Wisdom from Kindergarten for a Future-Fit, Sustainable Life

Bob Willard Sustainability Champion

Many years ago, I read Robert Fulghum’s humorous collection, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, published in 1988. These days, I am co-authoring the Future-Fit Business Benchmark with Geoff Kendall. Public Draft 2.0 will be released shortly. As part of that work, we have been wrestling with the science-based social system conditions for a healthy, resilient human society on our finite planet. We are rediscovering truth.

Fulghum is an insightful, humorous story teller. Here are his 16 maxims to live by that he learned in kindergarten.

1. Share everything.
2. Play fair.
3. Don’t hit people.
4. Put things back where you found them.
5. Clean up your own mess.
6. Don’t take things that aren’t yours.
7. Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody.
8. Wash your hands before you eat.
9. Flush.
10. Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.
11. Live a balanced life – learn some and drink some and draw some and paint some and sing and dance and play and work everyday some.
12. Take a nap every afternoon.
13. When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands, and stick together.
14. Be aware of wonder. Remember the little seed in the Styrofoam cup: the roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that.
15. Goldfish and hamsters and white mice and even the little seed in the Styrofoam cup – they all die. So do we.
16. And then remember the Dick-and-Jane books and the first word you learned – the biggest word of all – LOOK.

In the Future-Fit Business Benchmark, we are using five social system conditions for a healthy, resilient,  fit-for-the-future society developed by Merlina Missimer with guidance from others in The Natural Step (TNS) network. Here is how the 16 lessons from kindergarten might align with her five social system conditions for a sustainable society.

  • People are not subject to systemic barriers to their physical, mental, and emotional health and safety.
    Wash your hands before you eat. Flush. Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you. Take a nap every afternoon. When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands, and stick together.
  • People are not subject to systematic barriers to their influence and voice.
    Play fair. Don’t take things that aren’t yours.
  • People are not subject to systematic barriers to competence and the opportunity to learn.
    Look. Live a balanced life – learn some and drink some and draw some and paint some and sing and dance and play and work everyday some.
  • People are not subject to systematic barriers to impartiality – their diversity is respected.
    Share everything. Put things back where you found them. Clean up you own mess. Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody.
  • People are not subject to systematic barriers to meaning and purpose in their lives – their values are respected.
    Be aware of wonder. We all die.

Not bad. They align fairly well. No wonder. Both lists talk are about how we nourish our own wellbeing and the wellbeing of others, at any age.

This morning, I asked my wife how Fulghum’s lessons from kindergarten compared to the rules in the nursery school where she taught many years ago. She agreed that many were similar, but she didn’t call them “rules.” She called them “routines.” It was just how they behaved. Unwritten, behavioral norms infused the classroom culture. The preschoolers respected themselves, each other, and the teachers. Perhaps, “common sense” would be a better label than “rules,” if common sense were indeed common.

At different stages in our lives, we codify how to flourish together, in different ways. But, it’s the same, ageless wisdom. We’re all spinning through the universe together: lets ensure things work for ourselves and for our fellow astronauts. Its time we got back to basics on space-station Earth.

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Bob

 

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