have the great privilege of giving it to someone else. You get to put out your hand and help another person be a little less scared, or sad, or hurt, or lonely.
You see, there’s a special kind of bravery, the very best kind, and it’s called being a hero. Now, real heroes don’t fly or wear capes or have x-ray vision. You can find real heroes everywhere. They’re called teachers, nurses, firefighters and police officers. They’re called volunteers and good neighbours. Heroes are the politicians, researchers, lawyers and writers who spend every day trying to make the world a better place. Heroes are the kids who stand up for other kids being bullied, and the kids who spend their free time raising money for charity. These are real-life heroes, all the people who use their extra strength and bravery to help others.
And do you know what the greatest part is about being a hero? Every time you help someone else, it makes you just a little bit stronger. It also means that on those days that you don’t feel like you have very much bravery, someone else might be willing to share some of theirs.
Now, you’re going to school, and you’re going to learn a lot of things. But the most important thing I want you to learn, my love, is how to be the best kind of hero you can be.
This morning, we lined up at the Kindergarten door. I kissed his cheek and squeezed his hand. He grabbed my face and kissed my cheek too. I stepped back while he stood in the line. I watched him take a deep breath, and I took one too.