Last week I posted the first part of this piece. In it, I describe how I use an ancient Hindu fable to not only educate my students about Hinduism and its similarities to Western religions, but also to teach them a life lesson about self control. Each year, I end this activity with a personal account of a time I failed to exhibit self control... epically failed.
20th Century Fox Television and Fuzzy Door Productions
Students learn from books, the internet, movies, and lectures. However, what they learn best from... is people. I just so happen to be a person (a really old person to them, but a person nonetheless). Therefore, I know when I share a personal story with my students, it has a huge impact. I don't take this lightly and only choose to share stories that are appropriate and teach an essential life lesson.
If you have read any of my previous work, you already know that when I was younger, I had difficulty controlling my temper. There are countless times that I acted without thinking. However, the real challenge for me, is finding an example that is appropriate to share with my students.
For the lesson on "Self Control and Thinking Before Acting", I always pull one ridiculous story out of my archives...
When I was in high school, there were many traditions. One of which was that on the day after our Prom, groups of friends would make the ninety mile journey to Six Flags amusement park. If you have never been to a Six Flags amusement park, they are incredibly fun... but equally as expensive.
20th Century Fox and Gracie Films
After arriving and riding a few attractions, our group decided to get ice cream. It is important to note, that in my opinion, ice cream may be man's greatest invention. Simply typing "ice cream" has created an undeniable urge to have some immediately... and it is 9 in the morning where I am. When I was a kid, if my parents weren't around, I would eat ice cream for breakfast. Hopefully you get the point that I LOVE ice cream.
After paying $10 (which for my broke teenage self might as well have been $100) for my giant soft serve ice cream cone, I frantically began to enjoy it before the heat and sun could take its toll on my investment. As I ate it, one of my friends approached me and said, "Man, there is something wrong with this ice cream. Smell it."
Silver Pictures and 20th Century Fox
I am embarrassed to admit that I fell for this ruse. I slowly brought the ice cream to my nose. As I did, he hit hit my arm causing the ridiculously expensive, delicious, and cold ice-cream to smash into my warm and smiling face. If this had been the end of it, I would have laughed at myself, cleaned up and finished the cone.
Unfortunately, the force of the blow caused the entire top of my freshly purchased, $10 ice-cream cone to fall onto the disgusting and cigarette butt-covered asphalt. I lost it... and I don't mean the ice-cream. I lost it... my ability to think like a rational human being. I quickly snatched up the fallen mound (in my mind it weighed at least one pound) of frigid mush and threw it at my friend as hard as I could.
The Incredible Hulk 1978
I missed... and hit a tiny five year old girl square in the face.
Even though 27 years have passed, I can still see the most vivid, almost slow-motion image of the ice-cream striking her tiny little face and exploding all over her hair, arms and shirt. Since I have always had a soft spot for kids, this was probably the absolute worst possible outcome of my reckless behavior. To be honest, I think I would have rather gone to jail for accidentally hitting a police officer with the ice cream than ruin this poor, innocent, little child's day.
I immediately rushed up to her father (I din't want to scare the little girl anymore than I already had... thank goodness I at least thought of that) and began to apologize profusely. I rambled, "I am so sorry! So sorry! Is there anything I can do? Can I buy her a shirt? Can I buy her an ice-cream cone? Is there anything I can do?"
The father looked me dead in the face and slowly, and calmly said, "I think you've done enough."
I wish he had punched me instead.
20th Century Fox and Gracie Films
Those words hurt far more than a punch ever could have. If he had punched me, I would have taken it, apologized again and left. After all, I would have deserved it. Best of all, if he had hit me, there would have been an immediate consequence. I probably would have forgotten the incident by the time my wounds healed.
But those words... those words I will remember forever.
When I tell my students that part of the story, they always groan. Some say, "What a jerk". I quickly cut them off. This man was not a jerk. This man was one of the greatest teachers I have ever encountered. He taught me about self control. He taught me about putting your children over yourself. He taught me that you can use your intellect and words rather than your fists in order to make a point.
If he had hit me, we both would have been thrown out of the park. How would that have made his daughter's day better? It would not have.
Perhaps more importantly, if he had hit me, I probably would have forgotten the incident long ago. I would not have been able to share this wisdom with my students.
After I finish telling the story and I know I have my students attention, I point out to them how bad I feel about merely throwing ice cream. I explain that I still cringe when I think of it. Then I ask them to think... what if it had been something more serious? Something that couldn't merely be undone by a trip to the washroom to clean up and to the gift shop to replace a soggy shirt?
Finally, I ask them to make me a solemn oath. I make them promise that at least one time in their lives, when they are just about to do something foolish and reckless, they stop, think, and say these words: "I better be careful... or I might end up hitting a little girl in the face with ice cream."
Then we laugh.
Parks and Recreation 2009
Deedle-Dee Productions, 3 Arts Entertainment and UMS