I remember standing in front of a class of eleven-year-olds some years ago and telling them I had just as much to learn from them as they had to learn from me. They gave me mystified looks, but that year I learned more about patience, love and caring than I ever had before.
Rather than using an authoritarian front to hide my fears trying to manage a difficult and often unruly class, I opened myself up to be honest and allowed them to see that sometimes, I could make mistakes, that I hurt inside, that I was tired and made misjudgements, that I was vulnerable and had negative emotions within me that I wanted to turn into love.
They saw my humanness, with all its flaws, and my struggle to learn from each problem that presented itself. They saw my courage and it gave them courage to open themselves up and show their own vulnerability.
At the end of the year a student gave me some words of wisdom framed within an arrangement of pressed flowers. They told me that a “few drops of caring soon grow into a pool of love.”
I have never forgotten these words and the precious gift this class gave me in terms of my own learning and growth. I really believe that children have a lot to teach us. We think we need to teach them, but what do we have to teach when we have wandered so far from love to become enmeshed in fears and the negative emotions fears produce?
Children show us many times over, in many different ways, how far we have wandered off the path, as this extract from a poem written by ‘Raztan’, who is sixteen, illustrates:
You wear a mask
And so do I.
I show you my feelings
And you see me cry.
Why do we hide
And show none at all
Of what we really feel
From the day that we crawl?
Generally we find ways of silencing children so we don’t have to look at ourselves and make changes to restore balance. When I take time to listen to the simple wisdom of children and allow them to teach me, their words can sometimes act like a light to show me more clearly where I am going.
A few months ago a friend’s eleven-year-old daughter shared these words of wisdom with me, inspired by watching her mother. They could equally apply to us all:
“Many people spend their lives living by a timetable. They fill all their weeks with jobs and things they think they should do. They never allow time for themselves. They never think about the important things in life, but ignore them, always pushing them far away.
“These people do this for reasons, although they are not always consciously aware of this. They think that if they forget about their inside problems by filling up their everyday lives, it makes their problems better, but it doesn’t.
“Make time for yourselves. Don’t be afraid of your problems because when they are solved you wonder what all the fuss was about.”
First published in the Ballarat News, July 20, 1994
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