Tonight my 6 year old asked his dad what it meant when people said “Don’t judge a book by its cover.”
Go ask your mother.
I happen to be an early childhood professional at a school where teaching about character development is as (if not more) important as building the academic foundation, so Daddy knows I typically know how to handle these mature questions. If you have inquisitive ones at home you know how difficult explaining metaphors (among other things) can be and it is important to tread carefully. I was a little excited that my son had paved the perfect path to learn a lesson in acceptance with Martin Luther King, Jr. Day coming up on Monday.
So we talked about a few books and made assumptions about the inside contents based on the outside artwork. We talked about the people we have met and things we can assume about them based on the outside. For example, when you see a kid in white short pants and red socks with cleats on carrying a glove, what do we think? We think he/she is a baseball player. Sometimes our assumptions are correct and often obvious. Other times our assumptions are not only untrue but also not polite and can even be hurtful.
I have had an amazing opportunity to work with and raise my children around an organization called CARITAS. CARITAS actually stands for Churches Around Richmond Involved To Assure Shelter. Their mission states, CARITAS helps our most vulnerable neighbors break the cycles of homelessness and addiction to reclaim their dignity.
In my life both as a kid, as an adult and especially as a parent, I can undoubtedly say this organization has been the most influential organization in my life. Family Focus is a program within CARITAS that is specifically for families who are homeless trying to get their lives back on track. CARITAS relies on churches around Richmond to provide shelter as well as dinner, showers and often fellowship. I have spent many a night encouraging my children to interact by being accepting and loving with the families and every single time, the encouragement pays off in some act of kindness or selflessness.
So as we continued the conversation about times where we might want to make assumptions that aren’t true, this was a great reference for the kids about how although our CARITAS friends might not have fancy clothes (or even more than one set) or many toys to play with, they are really kind people and have a lot to offer us and to the world. To “judge” them by their “cover” would be to assume they aren’t worth being friends and we know that isn’t true.
He got it. My 6 year old got it. My heart overflowed as he explained other times when he misjudged someone by their “cover” and worked hard to accept them for what was under their cover instead.
Although this is such a simple version of what the civil rights movement is about, it makes sense in a developmentally appropriate way for someone who doesn’t even see color.
As a pre-K teacher, my go-to lesson was the Egg Experiment.
They get it. From two eggs with shells that look different.
Remembering not to judge a book by its cover or an egg by it’s shell can be a hard pill to swallow. As adults we have to be forgiving of ourselves as we acknowledge our assumptions and learn to shift our thoughts, to allow ourselves, like my 6 year old, to make mistakes but learn from them. I am thankful to have the impressionable eyes and hearts of 3 children in my home and 150+ at my school. They remind me to always be intentional with my words and thoughts, so that I too can focus on the pages inside and let the cover not only not matter, but be invisible.