A…B…3…D

“When you are high in indignation and perhaps losing patience, remember that human life is a mere fragment of time and shortly we are all in our graves.” Marcus Aurelius

It is easy to have patience with a child who is learning a skill for the first time. The clumsy growth of the child mind is inspiring to witness. It is equally inspiring to watch adults learn a new language, skill, or physical mastery that is result of zig zag slow growth as acquiring new skills at an older age can be challenging and is almost never linear.

Our society praises intellect. In my own life, I find myself wanting to brag about my daughter’s awareness and my son’s creativity. I don’t tell the stories of how my son got his finger stuck in a grated parmesan container twice in quick succession, or how my daughter decided to ride her Paw Patrol fire truck down the stairs, with the same enthusiasm as I share about my son’s Lego projects or my daughter’s expansive vocabulary.

It is often in the less impressive demonstrations of skill/logic/reason that we find value, and if nothing else, humor. After all we’re just humans doing human things while we live out our days.

When I was a young girl, I was being hard on myself for making a poor decision and I was lamenting to my father who shared a story I’ll never forget. He told me that when he was about my age, he had a hunting rifle, and he went out on a frozen lake and decided to shoot the ice below him. His actions were without consequence, but the moral of the story is at the time he felt he was being totally reasonable and within a second of pulling the trigger he realized that not only could the bullet bounce back but that he was shooting at the only separating him from the frozen depth of a lake. After hearing his story, I did indeed feel better about my own failing logic.

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My son is four years old and learning how to read. He can recite a book with ease but cannot sound out a single word. His can memorize a book after hearing it only once, but he cannot in fact read. Given the right audience, book, and situation our son would appear very bright, easily reading a book well beyond his age level. But separate the words from the pictures and all hope is lost, he would not be able to recite anything.

There are adults that operate in this manner. They mimic those around them without fully understanding why or what the desired result is. They seem to float through life, largely unaffected by the trials and turbulations most of us face. They are looking at the pictures of life while everyone else is reading the words.

Often people of this caliber are cast aside in life as they seem to cause more trouble than they are worth. I used to feel this way. But my experience has taught me that these people are necessary and even fulfill a unique purpose.

When everyone is looking right, they are the ones looking left, their perspective is often unexpected. They’re the ones that are the catalyst for clarification and clear policies. But perhaps most importantly, they are the ones that cause the rest of us to take pause and question how we reached our conclusions.

My son was singing the ABC’s song the other day. A…B…3…D… and then switched over to strictly counting. He mixed up C and 3. Given how he recites books by knowing the order, I can only guess that since C is the 3rd letter that in his mind, they are interchangeable. His questions about letters, reading, and counting are so granular that I must stop to really think about how I know what I know. My son’s limited knowledge has placed him in a position to better question everything.

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Whether it is in the workplace, home, or community, we all cross paths with people who are not on our level, whatever that level may be, and who will come across to us as ill equipped, ignorant, or even antagonistic. How we handle these situations as they arise has more to say about us than them. If we find ourselves in a position where we wish to complain about another, we should first take an honest account of the situation and do our best to think of a time when we found ourselves in a similar situation. If we cannot reconcile our thoughts, perhaps the best recourse is to shrug our shoulders and walk away.

Today I will remember that I am one of many and that I am not unique. My way is not the best way, and my logic is not impenetrable. In the end it is not the arguments I won or the enemies I made that will bring me comfort but the lives I shared in and connections that were forged.   

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