Monday, December 20, 2010

88) Teach children lessons - Helping adversaries

"It is a pleasant thought that when you help a fellow up a steep hill, you get nearer to the top yourself." - Reynolds Price.

Some days ago the newspapers reported on a ravaging fire in Israel that claimed 41 precious lives and scorched acres of land. Firefighters and the people of the area braved the flames to stop more damage. The best part of the team effort was the joining of Palestinians in the firefighting. Setting aside age-old rivalry and rancor, they offered to help their adversaries. What a beautiful act! What a wonderful way of expressing oneness in the face of danger! Do we see a window for peace in the monstrous wall that separates them? We hope that out of some evil, much good will come.

We are reminded of the parable Jesus told - The Good Samaritan. The priest and the Levite, walked past the wounded man. Supposedly, they had their reasons. Along comes a Samaritan, whom the Jews despised. He stops to succor the wounded man. He does not shun him. Instead, he sees a fellow in distress and willingly helps. Are we seeing the parable in action, 2000 years after Jesus narrated it? In their rescue effort are the Palestinians giving us a sign of hope? Is a candle being lit which can light other candles?

Often we are caught up in a war with our adversaries. We malign them; plot their downfall; and delight in their misfortunes. We believe that we have scored a point.
Watching us perform our children learn to gloat over the failings of those who oppose them; speak ill of them; and in their own way scheme to put down those who were friends till yesterday, but have fallen out today. What a tragic commentary to our parenting efforts!

When people in Israel and Palestine can light a candle, will we join them in lighting candles in our own homes?

In this season of goodwill we wish you a blessed and peace-filled Christmas and a hope-filled New Year.

Monday, December 6, 2010

87) Teach children lessons - winning by fair means

"We are not interested in the possibilities of defeat. They do not exist."
Queen Victoria (1819-1901).

Did Queen Victoria repeat one of Alexander's axioms? We do not know. What we do know is that Alexander ruled out the option of losing. Here is how he demonstrated his winning-belief. His Generals had failed , after repeated attempts, to capture a rather elusive territory. So he decided to lead them on their last charge. As the soldiers sailed to their target, they spotted a large number of enemy ships anchored at port. The large number of ships suggested that the opposition would be formidable. Fearing defeat, his soldiers pleaded with Alexander that they return home. He would have none of it. They disembarked at a secluded spot on the enemy shore. Then looking at the boats that they had just pushed under cover, Alexander ordered the soldiers to burn them. They were stunned. How would they go back? But no one dared disobey Alexander. In dismay and fear they burnt the boats. Looking into their faces drained of hope, Alexander promised them that they would return home in the enemy ships. To do that, they would have to fight for their lives to capture both ships and territory. They fought with unusual valor and won, to go back in the enemy ships.

We cannot but admire the winning attitude in Alexander. Some of us have the same drive. To win always. Winning is good if the means are fair. But winning at all costs casts doubts on our motives. Bending rules and compromising on ethics does our reputation no good. When we win unfairly, then winning is losing. The tragic part is that our children watch us scheme and plot the downfall of others, that they begin to adopt our ways. They will lie and not feel ashamed; cheat and not feel guilty; tread on other toes and shrug the incident away; and gloat. Unless we teach them to play fair they will celebrate pyrrhic victories and hollow triumphs.