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Sunday, July 8, 2012

The Teacher Becomes the Student

I had the opportunity to teach sharing time today during Primary. Wow! Okay, so first, I need to be honest, today's lesson was a bit uninspiring--am I allowed to say that? Well, I guess I just did.

I read over it early last week and just couldn't get behind it. It was somewhat interactive, but it just didn't have the oomph I felt it needed. I wanted something from which the kids would walk away being more aware of something in their lives that they could do as a result of what they had learned. That's what I look for every time it's my turn to teach them.

Today's lesson was on kindness. I felt that if they walked away from this lesson having learned nothing but how to recite a scripture, I would have failed miserably. I thought about it often during the week, but nothing really came to me.

I decided when I left for church today, I was just going to go with the thought that occurred to me the first time I read through it--give the kids situations and have them tell me what they would do that would be kind as a response to the circumstance given.

As I walked into the Primary room to help get it set up this morning, there was my counselor. I mentioned to her the difficulty I'd had with feeling inspired about the sharing time I was going to teach. She said that she had read the most wonderful thing taught by Sister Chieko Okazaki about "kigatsuku."

Here it was, the eleventh hour, and the inspiration had arrived--just in the nick of time. This was perfect and just what I would teach.

Kigatsuku was the magic I felt a year ago while in Japan! Here's the feeling I wanted my daughter to come to understand when she went with me. I don't think I understood all those years ago while living in Japan as a missionary, but this is the principle most of the Japanese people I had come to know and love had lived by. This was one of the ideals that made them different from other cultures I had experienced. This is what I was dying to witness again as I returned to Japan (last year) after so many years.

Later, when it was finally sharing time, I told the children that I was going to share a Japanese term with them, the senior Primary children (ages 8-11) gave out a small cheer. Really?! They liked this? Wow! Okay. Here was my chance.

I told them that "ki" means feelings and that tsuku was to "apply" or "adhere." Quite literally, this word means to "apply one's feelings" or in other words, to "become aware of" or "perceive."

Here's an illustration from Sister Okazaki's talk:

"When I was just a little girl, my mother began teaching me to be kigatsuku. When she swept the floor, she would say, “Chieko, what would a kigatsuku girl do now?” Then I’d run and get the dustpan. I recognized my mother’s teaching when I read that wonderful scripture:

“'Verily, I say, [you] should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of [your] own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness;

“'For the power is in [you], wherein [you] are [an agent] unto [yourself].” (D&C 58:27–28.)"

This is truly something that is taught and can be taught. You don't have to live in Tokyo or Sendai or Hiroshima to learn it.

During sharing time, I revealed some situations I remembered about the Japanese people and kigatsuku. This is not just mere kindness; this is the ability to act kindly before someone can say what they need. This is being so aware of others around you that you instinctively act and assist with the next thing you understand may come to be needed.

Can I give you a very real illustration?....


These are just two of the photos hanging in this room....


A room full of photos and photo albums lost on March 11, 2011, in the homes of tsunami victims. I'm sure it started with one or two such photos as above and someone's kind feelings toward a complete stranger--the owner of the pictures. Who knew whether the owners would ever come to claim them.

This is kigatsuku. This is the kindness--the what-would-I-want-done-for-me-if-I-were-in-this-situation kind of action. The let-me-do-this-for-you-before-you-ask-for-it kind of thoughtfulness. Sister Okazaki defined kigatsuku as “an inner spirit to act without being told what to do.”

As I've shared before, as I entered this room, the most amazing feeling came over me. Now I understand why. It's a lesson I have needed to learn. I need to learn to be kigatsuku. Not only do I need to learn it, my children need to be exposed to this just like Sister Okazaki was. This is a principle that could change our world.

I must share, though, that although I was learning as I shared today, the biggest lessons of all came from the children who sat before me. Today, it was not they who were learning, it was me. They were my teachers. No wonder I had been uninspired. Today was my turn to learn.

I had a number of little orange pieces of paper folded in half. Each had a circumstance written on it. I would call a child up to choose a situation and then I would call on others to share how they would respond to such a circumstance. All I can say is that now I understand better why we are commanded to "become as little children."

Let me give you one example....A child came up and chose this piece of paper: 
"Your neighbor had surgery on his leg and can't get out of his house. What could you do?"

I think every hand in the room shot up. They said such things as....
"Make him some cookies, and go visit him." 
"Go to his house and ask him what he needs to have done, and do it for him."
"Make him a card."
"Give him a hug."

The list went on and on. As I said, I was the student today.

How many times when someone has honked their horn at me on the road have I wanted to show them my longest fingernail? How many times have I been criticized and come back with a smart-alec response? How many times have I responded to meanness with meanness?

"What would Jesus do?" can be seen in the children around us. I am convinced that I am serving in the position I am in church for my own betterment. I so appreciate my little teachers today. I am grateful in the lessons I received on becoming kigatsuku. This is what I need to work to do better at--to return meanness with kindness and gentleness; to be aware of those around me and see to the things I can do to be of help to them even before I'm asked; and to cultivate that "inner spirit to act without being told what to do."

Maybe I was uninspired for this lesson because it was the lesson that would do the inspiring--for me.
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4 comments:

Dierden Hess said...

Mom!
I love your blog. You write about things that matter...me on the other hand... :D Love you mom. I bet they loved the lesson.

Anonymous said...

Thanks. I was dealing with a mom moment and stumbled across your FB post which lead me to this!! Thank you for your spiritual recharge that I needed! -Hilarie ;)

vaxhacker said...

Thanks for this, what a wonderful lesson to give and receive :)

Tonya said...

Such a cool post! I've been trying to teach this principal to my kids lately, now I have a word to go with it. Thanks, Jules!

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