"Do All the Good You Can,
By All the Means You Can,
In All the Ways You Can,
In All the Places You Can,
At All the Times You Can,
To All the People You Can,
As long as Ever …
… You Can!"
I have been thinking about John Welsey's rule for living quite a bit recently. Like tons of people, I read the book Wonder, which I highly recommend and one of the teachers in the book writes a precept for each month. I am a precept kind of person. I love words and thinking about words to guide us is something I've done pretty much all my life. This is such a powerful concept and lately I've been thinking that it pretty much encapsulates everything you need to live a good life - and by good life, I mean a life that is good to those around you.
Two of my little students were struggling today. Collaboration is a difficult task at any age, but it can be particularly fraught with peril when you are 9. These two girls decided the most effective solution was to declare that they would "never, ever, EVER talk to each other again." I pointed out to them that this was no solution at all, and perhaps they needed some outside intervention to find a different solution - one that left them less angry. One of the students happens to be fairly new to our school, and as I presented this idea to her, she looked at me like I was crazy.
This is the challenge of a life in the classroom; some of my students have only seen anger, shouting, name-calling, and even violence as the only method to deal with conflict. The precept governing their lives is, "If you are mean to me, I will pay you back double!" This is a tempting and seemingly satisfying approach -- the "evil-doers" get punished, and you get "justice". In the end though, peace is still beyond your grasp. The louder of the two students might be considered the winner in this argument. Worse yet, in a world where the loudest, brashest and most determined is victorious - the meanest of them all would be the winner.
I've never been great at mistakes, or failure. I try, or at least aim for, perfection in everything. Lately, I've been realizing that it isn't perfection we should be teaching, but instead, how to deal with uncomfortable conversations, and ways to make amends for wrong doing. My own Offspring, are reluctant to deal with icky feelings and feel a strong sense of shame when they do something wrong. Shame has it's place, as does a feeling of remorse, but I don't think it should be our permanent home.
The Husband and I, long ago came to the conclusion that when it comes to parenting, you do the best you can, and apologize for the rest. I suppose that is true of life as well, which brings us back to Mr. Wesley's philosophy. I will choose to do all the good I can for as long as I can - regardless of the choices of those around me. As I pointed out to a student recently, I am not respectful to others because they deserve it, but rather because it is the kind of person I chose to be. My decision to be respectful has nothing to do with the other person really, but more to do with me. John Wesley seemed to understand this concept -- that our goodness to others is a choice we make, and not one dependent on those around us. I try to remind myself of this often, and sometimes the good that I aim for involves being good to myself when I fall short and make mistakes. My imperfections are not shameful anomalies to hide, but part of my humanity; they are part of who I am. Just as breathing is part of living, so are mistakes.
You may not have noticed, but this is blog #498 which means I have almost reached blog #500. The Husband saw what number I was on today. I told him, "You see that?" He shrugged and remarked, "It isn't 500, yet. It is write500 not write498." Trust me, he is funnier than he sounds sometimes. Anyway, I have almost made it to 500. My blogs, like myself, are frequently flawed, but together we are trying to do as much good as we can.
Keep moving forward,