Child looking up at tree

Everything relies on everything else in the cosmos in order to manifest—whether a star, a cloud, a flower, a tree, or you and me. —Thich Nhat Hanh

A key principle of democracy is that individuals seek to advance the common good. Why this is important becomes clearer when we remind ourselves of the web of connections that thread through every aspect of our lives. As Thich Nhat Hanh writes,

The verb ‘to be’ can be misleading, because we cannot be by ourselves, alone. ‘To be’ is always to ‘inter-be.’ If we combine the prefix ‘inter’ with the verb ‘to be,’ we have a new verb, ‘inter-be.’ To inter-be and the action of interbeing reflects reality more accurately. We inter-are with one another and with all life.

To practice interbeing, periodically stop to consider all the people, resources, and activities that are part of your life. From the bed you sleep in to the coffee you drink for breakfast, from the clothes you slip on, to the road you traverse to school or work, who and what helps create and maintain them? What resources are required? How many people helped to assemble, process, make, and care for it?

Encourage children to participate using this activity from “Practicing Democracy for Children.” In Planting Seeds: Practicing Mindfulness with Children, Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh suggests that children make a drawing of “interbeing.” They could start by drawing a snack they enjoy. From there “draw around it all the things that make that food possible: the sun, rain, the earth, plants, farmers, animals, etc.” Include pictures or symbols to represent the companies that package and distribute the snack, the stores that carry it, and the money used to buy it.

In partnership with our friends at Spirituality & Practice, we are sharing practices to help us all “practice democracy” from the inside out. Visit Spirituality & Practice's The Practicing Democracy Project for more practices and a wide array of resources.


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child holding "there is no planet B" sign at demonstration with family

Practicing Democracy with Children

Nine ways to help children engage democratic values. Children come naturally to some democratic values, like pursuit of happiness and love of freedom. Other ideals—like recognizing that we are all equal and seeking the common good—need practice. This guide encourages children's democratic engagement at home and in their communities.

Developed with Spirituality & Practice as part of the Practicing Democracy Project.


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Spirituality & Practice (S&P) is a multi-faith website devoted to resources for spiritual journeys. While respecting differences among traditions, S&P celebrates what they share in common.