New Year Brings New Promises
It's that season again! I don't know about you, but I am the most optimistic annual resolutions and promises to myself person you will ever meet.
My list of good intentions is longer than the sheets of paper they fill. Almost the minute they are recorded for daily reminders, they are broken. Did I ever write the poem a day? How about reading a book a week? Or taking a daily 2-mile walk? The trail of broken promises connects from New Year to New Year.
But there are other promises that must be kept: the promises we make to children.
One of my favorite sayings is, "I came to teach and I stayed to learn." Children teach us many important lessons. Two experiences that reflect this theme come to mind.
Many years ago, I was with a large group of middle school kids in a summer program. I wanted to warm them up with an activity I improvised from a school cheer, which highlighted a child at a time leading the others in some kind of movement.
When I introduced Razzle Dazzle, I told the kids that each of them would be a leader. It was a very hot day in a sweltering gym. By the time we reached the No. 10 Razzle Dazzle leader, the other kids dropped off, tired and already drifted away. We had about 15 children to go.
It would have been so easy for me to say, "Well, it's getting a little hot here, so let's just stop now." But something told me to go on, and I rallied and cajoled the group to support those who had not yet had a chance to lead until everyone had that opportunity.
Now 25 middle-schoolers were lying on the gym floor, panting and sweating. After a few minutes, one of the horizontal children said, "I didn't think you were going to keep your promise." Another voice from the gym floor added, "Yeah, so many times grown-ups say they're going to do something and they don't."
During a year of residency with 10 fifth grades in Columbus City Schools, which involved a few visits throughout the months to celebrate art and poetry, I was leaving one of the classes when a boy walked me to the door and shyly gave me a bead bracelet that he had made. I thanked him and put it on. He said, "Promise you will wear it."
Of course, during the following months, the bracelet was added to sweet gifts from children held in a makeshift treasure box. Just before my next visit to that class, I-last minute-remembered the bracelet and hurriedly put it on my wrist. When I entered that room, our friend greeted me at the door, looked at the bracelet and smiled with relief, "You kept your promise."
Yes, we will break promises we make to ourselves. I promise!
But we must, as consistently as is humanly possible, keep promises we make to children. It is the beginning of trust.
Happy New Year!
-"Mamaloshen" is the Yiddish term for "the mother tongue" and we have adapted it here to represent the wisdom of Columbus arts educator, author and all-around inspiration Mimi Brodsky Chenfeld, who is on a mission to help parents raise happy, healthy, creative children.