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Teacher Newsmagazine Volume 20, Number 2, October 2007

On being well: Wellness is caring about…

By Julia Johnson

So what is it you care about? If you consider this question, your response might be that you care for your job; that you are happy you are teaching. With that you begin to have thoughts of how you want to be the best you can be at what you do, so you will achieve some measure of success. Somewhere along this path you hope you will be acknowledged in some way for your efforts perhaps by colleagues or parents.

Maybe devoting your life to your work is not your central focus, but a means to an end and the thing you care about is the person you have chosen as a life-time partner; the person who knows your dreams, listens to your stories, values your opinion, provides you with love and encouragement during stressful or upsetting times; the person who knows your strengths and weaknesses, and continues to be there for you.

Those of you who are altruistic may have an unselfish concern for the welfare of others. You find yourself caring for the homeless, for those who live in poverty, for those who suffer social or political injustice. And in your caring you become an advocate; your speaking becomes the voice of dissent, the voice demanding change, the voice of hope for the less fortunate.

Perhaps your concern is for the environment and you care that the earth’s resources are being depleted, that global warming threatens the survival of the human and animal kingdom, that consumerism and global capitalism is ecologically and socially unsustainable. In your caring you attempt to "walk the talk" of your convictions by living more simply and consuming less, hoping your life’s choices will lessen your imprint on the earth.

If you are a parent perhaps what you care about is your family, your children and your dreams for them. You want them to be healthy and happy. You hope they will value learning, fulfil their aspirations, and be safe wherever they go. At no time in your caring do you envision they will harm themselves or others, and when they do you wonder where you went wrong.

The Dalai Lama has called the 20th Century "a century of violence" and in the aftermath of the VTEC shootings one is left to ponder this perspective. It is the conviction of the Dalai Lama that "The key to creating a better and more peaceful world is the development of love and compassion for others."

If we listen to the testimonials of those who have been responsible for school or workplace massacres we hear that their pain, their isolation, their perceived lack of "love and compassion" from others were some of the reasons they were driven to commit these atrocities. Definitely, the lack of love and compassion, the feeling of exclusion, would contribute to an unhealthy perspective on life. The development of love and compassion for others would definitely help bring about a better and more peaceful world. The question becomes how to create a peaceful world, how to extend love and compassion to others, and how to make this a reality.

For me, the answer is in understanding that we can’t have love and compassion for others when we do not have it for ourselves. Teaching our children from the time of their birth that the body they are given is a gift; that it is their responsibility to care for this body because it shelters their heart, mind, and soul; that this body will be their means to express their creative spirit that will maximize their potential is the key. Endowed with the responsibility of caring for and looking after their bodies, children learn they are entrusted to make choices that protect the gift they have been given and with that comes a respect and an acquired pride for the wise choices they make to stay healthy.

When children learn to make healthy lifestyle choices for themselves they create the consequence of extending that care and compassion toward others and toward the decisions they will make as adults that affect the social, economic, and political well-being of humanity and the physical well-being of the earth. Caring that begins at the individual level sets in motion a wellness journey where personal peace is found, where world peace is the destination, and where preservation of the planet and life on it, is the reward.

Julia Johnson, a retired learning resource teacher in Quesnel, is a BCTF PD wellness associate. livingjewels@shaw.ca

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