When I was in high school, Robert Coles came to speak. Robert Coles is the child psychologist who worked with six-year-old Ruby Bridges in 1960, the year that she, by herself, integrated William Frantz Elementary School in New Orleans. The details of Ruby Bridges’ story are extraordinary.
Coles talked to a packed gym – standing room only. He spoke with a singular and memorable refrain:
Be kind, be kind, be kind.
Afterwards, in a more intimate discussion, a teacher challenged him. Life’s rough, he said. We’re trying to prepare these kids for that. You aren’t actually suggesting we be kind all the time? They parried; the teacher was angry and would not back down. The conversation, and the room, was heated and uncomfortable.
I searched “kindness” and this is what I found.
The word kindness in the congressional record is used for recognition, remembrance, protocol, and prayer. Recognition of the kindness of individual people, communities, and events. Remembrance of kindness in a eulogy. Protocol appears as “I thank the Senator for his kindness in yielding me the floor.” Prayer is kindness appearing in the daily opening prayer.
Rarer uses of kindness include the political use of “the kindness of strangers.” Representatives generally feel that the U.S. has become, or is at risk of becoming, overly dependent on the kindness of strangers. Kindness is also sometimes used to describe people’s actions during natural disasters or terrorist attacks.
Congressional Kindness is a serendipity tool, and an experiment in small data, in showing the countability of kindness in the congressional record.
The lessons that teachers, researchers, supervisors–in fact any of us here in this House or elsewhere–can draw from David Waltz are not primarily about computer science and artificial intelligence. They are that the greatest creativity comes from inspiring others; the greatest technique of team-building is listening; the greatest innovation comes from devoting time to others’ ideas; and the greatest wisdom is kindness.
What was Robert Coles’ final answer to my questioning teacher?
Of course, kindness is hard. Kindness is complicated. But yes, it can be done.