Monday, October 19, 2009

Children's Classes, Part 2

I'm sure the suspense was just getting to you, too. Don't worry, they came back the next day. With friends!

I would love to say that they were no doubt attracted to the overwhelming sense of faith and attractive feeling of devotion in the household (my wife's, of course), or the wise and brilliant class that was held the day before, but I'm sure they just wanted to hear their friends say something good about them. They said so.

To make a long story short, or at least shorter, they returned a lot. The problem was not getting them to come, but to get them to leave.

At this point, my wife and I began to systematize things a bit more. We recorded their names, phone numbers and parent's names, the virtues we covered, the virtues they each demonstrated, as well as some character traits we wanted to see changed. Some may cringe and think that we should not try to change others, but I will lovingly disagree. When a child is always getting into fights, you wish to assist them in changing this behaviour. If a child is always swearing, this, too, you wish to see changed.

A couple of years after we began these classes, my wife was lamenting the fact that we had not seen any significant change in the community. I was, fortunately, able to go to our records and ask, "When was the last time you heard this child swear? When was the last time this one asked us for money? How long has it been since this child has tried to steal something from our home?" You probably guess that we live in a rough neighbourhood, and you are correct. Well, my wife now realized how significant an impact we had on the lives of these children. I also hadn't noticed it until I checked, but there it was.

Anyways, back to the classes.

One day, a group of these kids came over and I told them that I needed some help practicing telling a story. They were very happy to help me. I mean, how often are these kids asked to help adults with something? I'm sure yours are asked a lot, but these kids almost never had that experience. They were thrilled.

I read them the story from Walking the Straight Path about the king and the old man who was planting trees. If you don't know the story, get the book and go through it with some 13 year-olds. You won't be disappointed.

After the story, they answered all the simple questions, and then we got to the biggie: What can you and your friends do to care for the planet Earth? One of the kids said, "We can recycle." "That would be good. So remember, if you have some garbage outside, don't throw it on the ground. Come over and use our recycling bin."

Another kid said, "We can turn off the water when we're brushing our teeth." "Yes," I agreed, "that would be good, too. Water is a very precious commodity and we must ensure that there is enough for everyone. If you're ever thirsty, feel free to come over for a glass of water."

A third one shyly added in, "We could plant a tree?" "Wow. What a great idea," I exclaimed, in awe. "You know, I just happen to have an apple tree in the back that needs to be planted." My wife and I were just beginning to fix up our garden and had bought the tree the day before. We were about to plant it when she suggested that we let the kids do it. Hence the story (which I did need to practice: I needed to practice telling it to them!).

We all marched out back, dug a hole and planted that tree. For the rest of the summer, they regularly came over and helped water it, as well as the rest of our garden. When it finally started to bear fruit, they knew that some of those apples were theirs.

"O dwellers of My Paradise! With the hands of loving-kindness I have planted in the holy garden of paradise the young tree of your love and friendship..."

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