I wasn’t in class this morning, Friday mornings are my time out of class. I was glad to get back to the children in the afternoon though. I missed them. The thing about working with children…you never grow up, you never get old, you feel tired, but never jaded – because you’re constantly looking at the world through their eyes. It doesn’t matter what you may be going through in your own life, whatever pain you are in, no matter how much you are hurting on the inside – you work with children, and they heal you. Their pain, their happiness, their laughter – it comes first.
So I came back into class with the young ones, and straight away a few of them started telling me about something mean that someone else had said. So I talked about the standard – how we should use kind words with one another etc, but I could see their eyes glaze over…tell us something we don’t know….and I looked at them…and then I did….
A few years ago I came across a story that Buddha told his followers, you may be familiar with it, my little ones weren’t. There once was a little boy who always said mean things to other people. Not a day went by when he didn’t say something hurtful to others. He would be made to apologise afterwards but he never seemed to learn his lesson, he always carried on doing the same thing….
The children’s eyes were glued on me, we always love a story about a rascal don’t we? I continued….
One day, his father decided that he needed to teach his son a lesson. He said to his son, “I am going to ask you to do something for me, you see that beautiful tree there? I want you to take this axe and just hit the tree with the sharp blade once very day.”
My class were puzzled, I continued….
The father never explained why he wanted his son to do this strange thing, but the son did it every day for 30 days. On the 31st day, the father told his son that he didn’t need to hit the tree anymore, he simply pointed out all the cuts that were on the tree. “Doesn’t look good does it?” said the father. To be truthful, the boy hadn’t enjoyed this strange task, and he didn’t like what had happened to the tree…
The children in my class were still confused, where was this story going?
The father said, “You should say sorry to the tree, after all it wasn’t a kind thing to do.” The boy looked at the tree, felt a bit foolish and did apologise. The father picked him up on it and said, “No son, that wasn’t a proper apology, say sorry like you mean it!” This time, the boy did apologise properly, “I’m so sorry that I hurt you, it was a really bad thing to do! I’ll never do it again.”
I saw a look of satisfaction in the children’s eyes – ah yes, that’s what’s supposed to happen. You do something wrong, you say sorry….but I hadn’t finished my story…
The father continued to stare at the tree with a worried look on his face. The son asked his father what was wrong. “Well you know you cut the tree everyday? And then you said sorry. But look – did the marks on the tree go away?” The little boy shook his head. “Well, you see that’s what happens when you say mean things to people – it hurts them inside, in their heart. You can say sorry afterwards and feel sorry that you said it….but that hurt – like the tree, it doesn’t go away…”
I am not exaggerating, my class looked at me with their eyes wide open and not a pin drop could be heard. Not a single one of them moved a muscle. I explained to them that even as an adult, it’s not easy being kind and trying not to say mean things. But it’s something that we should all try do to.
The rest of the afternoon was blissful.
I love working with children. I just love children. They inspire me to be a better person and try that bit harder to be the best that I can. They may forget this story, of course they will slip up and someone will say something that may not be kind, but for those few hours – they thought about what that little story about the tree being hurt.
So adults – remember – words hurt. You can’t always see how. Be kind to each other.