I have this framed collage in a place where I see it everyday on purpose…because it is sweet, and because I NEED the daily reminder. “To be loved, BE lovable.” It seems so simple, so common sense-y. But it is so easy to forget or overlook in our daily interactions. We ALL want, even NEED to be loved. And most of us have good examples in our parents, friends, and other people with whom we come into contact. Even if we don’t, we can CHOOSE to learn how, and then can do so on our own. (Hey, Scholars…doesn’t this fit in with our lyrics this past week? I Choose by India.Arie)
With my own children, and with students, we have often needed to learn HOW to be loving, to be friendly, to BE whatever it is we hope to have manifested in our lives. We have often needed to sit down and actually write a list of what it means to be loving, come up with examples of HOW to do it, and then set out with an intention to practice BE-ing that way. And it has turned out to be a pretty good idea with positive results.
What would YOUR list look like? What do YOU like others to do for you or how would you like to be treated? How do you like others to SHOW you that they care, to SHOW that they love you? That’s the easy part, but are WE doing those things for others? Are we expecting others to love us, do for us, care for us, …but WE are not doing that for them? That is the crucial question.
We have discussions here at Scholars on HOW to be a good friend. We all would like friends, but sometimes they are not easy to come by, especially at first. We often make lists of what a true friend is, what we would like in a friend and end up with some great lists. Things such as someone who is fun, who listens with his/her heart, who stands by us even when things are tough, someone who compromises when we are deciding what to do, someone who will tell us what is there, rather than just agreeing with us, someone who will give us a hug when we need one, someone who will remind us of the good in us when we have forgotten, someone who enjoys spending time with us, someone who will be his/her own person, rather than just following the crowd, someone who will stand up for what is right, someone who will help us when we need it…and the list goes on and on including many genuine qualities of a true friend.
Then we come to the next part, the most important part of the process. We put a check mark in front of those items which WE are doing regularly…and often we don’t have too many check marks. And then we see WHY maybe our list of friends (especially those friends that last) is rather short, or even non-existent at times.
I was thinking, too, about how this comes into play as parents. Do we give our children enough opportunities to DO, to GIVE? Of course we will always love our children, they don’t have to earn that. We may not always love their choices, but we will love them. That’s a given. But, do we allow THEM to be on the giving end enough? Do we do SO many things for them that they feel entitled, or used to getting more …and more…and more? Do we feel upset because they don’t seem grateful or don’t notice that we need help, and then pitch in to do so? Do we praise and reward them when they take care of their OWN things like cleaning their rooms, picking up after themselves, etc….things that are their responsibilities, but then stop there? Are we finding ways to SHOW them that they are part of the family, part of the solution, and showing them how to GIVE with the satisfaction that they have helped, feeling that reward inside?
One of my favorite books for a variety of reasons is The Blessing of a Skinned Knee by Wendy Mogel. It is about raising self-reliant children, and she gives such practical suggestions. One section talks about how we PRESENT things to our children in regards to helping. “When you ask your child to help out — set the table, clean the patio furniture, watch a younger sibling — does s/he perceive your request as a fun opportunity or an irritating burden? Often it depends on the way you ask. Once when I accompanied my second grader’s class on a field trip…I had a chance to see how an expert does the asking.
“The bus driver…turned to the children and ….said ‘I need some special monitors? I need some folks to help me out if anything happens to this bus and we have to get off before we get to the museum? …Listen closely’…she spoke in a near whisper (and told them what she needed). The children were rapt. ‘Can anybody handle that?’ Almost every hand shot up…Brilliant. By transforming a responsibility into an honor, this young woman had set up the children to handle a crisis with dignity and at the same time held their attention while she delivered the safety rules.”
Of course one needs to be creative, realistic, and adaptive to the ages and styles of those with whom you are “involving.” We see this SO often with our Scholars, especially during our weekly cabin experience. With the right presentation, our students are SO eager to help, to be a part of, to feel needed as we set up and do the day-to-day chores needed for us to live and work together each week. Some literally run to my car to help unload because they know it is so appreciated, but also because they have had the experience of being helpful and see how good it feels. We have found so many ways to include students, no matter what the age, in helping and supporting our community. Once they get that taste, they LOOK for ways to help without being asked. It is contagious and natural! But, they need to have those opportunities OFFERED to them. Yes, it often takes longer at first to complete a job, or there needs to be re-dos when including children and teens in the day-to-day jobs and projects, but it is SO worthwhile. Because soon they know how to do it and want to do it…it is empowering to the students and to our community.
Referring back to my little framed quote “If you want to be loved, BE lovable”… I was thinking of making yet another list. (Hint to Scholars students: we will be doing this together this week.) What other reminders might we write with this format in mind? Such as, If you want a friend, BE friendly. If you want to play the piano well, PLAY the piano. If you want to get homework done, DO homework. If you want to be trusted, BE trustworthy. What others would be meaningful in YOUR life. What are you looking for that you can turn around and DO yourself? Please share your thoughts and lists with us here in our comments section.
written by Tien Stone Langlois, Director of Scholars Together Learning Community, Inc.
photography by Jay Langlois, Instructor at Scholars Together