We have a wooden sign hanging on our living room wall that my stepsister created more than 40 years ago in a graphic design class at Williams Bay High School.
In a beautiful font with black letters on a rustic red background, it quotes the Beatles song: “Love, Love, Love, Love, Love is All you Need.”
I look at this message every day, sometimes allowing it sink in, and other times just viewing it as part of the decor. But recently, when I was invited to a pep rally at Saint John the Baptist Catholic School, it began to take on more meaning.
The school’s theme this year is “We Are on a Mission of Love,” and at their Sept. 6 Kindness Revolution rally, the students and staff began to explore exactly what that means and how it translates into our daily lives. Principal Liz Goldman and others talked about inviting those children who seem left out into the conversation or to play, making sure to include others, forgiving and simply caring about and being kind to one another.
The students developed dance steps to perform with the Bill Wither’s song, “Lean on Me,” and taught it to their fellow students.
The theme is important for all of us as we go about our daily lives, perhaps flipping off that driver who just cut us off at an intersection or writing a scathing comment in response to someone we disagree with on social media.
Such responses hurt others and do nothing to help the situation.
But kind words and actions can achieve much more. In the classroom or the workplace, they can help our peers and colleagues perform their best and feel comfortable. And psychologists believe performing kind acts can increase our own sense of happiness.
Psychologists studying happiness, including traits that contribute to well-being, have found that individuals can develop healthier minds by focusing on certain positive emotions, including love.
If you Google “the Pursuit of Happiness,” you’ll find an explanation. It also mentions that UW-Madison researchers are studying this:
“On the campus of the University of Wisconsin–Madison, the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds at the Waisman Center conducts rigorous scientific research on healthy aspects of the mind, such as kindness, forgiveness, compassion, and mindfulness. Established in 2008 and led by renowned neuroscientist Dr. Richard J. Davidson, the Center examines a wide range of ideas, including such things as a kindness curriculum in schools, neural correlates of prosocial behavior, psychological effects of Tai Chi training, digital games to foster prosocial behavior in children, and the effectiveness of yoga and breathing exercises in reducing symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.”
It’s believed that developing traits like empathy, creativity, forgiveness and compassion can also make us happier and keep our minds healthier.
What’s going on at Saint John’s school stands to reap rewards for those students for years to come. The kids are encouraged to reach out to others in the community with this message, so the effects may reverberate throughout.
The Beatles had it right all along, and thanks to my stepsister’s love of art, I’m reminded of this message every day. Love – of one’s fellow human being, the planet and all it contains, and one’s self – is all you need.
Except for maybe mosquitoes. Maybe we don’t need to love those so much.