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When Worlds Get Bigger

I volunteered to be a chaperone for my first grade daughter’s field tip. I know it is going to take a few minutes for you to take in the last line and adjust your perception of me. For some of you, I’ve just become one of the bravest people you know. For others, I’m now an idiot who doesn’t know how to avoid riding on a bus crammed full of hyper first graders.

I volunteered for two reason. First, I like to know the kids my daughter goes to school with. Second, I’m cheap and thought it would be nice way for our whole family to attend a concert for free (my wife was a chaperone with my second grader).

I was assigned my daughter and two other kids to watch. No big deal, how hard could it be? I really wasn’t worried until we left the classroom. Then I discovered that there would be some personal cost and labor required to earn my free concert. The bus ride resulted in only one kid throwing up and thankfully it wasn’t me or my group. I’m not that good when it comes to kids throwing up and God doesn’t give me more than I could have handled.

Now, I’m ready to get to the really story of this post. The concert was an amazing event with 10 grand pianos on the stage and at times there were 13 people playing at the same time. The concert is aptly named Ten Grands. This performance was geared for kids and each musician would take a few minutes for introductions and to tell as quick story about the piece they were going to play.

Michael Allen Harrison does an amazing job of connecting with kids and getting them excited about music. He started to introduce a piece as a “very famous piece” that they most likely had heard before. They probably had also knew already about the person that wrote it. He then said, “This song was written by Beethoven!”

At this point I heard a great murmur of recognition and appreciation from the crowd. The little girl next to me, whispered to me in a very loud and proud voice, “I’ve seen all his movies!

I didn’t know what to say.

She turned back, scooted forward in her chair with great anticipation and watched as the pianists started to play Beethoven’s music. She listened and really seemed to enjoy the music and clapped with great enthusiasm and appreciation when the song was done.

This amazing little girl lives in a world in which Beethoven is a great big Saint Bernard who has stared in six movies (Beethoven, Beethoven’s 2nd, Beethoven’s 3rd, Beethoven’s 4th, Beethoven’s 5th and Beethoven’s Big Break). I didn’t even know he was in six movies but she did. I also didn’t think a movie released directly to video counts as a “big break.”

I wanted to stop the concert and ask her whether she thinks a dog wrote one of the most beautiful and timeless songs of all time but I didn’t since I couldn’t come up with a response if if she says, “Yes!” So, I just let it go (which by the way is the song they ended the concert with).

There are a lot of things that I don’t know. My world and depth of knowledge is smaller than I’d like you to think. I remember asking in my mid 20’s what language they spoke in Ireland and I’m pretty confident that I’ll expose my ignorance again. My daughters can’t seem to understand why I get all the princesses mixed up.

It’s good for kids to experience life from a different perspective; to hear the original Beethoven rather than a giant dog. This process of exposing kids to an adult world of sound, art, poetry, exploration and bunch of other pursuits is good. It let’s them know that life is amazing and passion and joy aren’t reserved for kids.

However, this funny exchange showed me just how ignorant I am about kids and their worlds. One of my favorite things about my job at Project Patch is talking with teens at our Youth Ranch. Most of the time I understand what they are talking about but every once in a while, what I think they are talking about and what they really are talking about are worlds apart.

At this point I have a choice. Hide my ignorance, joke off my mistake or be humble enough to learn.

I typically choose to hide or joke but have been learning recently that my world expands when I’m open to learning. I’ve been working on asking more questions and saying this soft of phrase, “let me see if I understand…

I’ve come to the conclusion that I can expand my world and increase my impact by asking myself three key questions.

  1. Are we talking about the same thing?
  2. Is this a time for me to talk or listen?
  3. Do they know I care about what they are saying?

Asking these three questions has lead me to much better conversations with teens. I’ve come a way with a better understanding of what they are going through and what they are thinking about.

My impulse is to assume that my perspective is the same as theirs. If I’m not careful, I direct the conversation and do way more talking then listening. I also talk so much that I make it really clear that I’m on a different planet and not ready to learn.

Hope this was helpful for you. If it was, could you do a favor and share it so other people are helped?