Monday, July 7, 2014

Underrepresented Virtues

Guest post by Jeremy

We took the kids to the Jazz Festival a couple of weeks ago, and decided they'd most enjoy the kid-friendly program being put on by the Hochstein School of Music. For the most part, they both had a great time, but the end was horrible for Peter, through (mostly) no fault of his own.

The second to last presentation we attended was one about making electronic music. Much of the program was done using an iPad, and at one point the instructor asked if any kids wanted to have a turn adding some things to the program. Peter raised his hand, as did several other kids. After a few took their turns, he said he wanted to wait and have the rest do it later, which was fine. Everyone got up and danced to the "song" they had just created by committee. He then went to create the next one. Peter walked up to him, but several other kids stepped in front of him, and the instructor literally pulled the iPad back right as he got to the front of the line. A similar thing happened during the third round, made slightly worse because he asked if everyone had had a turn and then apparently didn't see Peter reaching out (despite being 3 feet in front of him). If Peter's grandmother (who was out with him) hadn't intervened, he probably never would have had a turn. He seemed to handle this OK for a while, but then something relatively minor happened during the last activity and he had what might have been the biggest meltdown he's ever had in public. (I heard him from a different room and there was a children's drum circle in between.) I'm pretty sure this was primarily residual frustration from the iPad session.

Who needs an iPad anyway

When this first happened, I was just annoyed at the situation. As time passes, I'm not sure if I'm bothered more by what happened or that, all things considered, it actually works moderately well as a life lesson.

Beyond just the generic "life is unfair sometimes" that could be applied to virtually every negative experience, this does demonstrate an interpersonal mechanic I see all the time, both with children and adults: you're much more likely to get what you want if you're aggressive about it. Peter was, for him, unusually assertive; he was the first one to walk to the instructor for the second chance at making the music. But he wasn't aggressive about it, and therefore went unnoticed. The other kids weren't exactly doing anything wrong. They didn't push Peter out of the way, nor did they explicitly violate any instructions - they just failed to be considerate of the other kids, some of them taking multiple turns before Peter had had a chance to do it once.

"Good things come to those who wait" is one of those oft-repeated axioms that we as a society don't practice. Often, nothing comes to those who wait, and good things come to the impatient - or, if you prefer, "the squeaky wheel gets the grease".

I decided not to take the opportunity to reinforce this little life lesson. When we talked about what happened later, I made it a point to compliment him on how patiently he waited and how he was kind to the other kids even though they weren't being kind back. The bottom line is that I don't think this particular aspect of our society is a positive one (though I'm sure many would disagree) and I don't want to be complicit in it. Ultimately, he did the right thing from a Christian perspective, and even though the immediate outcome was undesirable, I'm proud of him.

Perhaps that makes me an idiot of Dostoyevskian proportions, but perhaps if the world had more people like that, the considerate few wouldn't have to suffer for their kindness quite so often in this world.

Jeremy has essentially quit the Internet over the last couple of months due largely to the digital equivalent of this story (except coming from adults, so much less civil). If you enjoy his thoughts on topics, these guest posts are about your only outlet unless you want to discuss things with him in person.

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