Friday, November 18, 2016

"Convivencia": the art of living together!

A message from your friends at the Connecticut Public Affairs Network...

Hello to all of our Kindness is Kool readers out there!  Elena, along with all of YOU, have been working very hard during the past year to come up with some great ways to show kindness to your friends, classmates, family, and even people you’ve never met!  Congratulations on demonstrating convivencia!  (Say what?!)

If you’ve never heard the word convivencia before, it is: “the art of living together”.  And you’ve been practicing the art of living together every time you act with kindness.

Most of the time we think of “art” as the drawings we create for fun in our free-time, or the paintings and sculptures we see in a museum.  But if you look up the word “art” in the dictionary, this is what it says: “something that is created with imagination and skill and that is beautiful or that expresses important ideas or feelings”.

Isn’t that what “kindness” is, after all?  If you’ve been helping Elena come up with ways to be kind, if you’ve recently treated someone kindly, you’ve used your imagination and skill to create something beautiful (good feelings).  And you’ve expressed important ideas (respect, selflessness, compassion) through your kind actions.  Maybe you’ve seen someone who looks sad -- and you thought about ways to cheer them up.  Maybe you’ve seen someone having a bad day -- and you thought of a way to help them out.  Maybe your kind action was the only good thing that happened to that person that day!  And it showed them that someone noticed them and cared about them enough to make them feel important.

We can use our imaginations to create something beautiful and express important ideas every day.  And the great thing about convivencia is that when you show others how it works, they learn that skill from you.  You become a model for “the art of living together” and your acts of kindness get paid forward over and over again as more people start doing what they see you do!

Students in the Colombian Andes learning convivencia at school! (Steve Drummond/NPR)

Convivencia helps make it easier for us to get things done when we work in groups, whether it’s working on a class project, cleaning up after ourselves at home or playing a team sport.  Doing our fair share of a class project shows that we care about the others in our group by pulling our own weight and not leaving all the work for everyone else to do.  At home, it makes it a lot easier on the rest of our household if we clean up the kitchen once we’ve had our after-school snack or hang up our towel in the bathroom instead of leaving it on the floor for someone else to pick up.  And team sports are called “team” sports because each player’s job is to help his or her teammates win the game, and often that means kindly sharing the ball to allow fellow players a chance to score!

"The art of living together” is such an important idea in learning that it is now used in some schools as a way to educate students throughout their school day.  This way of learning, convivencia, started in Escuela Nueva in Columbia, South America.  You can learn all about it in the NPR podcast HERE and below.  But if you have been thinking of ways to be kind and are practicing kindness each and every day, you are already becoming skilled in the “art of living together” and are ready to show others how convivencia works!