Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Without Hesitation, Beaming

He was playing with our classroom baoding balls, a pair of those Chinese meditation balls that we keep nestled in a fancy box. They're special things by virtue of that box, of being shiny, and of being a scarce resource.

A young three-year-old, he was delighting in opening the box, fondling the balls, shaking them to make them chime, then returning them to their velvety nesting place.

She is also a young three-year-old. Spying the boy playing with the balls, she made a grab for them saying, "I want that." It wasn't an aggressive act as much as an assertive one, a direct, impulsive, logical way to cross the bridge between her desire and its attainment.

He reacted instantly in defense of his treasure, slamming the lid of the box with one hand while fending off her outreached one with the other.

In a flash, their hands were in one another's faces, him a silent defender, her shouting, "I want it!"

I moved my body between them in such a way to end the fisticuffs, placing a hand on the box, while allowing each of them to keep their own hands on it. Just the day before, the children had begun making their own classroom rules, one of which was "no hitting." I said, "I saw you hitting each other. We all agreed, no hitting."

"I want it."

"We also all agreed, 'no taking things from other people.'" I nodded toward the list of rules we've taped to the classroom wall, drawing both of their attentions toward it. I then added, "He had the balls in his hands. I saw you try to take them."

She removed her hand from the box, saying, "But I want them."

"If you want them, you can ask him for them, but we all agreed you can't just take them."

"I want them."

"If you want them, you can him ask for them."

"I want them."

"If you want them, you can ask him for them."

Meanwhile, he was clutching the box tightly, shooting a rather severe face in her direction.

After three repetitions, she got it, finally speaking directly to her colleague, "Can I please have one?"

Without hesitation, he opened the box and handed her one of the balls. Without hesitation, beaming.

Another girl who had been observing the interaction asked, "Can I please have one too?"

Again, without hesitation, he opened the box and handed her the second ball. Without hesitation, beaming. Then he turned and without a word, only a smile, showed everyone his empty box.

I walked away then, wanting to just get out of their way, almost overwhelmed by the epiphanous dawn I felt growing within me. What had I just been a part of? When commanded, he fought with ferociousness; when asked, he gave in joy. It was as if I'd been standing with the soul of mankind or something.

I've been reflecting hard on this moment for the past week or so. You don't need to read here long to know that when commanded or demanded or coerced I tend, as this boy did, as most of us do, to react in opposition, to put my hand in the face of my perceived tormentor. But what has happened to the other side? Living in the city, for instance, I'm asked every day, often dozens of times a day, for one of my metaphorical meditation balls, yet I too rarely hand it over, and even when I do it's not usually with the fully open-heart I saw at school last week. I'm sure I once had it because I can find vestiges of the emotion within me. Where did it go?

I want to blame "society," of course, that convenient scapegoat for all the world's ills, telling myself it would be much easier if everyone could just become enlightened at the same time. There's a fear there that stops me, I guess, one that makes me recoil at that idea of scarcity, of that empty box: that if I give it away I'll wind up with nothing. Yet here was this boy, joyful in his empty box, beaming, a true possessor of everything, while I suffer in my lack of faith in my fellow man, myself, and the universe.

Is this simply part of the curse of growing older and wiser? In having developed the capacity to worry about more than the immediate future, am I robbed of the profound joy of an empty box? I reckon so, to a certain extent, although I'm also aware that this is not the end of my road, at least I hope it's not. There is even greater wisdom ahead, I'm sure, and I'm thinking I'd be served for the time being to keep looking for it in that empty box.

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Unknown said...

Tom, I am so full of feeling after reading this post--some of which might be from the glass of red wine I am enjoying. Capturing these moments for yourself and for others is such worthy work. I am wondering too about this "beaming." Perhaps we as older folk would be more readily beaming if someone like you had helped us experience this as a younger person. Well done, Tom--well done.

Jennie said...

"I'm sure I once had it because I can find vestiges of the emotion within me. Where did it go?" Wow!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for beautifully capturing such a thought-provoking moment and sharing it with us!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this wonderful post. I so agree, wonder why I can't seem to give as freely any more. My son the other day came home really happy because he had swapped one of his large lego motorcycles with his friend for a tiny lego man. My first reaction was one of "why did you do that? Now you don't have it any more, that motor was worth a lot more?", then I felt so ashamed of myself as it came from such lack and I saw his face changing. He obviously was very happy with the deal and also wanted to share his toys with another child who didn't have the motor but my response made him feel puzzled. Happily I caught myself and I could adjust my reaction, saying straight away "oh well, as long as you're happy with it, then that's great actually, it's good you can share that way with your friends, well done". And he said "yes, I'm very happy!". Another lesson learned in generosity and feeling abundant :).

Pien said...

But he did not have an empty box. He had the nest, the nest of the those magic balls. At some point those balls will be returned to their safe place. Patience in the warm glow of sharing.

Anonymous said...

Or perhaps he was beaming because he had just witnessed his friend do what was difficult but right. He witnessed the angel winning. The second one may have been given away because he wanted that friend to celebrate the victory as well. Makes me think about your post the other day when you talk about love and being in the moment. Oops not the other day, I mean next year. :)