Start with a circle……
For some of us, 26/11 in Mumbai changed our lives forever. We lived through some of the worst times of our lives, and yet we met with people who were able to develop compassion and empathy, and although they had experienced the horror of the terror, they are still able to keep the peace and spread a message of love through their lives.
One such person whom I met years ago, was Linda Ragsdale, and her story had moved me then. Why did I reconnect this to the classroom this morning?
I enjoy telling stories to young children in our school, and today, the five year olds welcomed me into their classroom. I shared the story by Julia Donaldson, of Zog, a dragon, who was not very successful in school, but went on to be part of a team of flying doctors. The children loved hearing about the mythical character of the dragon, and had many observations to share.
The dragon in the story reminded me of another story, of an artist named Linda Ragsdale, who has spent the last nine years promoting the idea of peace across the world. She was in one of the restaurants in Trident, and just as the attack was about to take place, she was with a young girl, teaching her how to draw a dragon. Bullets went across their table, and the little girl and her father did not live, but Linda who was injured, took a year to recover from her physical injuries. However, she went beyond mere recovery, she has kept the memory of her two friends alive through her project called the Peace Dragon.
How would one convey the concept of peace to a five-year-old? Would this even be a relevant idea, and would such a young child relate to this? Do we want to recount ghastly images to a young child, or would we teach the idea of empathy through the concept of hope, and a vision for a better world? Indeed, children respond to positive ideas much more graciously, and are full of thoughts and ideas for a better tomorrow.
I never imagined that such young hands would be able to follow instructions of step by step drawings and create dragon figures, based on Linda’s instructions. But they did..not only that, they described how the peace dragon of their imagination would help create a better world by helping children, sick people, giving them toys, saving them from fire, spreading warmth and kindness, as well as laughter and joy. Their minds are not limited, and they can imagine dragons sweeping into the sea to rescue people in distress.
I shared a similar lesson with grades 9 and 10 – they of course were able to relate to the real facts, and developed an instant connection, writing to Linda. Many of them were awestruck, that a person could be so resilient and return to a country where they had faced a personal tragedy. We have decided to spread awareness in the school, and Grades 3 and 4 also followed Linda’s story and wrote their ideas about peace, all of which culminated in a bulletin board display.
Linda has started a movement after a tragedy, and it is her resilience and determination to make the world a better place that inspires us to continue to spread the message. For those of us who are with children in schools, we know that they are the ones who can make a difference to the word of tomorrow. Many life’s lessons can be learned, as we start with a circle, however, the circle of life is infinite and we make our connections across the oceans.
(For more about Linda, visit peacedragon.org)