A Parent Seizes a Teachable Moment

“Air raid sirens continue to sound in Tel Aviv.” It was the eighth time I heard the report.  Does the media care that repetition numbs feeling?   Instead of my initial shock and wash of compassion, now I’m disappointed that humanity still believes in attacking one another.  Physically and verbally.

Conversely, here I was in a wealthy and peaceful country, on my second mission to find a birthday gift for a 74 year old man who has everything.  I dashed into the hardware store.  I hoped to find a customer of similar profile, follow him to his heart’s delight and mimic his purchase.

The Gate through The Teachable Moment

Unfortunately, the store had few customers.  A family had walked into the shop ahead of me.  The father and mother feigned being interested in merchandise, but were signalling each other when their 9/10 year old daughter and her little friend paused over various articles in the toy department.  I heard the daughter say, “Okay, we have seven dollars to spend.  Let’s each buy one of these watches.  Look here’s how it goes on.”  She tapped the open watch band on the top of her wrist and the strap automatically closed around her arm.

“Kewl” said the friend.

I was on my way to find a male clerk who may have some good suggestions for a gift.  As I was passing the toy section, the daughter raced from behind and crossed directly in front of me to reach her father.  “Look, Dad!  We’re each going to buy one of these watches.  See what they do?”

He reached out to his excited daughter, “You just cut in front of that lady.  That was very rude.”

I kept walking, found a young male clerk and discovered his vintage was a handicap.  “Here’s a knife that has every tool imaginable as well as a flashlight.”  I wondered how to tell this young man that by the time my friend, Gary, found the minuscule on-switch, he would have forgotten why he was holding a knife with a device that was either an aerial or a marshmallow roasting stick.

“Maybe I’ll find something for his pets,” I said.  The young man quickly gave directions for the pet supply department looking relieved to be rid of me.  Suddenly I felt eyes on me.  I slowly turned and found the two young wristwatch shoppers behind me.  Both stood silently staring at me.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the mother and father standing back, a little to my right.

Bursting with welcome, one of my dear friends suddenly appeared from the left.  “Amy!  Whatcha doin’ here?”  She rushed over to give me a hug.  She placed herself between the young girls and me.

I had to respect this teachable moment.  I wanted desperately to support these fabulous parents.  I grasped each of my friend’s arms and said softly, “Please excuse me.  I think these young ladies want to talk to me.” and I guided my friend to one side.

Appearing to be slighted, my friend said, “Well!  I think I’ll just get right out of your way then.” and she left.

The two young girls stood still.  Silent.  I said, “Were you waiting to speak to me?”

The daughter’s face was ashen.  When she dared to raise her eyes, they were full of fear.  I knew I must wait this out.  She didn’t respond.

Now her eyes stayed downcast.  “Did you want to speak to me?” I prompted gently.  Still nothing.  I looked at the parents for a cue.

The father spoke softly, “Go ahead, Sweetheart.  Tell the lady what you wanted to say.”

Now she glared at her parents.  I moved towards them to give her space.

Slowly, she croaked and coughed, while looking at her parents.  One word at a time.  “I’m…that I…”  She couldn’t finish.

“You need to look at this lady and tell her, not us.” her father said.

Finally she forced herself to look at me. “I’m sorry that I walked in front of you.”  Eyes dropped immediately.

Can a heart overflow?  I felt the possibility.  I loved this little girl who surely felt she had been asked to climb into a bear’s den.  I planted adoration in each word,  “I respect you so much for being this courageous to come and make this apology.”   As I spoke, her eyebrows raised and her mouth opened.  Her intent stare confirmed she was listening to every word.  “I love people who care about and use good manners.  You want to know what your apology has done for me?”

In the split second of waiting for her response, I looked at her parents.  The question held their attention, too.  “What?” the daughter asked.

“You made me feel that I am not invisible.  Thank you.”  While I knew she wouldn’t know what I meant, I saw the appreciative expression both parents carried.  It’s their job to explain.  They can take this significant experience and present their daughter with an understanding she can carry into life.

I turned and left.  I had to find my friend so I could explain my firm response to her.  I knew these incredible parents would make good the fathomless value of their daughter’s teachable moment.

With a soul full of joy, I wanted to phone Tel Aviv.  I wanted to say a very young girl had a story for the warring factions.  It would be about how courage and vulnerability leads to Love.

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47 thoughts on “A Parent Seizes a Teachable Moment

    • Will you believe me that you were with me the whole time I wrote this. Now why is that?? Yes, the little girl looked like someone you knew at that age! But what a treat that you are the first to comment! 😀

  1. This is such a beautiful and heartfelt post Amy…God bless…

    The lessons in this are many tiered and all of them relevant and vital for us today. If only we understood that the lessons we teach through action…non action…example…emphasis…empathy…consideration are the only ones that matter and build back bones and a humane society…all the rest is fluff and flotsam…

    The carnage that is wrought upon innocent bystanders and the apathy that follows it is heartbreaking…lessons are being taught in that war zone too…but they are hard and harsh and lead to hardened hearts and wills…which is a death knell for love and peace and shared humanity…the heart breaks over and over again…

    • You SEE, Shamaji. With you heart and your whole being. And it really is not complex, is it? Human beings make it complicated. It’s always startled me that life is made so complicated when deep inside each and every one of us simply want to love and be loved.

      May the understanding dawn in our day that while any form of negativity is operating, the heart is not.

      Thank you so very much, my respected friend.

  2. Amy, you are so perceptive! What a life lesson you and the parents taught to this young girl.
    I hope you managed to find your friend……

    • Yes, I did, Joan. She was in the grocery store. She said she knew I was up to something and that she didn’t want to interfere, but I know it hurt her. I apologized and when I told her the story, she completely understood. She said something about my “repositioning” her being a strong indication that something important was happening. 😀

    • Thank you, Bulldog. Glad to see you were able to manage that internet! Yes, it gives me hope as well that the values still exist. Now we just have to bring back the concept that good manners have saved many, many relationships!

  3. Wow, Amy! This surely is one terrific post.

    As I sit back and muse, I wonder about several aspects. Why was the little girl finding it difficult to speak to you? Was this because she was being “forced” to apologise when she really did not feel she had done something wrong? When she skipped ahead of you, she needed her parents’ acknowledgement of her choice.Instead of that, she got a sermon, ” You should not have …..” But by either saying this ( as the parents did) or by listening to it ( as the girl did), could they have changed what had already taken place? Could this have facilitated a learning moment? I doubt it.

    Your response was in that sense an “ah ha” moment. An acknowledgement both for you and of you. Whether the parents were able to impart the right perspective to the children is something I cannot be sure of.

    Cheers

    Shakti

    • No, Shakti, the father’s tone to his daughter was loving – it’s what I noticed when he related what she had done. He didn’t “should on her”. He stated the facts in a respectful tone. (I don’t believe in using “should” so when people use it, it’s like hearing a cracked gong to me. There was not even a tone of “should”.) It made me think she’s done this before! 😀

      Therefore, it was not a surprise to me that the daughter had been asked to make an apology. She was embarrassed, Shakti. Not only did she have to make an apology to a complete stranger, she had to do it in front of her little friend.

      And the “moment” didn’t stop there. When I found my friend so I could apologize to her, she said, “I didn’t even notice I stepped between you and someone else! I didn’t see those little girls looking at you.”

      You are right – I did learn some things about me. In my life, forgiveness has been a topic for discussion and practice a lot lately. Did the little girl know she was forgiven? I didn’t use the words “I forgive you”. Hopefully my message portrayed it fully.

  4. Thank you for sharing this beautiful post, Amy. A seemingly small act will have great meaning for these girls’ future lives. I adore the way their parents insisted on apologizing, and the way you handled their brave action.
    Something to think about.

    • I had to make an apology once to a shop keeper for helping myself to THE MOST beautiful rhinestone buttons a little 8 year old girl could EVER imagine! I had to have them! I hid them in a little cave and went to look at them every day. My brother grew curious and followed me. He ratted on me – told mom – and I had to take them back and apologize. I wanted to die. I had to live a whole day knowing I was going to have to do this! The store owner saw my remorse and made me promise I’d never steal again. So when I saw that little girl, I realize now, I was looking at me!

  5. What a beautiful moment you’ve shared with us. Thank you for this. I have a feeling this young girl will remember this well for a very long time. Your words in turn healed her and hers did you…life is all about compassion and respect…this post explored both. You lifted me up this morning. Thank you.

    • Yah, you wise li’l buddy! Invisible! It’s a nasty state of affairs, isn’t it? It’s grand when we don’t have to roar our presence – and it’s monumental when we feel respected.

    • Yes, Linda. As I told some commenters, I found her. All is well. While her feelings were hurt somewhat, she said she went away trusting that I had a good reason for not giving her my attention. Ahhhh true friends! Can’t beat ’em!

    • Yes, Christine, so let’s praise and proclaim all those great parents who are alive and well!

      I’m wondering if you’ve finished your sketching. Your life on Skye seems to parallel the benefits winter presents to us – when we can mellow in a sprinkling of hibernation, creativity and self-indulgence.

      • The sketch is almost finished and I shall post it on completion so that you or anyone else can tell me what you think! No matter how wet, windy and dark it is, I love the winter, partly due I think because of the complete contrast with the summer season when we get virtually no time to ourselves.
        Christine

  6. What a fantastic story. Bravo to the parents who were imparting some manners in their daughter. And kudos for the respect you gave them in that moment. The news from Tel Aviv disturbs me greatly. I actually touched on that topic in today’s post – there is a Palestinian doctor who crosses the border every day to practice medicine in an Israeli hospital – even after THREE of his daughters were killed by Israeli bombs. His message (and his book title) is: I Shall Not Hate. Wow.

    • And what a lot of good work you are doing on your blog. I’m so amazed at the lack of knowledge people generally have about good nutrition and good eating habits. You have a way of sharing the information by “showing” which is so much easier to take in than “lecturing”. Smart lady!

  7. A wonderful teachable moment for the children, as you say. Would Tel Aviv ever really see the Palestians and know them as sentient beings? We can only hope and pray.

    Always a good story from you, Amy.

    Peace! and Hugs!

    • Let’s hope one day that the world awakens and forgiveness will become the strategy replacing war. As I write I hear a report about a building being bombed that held reporters. I don’t understand – why is forgiveness and moving on a policy of the everyday man and not for nations?

  8. Hi Amy – excellent story – just lovely … so many of us don’t have time for these things …

    What’s going on elsewhere in the world is just terrible – Syria … as well as countries surrounding it … refugees – now Israel and Gaza … Africa – horrors …

    So much … thanks for this delightful story – those two little ones will have a story to tell too …

    Cheers Hilary

    • Hilary, we all appreciate validation and respect. We all have the power and ability to give it. Why do we teach our children this respect and then feel justified to kill our neighbours?

      I love any opportunity to see, respect, and appreciate young people. I’ve seen them, especially teenagers, respond so positively when shown some form of respect. At times I did audit-type work in secondary schools. I was amazed to learn that adults were nervous about walking down the corridors in these schools. My head must be screwed on in some strange manner…I’d ask a teen for help or assistance any day. Perhaps I have “islomania”!

  9. A beautiful post with such a great moral to it. If only all people of all ages could learn from it, be it in Israel or Palestine or wherever. And I think you tackled the whole situation wonderfully even if it may have offended you friend (maybe she could learn something from this post , too…).

    • For me, Otto, the air crackled with significance during the whole experience. It reminded me to slow down. Too often I’m in a hurry and this exchange made me wonder how often I have done the same thing to someone else.

      When I travel in cultures where manners are very different, I shudder to think of the times I’ve unknowingly gestured inappropriately.

    • Yes, Rosie, we can move so far away from actually seeing the other person’s spirit – child or adult! This is one of the things about your blog…you acknowledge people constantly. The response is so often a gift – very worth the time. Both giver and receiver end up being more evolved. Yes, you do this readily – as long as the lineup isn’t too long…:D

  10. What a beautiful post, Amy Auntie. This small act is going to do world of good for that little girl. She will remember these words forever. “You made me feel that I am not invisible. “- I just love the way you pass on an really important message to her. Somehow as adults many times we forget that our behavior or act affects someone else present in the same place. But we hardly give it a thought what others feel or think. This one is a thought provoking post for me too. I wish you would have said me that same line in my childhood, then I would have been a much better person. 🙂

    • Arindam, you are perfect. You are being who you need to be to have the feelings & experiences necessary to evolve. I just read a book written by a woman who is part Indian who died and returned to life. While she was “on the other side”, she saw what an incredible creation each and every human is. She saw that she wasted time and love by always feeling down on herself. She came back to her body knowing that she could love herself unconditionally.

      If you have no motive to hurt anyone else or put anyone else down, it makes no sense to do that to yourself. Look at all the connections you have with people around the world, Arindam. You make us feel special that you are willing to spend time with us. Plus look at these beautiful friendships you’ve developed. Do you really think a “lesser” person would be capable of doing that?

      My heart is bursting with love for you right this minute, my young friend. Love yourself so that you will find unfathomable love for others.

  11. This was fabulous. What great parents and what a great response from you. After the apology, most people would have said a curt thank you and been on their way.

    I was sure, in the end, you would have purchased one of those watches for your friend. As I age, some things are difficult to do. I gave up on watch straps with buckles & use expandable bands because they are so much easier to put on.

    Re: Tel Aviv. I am taking a class at my community college. A Palestinian woman is in my class. We talked about this the other night. She has relatives in Gaza and is horrified by the number of civilians, mostly children, who have been killed. Another woman kept saying, “But Israel has the right to defend itself.” Another woman said, “But Israel is using weapons we have provided, to kill children.” Violence has always puzzled me. Why can’t we work things out before attacking each other? But violence is such a part of even our entertainment. When the “good” guy shoots the “bad” guy, theater audiences cheer. Conflicts between countries are rarely one-sided. I put the blame on both. And both need to work to resolve them. As I write this, I believe a truce is still in place, but who knows how long it will last? And won’t there be hundreds of people who hate the other side even more than previously because of friends and relatives who were hurt or killed?

    My response to Weekend Linkup at Write on Edge can be found here:
    http://proartz.blogspot.com/2009/02/wrong-side-of-tracks.html
    Please stop by.

    • Thanks for your visit, CJ. I ended up buying my friend a bouquet of fresh cut flowers. It was the first bouquet he’s ever received! I was thrilled – and asked him how all the women in his past could have missed such an opportunity! 😀

      Your piece provided such good characterization that each one is vividly lingering. I really enjoyed it. Oh, and I read how I could have gone to a version of colour for easier reading. Saw that afterwards!

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