Saturday, October 03, 2009

God Shouted At Me

This past week has me excited about being alive and it’s not just because it included my first payday since last May.

I have this spiritual idea that god (however you define that) is speaking to us all the time, but most of us, most of the time, don’t listen very carefully so we miss the message. That’s why people find it useful to go to church or meditate or take long solitary hikes in the woods. But sometimes god shouts at us so loudly that we can’t help but hear it. This has been one of those weeks.

Mister Rogers To The Rescue
At the top of my list of messages received is this email from a preschool teacher and reader in Colorado whose grandsons both attended Woodland Park. If I’ve ever needed evidence that I’m doing what I ought to be doing, it’s this:

Hi Tom,
Last night there was a shooting at our local Applebee’s restaurant. I thought, "I hope no one I know was there.”

Today we had Open House at (our preschool). A dad and mom commented they had been there and the dad rushed to help the lady who was shot. The mom expressed concern that her 2 children might be affected by the incident. Thinking about your story from Mister Rogers, I nodded and said, "Yes, perhaps, but allow your children to think about the people who helped and the caregivers . . ." The mom looked shocked that the children would remember the incident and then smiled a little, reflected on my comment, and said, "Thank you for helping me give the right words to my children!" I referred her to your site as well.

You just might never know whom you have helped!

Thank you!

Hugging Wall
Clearly, god wants me to continue hugging. I’ve posted before about our performance art troupe “The Superhuggers" (here and here). In fact, the photos of me on this blog are of me in costume as “Captain Superhugger.”

This week, my brother sent me this link to an installation called “Anonymous Hugging Wall” by an artist named Keetra Dean Dixon. (I can’t figure out how to contact her so I don’t feel right about posting the photos here.) I shared the link with my Superhugger friends and it’s inspired us to build our own more elaborate version for the Fremont Arts Council’s Winter Solstice Feast.

The Feast is often described as our “indoor parade.” We generally take over some sort of vacant office or warehouse space and transform it into a magical venue of music, dance and art on the longest night of the year. (Probably the most magical aspect of all is that it’s a potluck for 600-1000 people – and it actually works!)

We’re still working out the details, but the hugging wall idea seems to be evolving into a two-way hugging apparatus (either a long wall or even a circular room) that will allow feasters to take turns embracing one another from either side. We’re even going to make sure to install child-level arms so they can hug too.

In theory, you won’t know whether you’re hugging a man or woman, an old person or a young one. You won’t know if it’s someone you love or hate, if they're well-groomed or not, or if they're wearing tattoos or a suit and tie. I’m excited about the idea of “experiencing” other people simply by the quality of their hug, then seeking them out afterwards. Not only will it be a cool party game, but I can imagine learning a great deal more about the people with whom I’ve made art over the years.

Building Ramps
This week our Pre-K science and math projects involved building ramps.

For science we put out a variety of boards, blocks, gutters and Hot Wheels tracks, along with a collection of wheeled vehicles and balls, then let the kids go at it, experimenting with angles, speeds, and gravity. Our math project took a more controlled approach. Each child was given a collection of spherical objects to roll one-by-one down a ramp, then chart the distance it rolled on a graph attached to their own clipboard.

You do these things and assume/hope they’ve learned something. On Wednesday preschool mom Reshma told me, “When Anjali got home on Tuesday, she had to build ramps.”

Woo hoo! I heard that one!

Everything Is OK Guys
I’ve learned this week that my friends seem to know me very well. Seven different people have directed me to this video, and believe me, I am inspired. Don’t be surprised to find me at Westlake Center or Seattle Center with a megaphone:

This is their website if you want to see more of the fun.

My Skirt of Children
Yesterday in our Pre-3 class I became unavoidably aware that my skirt of children has started to form. This is exciting because it means that the 2-year-olds are jumping on my bandwagon, which is the first step to molding them into a real community of children.

It was hard to walk at times with so many kids around my ankles. As I moved from station-to-station I was typically taking anywhere from 3 to 8 kids with me. Nothing in this world makes me feel more alive than to be wearing my skirt of children.

Violet declared that I’m her, “best friend,” and is fond of clinging to my leg as I walk around the room.

Sylvia has stopped hiding her face in her mom’s shoulder when I talk to her, has started giving me her sweet smile, and even joined the “skirt” on a couple of excursions.

Owen and Ava we’re both upset about their parents leaving them at preschool for the first time, but both let me calm them down, then settled in for a terrific day at school. Sasha is still a bit intimidated by me in person, but let her grown-up friend Michelle help her get comfortable as well. Sasha’s mom later told me that she talks fondly of me at home and likes to look at my "Captain Superhugger" picture on this blog, so I’m counting her as a future skirt-mate.

I’m grateful that god shouted at me this week. I’m listening. I heard it. Loud and clear.

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Anonymous said...

I'm heading out to consume right now, I've been away for a few days and haven't spent any money lately :)

Teacher Tom said...

Thank you, PJ, for getting back to your real purpose in life. This is a message from the matrix. =)

I think if I did something like this, I would try to stay away from political statements and go with things like: "You are having a good hair day," "It's okay to make eye contact with the other people," "Your family loves you," and "There is nothing to fear." I'd love to see if anyone tried to stop me from making purely positive/supportive statements. It would make a cool piece of street theater.

Anonymous said...

Ha! They might just look at you funny.

Unfortunately, I am just a corporate shill now (I went to the Nestle Family event this past week, not sure if you saw any of the chatter about it, but it was INSANE).

BTW, I nominated you in a contest I found out about from the new mom bloggers I met at our corporate shill/unpaid spokesperson function, here's the link. Good luck.

Floor Pie said...

Sylvia totally admires you from afar. She's been talking about you and about preschool a lot at home ever since that park date. ("Teacher Tom was running and singing with his friends!")

Although it probably won't seem like that when I drop her off next week...

Dave said...

Wow, that's a very substantial post!

First, congrats on getting paid!

Second, that is awesome that you were able to pass such a meaningful piece of advice to a mom who needed it so much.

Third, Fred Rogers is my hero. I got to interview him over the phone when I worked for a newspaper several years ago, and it was pretty much the high point of my career.

Fourth, the idea of the hugging wall frightens me! I like to know exactly who has his/her arms around me.

Fifth, I think you must be the coolest preschool teacher who ever lived. I already wish my family lived in Seattle; now I have yet another reason to wish it.

Teacher Tom said...

I'll be ready for Sylvia, Floor Pie! Thanks for the heads up -- I hope she doesn't cry, but if she does, I can't wait to feel her hot tears soaking through my shirt and onto my shoulder. It feels like trust.

Teacher Tom said...

Thanks Dave! You've made my day!

Unknown said...

We are reading a book as a church right now called Monday morning church. It is asking us to not just be christians in church on Sunday but to be christians all day every day : ). At work, at the gym, in know, everywhere. And I really think when I try to focus on being a christian everywhere in my life I hear God speaking so much more.

I don't know if that makes sense. I just wanted to share how God is speaking to me lately : )

I LOVE the hugging wall! So cool!