Connecting local responses around the world
4 children aged between 6 to 8 years old approached a colleague who was walking around a neighbourhood as part of his outreach efforts. They told him that they had something to show him and then led him to the ground floor lift landing of the block where they reside. There were pencil drawings on the walls and these children told our colleague that they knew exactly who did it. Before our colleague could actually comment, these children told him that they will get the child responsible to clean off the drawings. Our colleague then followed the children as they visited the home of a 5 year old and explained to her care-givers what had happened. The children then asked for a few rags and a pail of water and together with the 5 year old returned to the lift landing to wipe off the pencil marks. Impressed by the children’s neighbourhood pride and their sense of social responsibility, our colleague felt that it was only right to lend a helping hand.
Young children who move about their neighbourhoods independently are deemed to lack supervision and are at risk of falling onto the wrong side of the law. But for these children, it appears that their family and their community have taught them well. They were able to define what was inappropriate and more importantly, they had a gentle way of putting it right. We do not condone children being neglected but perhaps if we could see the inadequacies within a neighbourhood as gifts of a different kind, we would be able to appreciate and support their living environment in a way that develops their independence, sense of fair play and sense of belonging to their family and community. This perspective must of course be guided by the principle that “Children are not little adults; they are to be treated as children and not by adult standards.”
On the same afternoon at a different neighbourhood, another colleague had to watchfully keep the peace on a bus filled with boisterous children on the way to an Activity Centre for Senior Citizens. However once there, the children remembered the briefing we had given them earlier and they worked in the most cooperative fashion serving the elderly folks afternoon tea. We did not give them an incentive for doing so but we gave them the choice to join the activity as well as the opportunity and the trust that they would do a good job. It was a most enjoyable afternoon for all and the highlight being a set of songs rendered by our children. They were accompanied on the piano by a youth who had practiced hard to learn 3 songs as it was a personal challenge to perform on the piano at least once. Prior to challenging himself recently, he had never played a musical instrument.
In our desire to be helpful, we often want to provide our service-users tangible gifts. This is necessary but we forget that the best things in life are free. Worse, we take away the valuable intangibles as we provide the tangibles. Then we wonder why we are so unappreciated even though we can quantify all that we have given. Over the past months I have had incidental conversations with service providers in the government and non government sector who are truthfully dedicated but terribly disappointed. Being good people, they simply shrug their shoulders and tell me that they must persevere until the service-users break away from their problems.
This is the season of giving and what really needs to go into that stocking is a sincere smile, a listening ear and the conviction that those we serve are no less human than the rest of us and thus, no less deserving of respect. The best things in life are indeed free.
Enjoy your weekend.
Life does not have to be perfect to be wonderful. - Annette Funicello