Teaching kindness to a new generation
By Dr. Robin Ganzert
The image of a kindly old grandmother and grandfather serving up cookies and gentle wisdom may seem like some iconic Norman Rockwell scene from the past. (Today’s grandparents are more likely to take their grandchildren waterskiing or parasailing in between mentoring at their offices.) But teaching grandkids the wisdom of being gentle and kindly is as important today as ever.
Imparting a sense of humanity is arguably one of the greatest gifts we can give our grandchildren, and having seen our fair share of harsh reality, injustice, and outright cruelty, it is something we are uniquely equipped to deliver. After a lifetime of living, we’re all too familiar with man’s inhumanity to man — much less his inhumanity to animals. More than a million reports of child abuse are filed each year. Some 8 million pets are abandoned each year, and nearly 4 million of them are euthanized in our nation’s shelters. And only a tiny percentage of the 10 billion animals raised on American farms and ranches live under verified, science-based welfare standards.
That’s the world we live in now. The kind of world our grandchildren will live in tomorrow depends very much not only on what we do to make it a better place but also on how we teach each generation to treat others. Those of us of a certain age remember participating in the first national humane education program, the Be Kind to Animals Week campaign, created by American Humane Association (AHA) almost a century ago. That effort helped teach the value of all living things to five generations of Americans and is still being celebrated (this year, May 5 – 12).
AHA recently launched a new humane-education initiative of afterschool programs called LIFE Humane Heroes Clubs designed to help young people understand the challenges that still exist and to engage them in good works that benefit real animals and local communities. We’ve also developed a Humane Heartland curriculum that teaches kids where their food comes from as well as a certification program that ensures farm animals are treated well, so that when kids grow up they can buy food that is in line with their values. Through programs like these and by continually reinforcing humane values in our grandchildren, we can leave a legacy that benefits them, their pets, and the larger world.
So talk to your grandkids about the value of being humane. Celebrate Be Kind to Animals Week with them. Support the creation of a LIFE Humane Heroes Club or other efforts in your community’s school. Teach the next generation the importance of supporting and buying humanely raised food.
While you’re at it, give both your grandkids and your pets a cookie and a hug.
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Robin Ganzert is the president of American Humane Association, the country’s first national humanitarian organization and the only one dedicated to protecting both children and animals. To learn more about Be Kind to Animals Week, Humane Heroes Clubs, or how to support work to protect children and animals, please visit www.americanhumane.org.