Earlier this week, I got to hear a thoughtful speaker, Dr. Richard Weissbourd–Harvard Education School professor and author– talk about how to raise caring, ethical and happy children. His point was that we are so focused as parents today on our kids’ happiness, that it’s often at the expense of other people. In addition, we are focusing so much on our kids’ high achievement, that it crowds out the time or energy it takes to care about a friend or family member or a stranger in need of our help. Dr. Weissbourd described a poll in which teenagers from various schools were asked to rank how important happiness vs. high achievement vs. caring for others was. Most of the students ranked high achievement first and happiness second. Most of the rest of the students ranked happiness first and then high achievement second. Very few put caring first, because the assumption is that caring for others doesn’t get you into an Ivy League school, or a corner office on Wall Street.
I think about the famous study done at the Princeton Theological Seminary in which divinity students on the way to an exam on the Good Samaritan encountered a fake Good Samaritan scenario, in which a person had slumped over and needed their help. The question of the experiment was how many students, in a rush to get to their exam, would stop and be a good samaritan? The results were astounding. 60% didn’t bother to stop, even though they were on their way to preach about being a Good Samaritan. (http://faculty.babson.edu/krollag/org_site/soc_psych/darley_samarit.html)
Georgia O’Keefe was quoted as saying, “Nobody sees a flower really. It is so small, it takes time. We haven’t time, and to see takes time, like to have a friend takes time.” This time of year in Boston all the tulips are up and unfolding in shades of yellow and red and orange. But how many people really see them? Taking the time to really see a flower or notice someone in need is hard to do in our rushed, achievement-driven society. But it is, in fact, the key to being happy, since being present allows us to really experience our lives and to make a difference.
To find your voice and claim your world stage, it starts by noticing the flowers that are blooming and the people around you who need you. The more attentive we are to the larger world, the easier it will be to discover how our unique talents will inspire and elevate the world. This week, really look inside a tulip. You’ll be amazed at what you see.