Today I led a children's yoga class with the theme of compassion. no, we didn't talk about the school shooting - these are just 8-10 year olds and discussing that tragedy is best left to parental discretion. In fact they didn't even bring it up. What we did talk about is what compassion means to them. They danced around the idea a bit until one child said "kindness, right?" and the ball rolled from there about being respectful, caring, not thinking just of yourself, helping someone, charity, listening, etc. usually with respect to someone who had something bad happen to them. I reminded them compassion is also sharing GOOD moments with people, letting them share theirs with you, and just taking the time to notice someone else, like make new friend.
This being a group of jewish students I decided to take it one step further. With Purim holiday coming up, I brought up the name of the notorious bad guy (Haman) that hated the Jewish people and tried to advise the king for whom he worked to kill them. Basically, he had NO COMPASSION for people different from him.
When we read the story of Queen Esther in the Magillah (the story of Purim) that includes Haman, usually we make noise and "boo" when someone mentions his name. We express hatred for that man, and in some cases show cynical joy that we know he "gets it" in the end.
I asked the children "He hated the Jews and wanted them to be killed. His plan failed; if he wasn't killed, should we have wished that on him? Should we hate him so much in return that we get HIM killed? A pause in the room. One or two kids should laughing "YEEEEEEEEEEES!" and then, as they realize this was a bit of a trick question, they looked to me as if to ask why.
"What that man lacked," I said, careful not to say his name so they didn't start shouting again, "was compassion for the Jews." But we are supposed to learn from this, so in return WE shouldn't just shout hateful things when we say his name. We can use our noisemakers (groggers) to show we don't like what he did, but what if we show that we understand compassion instead?"
My older kids classes include both physical yoga but almost always a craft related to the theme (or at least revolving around self care or exploring the senses). Today, I tied it in to the upcoming Jewish holiday. We were to create two groggers: one that would be a "traditional" noisemaker (a plastic shell filled with beads that you can shake), and the other would be one to show COMPASSION ROCKS. We were to take a small river rock, paint on it a word that means compassion to us, and put that inside another plastic shell. We could then choose which grogger to use when the time came, during Purim, and hopefully long after.
After all, compassion DOES rock. When in doubt, COMPASSION IT (courtesy of www.compassionit.org).