Goodness and Love

Almost a month has passed since Hurricane Katrina savaged the gulf coast. Four weeks, and still it’s difficult to find the words to describe our shock and our sorrow. We mourn for the lost. We sympathize with the homeless and hurt. We worry about the missing. And we weep for the children.

Most of us witnessed Katrina’s terrible devastation from the safety of our living rooms. But in our hearts, we were at storm central in Louisiana and in Mississippi. Because we’ve been there before. We know what it means to be in the path of a deadly hurricane. And we know what it takes to pick up the pieces after the storm has finally passed.

Maybe that’s part of the reason we’re so eager to help the victims of Katrina. Call it human decency. Call it altruism. Call it southern kindness. Call it good karma. Call it Christian charity. Call it whatever you want — the outpouring of generosity and compassion has been awesome and it has been inspiring.

There’s a lot of talk about “teachable moments” in the parenting industry. Child development experts urge parents to turn everyday occurrences into meaningful conversations about values and goals and life.

Make no mistake: Katrina was, and continues to be, a teachable moment. The children in our community know what happened, and they are watching to see how we, as individuals and as a nation, respond. Along the way, they are learning important lessons about tragedy, selflessness and the healing power of helping others.

In this month’s “Ask Lucy Daniels Center” column, Dr. Don Rosenblitt and his colleagues offer suggestions to help parents who are struggling to explain Katrina, to put into perspective the destruction and devastation and to reassure anxious children.

They write about protecting children from over exposure and reassuring them with abundant physical and emotional support. They encourage parents to provide ample, age appropriate opportunities to talk. And they explain how children experience and internalize kindness in the face of hardship: “Acts of generosity, empathy and charity enable children to put goodness and love into the world to counteract the destructive forces of the tragedy.”

Putting goodness and love into the world. Now that’s a lesson we can all get behind. And, with any luck, it’s a lesson that will sustain our children through this crisis and others for the rest of their lives.