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Sunday, February 19, 2017

The Teaching Moment

In Act 2, Scene 2 of the Shakespearean play, Hamlet, the main character says, "Why, then, ’tis none to you, for there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so. To me it is a prison."

Many people think that Hamlet is debating some ethical point when in fact he's calling Rosencrantz and Guildenstern out for being spies for the murderous king. He acts out with frustration, feeling trapped with the knowledge of the incestuous relationship between the king and his mother. And he had the knowledge/suspicion that the king murdered his father. In the context of the scene, Hamlet, Rosencrantz, and Guildenstern differ in opinion as to whether Denmark has the worst prison or not, and Hamlet thinks it so, while Rosencrantz and Guildenstern disagree. Hamlet is vehement in his conviction, but the prison he describes is far worse; he's trapped within the confines of his own sanity, helpless as he feels it slipping away.

Different things mean different things to different people. Our perceptions rule our choices of actions. This is a concept that drives much of the action in the play. Our choice of actions.

This was a topic that was mulled over at church today and was probably one of the most enlightening days I have ever experienced at my place of worship. It caused me to reflect a bit on my week.

I read an opinion from someone, and at first, I thought it insightful. However, the more I thought about it, the more I felt the need to inject my point of view on the topic because it seemed that the information was only correct in part.

The gist of the post was something along the lines of children having good days and bad days, and how, from my interpretation of what was said, adults need to understand and not be too quick to discipline a child when he or she chooses to act out because of anger, frustration, et cetera.

I think the first thing we need to understand is, what is discipline anyhow?

Discipline is not about beating your child into submission. It's not about having the child live in fear of you. It's not about any control a parent may wield over a child.

Discipline is teaching, nothing more.

Children do not always understand that their actions have consequences, and so, as parents, we must provide consequences for ill behavior and teach better choices. It's about teaching them to play nice in the sandbox. It's about teaching them to say sorry when they hurt feelings or break a favorite toy. And then teaching them that sometimes saying sorry is not enough. Sometimes you have to fix what's broken.

I've taught Sunday school for a number of years and have worked with many different ages of children. One particular class I had was a bit unruly, and I remembered a lesson I had learned before regarding cause and effect that definitely needed to be repeated.

Each child was presented with a 2 x 4 piece of wood, a box of nails and hammer. The instructions to each child were simple. Every time they felt angry and wanted to lash out, each time they hurt someone's feelings or disobeyed, anytime they got upset for whatever reason, they were to take one of the nails and hammer it into the board. Then when the week was done, they were to bring the board back to share with the rest of the class.

At first, many of the children found that they were hammering several nails a day, but they reported that after a few days, they maybe only wanted to hammer in one nail. By Saturday, mostly all the children didn't want to hammer any more nails. The children brought their boards to class and shared with the others what each nail meant (if they remembered why they hammered it in).

For the following week, each child was instructed to remove a nail each time they did a kindness. If they remembered to do their chores, or if they apologized if they offended someone, or if they didn't argue when they were asked to do something, remove a nail. Again, they were to bring the board with them back to class to share with everyone.

Few nails were removed the first days, but the task got easier for them, and they found they were able to remove the nails until by the end of the week mostly all the nails were removed from the board and back in the box.

When the children entered the room with their wooden swiss cheese, they saw a new board on the desk. They were encouraged to compare their boards with the new one. They were reminded that their boards were once new like the one they saw on the desk. Some of the children were emotional at the realization that their boards had holes, but the worst part was knowing that they had put them there.

Then came the teaching moment.

Each time we choose to hurt someone if we act out or are angry and lash out at someone, it hurts that other person in inexplicable ways and leaves a scar that doesn't always heal.

And even if we apologize or try to make it up to them, the hurtful words and actions still leave a mark just as if they took the nail and drove it into that person, then pulled it out leaving its scar behind as a memory.

They were encouraged to really think about the damage they do when they drive nails into someone and to remember that an innocent man had nails driven into him and chose to make the ultimate sacrifice so that we may all be forgiven.

Have a wonderful week. When faced with a choice, choose the kindest one; Love one another.

Friday, February 10, 2017

That Music Inside Us All

Sometimes I'll be out and about (confession: mostly it's for shopping) and I'll hear a song.

It'll take me back. Back when I was younger. When I was a bit naïve.

But it's what makes me Me.

Music has always been a very important part of my life. Growing up, I was always encouraged to study some type of instrument. My earliest recollection was playing the accordion (I hated every minute of it, but I was actually quite accomplished for an eight-year-old).

Next, I took two years of piano. Looking back, I wish I would have applied myself better. Being able to play the piano is actually quite cool. I didn't think that way back then.

The last instrument I studied was the guitar. I played it throughout high school. I enjoyed it very much. I had much better manual dexterity those days. I could jam out a lot of popular songs including Stairway to Heaven and was learning to play Classical Gas when I dropped it.

My fingers don't move that way anymore.

Anyhow, it was this past weekend. I was out shopping with my family. I thought I had heard a song I recognized but it seems I may have been the only one to have heard it.

I've spent the better part of the week trying to find out the name of the song, the artist, any lyrics I could recall or even the melody.

It was a song of such beauty, heartfelt, of love, or love unrequited, bittersweet. It drove me nuts because I just could not figure it out.

Thursday evening, it dawned on me. There was a certain innateness about it. And that's when my searching ended.

The music is all that I am. Everything inside of me. The cumulation of my years.

The music that is likely in us all.

I honestly would love to share the song with the world, but it might be a confidence I have with the universe. Maybe if I share it, the melody will disappear. Maybe I'd lose my identity. Looking back, it's taken me such a long time to find myself.

Why look back anyhow?

I'll take now over then. Now is so much better.

And I still get to keep the music.😊