Sunday, May 20, 2012

Listen to Children

A few days ago, I sat and listened while my 12 year old granddaughter, Ellie, read to me from a project she was working on for her Language Arts class. She is studying about the gods and goddesses in Greek mythology. The assignment was to take on the persona of one of the figures in the Greek pantheon and to write a campaign speech as a candidate for election to the position of “top god” vacated by Zeus’s demise.

I listened with pride and amusement as she used both her research material and her sense of humor and her sweet intelligence to construct her campaign speech. But it wasn’t until a day or two later that I really heard what she had to say.

Her paper began, “Hello, my name is Asclepius, son of Apollo and Coronis – the Godlike healer of mortal illness.” Her campaign platform was built on her ability to heal. She wrote “I am very intelligent, and with times like these, brains like these will come in handy. I am also generous. I don’t use my powers for only myself and the people I am fond of. Anyone can access me at the Asclepion in Athens. People go there if they are sick so that I can heal them or give advice. I am also very responsible. My people will always be able to rely on me to heal the weak and diseased.”

I wondered if, given a choice, the collective human consciousness might embrace “the gods” of healing and reconciliation and intelligence and generosity and accessibility and responsibility when it comes to generating and choosing leadership. I wondered if we might be willing to forgo the gods of wealth and power, of weaponry and war, if our consciousness could make the leap from the power to oppress to the power to heal.

Given the choice of gods to engage for her project, Ellie made the leap. Rather than choosing the potentially destructive power of an Aries or a Cyclops or a Medusa, she chose the power of Asclepius to heal, to responsibly attend to the needs of the people with integrity and generosity. Her campaign promises were to alleviate chaos, to create vaccines to prevent illness, to teach children her knowledge of medicine so that their knowledge, in turn, would grow and have an impact on the planet.

Our children carry within them visions of wholeness and healing. They carry the same dreams we adults carry – albeit ours are in a somewhat weakened and tarnished condition. They are here to remind us of what the human endeavor might create.

After reading Ellie’s paper, I began to wonder what the world would look like if our educational curricula routinely offered our children required courses in mediation and conflict resolution, if we taught philosophies of healing and forgiveness alongside our constant history of conflict and destruction.

Ever since my grandchildren have lived near me, I have had a bumper sticker affixed to my mirror that reads “Listen To Children”
a reminder that they are often closer to holy wisdom in the service of life than the rest of us are. We need to listen to children because the children are over-hearing us. Perhaps by listening to them more carefully, we might all grow up together.

(Credits: “Asclepius” by Ellie Hanjian, for her 7th Grade Language Arts assignment)

Vicky Hanjian

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