Saturday, March 01, 2008

The Children

I have, of late, found myself enchanted by stories shared by Mom’s telling of their lives with their diverse children. All sort and description of environs and settings. Varied ages and interests told of. Demonstrations of talents, abilities and gifts that entertain, amuse, and bring a tear of admiration. And I miss, sorely, an immersion in that magic.

I have attached, to this reflection, a photo of myself in an environment that was as close to heaven as I have had opportunity to be for a long while. I was invited to visit a local elementary school that I might provide a “break time” for teachers of kindergarten and first-grade students. Each teacher would bring their class to the library (Yes!, don’t say it, please. I know. It is now referred to as a “media center” in today’s nomenclature. But it will always and forever be the library for me. And my dear and treasured friend, Carole, who was [she has retired now] the “Librarian”, was my hostess and the one who invited me.)

So, on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, for a few weeks, I had the immeasurable joy of having a single class at a time sitting on the big round rug before Mister Brown’s chair as I read a wondrous selection of stories to them. And I took advantage of the opportunity to pause … and s_l_o_w_l_y point to each and every one of these gifts from heaven … and tell each individual “I love YOU,” and after another pause … the next one … “and I love YOU” … and so on, until each child was personally reassured that they were, in fact, loved for that day … as an individual. I took the moment to let them absorb a reality of relaxed, comfortable, natural, and gentle language of love and respect. For each other. And for themselves. It was glorious!

I have no doubt that MANY of these gems of potential had never been spoken to in such an intimate and gently caring way. Most especially the boys. So you can only imagine my joy when, as his class was lining up to leave the library, a tall, thin lad of far-East extraction, ran back to me, threw his little arms around my neck and declared “I love you Mister Brown!” I have tears flowing as I recount the moment, even now. Nothing could surpass my joy in that instant. Then, seeing what this bold classmate was doing, an adorable little “Shirley Temple look-alike”, bolted from the line and delivered her version of the same. I know that there were clouds in the sky that day … but they were so far beneath my feet that I couldn’t describe them.

After that encounter, it became “group hug and proclamations of love” time for each class as they prepared to leave me. I had teachers whose classes did not come in for reading sessions, come into the library to find out just who this guy was … this “Mister Brown” that they heard students and directly involved teachers speaking of. And why? Simply because I chose to open my heart to, and teach those darling treasures to open themselves to, intimate and genuine expressions of those emotions that they had no previous vocabulary for. I allowed them to discover the joy of honoring and being confident in the worth of their feelings. And the boys seemed to be the most grateful .

On my last day there, I attended several holiday presentations made by students for their parents, in their individually decorated and prepared classrooms. Their was an endless parade of parents saying “So! YOU are the Mister Brown that he has been talking about all these weeks.” Don’t you see, My Dear Reader, it mattered to these children. An environment of validation and caring was immensely important to them. As was demonstrated by the excited voice of one little boy as he repeatedly called my name whilst I was headed for my van at close of all of the holiday festivities. Here he came, at full gallop. His Mom was hurriedly trying to catch up with a very large package carried in both hands. “He asked me last night, to bake his most favorite cake for today. When I said that that was a very nice idea for his classmates … he replied ‘Oh no, Mom. It’s for Mister Brown … he will be there!’” I was overwhelmed! There he stood … waiting … knowing what simply HAD to follow … “I love you [and I gently spoke his name]” He literally glowed!

So, Dear Friend, with my eyes blurred with fond recollection, I take this moment to thank all of you whose stories of loving and supportive … caring and engaging … and intimately involved living and growing experiences with your children, have been such a joy and blessing for me.

I do, indeed, love You.


Melissa said...

And this is the reason that I volunteer at Hope's school. It's not for me, it's for the kids who need just that one extra person to validate them.

'I love you' are very strong words and I don't know to many people who would be unhappy to hear them said to them...good job Mister Brown.

Cicero Sings said...

What a wonderful time for ALL involved! What a great opportunity for you! Such a win-win situation. With our techno world and rustle and bustle, children do miss out on those "gentler, quieter" times. My friend is a teacher ... the teachers in their school have discussed how that children don't seem to be able to relate to one another anymore. I also think that "community" seems to be lacking. Everyone is an entity unto themselves. Interesting times ... sad for the children.

So again, I'm glad you got the opportunity to speak love to these children that they may in turn learn to speak love to others.

Corrie said...

What a sweet experience, thanks for sharing it.

Amy Y said...

That was lovely, Mr Brown :)
I am sure that you made a bigger impact on those lil guys' lives than you'll ever know.
Bless you for that!

John-Michael said...

Melissa, I am certain that your presence in Hope's school is anticipated with relish by all who have opportunity to enjoy you.

A spirit the brings comfort and joy is revealed through your messages.

John-Michael said...

Your "With our techno world and rustle and bustle, children do miss out on those "gentler, quieter" times" reminded me of the day that a gentleman (who had been conducting business with Carole, in the Library whilst I was "reading" to the children) asked to speak to me.

It seems that he was a representative for a publishing company. "I have been observing you for the past half hour. And I must tell you that ALL of the literature says that what I observed happening between you and those students ... is simply IMPOSSIBLE. All of the literature is in agreement that children of that age CAN NOT maintain a focus or interest for that long without the use of visual aids."

You must know, here, that I had "read" to the class ... with no books. I used that day to introduce the children to their imaginations. With the example of my grandparents and others of their generation and circumstance having neither book nor library resource (on the remote farm), I introduced Folk Songs (which I sang ... complete with dramatic effect and gesture) and opned a whole new world of their mind's ability to create pictures and images.

Three of them came back the next week to tell me that they had been comparing their similar experiences of "seeing the stories" in their minds, with each other. And wanted to thank Mister Brown for teaching them to do that.

(How much did I LOVE that?!?!)

John-Michael said...

Thank you cicero, for that (in the mind reading) recollection!!

John-Michael said...

My "Thanks" is to you, Corrie, for your ever-kind thoughtfulness.

John-Michael said...

Amy Y, My Dear One, from one whose dedicated and loving commitment is to a loving impact on young lives ... yours is appreciated insight, indeed.

Anonymous said...

Those children will never forget you. I only wish we could have someone like you in every school. It is so important for children to feel loved, cared for, needed and wanted not only at home but also as they learn in their acedemic environment. As you may know my daughter, Amy, is autistic and she may never fully understand feelings outside of the home. A little bit of light shining on each child that day will have set them up for the rest of their lives. Exactly the way I have progressed for Amy.

Crystal xx

Shrinky said...

Ah, Mr. Brown,

We love you too - it's contagious!

John-Michael said...

Crystal, My Dear Lady,

How you have every bit of my heart! The burden of finding, within your own awareness, an understanding of, and adequate response to what your child's desires and wishes are, on a moment-by-moment basis is too overwhelming to consider.

My Matthew's CP limits his mental functions in ways that were undefinable (outside his readily obvious physical limitations) and I am acutely aware of the unending sense of urgency and immediacy that dominated my every moment as I sought to discover, and then respond to in a constructive and encouraging way, the nature of his brains malfunctions.

And I see in even the children who are not similarly challenged, their own individual handicaps created by an isolation from their emotional and spiritual needs. This awareness motivates me to respond to them in a manner kin to the urgency that my being Matt's Dad has made an active and compelling part of me.

You have my heart's admiration, respect, and affection.

John-Michael said...

Dear Shrinky, All of the water in that silly little "pond" between us has no diluting effect on my fondness for who you are, as evidenced by the spirit in which you speak.

My world is made better by your presence in it.

Classic Charm said...

Awe Mister Brown if only there were many more of you in this world...and I pray that all children can feel "loved" - I am one of those smothering mothers who still hold my boys on my lap daily and tell them how much they are loved, and how lucky I am to have them. And oh they just love me back!!! Not once do they ever tell me to stop...eventually they will, but for now I am oh so blessed for those are a gentle soul Mr. Brown...

John-Michael said...

Your children are richly blessed, Rose, as I am, by your caring attention.

FrazzMom said...

Thank you John-Michael for your reminder to say those very important words, I Love You, to our children EVERY DAY!

John-Michael said...

You are so welcome, Dear Lady. I must give a whole bunch of credit to the late Leo Buscaglia for his awakening me to the need for a vocabulary of love in the world that each of us influence. Some of the rough and burly men at the warehouse (where I pick up my daily supply of newspapers for delivery) took a bit of adjustment to become comfortable with my "Hey! I love you"s. But without exception all enjoy the respectful validation of their worth.

It is powerful! (and makes for a nicer world to share)

Jules~ said...

Thank you so much for sharing this with us. It brought tears to my eyes. It is so important to share our hearts and time with the children. In their busy little lives that are full of distractions and tragedy, they need the assurance that they matter...even when they don't realize at first that that is what they need.
That is everyones' know that they matter.

John-Michael said...

Jules ... You matter! ... to Me.

Your words matter to Me. Your spirit matters to Me.

Hearing from You, matters to Me.

Your giving of your Self (which you do so very generously and gently in your comments) matters to me.

I am grateful for You.

Don Mills Diva said...

What a beautiful post - "I love you Mister Brown" made me tear up - what a wonderful memory for you and for him too...

John-Michael said...

Such a hunger children have for a way to comfortable express all of the magnificent wonder that wells up within them.

A big reason for my love of You and others who honor their children.

tati said...

Bless you

John-Michael said...

Thank you, Tati. Blessing gratefully accepted.

Misty Dawn said...

I have tears streaming down my face. You, my friend... are an amazingly beautiful man.

And may I just say that, through your words... I have come to 'love you Mr. Brown'.

John-Michael said...

And, Dear Misty Dawn, with no less enthusiasm and joy, I happily embrace and celebrate your love. As I bask in, and delight in my new and fresh love of You.

You bless my heart!

CrazyCath said...

Dear dear Mister Brown!
I decided to look at some of your back posts and only got to this one, drawn to it by my own thoughts on my children and how precious they are. What a special man you are. Reading what you have achieved and also your comments reassures me even further of your genuine love for people and I so wish I had taken the time to read this before! Still, I have now and as I said in another post (and is my catchphrase at the moment) better late than never!

It reminds me of when I trained to teach. I never did teach after qualifying. Many reasons. One is that the world on this side of the pond (and maybe yours with "qualified" teachers) is so ridiculously PC, touching children is a big no-no. To say "I love You" would probably have me on a paedo register. This upset me greatly in one school where children clearly had little love in their lives, and a hurt child could not be hugged. A child could not sit on my knee. What a sad world.

The other part of this post that made me smile was your telling of "reading" a story without a book. My leaning and "specialty" was English and drama and I always taught "early years" as we say here. I read without books. Used imagination, my arms, hands, a chair, the floor, voice intonation, you know what I mean. These stories would have the children transfixed far longer than the allotted 15 minutes they were meant to last.

Guess who taught me to do that?

My dad. No training. Just being my dad. At the ripe old age of about 8 or 9, I knew the whole story of Tolkein's Lord of the Rings. Even now, as a bookworm, I struggle to read that book. But I know the story because dad told it to me and my brother. He didn't read it out. He made it come alive.

That's what you did. Now I know that is why you are my "virtual" surrogate father!

And we still make up little stories today. And they're the best. We all star in them!

John-Michael said...

How absolutely marvelous Cath!! I am so glad that you have spoken of this with me.

Yes, being safely "PC" is a HUGE issue here as well ... and I told my host in the library that I would "go out blazing" if need be, but I would be sent away telling the children that " love you" was not a "four letter word." It was a GRAND experience ... for ALL involved.

Lovin' ya

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