The Lessons Our Children Can Teach Us.
A few months ago someone tore down all the children‚Äôs pictures that I had put up on my office door. There‚Äôs no way to find out who did this. I have no idea why this happened, or what it might have meant to the person who did it. I don‚Äôt know if the person did it out of anger towards me, out of anger toward children, anger at God, or just thought it would be ‚Äúfunny.‚Äù
Part of the cost of being a building that is open to the larger community is that there all sorts of people who come through the building. Because there is no way to figure out what the act of tearing down pictures meant to who ever did it, I honestly haven‚Äôt spent that much time wondering about it.
What I did worry about though was what the children who had drawn those pictures might think about seeing them missing. A few asked me in the weeks about that following the incident. I told that I hadn‚Äôt taken them down, but that they had disappeared one day. I guess what they were actually worried about was whether or not I was angry and whether I had taken down their pictures as a result. I assured them that I was not and that I felt sad that such a thing had happened. That seemed to satisfy them.
A couple of weeks ago those same children brought me a new picture. It was signed by many of the children in the Sunday School. They drew it so that I could put it up in place of the ones that had been taken away. It is posted on my office door. Every time I see it I find myself reflecting on the lesson that I have been taught.
There are so many ways the children of the parish could have chosen to react to the act of vandalism. They could have been hurt. They could have been angry. They could have sulked or pouted. They didn‚Äôt do any of these. They came to me to ask what had happened and why it happened. Once they were assured that it wasn‚Äôt a rejection of who they were, they decided to try to heal the wounding that the vandal had caused. They drew a picture and asked that it be reposted. They decided not to allow the pain of the moment to carry the whole of the day.
I wonder how many adults would be able to do the same thing? When we feel slighted or offended, do we go directly to the person who caused that feeling and ask them to help us understand the meaning behind their actions? If we do, we can often discover that the actions are not directed toward us at all – or that if they were – they were not intended to cause hurt. Knowing that it was ‚Äúnot about me‚Äù then gives me freedom to dismiss whatever hurt I might have felt and to not allow my relationship with another person to be compromised. If it was directed at me, asking for an explanation often helps me to better understand the other person‚Äôs perspective and perhaps even recognize a truth that I may have been avoiding.
We can‚Äôt control the way we feel when something happens to us. Feelings are just things that rise up from out of our insides. What we can control is how we chose to react and respond to those feelings. Learning to stop in the midst of our initial instinctive response is a learned behavior – one that I have seen our children here at Trinity do – and one that people I admire in my life have taught me is important. Stopping and pausing when I‚Äôm getting ready to go off in an outburst of temper and asking for more information about what is meant by the action is something I find myself continually striving for.
How we chose to react to what happens to us can tell us a great deal about where we are in our spiritual journey. I hope that someday soon I manage to catch up to the children of our parish who have taught me such a wonderful lesson.