In 2004, we published the First Printing of Beads on One String and shortly thereafter the curriculum (The Beads on One String Project) was developed for elementary schools. At that time, cultural diversity had become a big thing. An important and beautiful step towards acceptance of those who come from assorted backgrounds.
My vision was something different, though. Taking it a step further, instead of simply celebrating the diversity of all people, Beads on One String brings from the shadows the importance of the string that holds all of us together. It's about the things we have in common with each other - the unity of all people.
This was a fairly unique idea at the time. I was told by many in the education field that I was blazing new territory and that anti bullying education wasn't formally at the elementary school level. Fortunately, Minnesota is a very strong education state and schools here embraced the opportunity to reach kids at a younger level. That the "Beads on One String Project", by combining music and art, had a natural hook to get kids that age interested in the concept.
Fast forward to today, 2016 and here we are in the Sixth Printing of the book. Schools all over the United States and beyond use Beads on One String as a stepping stone for creating a bond among students, reminding us all of our oneness on this planet. Obviously, we have a lot of room for growth. It's both amazing and sad that so many states and school districts still don't budget for programs like this. They will spend money at the high school level, but not at the elementary level. My thought continues to be why not address the issues at a younger age so behavior problems aren't so prevalent by the time kids get to high school.
I have volumes of thank you notes, posters, drawings etc. from schools assuring me that kids understand this message. My conversations with kids all over the country tell me this is true, but also that parents unknowingly (usually) and though maybe well intentioned, subtly teach their kids to hate or fear those who are different, reinforcing the notion of separateness.
The notion of our unity is growing momentum. There are now many books and curriculums written, along with speakers, musicians, actors and everyday people talking about this. It makes sense.
"Where there is division, there is conflict... Conflict starts wars.... It becomes us verses them." I love this video! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q0qD2K2RWkc
If we want a more peaceful society, we can create it. Let's start by being role models to our kids.
Are the words we use loving and supportive or negative and hate filled?
Does our attitude project unity or division, "us verses them" or just "us"?
What do we watch on TV? Violence? Vulgarity?
Which politicians do we support and why? Is their message one of hate and division or love and helping others?
I believe in the goodness of people. That inherently we are willing to help others, especially when the chips are down. We're born without hate and prejudice. Those are things taught to us. Those are the things taught to our kids.... if we allow it.
Let's create a world without fear and hate. Don't support violence on TV or in the movies. Are the words we're hearing and speaking projecting positive or negative energy?
Finally, we can and we need to do better at acceptance of those who appear different from us. That's why I wrote Beads on One String so many years ago. Progress is slow. But let's keep it growing. We can change our world if we choose to.