From time to time we need to encourage ourselves with an appropriate quote or aphorism that addresses our particular challenge. This exercise is named “Illumination”. Have the kids pick a quote that is meaningful to them, something that gets the juices flowing. It should be quote or saying that is the first thing they see in the morning and sets the tone for the day. It needs to be a worthwhile goal not just a popular idiom. When I was in graduate school the first thing I chose to see was a poster that said CAN DO! I know that is less than elegant but it did provide a little juice for the day. Instruct your students to locate a quote, aphorism or homily that addresses something they find a challenge, a saying that will give them some strength. Then on the finest paper available, with their most elegant calligraphy have them copy the quote with the intention to post it where they see it often.

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What would you do if ?

Your very best friend didn’t like you anymore?
Something was taken out of your backpack ,and you think you know who?
You are watching a person get picked on in the lavatory and no adults are around
Your sister is smoking cigarettes and you know you parent’s won’t like it?

Questions like these put social challenges on the table and the group can discussion the options, feelings and confusion they might experience as individuals. Hard and fast rules often are not appealing to middle scholars and don’t hold the power of shared reason. They are NOT cool. There is a group wisdom that is explained and understood by a peer group that adults would not be able to predict. We no longer have access to their language or level of thinking. Since young people don’t share the same thinking process as adults, why not just pose the dilemma and observe what happens.

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Artful Service

Artful service verses Co-dependence

If you happened to be one of the many people who have been raised in families where the needs of one family member demand and absorb most of the resources, time and attention from everyone in the family you might be confused about the difference between artful service and co-dependent behavior

An alcoholic, mentally ill or physically needy person often requires or so it seems, everyone doing things for that individual. To keep them working, clothes are put out, phone call made, paperwork organized. To keep them happy, we are cheerful, don’t complain about our troubles. We try to do well in school, not be a bother, and take care of ourselves. Some of us eventually run away or rebel rather dramatically. The fallout from “not” carefully orchestrating the dynamics of the house can be swift and messy. We grow up putting our needs aside and become sensitive to what we imagine will prevent the next emotional thunderstorm. Sometimes years go by dwelling in a low level fog of mild depression.
Artful service does not resemble the parasitic nature of co-dependent behavior. Co-dependency is not really kind or generous, it is forced by anxiousness to please and sometimes an: ” I know better than you” attitude. It assumes that the recipient of the service is incompetent in some way. Co- dependent behavior can make us feel like a hero, important or indispensable to the group. Artful service on the other hand… connects simply to what needs to be done to support the home or groups adventure. It is often playful. A loving intelligence shines light on a task or a leader asks us to follow a direction. We know somehow that the service benefits everyone not one individual continually over others. Service takes turns. It is accepted as well as given. The strong serve the weak because their awareness of others is deeper and more resourceful. Service is giving permission to the lord to use your talents to benefit the whole.

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Measure for kids and teachers too

One of the most important concepts you can discuss with your students is the concept of “measure” . Measure has two paths. The first is using the right amount of energy to get the job done and the second is taking only what you need. In the first way, when practicing using the smallest amount of energy to get the job done, one might notice that opening the door takes a gentle turn and writing on paper does not require a death grip on the pencil or pushing down with the force of a bulldozer.

If you are scrubbing the floor mindfully, the hand intelligently adjusts to the right amount of pressure to remove the dirt. You might notice how lightly you can touch the paper with a pencil and still leave a visible marks. If you make it a point to use no unnecessary force, you would find yourself talking and walking softly and saving energy.

Our “pushing” our energy out or onto other people , our fierceness in opinion or willfulness is essentially ego driven. It is a kind of force that we seldom notice and it can exhaust the being. Consider how over a lifetime how much energy we could conserve if we didn’t try to throw our “weight” around or impose our will on the environment or others. Instead, we would be living life carefully, with a gentle precision that is more efficient that a heavy handed imposition of our attitude.

the work was here

before you were born

the work will be here

after you’re gone

the only thing

that matters

is the heart of

how you do it.

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