I am so deeply grateful that the parents of Woodland Park allow me to play with their children. Mister Rogers, who was an ordained Presbyterian pastor, said that his work with children was his ministry. I get that, although more often than not I feel that I'm just a congregant in this church in which there are no sermons, no evangelizing, no preaching. The lessons taught aren't ones pulled from an ancient text or screened by some commission of elders, but rather the deeper ones that can only be learned through example.
There are days when I get caught up in the conventional trappings of being a "teacher." I talk too much, for instance. Isn't that what a teacher does, tell children things they don't know so that they can then know them? I demonstrate too much. Isn't that what a teacher does, show children things they can't do so that they can then do them? I behave like a superior being, a font of knowledge, an authority on all things. Isn't that what a teacher does, rain his vast grown-up experience down on children like they are seeds that need him to sprout and grow?
Shut up, Teacher Tom! Stand back! Open your senses to the rain of wisdom falling all around you!
I'm castigating myself a bit this morning as I look through my photos, being inspired by all those moments of focus, concentration, and just being that I've accidentally captured as I tried to find ways to illustrate the blog story I want to tell you the next day. I'm struck by how there is no past and no future: there is only this moment. There are no things, but just this thing in front of me. There is nothing to learn, beyond what that moment and thing or thought or feeling or person can teach me.
In the crash and bang of the world around them, the laughing, screaming and crying of their classmates, the infernal yammering of Teacher Tom, young children have a truly holy ability to lose the boundaries of themselves becoming one with the only thing that is real: now.
I don't know many adults who can do this without resorting to the artificiality of things like meditation or medication. A meditation teacher once explained to me that all she does is remind adults how to stare out a window like they did as a child.
Maybe we think it's impolite or impolitic to allow our minds to connect fully with the moment, as if our acknowledgment of the other people at all times is an imperative.
Maybe our minds simply cannot slow down and dismiss the worry or guilt or anticipation or planning long enough to just be.
Maybe we think we'll just wait until we sleep.
Maybe I'm the only one who feels this way, who needs young children in his life to teach me these important lessons. It's not something I talk about much. I know people already think I'm something of a loony, leftist, hippie throwback, and maybe I don't open my mouth about it because I don't want to prove them right.
But when I'm with the children, I can just be. And the more I do that, the more I am the student, the better I am as a teacher. This is how I recently taught a 2-year-old about a siphon:
Shut up, Teacher Tom. Stand back. Learn. Teach. Play. Be.