Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Potential to Sprout and The Empty Truth

“Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words.”

-St Francis of Assisi

I have a great love of children's literature. Familiar or not, dog-eared or brand-new, opening a picture book takes me back to my childhood. When I was in first grade, I had a hard time learning to read. It might have had something to do with my "hyperactive nature." My Teacher, Mrs. Slike, a seasoned educator, suggested to my parents that we order the Weekly Reader, so that I'd look forward to receiving a new hardcover book in the mail each month, and learning to read would become a positive thing. Mrs. Slike was right. I have vivid memories of the box with the Weekly Reader logo arriving in my mailbox , and the excitement of tearing it open, and seeing the title. As the 6th of seven children, the time I spent on my mother's lap reading was precious. My mother loves to read, and her shelves were filled with books of all varieties. My shelves today are no different.

The headmaster of my daughter's school is also very fond of children's literature. One of the titles he shared with me is The Empty Pot, by Demi.
It is the story of a Chinese Emperor who, having no successor to his throne, decides to choose one from the children of the village. Since he loves to cultivate and enjoy flowers of all kinds, he gives each child a seed, and says that whoever can "show me their best" will become his successor. Ping, a prodigy of sorts in cultivating living things eagerly goes to get his seed,
and with great care plants it in the best of soils, certain that his experience successfully cultivating plants will earn him the throne.
He gives it the best conditions: light, fertile soil, water, attention and patience
but his seed never sprouts.
He is disappointed and ashamed, certain that the other children will gloat over his failure.
When the time comes to present the flower pots to the emperor, Ping, with his father's encouragement, having done his best, presents the empty pot. Among all of the other children, who have grown equally big and beautiful flowers, Ping, taunted by them, presents his empty pot to the emperor, who smiles and presents him as heir to his throne. For all of the seeds he had given the children were "duds." Not one of them had the potential to sprout. Ping, for his honesty and great courage in presenting the "empty truth" earns the emperor's respect.

Overcoming my own difficulty reading enhanced my "potential to sprout".

Exposure to the "right conditions"
teachers who care; who believe in a child's potential,
parents who model and encourage,
and lots of opportunities to "show our best"
students like Ping
who too have the potential to
"cultivate living things"
and these
"living things"
when given the "right conditions"
are more likely to
"show you their best"
And there is no better way to reward a teacher or parent,
then to present them with an"empty pot."
“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”
-John Quincy Adams

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