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Teaching compassion: Presenter at Seeds of Compassion Conference seeks to make world better for children

Ann Marie Ward of Lakeland Public Television joined 150,000 other people earlier this month in Seattle, Wash., to celebrate the possibility of changing the world.

Ann Marie Ward of Lakeland Public Television joined 150,000 other people earlier this month in Seattle, Wash., to celebrate the possibility of changing the world.

Ward, a Lakeland PTV educational consultant with the Ready to Learn Service, was among doctors, neuroscientists, social workers, researchers, and parents who conducted workshops on teaching children compassion.

Ward was invited by the Talaris Institute to be a presenter of workshops on positive parenting at the first worldwide Seeds of Compassion Conference April 11-15. Talaris was one of the conference sponsors and has been a Lakeland PTV Ready to Learn partner for the last four years.

The most prestigious person at the conference was the Dalai Lama, who shared his wisdom and inspiration, Ward said. Basically, a Talaris representative asked her if she wanted to hear what he had to say about children.

"This was such an awesome opportunity," Ward said of sitting in the front of an auditorium to take in a panel including the Dalai Lama. "This was incredibly surreal. It was as if nobody else was there."

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Because of tight security, no photos were allowed and all she could take into the auditorium was a pencil and notepad.

"But you left feeling full," she said. "This truly was a once-in-a-lifetime trip. I returned home in high spirits with a totally refreshed sense of optimism and hope for the world."

The Dalai Lama explained that limited compassion isn't difficult, Ward said. "It involves loving and understanding people who are just like us," she said.

Unlimited compassion means understanding and reaching out to people who are different from ourselves.

"An 18-month-old child can exhibit empathy," Ward said. "They might not be potty trained, but they know what it means to be sad or frustrated or excited."

The Dalai Lama emphasized that the more a person cares for the happiness of others, the more happiness is reflected back, Ward said.

Everyone at the conference is committed to children living in a peaceful world and caring for one another, she said.

Ward cited another point the Dalai Lama made: that if mothers, as the original source of love and protection for their babies, ran governments and made policy a peaceful world would be achieved.

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Ward and her husband, Darrick, have two daughters, Miranda, 3, and Taylor, 9. She urges parents to establish one routine that is a daily part of their lives with their children, to spend time with their children, connect emotionally and respect their children's dignity.

"Our future success requires good listening skills, and children have so much to teach us," she said.

For more information on positive parenting, visit talaris.org.

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