Perseverance and hope for the future: Every once in awhile, adults receive the gift of a new perspective.
Late last night, a teacher friend of mine texted me and said she had the flu. She asked if I could substitute teach her play-based science class of four- and five-year-old kids the very next day. Already in my pajamas, I responded to her text, "Sure, happy to." She had no lesson plan for me; I had nothing particular in mind to do. I crowd sourced a bit among my Facebook friends to ask for ideas, but given how late it was and the other things I already had to accomplish that night, I had little time to prepare anything. And I definitely wasn't heading out to the store in my jammies.
Fortunately, having tried my hand at improvisational comedy awhile back, I didn't sweat it too much. Plus, I had a secret weapon: a wonderful book about engineering that I could weave into our science discussion. In truth, the book isn't about engineering so much as it's about perseverance.
If a kid falls off his scooter, he's likely to deal with the crash, move past it, and try again. If I fell off a scooter, I'd be more likely to say, "Well, that didn't work out so well! I'm going to do something else." Not that I'm a stranger to perseverance; not at all. But as an adult, I don't usually continue to test the strength of my bones if I fall down.
The book I brought to class that addresses perseverance so beautifully is Rosie Revere, Engineer (afflink). Without spoiling the story, I'll divulge that Rosie wants to invent something to help her great aunt. However, her plans aren't working. In one attempt after another, she hits roadblocks. She's tempted to quit.
I didn't plan ahead of time to do this, but every time I got to a natural stopping point during the story---every time something didn't work out---I'd ask the kids, "Should she stop trying?"
Every time I asked, they'd passionately yell, "Nooooo! She should try again!"
One boy responded so emphatically that he fell down.
And again, Rosie would try and then fail. So, I'd ask, "Should she give up and do something else?"
"No! She needs to keep trying!"
And we kept on like this throughout the story. I could tell one or two kids were starting to worry that it might not work out, but nonetheless, they all held on tightly to hope for Rosie's future. And they never strayed from it. They simply believed.
These kids kept believing everything would be alright as if no other option existed. Things simply had to work out. Their faith was unwavering; they trusted. They held steadfastly to their confidence without flinching.
Somewhere around three quarters of the way through the book, I realized that these children were giving the adult in all of us an incredible gift. There was beauty in their unquestioning belief that everything would be alright; faith in the positive and unwavering results of perseverance; simple trust that stories can have happy endings. Without knowing beforehand, I realized this was exactly what many adults need for their own own hope for the future. It's not that they didn't see the setbacks. They obviously did. However, they didn't believe that setbacks alone should make someone stop trying.
Their innate belief in goodness and hope for the future was just...simple. No one "taught" these kids to believe; they just do. And I caught myself wondering why adults often doubt so much. Why I often doubt so much. Even fairy tales don't always have happy endings. Kids know this, yet they maintain their hope. Why shouldn't we have just as much faith?
And the thing is, we can have that faith that things are going to be alright. We can kick our cynicism out the door and feel so much lighter. It doesn't mean we're not real, nor does it mean we're blind do the realities of life. All I think it means, really, is that we can release our long-held beliefs that things might not be okay, and replace them with trust and hope. Even when setbacks slow us down, they don't need to stop us from pursuing what's important. Things might just turn out okay, after all.
We can make optimism our default. I saw proof of that in the children.