“Wherever there is a human being there is an opportunity for kindness.” Seneca – Kindness
Do all people deserve kindness?
When students interact with others, they have a lot of moral decisions to make. It’s hard for them to decide exactly how to treat other people, especially strangers. They often don’t have much information to go on, and must rely on their intuitive judgements and best guesses. How they decide to act reflects deeply upon their characters.
Join Steve and Dan Fouts for an unforgettable conversation about kindness using the Teach Different 3-Step Method.
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Steve Fouts: 00:05
Hey, everybody! Steve and Dan Fouts here teaching different with Roman philosopher Seneca with a quote about kindness. This quote is going to be especially appropriate for everything that’s been going on within society and all the uncomfortableness we’ve been experiencing. Kindness is a really important theme. Here’s the quote, “Wherever there is a human being there is an opportunity for kindness.” Hopefully, we’ve all felt kindness and we’ve all been kind. We know it is a positive emotion that can provide a lot of comfort for people. Kindness becomes difficult for us when we aren’t treated the way that we know we deserve to be treated by someone. Whether someone is distrustful of us, trying to challenge us, or they’re having a bad day and they’re taking it out on us by expressing anger, it’s really in those times that it can be the most challenging to be kind. Seneca is giving us some advice here. Dan, what claim is Seneca making with this quote?
Dan Fouts: 01:39 – Claim
Well, he’s saying that whenever there is a person in front of you, there’s an opportunity to be kind. It’s almost like he’s going right to the ethical obligation we have to our fellow human beings with whom we share space. It’s not just a person there who’s a stranger, we have to think of them as part of our own world and, therefore, deserving of kindness. I’m thinking about how to push this conversation forward. Maybe ask the students to talk about a time when they’ve treated someone with kindness, even if they didn’t know him or her. We do that sometimes and now with this coronavirus outbreak it’s so hard to do. When we see people we immediately look at them with almost suspicion. It’s harder to marshal those feelings of generosity and kindness.
Steve Fouts: 02:53
Right, it’s important and it’s still an opportunity. It’s back to what I was mentioning at the beginning. Kindness is easy to have when you’re not being challenged, when you’re not suspicious, and you’re not in a panicky environment. Kindness is difficult when you have to be the one who steps out and takes that chance, but it’s still an opportunity.
Let’s push back here, because kindness is a wonderful sentiment, but there are other ways of interacting with people that might be just as important for us to do and may be good advice as well. Do you have a sense of a counterclaim to this? What’s another way of looking at this idea of being kind?
Dan Fouts: 03:51 – Counterclaim
Going against Seneca a little bit here, I think it’s reasonable that when you meet people there’s a, what’s the way to say it, kind of inappropriate suspicion you might have when you’re around them. Not that you think they’re an evil person or a bad person, but just that you’re on guard a little bit. When you meet someone there’s an opportunity to check them out. Don’t be kind without having enough information. In the days of this virus outbreak, there are different expected modes of behavior. There’s almost a different morality that we have towards others. We’re all retreating to our own isolated spaces and interacting in very impersonal ways.
Steve Fouts: 04:47 – Essential Question
Yeah, I agree with you. I’m sorry to interrupt, but think about the social distance we’re expected to have with people. In a way showing kindness may even come across as skewed now with the ways that people are expecting other people to act. Maybe it makes more sense to mind your own business and just make sure you’re aware of your own environment and that you’re not doing anything that’s going to throw anyone else off. But, of course, if Seneca we’re here today he would probably give us the advice that it doesn’t matter how far away you are from someone, whether it’s six feet, five feet, four feet, or one foot, you have an opportunity to be kind. At least consider it. It’salways thought of as an opportunity. You don’t necessarily have to be expected to do it, but it’s a good thing, and it helps everyone. But again, the challenge is when you’re not getting kindness from other people. What do you do? So, here is an essential question we can use to close the conversation and create some space for reflective thinking. Do all people deserve kindness?
For the curriculum connection, we usually take a piece of curriculum from one of the disciplines and connect to the quote to see if we can find some bridges to the curriculum that could get this conversation going and get the students interested in what it is that you’re teaching. With all the events that had been occurring within the last week, and for how long we don’t know, maybe this is an opportunity for us to speak more directly about how some of these quotes could be connected to our own lives, this new existence, and the ways we’re all trying to adapt to it. I would say kindness is something to take away from Seneca, his idea that no matter what is happening, and no matter how you feel, this is always a decision you can make on how you’re going to treat people.
Dan Fouts: 07:31
I agree with you that this can be a conversation in and of itself. I don’t think you have to connect it to something specific in your curriculum. It is a conversation worth having today.
Steve Fouts: 07:46
Yeah, I totally agree.
Well we hope you enjoyed Seneca and that you got some reflective thoughts about kindness. We hope everybody is keeping safe and we’ll be with you the whole way. We’re going to be putting out new conversations as quickly as we can. Thanks everybody, for being here. We will talk to you soon.
Dan Fouts: 08:14
Alright, take care everybody.