I am guessing that every single one of you has experienced a flood of emotions in the past two weeks. I’m guessing that your children have sensed those emotions too, whether they’ve seen you wipe a tear from your face or heard your anger — they’ve felt them through you.

As a new awareness hits us all, many of us are wondering what our role is. As parents, we still have children to raise, and normalcy for them is essential. Most of you feel blessed to be part of such a small, safe, quiet community, and it’s truly a gift. You’re grateful to be able to raise your children far from the violence and corruption we see on the news. But now we are faced with a moral issue that we cannot ignore even in a small community.

We’re wondering — how did the world get like this? Do we have an impact from where we sit? I want to suggest that small-town America has a much more significant influence than we may realize. It’s often in the small towns that bias and intolerance are unwittingly fostered through a lack of exposure. Empathy, acceptance, and inclusion happen when we can see ourselves in others — when we can relate. When people grow up in an environment where they are only exposed to a small group of folks who generally share the same ideals, habits, viewpoints, and often the same skin color, their ability to relate and empathize unintentionally becomes more limited. So how can you continue to put your children’s safety and comfort first while still expanding their scope of diversity and cultivating empathy?

I’m not an expert, and I’m not black, so I welcome the contributions, critiques, and feedback of my black brothers and sisters. Still, I want to share four things that I believe we could all do individually to collectively make a monumental difference. I have seen all of these things change minds and lives.

Story — there is nothing more powerful than a story well told. It is the catalyst for empathy, desire, and change. We can mindfully choose the stories we consume and the stories we show and tell our children. Providing a diverse array of perspectives from what they see in their daily life is critical.

Travel — The right kind of travel breaks down barriers and unites cultures in a way that nothing else can. It’s the ultimate form of real-time storytelling. However, staying in an all-inclusive resort or just sticking to the tourist spots won’t give you this experience. Consider choosing a vacation that allows your family to truly connect with a different culture rather than just being served by it.

Conversation — a non-judgemental space to discuss topics around race, privilege, and how we can change the trajectory together is essential. Teaching our children to initiate and be comfortable carrying on productive conversations with people who hold different views can go a long way towards initiating change.

Check in with your ideals/beliefs: one of the noblest things you can do is to identify your own biases, prejudices, and limiting beliefs. Making this a daily routine is the only way to work through them and progress. We all have them, and there is more glory than shame in standing for what you’ve learned rather than what you thought you knew. What we believe and value is without fail either consciously or unconsciously transferred to our children, so we do have a chance to impact the narrative of future generations by re-writing our own.

Times like these can be uncomfortable to navigate, but let us remember that we, too, can help shape the outcome. It comes down to our everyday choices. No matter the difference in our backgrounds, may we unite, in small towns and big cities, to pursue justice, cultivate empathy, and shape the future we want our children to inhabit.

Sarah Isely moved to Walla Walla with her parents at the age of 11. She travels frequently but currently co-owns a local natural body care company with her family and resides on the outskirts of Walla Walla. She is a first time mom and passionate about cultivating empathy, discovery and connection in her children to change the narrative of generations to come. Her company is Lone Body (lonebody.com) and they specialize in bringing you natural deodorant that bridges the gap between non-toxic and effective. You can reach out to her at sarah@lonebody.com and discover her products locally at Sivana Spa and Blue Valley Meats