How tolerant do you think you are: very tolerant, moderately or not at all? It might surprise you to learn that the average American considers him or herself very tolerant of others. But just what do we mean by the term tolerance?
The definition of tolerance is “the practice of deliberately allowing a thing of which one disapproves. One can meaningfully speak of tolerating — of allowing or permitting — only if one is in a position to disallow.” It has also been defined as “a permissive attitude toward those whose opinions, beliefs, practices, racial or ethnic origins differ from one’s own.”
So being tolerant is not what we usually think it is. When we talk about being tolerant, we speak as if we are being open-minded, fair and generous of others: Tolerance is thought of as a positive, shared behavior, when, in fact, it supports a controlling and superior attitude.
The term tolerance could be replaced by other expressions such as being broad-minded, open-minded, lenient, accepting, forbearing and patient — and how about loving, kind and caring?
In Boulder City we often hear the phrase “Be Kind … Be Boulder.” This saying is routinely displayed on the welcome to Boulder City electronic signboard at the junction of Nevada Highway and Buchanan Boulevard that is maintained by the Boulder City Chamber of Commerce. But did you ever wonder where this phrase originally came from?
The “Be Kind … Be Boulder” maxim was adopted by the Boulder City Chamber of Commerce to support the work of the Josh Stevens Foundation, located in Henderson, that tries to remind children that the world needs more random acts of kindness, even if the act is carried out quietly with no one else knowing.
If you remember the movie “Pay it Forward,” the Be Kind movement follows along similar lines. The foundation has produced small gift cards that are presented to school children who are caught being kind to others by school staff and parents who form a Kindness Patrol. The cards proclaim “You’ve Been Caught Being Kind!”
The Be Kind program has now spread to other organizations in Southern Nevada and not only schoolchildren are receiving kindness cards. Schools, sports organizations and civic groups are now selling Be Kind T-shirts to spread the word.
In Boulder City the schools wear their Be Kind T-shirts on the fifth day of each month and you’ll also find the staff at the Boulder Dam Credit Union and Grandma Daisy’s wearing their Be Kind shirts on those days. In this modern era when concepts like zero-tolerance and racial and religious tolerance have become commonplace, it is refreshing to look at the words we use in a fresh light and, perhaps, replace them with others that are more positive — and kind.
For more information about the Josh Stevens Foundation and the Be Kind movement, visit http://joshstevensfoundation.org. The Chamber of Commerce at 465 Nevada Way has Be Kind T-shirts available to the public.
Angela T. Smith is a Ph.D. life coach, author and educator who has been a resident in Nevada since 1992. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org