Thursday, November 3, 2011

Why, but why?

One of my least admirable qualities is a tendency to answer the question I assume you are asking me, instead of the one you really asked.  There are many factors that contributed to this bad habit, but I am making no excuses and trying to overcome it.  As I struggle with this I have noticed something: I don't do this with kids, only with adults.

When I train adults to work with kids I repeat what someone taught me: that I can't read a child's mind. I always tell the same joke, because it completely exemplifies our tendency to do this:
“Daddy, where did I come from?” the seven-year-old asked. It was a moment for which her parents had carefully prepared. They took her into the living room, got out the encyclopedia and several other books, and explained all they thought she should know about sexual attraction, affection, love, and reproduction. Then they both sat back and smiled contentedly.
“Does that answer your question?” her father asked.
“Not really,” the little girl said. “Judy said she came from Detroit. I want to know where I came from.”
These parents clearly didn't answer the question being asked.  I wonder how many times I have done that to adults!

Today I was reading a blog and a woman commented "When questions are asked, they need to be received in love and curiosity; otherwise it can shut one down."  I loved this remark.  We need to RECEIVE rather than anticipate questions.  We need to receive them in LOVE AND CURIOSITY.  I think this is easier for me to do with children because I respect the fact that they are still learning.  Maybe I believe adults should already know, or be able to figure things out.  I need to learn to listen to everyone's questions with love and curiosity. Otherwise it can SHUT THEM DOWN.  I must confess that sometimes that's exactly what I am hoping to do.

Each week I lead chapel with 3- and 4-year-old preschool students.  Their questions are endless.  Why, but why?  And they tell long rambling stories - sometimes provoked by my questions but sometimes provoked by a need for attention, or because something else (a fish in the stained glass window?) made them remember and they wanted to share it before they forgot.  I try to receive them with love and curiosity, and usually I succeed.  I'm going to try and transfer this to my adult  interactions.  So if you wonder why I'm answering your question with a question. . .

Those of you who still have children around your knees, receive their questions with love and curiosity.  You will be blessed to see the world in a whole new way.  And if, like me, you suffer with a tendency to not listen to adult questions, give it a shot.  Love and curiosity will no doubt take you places you never dreamed you would go.

1 comment:

Christine said...

Lovely. (: And just to know you're in good company - I think Jesus only ever answered 2 things in his lifetime with a direct answer (that we know of).... he always followed a question with a question.

Curious love about what the other is saying and from what place they are saying it - says that you can about the person, not about being 'right'. Hard to do though....

Many lovely thoughts. And I could only dream that I could begin to go where my curiosity would take me if I allowed it to.