Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Patience, Please


When our younger grandson was in grades one and two, he had a teacher who was very creative and did lots of artwork with the kids.  Our boy loved his teacher, but did not love the art projects.  

One day, our grandson came home from school with randomly shaped pieces of painted paper taped all over his sweater and our daughter asked "What's with the paper, buddy?"

"WELL,"  he replied, "You know how Mrs. W. likes to have us make stuff?"

"Yes?"

"Last week she gave us a BIG piece of paper and told us to paint the whole thing!  Not just some paint, but all over.  The WHOLE THING! With no white parts!  It took forever!"

"Yes?  But why are pieces of paper taped all over your sweater?"

"Well, you know that book "The Very Hungry Caterpillar?"

"Yes?"

"Mrs. W. read it to us in class yesterday."

"And?"

"Today she gave us plastic lids and made us trace circles all over the paper we'd painted."

"Okay...But what does this have to do with taping paper to your sweater?"

"Mrs. W. made us use our scissors to cut out ALL THOSE CIRCLES!"

"Mmm hmmm.  And then?"

"And then she gave us another piece of paper and made us glue the circles on to it to make our very own hungry caterpillars.  Mine is in my backpack.  Wanna see?"

"No! I want to know why you have pieces of paper taped all over your sweater!!"

At which point, our boy looked at his mother in complete exasperation and shouted "YOU DIDN'T THINK I WAS JUST GOING TO THROW THEM AWAY AFTER I SPENT ALL THAT TIME PAINTING THEM, DID YA?"

People often laugh when I tell them this story, and I do too, but it also taught me something really important.

There is great value in listening patiently.  

I'm very bad at waiting until the end of a long story.  I tend towards intuitive leaps, assumptions, and interruptions; in a hurry to get to the end of the tale, as I am with so much in my life.  And, just as slowing down to look around me and enjoy the here and now feeds my spirit, if I can just make myself wait patiently until the story draws to a close, I often hear something new, or entertaining, or touching, or surprising. 

That "something" at the end of the tale is a gift to me, given by a generous storyteller.

I'm working on patient listening.  It's an important skill.  I doubt I'll ever completely master it, but my grandson has taught me that it's worth making the effort.