Saturday, December 21, 2013
More Concerning Bridges
The fifth grade class was down by five students due to early holiday family vacations, to some dangerously icy road conditions, and a bit to various colds and other bugs which kept a few students home. This meant our sixteen remaining students were going to have to really project as well as pick up all of the unaccounted for lines and scenes. Changing up a program on the spot while performing to accommodate for absences, such as this, requires a significant amount of confidence, memory, and ability. This is certainly an experience which would make most adults offer their most sincere apologies and then quietly bow out because this sort of “winging it” before an audience simply has far too great a risk of embarrassment. These dear fifth graders, however, were fearless. With the audience excitedly gathering in their seats before us, we quickly accomplished some critical line reassigning. With a room full of Christmas clad guests at the retirement center, our shining fifth graders sang and shared with great joy, flawlessly projecting every word and filling the hall with magical delight. Bright smiles and generous encouragement met each and every piece shared, and the connection between audience and performers was warm and strong and right. A bridge. They shared an emotional bridge of hope and joy, and it was precious and powerful. Minutes before our first song, we had learned that Ida, who sat in the front row and was wearing a purple sweater, would be celebrating her 100th birthday tomorrow, and in honor of this and her, we added “Happy Birthday” to our repertoire as our concluding number. After the final song and the final bow, the fifth graders strengthened the bridge as each student carried out artwork gifts they had created for each resident. Heart to heart, the students and residents mingled and shared thanks for invitations and received thanks for singing. Eyes met, smiles erupted, conversations commenced, and bridges were built. The hall was filled with the warmth and beauty of friendship and kindness, despite the heavy drape of freezing rain covering the world beyond the walls. Bridges bring blessing. After each student had greeted and brought an art gift to each resident, it was time to say good-bye. The fifth graders were anxious to know when they might be able to visit these friends again, and the residents unanimously extended an open visiting invitation. Smiles, hugs, and handshakes sealed the promise for more bridge-building to come.
Thursday, December 5, 2013
The Gift Of Being Read To
I have always contended that reading a book is to the mind what being on vacation is to the soul; a brief, delightful, adventurous respite from the status quo and daily routine. It allows, no invites, us to disengage from the rat race pace which seems to swallow up our joy and drive up our blood pressure. It is a place where the lockstep of life is temporarily replaced with wandering wonder of imagination and relaxation. Reading fully engages the imagination. As one journeys through the pages of a book, the encountered printed words paint vivid pictures seen clearly in the imagination and catch one completely in the creative swirl of plot, scenes, settings, and characters. Engaged. Captured. Enthralled. Have you ever been read to? Do you remember the magical feeling of being lost in a story, happily tangled in its moods and actions and relational webs? Do you remember not wanting the story to end? When did you last read to someone, whereby offering them a self-less, generous gift of a vacation to imagination? If we desire to foster imaginative development and creativity in children we must read to them. We must let them play, to be sure, but we must also read more than regularly to them. Their minds must practice the art of imagining, seeing the pictures made by words, and resting in the stillness of attentive listening. To build creativity, to stretch attention spans, to revel in the happiness of sitting side by side on the couch and sharing the adventure of a story, this is a deep and lasting treasure that costs nothing more than time. When there is not enough money for a family vacation, travel together to the library and check out a large stack of books to read together. When the busy-ness of the day has exhausted all reserve energy, sleep has been a bit sporadic, and tomorrow and the next day are looking to be more of the same, sit together on the couch and read, read, read together. When it rains the entire month of June and three little boys are longing to get outside to play, pitch a tent on the porch, bring snacks, a flashlight, a few toys, and a large stack of books, and travel imaginatively together to exotic, exciting places far and near. Between the infusion of excessive screens and the cultivated impatience of continual demands for extreme immediate gratification, the quiet creativity of listening to a story has become desperately endangered. The gift of being read to is indeed priceless and needs to be high on everyone’s list this Christmas.