• What Do we Tell Our Children About War?

    I watched the evening news tonight and saw a nine-year-old boy and his mother fleeing Ukraine. His father was staying to defend their country. The little boy told the reporter that Putin is a monster. I looked at this little boy’s face and his mother’s tears. The terror. The fear. The uncertainty. It all seemed like too much for anyone to bear.

    I thought of my nine-year-old grandson who had just been to visit last week when the war broke out. My daughter doesn’t let him watch the news. I was glad about that. While cooking dinner, I made a comment to my daughter and son about Putin’s need for power and control. My grandson overheard and said, “Who is Putin?” I took a deep breath and thought about the next words that would come out of my mouth. I didn’t say he was a monster. What I did say is “He is the president of Russia and not very nice.” What do we tell our children about war? Do we let them know that there always has been war and it isn’t anything new? Or do we tell them the truth.

    This war is like no other war before.  Today we see the whole world on our phones.

    We also have nuclear weapons that can destroy the planet with the push of a button. This isn’t like any other war before.

    What then do we tell our children?
    We tell them that cultivating love is the answer. Nonviolent conflict resolution looks above the battleground. I thought about the little boy in the train station with his mother having to say goodbye to his father knowing they can’t let a monster take over the democracy they created. We may not feel like we have a much control over this war, but we do have control over our inner compass of love and kindness.

    I saw this quote by Amanda Gorman on Facebook today and it seemed to say it all. “To love one another just may be the fight of our lives.” I also saw a quote by former news anchor Walter Cronkite from many years ago. “War itself is, of course, a form of madness. It is hardly a civilized pursuit. It’s amazing how we spend so much time inventing devices to kill each other and so little time working on how to achieve peace.” And of course, the familiar quote by Mr. Rogers. “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”

    We have to tell our children that war is a mistake we have to correct by loving instead of hating. Helping instead of hurting. And we have to acknowledge that there will always be people who are hungry for power and control, but we don’t have to let them take our inner power away. That power is love. Agape love. Not a romanticized kind of love, but rather a deep regard for all beings.

    Martin Luther King wrote about agape love in his 1957 speech on The Power of Nonviolence. Defining it as “understanding, creative, redemptive good will for all men…an overflowing love which seeks nothing in return.”

    That’s what we tell our children about war. We tell them to let love win. Even when it feels scary and hard. Even when we feel out of control. Love never dies. No matter what.