Last week, on more than one occasion, we as a nation dealt with the theme of respect as it relates to our personal identities – and, particularly, as it relates to our greater national identity.

In the fields of Education and Child Development, the importance of treating each child with the respect she/he deserves, and taking each child’s personal, as well as cultural differences, into consideration cannot be stressed enough. One of the many things that makes this country unique is our general acceptance of others into the cultural fabric of Americana, regardless of whether those people look different, speak differently, or observe different customs than we do. We are all entitled to celebrate our differences, past and present.

Traditionally – and as can be seen in the holiday’s official name, “Columbus Day” – Americans have celebrated the European discovery of the Americas by the Italian explorer, Christopher Columbus. Although this has been a traditional name of the celebration for many U.S. citizens throughout their entire lives, many people today are calling this day by another name: Indigenous Peoples Day.

The reason so many people feel compelled to call this day by this name can be found in the meaning of the word indigenous, which is defined as “originating or occurring naturally in a particular place; native.” It is very important we remember not only the European conquerors who colonized the Americas, but all the ancestors of this country, including those whose families were indigenous and were conquered in their homeland, as well as those who were conquered overseas and later brought to the “New World,” where they were then enslaved.

Indigenous peoples living in the Americas had many different cultures and traditions, and they lived all over the North and South American continents. In fact, some of the largest empires the Earth has ever seen could once be found in Central and South America, including the Aztec, Mayan and Incan Empires. Many remnants of these great civilizations remain even to this day, and every year the ruins of their great temples attract thousands of tourists from around the world.

Last Wednesday, the Jewish community celebrated Yom Kippur – one of the most important, if not the most important, holy days of the Jewish Calendar. One of the many interesting traditions of Yom Kippur (which include daylong fasting) is that, on this day, it is customary to ask for the forgiveness of sins. In reflection of Yom Kippur’s goal to purge the self of evil thoughts and deeds, in the process cleaning the proverbial slate – and also in consideration of Indigenous Peoples Day’s efforts to remember all of the peoples and cultures American history has tried, by and large, to forget – I think there is an important lesson for us all: although it is often easy to overlook the importance of each other’s individual, and cultural, influence on our country’s diverse social fabric, it is nevertheless crucial that each and every one of us not only respect both each other’s personal character and heritage, but that we go further still and celebrate the differences in each other’s personal and cultural histories. Perhaps, by doing so, we can learn to forgive each other for the injustices of this country’s bloody past, and pave the way to true brotherhood, equality and justice for all.

Woven together, the many different threads of our collective past make a rich tapestry that, although ugly at times, will only grow more beautiful over the years, if we treat each thread with the respect it deserves – each child with the care that will enable he/she to grow, progress, and become a wellspring from which future generations might draw inspiration.

At Pencil Sharp Tutoring Services, we take pride in our commitment to ensuring that each student – no matter their background, lifestyle, or learning difference – is treated with the utmost respect by our professionals. Rather than conforming to a failing educational system that requires talented and creative young scholars to push their talents aside in order to “fit in,” we are happy to say that not only is each and every one of our clients provided with the tools they need to grow into the best people they can be – they are also given the respect they need to grow into the people they want to be.