Friday, November 25, 2016

Someone Comes To Save The Day

Who wants to be responsible? Whenever anything goes wrong, the first thing they ask is "Who's responsible for this?"  ~Jerry Seinfeld

One recent afternoon, our kindergarten teacher, Teacher Rachel, was hauling the big wooden blocks a few at a time from the preschool classroom where they're stored, to her classroom down the hall where the big kids were going to be building with them the following day. I said, "It looks like Teacher Rachel needs help," and without hesitation, indeed with alacrity, a half dozen four and five year olds came to her aid.

It didn't surprise me. Despite common parent complaints about how difficult it is to get kids to pitch in with household chores, I've found that the young children I teach are generally always ready and willing to help. That is, there are always some who are ready and willing. At any given moment, of course, there are always some who are too engaged to pull themselves away from their own pursuits, but when I say, "I need help," that help always arrives.

The other day, S was sitting on a swing. As I passed, he said, "Teacher Tom, push me." I answered, "I won't push you, but I'll bet someone will," then louder, "Hey, S needs a push on the swing!" Within seconds a friend was there to push him. I watched for a minute, then said, "See? We're like super heroes around here. All you have to do is ask for help and someone comes to save the day!" 

And it's true, we are super heroes. The difference between helping out at school and helping out at home, I think, comes down to choice. At school, the call goes out for help and one can either assume that responsibility or not; at home, generally speaking, someone (usually an adult) is attempting to impose a specific responsibility on a specific kid, and in all honestly, that's when we all balk. Maybe we adults have learned that sometimes we have to stick our noses up against the old grindstone whether we like it or not, but no one is happy when we feel compelled. Responsibilities are not something that can be placed upon us -- those are called obligations. Responsibilities are things we assume of our own free will.

We have an old dog crate on the playground right now. An older sibling was visiting for the afternoon and he got the idea of trying to get it to the top of the concrete slide. He tried, but it it was too heavy for him to do alone. He said, "Help!" and within seconds a team of eager helpers had assembled. While some pushed, others tied ropes to the crate and pulled from the top. It was a struggle, but they finally managed it, then, when they let it go, it plunged back to the bottom of the slope. Then they did it again, each of them assuming responsibility for getting the project done, gladly, because that's what human beings in a community do unless and until someone comes along and turns it into an obligation. Then we fight it.

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