One day while I was chatting with two of the lovely librarians in our town’s small library, we were talking about parenting creatively, inspiring a curiosity for more than a child commonly sees. This had begun with a discussion on not limiting the books that our children are exposed to during their childhoods. One of the women shared how, when her children were little, she would point to the sky and ask her children if they knew where the passengers on that airliner might be going? She encouraged her children to look beyond their small circle of life, their immediate surroundings, to imagine the bigger world. And then we transitioned into how this can affect education, how teachers must encourage children to learn more than the answer to 2 + 2. We know that it equals 4, right? But then I got a big smile on my face and said, “Yes, but what if you add green?” You should have seen the smile on that woman’s face. She thought for a second and said, “Yes!!!”
Too many of us settle for formulas. We depend on the tried and true times tables we memorized when we were in 3rd grade (although I didn’t master them until I was in 5th myself). We want to know that if we put a dollar in a vending machine we can push a button and get exactly what we ordered. Most Americans have bought into this mentality: if I put my kids through college they will subsequently be successful adults with meaningful and financially sustaining careers. But is life really like that? Was it like that before the last 75 years? And is it like that now?
I have a confession: I am not a creative person. I know, I always seem to be into something new. That is not because I am creative. That is because I am hungry. I am starving some days. And other days I am a little hungry. Some days I have no appetite at all. I am not talking about food. I am talking about intellectual, emotional and interpersonal hunger, desires to know more, learn more, discover more about the world that I live in. Apparently, I am not normal.
I confess that I do not believe the public school system does a very good job of educating children. I confess that I believe our government is so corrupt that it is unfixable and will fail. I confess that I have little hope that we will ever see the life that white, middle class people experienced from the 50’s to the early part of the 21st century, ever again. (I added “white, middle class” because for some minorities, there has never been an easy life full of promise.)
What is the strangest of all is that I am not a pessimist. I awaken each day excited to see what it will bring. I look forward to exploring, experiencing, and contributing to this world. I have optimistic tendencies with a huge dose of realism. I also have the ability to drown out the clamor of the crazy world we live in, to find a place of quiet even if it is just reading for an hour or pulling weeds or making bread. Even with all of the darkness in this world, I still have hope. But I want to see more hope.
Is it time to stop looking for 2 + 2 = 4 in this world? Should we possibly begin focusing on what happens when we add green instead?
Just a thought . . .