The Most Important Question I’ve Asked My Children

If I could start every day with a welcome given by David LaMotte and end it with a benediction given by this same talented singer/songwriter, I could never say I’d had a bad day.  Figure out how to make this happen, and you can hold me to it.  His words and the grace and light they share…..tears, y’all.  Listening to him perform last night, I held it together through his song about his grandparents’ home and going back to visit it, and that took some doing.  My Granny’s house is the one place I yearn most to be right now.  I even held it together during his bathtub song, but for that one I was holding in a huge guffaw (I so like that word!), so it was a little different kind of self-control.  But at the end, when he said, “You are (fill in the blank), and you are loved,” over and over, something let go and I was crying.  (The funny thing is that in talking with friends, the “You are loved” part is what stuck with us and what we all remember–isn’t that telling?)

His “World Changing 101” workshop this morning was full of simple and wise and mind-blowing thoughts and questions that begged to be asked and thought about.  I am still working to wrap my brain around so much of what we talked about, and I know more of these thoughts will show up here in the next few days.

This morning David shared with us the work he and his wife Deanna are doing in Guatemala.  They were there for their honeymoon in 2004.  They visited a school while they were there.  They were not looking for a mission, but while visiting they saw needs that they thought they could help with and PEG Partners was born.  That is usually how it happens, right?  When we least expect it?

He talked a little this morning about how they are working with schools in Guatemala on critical thinking with literacy.  David said that these children were going through years of school without ever being asked what they thought about a story or book.

Wait.  What?

I have to admit that I didn’t hear everything he shared for the next few minutes, because my head was spinning.  What would that even look like?  I can hardly fathom it.  I grew up with Mama reading to us, asking us questions, making her voice animated for different characters.  She brought books to life and let us ask questions, which we did, and she asked us questions about the pictures, about the story.  It was interactive.  I cannot imagine anything different.

But what if it were?  What if no one had asked me what I thought?  We are currently reading an intriguing book about the Revolutionary War as a read-aloud.  Our Princess, Cooter, and I have all been tossing out our ideas as to whether we think the schoolmaster is completely trustworthy.  When we finish a chapter, and I share the title of the next one, they are eager to offer their ideas on what might happen.  When discussing battles, Cooter is especially fond of second-guessing General Washington or General Howe and offering his own ideas of how to plan the next attack.  This is not something I planned.  It’s just something that has happened.

It was during this head-spinning/mind-blown/in my own world moment that I realized that very possibly the most important question I ask my children is, “What do you think?”

When we are heading home from a play at the Grand or from their Sparks Stories bible time, I usually ask, “What was your favorite part? What did you like?”  Sometimes, when Cooter’s a little cranky and nothing suits him, I’ll ask, “Well, what would you have changed?”

When we sit down at supper together, one of us asks from time to time, “What was your favorite thing today?”

Princess is an avid reader.  She can often read one of the books in the Fairy series, her favorite chapter books, on the drive between finding the treasure at our local used bookstore and pulling in our driveway.  When she’s extra excited about one, she loves to share about it.  There’s no need to ask her, “What did you think?”  She’s already telling you.

Cooter and his Star Wars obsession has now moved on to include Indiana Jones and Harry Potter.  No, he hasn’t seen any of those movies either.  But thanks to Lego and their videos and well-done marketing ploys, he knows some of the edited storylines, and he is FASCINATED.  He talks about each one of the three storylines non-stop.  All. Day.  Long.  Sometimes all three at once.  There is no need to ask him, as I once did, “What did you think Buddy?” or “What do you think will happen?” because you already know.  He told you yesterday.  And three times the day before. And last week.

My point is this.  Asking our children what they think, what they enjoyed, what they anticipate will happen, what they would have changed–all of those things do help develop critical thinking.  This is a skill that will serve them well in this world that needs people who can think and plan and problem solve.

But it also does one other thing.

Perhaps the most important thing a question can ever do.

It says to a child, a person, a friend, an acquaintance, a stranger, another human being–

You have a voice.

Please share it and I will listen.

You matter.  What you think matters.

And that is something this world really needs.  People with strong voices and thoughts and hearts who have been encouraged and empowered to speak out.

If we teach our children what is truly important in this world–the very things I’ve heard David LaMotte share and talk about for the past two days–faith, action, love, kindness, justice, mercy–and we teach them that their voices are valuable, worthy of being heard–I think, just maybe, we might be on the right track toward healing broken hearts and mending broken fences.  And silencing the sounds of war and the cries of those enslaved.  By ending all of those things.  And somewhere in there, I suspect, there will be laughter.

At least with my crew around.

If you have littles around, take time to ask them an important question.  If not, ask anyone who’s around.  And then really listen.  We all need to know our voices count.

Love to all.  Carry on.

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