Saturday, May 24, 2008

A better life for a Honduran woman in many ways

I post most of the cool, socially-innovative things I find in my "Effective Society" blog. But this interview contained a story about how a group of dedicated friends really improved the life of a woman and her entire family, in not just one way but in many remarkable ways. What a gift! (FYI, that link will play only the 4 minutes of that story, so you don't have to listen to the whole podcast.)


Do I know any of my neighbors well enough to offer this kind of encouragement and help? I'm afraid I don't interact with many of them long enough to hear their stories. Maybe I have a chance with the people at work. Hopefully I'll be listening and attentive if someone close by ever needs support from a dedicated friend.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Tender-hearted Children

A couple nights ago, a bird in our yard got injured by a dog. The kids were fascinated and tried to help it, and Tolman brought it home in a glove (because we've told them how dead animals can carry diseases). Unfortunately it was unable to move very well; it just sat, breathing, rarely opening it's eyes. I put it in the garage and put the kids to bed; I told them that I might have to put it down, but I would look one more time to see if it might survive. It was pretty broken up, and it seemed that it's legs were not going to work any more. I put it out of it's misery. (That was a horrible task that I hope I never, ever have to do again.)

I almost put it in the garbage, but I felt like it deserved more respect, so I buried it in the field in the back.

I went inside and told Tolman first. He was upset and started crying. He asked why, with a little bit of anger; I tried to explain about the bird being in pain and dying anyway, though I don't feel like I explained it very well. I spent a few minutes with him because he was very, very sad. He asked how I did it, and I told him.

The whole time I was talking with him, I was touched: he was extremely distraught over the loss of a small animal, one he had only known for a few moments. He valued that little life, and he deeply mourned it's passing with all his heart, even if only for a few minutes.

I then went into Ellie's room and told her. She sobbed, hard; seriously, it was like she put all her might into crying. She asked why as well, and I tried explaining again. She also asked me if I buried it; I'm so glad I was able to tell her that I did. She, too, asked how I did it; I didn't want to tell her, so I asked if she really wanted to know, and she said "no". I was surprised, but I'm so glad she had the presence of mind to say that. I would have told her if she really wanted, though I don't think it would have been good for her; I think that's something Tolman can handle better.

I spent a while with her as well; she cries over quite a few things, but it's rare that she'll cry so hard for so long. Again, I felt so gratified that the bird's life meant something to this child. I don't want too many experiences like this, but I'm so glad I went through it with them; it's so encouraging that they felt such concern for something meaningful.

Friday, May 16, 2008

A good dinner

Our youngest, 3-year-old Thomas, is our most difficult child because he is very willful and has an extremely short fuse; my sister-in-law has 6 children, and even she says that he's the hardest she's dealt with, so I know he's a special case. In every activity with us, he has at least one fit where he screams or throws a tantrum or actually throws something. He is getting much better with us (or vice versa) because there are times that we can pay direct attention to him and go through the steps of "please..." and then "I need you to..." and then a time-out, and he'll often come around. But it is incredibly frustrating to deal with someone who is constantly contrary.

So it was very surprising and rewarding last night that he came and sat down with us for dinner, and furthermore he didn't complain one time as we ate! When I asked him to move over to make room for someone, he said "OK" and did it right then. He talked to us calmly and said "only a little" as we gave him his salad, and he didn't yell or push away his plate when I put on the second fork-full. He ate all his dinner; he's an interesting one because he usually likes all his vegetables (and prefers them to meat), but he doesn't often eat everything like that.

I found myself pleasantly surprised that we had such a nice time together, and even now it is so gratifying that dinner last night was so... normal. Many good memories are emotional moments in unique situations; this one will be a treasure not because it was so remarkable but because it was such a departure from all our previous experience.


I realize that I did not praise Thomas for his behavior. How many times do we have a normal interaction with someone and fail to recognize that blessing in the moment, much less fail to express appreciation for it? Yesterday at work, Gordon was remarking on how much pain we've had in the past when making large-scale improvements to our product, and now we reap the benefits and consider our current situation as normal but we hardly recall how much work it took to get to this point. Yes, I feel lucky right now to have the everyday life that I do.