Nearly every story has a moral. Nearly every moment can be a teachable moment, a term coined by educator John Holt on the 1960s.
Friday morning was no exception. While drawing, while looking through the Childcraft Atlas with the children at work, while the children coloured, we talked about lessons from life.
I had occasion to intervene in not-so-nice play. A group of girls near to the drawing table were organising a dance ... And being incredibly bitchy, excluding another girl. (They start this Mean Girls behaviour so young!).
I warned the group that exclusion was a form of bullying. Having recently done an anti bullying unit with the whole group of children at work. I issued a warning, in my best firm but friendly teacher voice , that all people had a right to be included in the dance group or the group could be disbanded . I gave the girls five minutes to sort this out... And , as the clock ticked on, it became obvious that the choice was made . To continue to exclude and thus to disband the group.
So the girls drifted off to other activities and one little girl, a seven year old who had been excluded, sat at the drawing table. Another child passed her the map of Africa that I had drawn. So she could colour and hopefully take her mind off her exclusion
This little dark haired girl sat there colouring, head down, tears streaming down her face. Other children started to notice. And I started to talk, to tell my story , to teach life.
"D" I said " Dont let them win. Don't let those girls see you cry, see that they hurt you. That's what they wanted to do. You can't let them win. You hold your head up high, you wipe away your tears, you colour in, you look them in the eye. You are special. You are better than that. They can't hurt you unless you let them."
Other children coloured and others slowly put down their felt pens . They all listened . As I shared.
I talked about how I have, just this week, been the recipient of mean behaviour. How others could be mean but I wouldn't let them get to me. How I am keeping on, pulling up my socks, smiling, never letting them see my hurt. Never letting them win.
Another little girl, another little boy, chimed in with stories of how other kids had tried to be mean to them but how they had looked the bullies in the eye and not let the bullies hurt them inside.
There were little nods and murmurs at the table.
And D took the tissue I offered. She wiped her eyes. She looked up at me, grabbed a
yellow felt pen with a brave smile, a thank you smile, and coloured. Head held high.
You know, while at the doctor's surgery later on Friday, I read the section The Gift of the Self-Dedication of Christ, in the Holy Father's book Heart of the Christian Life. I thought about D. I thought about the mean way others, particularly one other, have treated me this week. I did some soul searching..what do I do to receive this behaviour. Am I mean in return? Am I too much of a bitch, really, deep down? Am I a victim, a doormat? When is nice too nice?
And, I remembered that we are never alone in this journey. As cliched as that may sound. I remembered that others can walk with us when we feel pain. Others can help. As I hope I helped D.
I was reminded that Jesus Christ is there, with us. I thought of receiving Him in the Eucharist and then of conversion, conversion of our hearts each time we come to receive Communion.
At the end of the Eucharistic celebration, we will...carry the Lord Jesus in spirit..We will immerse Him, so to speak, in the daily routine of our lives, so that he may walk where we walk and live where we live. ( Heart of the Christian Life).
Jesus with us, walking where we walk. Especially in times of sadness or sorrow or bewilderment ( you know, that how the #%#% did I get here feeling).
Then, today, I watched Toy Story 3, with my kids and some of my Kumon students, students receiving awards for being above grade level. I watched Toy Story 3 crying, crying, atthe passages one must go through, the transitions, the changes. Saying goodbye to friends, to family.How life changes even when you don't want it to.
Two sons cried with me.
And I thought, how lucky am I, that I have spent years with children, still spend years with children, my own and those children with whom I work. Lucky to see life through children's eyes, to be close to emotions, to share life, to talk life. To learn and to teach. To serve, for to be a parent, to be a teacher, both vocations, means also to serve.
In my sadness, over mean behaviour, I can also be strong. Be tough. Smile. Be happy for what it is that I have. Be happy to serve, even if it means that in serving I hurt.
Lastly, two other aspects are part of service. No one is closer to his master than the servant who has access to the most private dimensions of his life. In this sense, "to serve" means closeness, it requires familiarity.....To serve means to draw near, but above all it also means obedience.The servant is under the word:"not my will, but thine, be done."...What Jesus predicted to Peter also always applies:"You will be taken where you do not want to go." This letting oneself be guided where one does not want to be led is an essential dimension of our service, and it is exactly what makes us free. In this being guided, which can be contrary to our ideas and plans, we experience something new - the wealth of God's love. (Heart of the Christian Life: To Stand Before You and to Serve)
I hope I helped D. As D, and my children, and other children, have helped me. As I experience that wealth of which the Pope speaks. God's love.