Posted: Wednesday, June 27, 2012 8:00 pm
By: By Lisa Smartt
My husband’s Pa Butler had a wonderful perspective on life. Full of energy. Friendly. Kind-hearted and giving. But he was not to be trifled with when it came to doing things the right way. His way. My husband loves to recall a common dialogue between Pa and any one of his grandchildren. They’d be weeding the garden and the kid would pull up a vegetable instead of a weed. Pa would say, “What’d you do that for?”
“Sorry, Pa. I wasn’t thinkin’.”
“Yeah, that’s the problem.”
Thinking. It’s a priceless commodity. But I’m starting to wonder if it’s in short supply. Are young people developing critical thinking skills? Educators are constantly being asked that question. I’m not a professional educator. I definitely don’t consider myself a great thinker. But if you want to teach your child how to think, I have a great place to start. And you don’t even have to be a rocket scientist.
Start with others. Teach your child to THINK about the people around them. I was in a nice hotel room a few nights ago. Some children were running up and down the hall late at night. One little boy loudly proclaimed, “Daddy, Daddy, is this our room? Did you get my Nintendo out of the car?”
“Yes! I got your Nintendo. I think our room is on the other side!” The father was yelling as loudly as the child. I felt sorry for both of them. Neither of them had learned how to be considerate of their fellow hotel patrons. They hadn’t learned how to think about someone else.
Our family went to a movie last weekend. The theater was pretty crowded for the much-anticipated movie. It was disheartening to hear loud conversations taking place during the movie. Young people? No. Adults. Adults carrying on their own loud conversations in their own little world. It never crossed their minds that they should whisper quietly because there were others trying to hear the movie dialogue. A few weeks ago we were at a movie and a toddler started crying loudly. The parent stayed in the theater with the crying child. I know. We couldn’t believe it either.
An out-of-state friend recently told me her college daughter couldn’t get any sleep in the dormitory of her ultra-expensive Ivy League school. The loud music. The late night screaming. When I said that her daughter should talk to the people in charge of the dorm about following the quiet hours, my friend just shrugged and said, “You know how college students are.” No. I refuse to believe that college students cannot be taught to think of others. Isn’t college the perfect place to practice the art of thinking?
I fear we’ve become far too focused on personal rights rather than personal responsibility. My daddy always said, “You have the right to swing your arm but that right ends at my nose.” I love that. I have rights. But those rights should never infringe on another person’s comfort or convenience.
I hope our boys learn to be great thinkers. I want them to be full of ideas and innovation. But mostly, I want them to be quiet in theaters. I want them to help older people with their luggage at the airport. I want them to think of others. Pa Butler would be proud.
For more information about Lisa Smartt, visit her website, lisasmartt.com.
Published in The Messenger 6.27.12