“We shall walk together on this path of life, for all things are part of the universe and are connected with each other to form one whole unity.”--Maria Montessori
Many people these days have a hard time reading the headlines without feeling fearful or resentful. Unless it's a story about a rescued animal, rarely is there something that everyone agrees we should be universally happy about. The world seems increasingly polarized: left vs. right, past vs. future, us vs. them. Is there an answer for what ails the world?
In talking this over with a Montessori friend the other day, we both thought of one word that seems to sum it all up--forgiveness. But what does that mean, exactly? Forgiveness means many things to many people.
One of the best examples comes from the Montessori classroom. For decades, Montessorians have used the "peace rose" ceremony to help children work out their differences. There are variations, but it goes something like this:
A child who has been hurt holds out a rose to another and says, "When you say things like that to me, I feel sad. Are you willing to stop?" The other child takes the rose and says something in her own defense (in that case there is more dialogue), or she might simply say, "Of course! I want to be your friend!" And that's it. Off they go, skipping down the soccer field together as if nothing had ever happened. Forgiven and forgotten!
Why is this so easy for children and so difficult for adults?
Perhaps one reason is that we often feel "righteous indignation" when someone does something we consider wrong. At those times we believe forgiveness will condone evil! Worse, many times we respond to second hand reports and decide they must be true without ever talking face-to-face with our so-called enemy. Often judgments are made and the other side of the story never even heard, or perhaps personal bias prevents us from really "hearing." Isn't this the predominant feeling running through the news media these days? We talk about about peace; we want peace; but we never give it a chance. Isn't this lack of forgiveness in our society choking society itself?
This is why Dr. Montessori believed her method of education to be the best hope for humanity and the eventual end of all hate: "Peace is what every human being is craving for, and it can be brought about by humanity through the child." It seems only as we age do we hold onto grudges and hurt feelings. But if we instead look to little children for advice as to the proper way to live and heal the world, all things become crystal clear. That was said centuries ago, long before Montessori herself made that claim.
As we head into 2019, my sincerest hope is that the Montessori method continues not only educating more and more children of this world, but that Montessori children inspire adults to be our best selves, for all and always. There is so much goodwill latent in the hearts of all of us. I know it can guide us forward if we let it.
"Of all things, love is the most potent."--Maria Montessori