I was thinking the other day about a little game my mother and I used to play while I was growing up. Whenever we were faced with a long wait–at the bank, for instance, or in an airport–we would make up stories about the lives of the strangers around us. The ruder and meaner the stranger, the more epic and tragic the story.
An angry woman in the bank line became a mother waiting on a most-likely non-existent kidney transplant for her only child. The slow-as-molasses cashier at the fast-food joint became a war hero, shrapnel still embedded in his skull, grateful he can work at all.
“The ruder and meaner the stranger, the more epic and tragic the story.”
I had what I thought was a pretty ordinary childhood. I’m just now beginning to realize just how extraordinary my upbringing was. There was nothing in my external environment that you wouldn’t recognize as typical of many suburban towns; my school years were filled with tee-ball, Girl Scouts, the Kiwanis Chicken Barbeque, orchestra concerts, and riding my bike with no helmet.
“Now I see it as teaching me the convergence of imagination and compassion.”
But, for as long as I can remember, my mother taught me to look beneath the surface of things. So my childhood memories of these tangible things–the tee-ball and barbecues–are painted on top of what was the core of my growing-up. What was as the core was this way of seeing, this worldview that taught me to consider not only someone else’s point-of-view, but also, their experiences. I thought for a long time these waiting-in-line stories were intended to keep me entertained. Now I see it as teaching me the convergence of imagination and compassion.
My mother taught me to see into people and read their stories. I wonder when our schools will do the same.