Back in the mid 1980’s, Robert Fulghum wrote a book entitled, All I Really Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten. I remember reading it and thinking how profoundly simple and true it was. The book was a compilation of short essays and poems, the title of the book being the first poem. While developed nations like the United States, the Asian countries, and other world powers were jockeying for position in technological advances, education of its young people, and beating their collective chests, those playing in the sandbox were mining nuggets of wisdom without realizing their lifelong implications; kindergartners were fingerpainting, singing Eensy-Weensy Spider, learning about caterpillars and anticipating a butterfly emerging from its furry cocoon, or in the spring, a chick from an incubating egg. Our relationship with the world, it’s inhabitants, and the realization there is a greater power outside of ourselves begins as play and wonder.
Somewhere along the way to advancement, humankind took a detour and decided technology, science, and one-upmanship trumped civility. We could argue man has battled the need to be better than the next person, group, community, or country from the beginning of time, and I would agree, in part, except there always seemed to be a degree of civility to man’s overall behavior not present today. There were boundaries one did not cross, and did not need to be told not to cross. Most of us knew if we couldn’t speak a kind word to keep our mouths shut, not to steal, or destroy something belonging to another, or if we held differing opinions it needn’t lead to guns and bloodshed. The ills, flaws and frailties of man have always existed, we are seeing them in greater degree in the majority versus the minority now, it would seem.
Obviously, we cannot point to one thing, one moment in time when everything changed, or the worm turned, so to speak. (Fun fact: “even the worm will turn” is a 16th century proverb meaning that the meekest and mildest of us will retaliate when pushed too far) People like to point the finger of blame at the Women’s Movement of the 70’s, wars, abortion, the gay population, Islam, or God taken out of the classroom as the moment the worm turned, but I assure you none of those things hardened man’s heart toward others. No, they are merely targets, focal points to distract from the reason our world seems to be circling the drain. For what it’s worth, I think communication, or more precisely, the lack thereof, is the root of most evil.
We as a society have forgotten how to communicate on a personal level, to listen with the heart, to feel empathy for others. Don’t get me wrong, I use electronic communication as much as the next person, preferring to text over talking on the phone, emailing instead of writing a letter, or walking down the hall to a co-worker’s office. I pay bills and shop online, keep in touch with my kids on the family Snapchat and with friends on Facebook, but the element of human interaction is absent. I grew up in a small town where the telephone service was still a party line, people talked over the back fence, left their doors unlocked at night, paid their bills in person, and met for coffee with friends at least weekly, if not daily. Families sat down together to share meals and discuss their daily trials and triumphs, and I certainly don’t consider those days idyllic by any means. Granted, everyone also knew everyone else’s business and talked about it freely, but even that had its upside. There wasn’t a feeling of isolation like many feel today in our world of instant communication. People’s schedules weren’t packed with activities and obligations, rushing from one thing to another in a frantic quest to accomplish or accumulate more than the next person.
When was the last time you had a deep conversation with another person, friend, or family member and left feeling understood, validated, or connected on an emotional and spiritual level? The majority of our conversations are superficial these days, we hit the high points, offer trite words and phrases hoping they are received as comfort or empathy, or exchange information much like one would after a fender bender when we share the requisite insurance information. We don’t connect on a heart level. And this is where kindergarten and the sandbox come into play.
Kindergarten used to be a time when learning was accomplished through play. We understood the work of learning came through role playing, taking turns, sharing, quietly listening to the teacher read a story, or playing games outdoors during recess. The reality is we learned the more important skills; cooperating with one another, working as a team, caring for others, taking responsibility, and exploring the magic of our world through the five senses. In other words, to communicate. We also took the time to nap everyday; a time to rest and recharge. We all eventually learned the 3 ‘r’s – readin’, writin’ and ‘rithmetic, some quicker than others, and most of us mastered some degree of technological proficiency.
I was fortunate, my kindergarten teacher was also my aunt. I’m certain in my childlike mind I thought I would have a distinct advantage over other kids, but I didn’t; I was treated no differently than anyone else in the class. I had to pay attention, wait my turn, share, and address her as “Miss (last name)”, same as the other kids. Her demeanor was always patient, kind, and accepting, and it is the same today. If any wronged another, she made sure we apologized, and she reinforced the manners most of us were learning at home. We practiced the basics of human kindness and behavior, products of communication. Today, preschools and schools are busy teaching computer science, math, and reading instead of basic human kindness and behavior, which doesn’t seem to be taught in homes either, so they end up getting lost on both ends. Metaphorically speaking, we have decided it’s more important to build the second story of the house before we put in the foundation and first floor.
It was during this time of playing and cooperating with one another we learned to communicate. The home environment taught us how to relate to our family, elders, the neighbors, and kindergarten broadened our environment to include peer groups, and adults we had never encountered before. Boundaries and expectations were also broadened. We learned them in the home, the majority of us did anyway, and we knew not to cross certain boundaries, and what was expected of us sometimes without having been told. Back in the day, many of us just got “the look” which communicated volumes.
Mankind was created to interact with others and communicate, to appreciate the wonder in the world, to understand there was a greater power outside of self, and to take time to rest. Whether we believe the Bible to be literal or allegorical, the point remains something occurred along the path between living from the spirit and living from the ego. We forget those things from time to time and so the Divine Source, or God, needs to remind us every now and again. Yeshua (Jesus) was and is one of our reminders. Yeshua interacted and communicated with others on a heart level, appreciated the creation, played, took the time to get away, rest and recharge. Kindergarten did that for us, too.
What does communication look like in your life? Is there time to connect with others on a heart level, to live in the moment and watch a butterfly emerge from its cocoon, to rest, or to play…..?