The Kindergarten Lesson We Forgot

Planting seeds for a future without gender-based violence

Guest post by Jeff Perera,

Sometimes we need to see it with our own eyes to know that it is possible. See someone do the thing so that we know it is possible. 

I remember how the field across from my sixth floor apartment building as a child was completely dead. Year after year. Dry soil and patches of dead grass were my view. Then one day in the summer, on a scorching hot day, the field caught on fire. I watched from our window as the fire quickly burned through what grass there was from one end to the other, and burn out. I then watched from the window as the field slowly came back to life, eventually becoming a fresh green in colour like I had never seen it. 

Returning to form, rising from the ashes: an important lesson modelled for me by the soil, one that I carry to this day. Fast forward many decades later, I have worked to invite men into helping end gender-based violence and model helpful versus harmful ideas of manhood for the last 15 years. People across the world, and coast to coast here in Canada, have worked to plant seeds of change amongst the hearts and minds of our communities. Today that work can feel bleak, and with today’s tensions like tossing seeds onto dry ground. 

There is another key ‘gardening’ lesson that is helpful in planting seeds of change in our communities. It’s a kindergarten that we have forgotten.

Many of you likely had a variation of this experience, a little activity your kindergarten teacher organized. They gave everyone a little plastic see-through cup, some paper towel, and a little bean seed. Using the paper towel they placed the bean seed so it was pressed against the inside of the cup. Then, they had you write out your name on a piece of masking tape (if you could, or they would help) to place on the cup to proudly identify your little seed.

Next. All the cups were placed along the window sill, and a little water was poured onto the paper towel. Every morning, the students rushed to the window
to see if anything was happening. Day after day, nothing. Then one day someon shouts: “Oooh my bean is growing a tail!” Sure enough it happened for everyone, and we soon had green life burst out the bean and eventually reach up beyond the cup.

The lesson was that a seed planted anywhere can grow anywhere, with the right sunlight, with the right amount of water offered as needed.

With support.

With nurturance.

Change can grow in the most seemingly impossible spaces and places across the soil that is our communities, with nurturance. When we nurture the soil that
is the hearts and minds of men, young men and boys – rather than feel like we are forcing or finding resistance to plant seeds of change – we will find that the
seeds can now take root. Can bloom. Can grow. 

Those seeds of change can be lessons learned, notes and perspectives to be embraced, unlearning and re-learning, as well as learning to value the voices, bodies and lives of women, girls, two-spirit and gender-expansive people. 

The tensions that lead to that emotional soil (the hearts and minds of guys and young guys) becoming dry or barren today include fear, shame, anger, lack of trust, as well as emotional and social illiteracy. 

That nurturance to ‘loosen’ the soil looks like developing emotionally literacy, compassion and empathy, and an invested caring for the humanity of both ourselves and people of all genders as men and boys. It looks like both finding and becoming models of possibility towards a vast field of possibilities: helpful
versus harmful ideas of manhood, and a spectrum of masculinities. 

Organizations and groups that Silver Gummy Foundation supports and helps to grow, in turn then go and help nurture the kind of environments we need, where ‘the soil’ that is men, young men and boys will take in the seeds of change. 

Our communities need such nurturance, now more than ever. It starts with the seeds Silver Gummy Foundation plant to support amazing organizations like
Fast and Female and Urban Society for Aboriginal Youth who then help bring the bloom we desperately need. 

Keep that lesson with you, remember how the drops of nurturance you offer, allow seeds to take, producing the greenest, bountiful fields of change.

Jeff Perera

Since 2008, Jeff Perera has been talking to audiences across North America/Turtle Island about men helping end gender-based violence and modelling helpful versus harmful ideas of manhood.

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