The 4 Most Important Life Lessons for Children
1. Remembering we are all connected brings wisdom
Pointer started her day laughing. As soon as she saw Metro’s new hat, she laid down sideways and laughed until it hurt her knuckle.
“Where on earth did you get that?” Pointer asked her.
“I got it at the five-finger discount store” Metro said. “And my hat makes me look better than you!” Pointer said with a mean tone in her voice.
“Well, everyone will want the hats that I wear” Pointer pointed out as she quickly walked off to the hat store to get a new hat for herself.
Pointer’s new hat was just as modern as her sister’s and it would keep rain off her head.
As soon as Pointer went to the playground, everyone saw her new hat and had to have one. Soon everyone bought one, even her sister Metro.
When Pointer saw that everyone else had copied her hat, she got angry.
She announced to the whole school “You are all just copycats and look exactly the same!” She immediately went back to the hat store and bought one that nobody else had.
It took exactly ten minutes until her brother Quatro was wearing a hat just like hers. Pointer said to herself, “I wish I was the Queen of Hats. I could point out how everyone else doesn’t have a hat as neat as mine.”
After a lot of shopping around, Pointer found her perfect hat. “With this, I am the Queen of Hats,” she announced. “Nobody's hat will be as good as mine!”
Thumper decided to go out and get a hat like Pointer’s but could not find one. Finally, he asked her. But Pointer said “I’m not going to tell you. I do not want anyone to have a hat like mine.”
As Pointer was saying that, they both heard a rumble of thunder, but it was really Mount doing some throat clearing before speaking. Pointer and Thumper forgot that Mount was always nearby.
Thumper said to Mount, “I want a hat like Pointer’s, but I want it to be better than hers.”
Mount seemed to stretch a little taller, as if he had just woken from taking a nap. Mount said, “It’s time you learned the first most important life lesson.”
Pointer asked, “Will this important thing make me more important than everyone else?”
Mount smiled and said “No, but it will save you a lot of money at the hat store.”
“That sounds smart!” said Pointer. “I’d like to be smart.”
“Yes, me too” said Thumper.
“ OK,” said Mount. Mount rolled over to face them. All of a sudden, everyone was gathered around in a circle. “Look down at your feet” said Mount, pulling back from them. “What do you see?”
They all looked down, rather shocked at what they saw.
Quatro was the first one to call out: “We are all connected. Wow! I didn’t know that!”
“Neither did I” said Pointer, Pinky, Thumper and Metro.
“Sometimes you just have to look around” said Mount. “But that’s the first of the most important lessons.”
Remembering we are all connected brings wisdom.
“I guess now I don’t have to find a special hat” Pointer said with relief as she removed her hat.
“Here” she said to Quatro as she gave him her hat. “We are all connected, and this hat looks better on you” she said to her brother as she kissed him.
Mount said to everyone, “Why don’t we all wear hats today, just for fun? And they did.
2. You are loved like everyone else
Pinky was listening to one of his favorite tunes called “Big.” He happened to walk by the mirror when his older sister Metro was trying on a hat. Metro was a lot taller than Pinky.
Pinky wanted to be taller, but he wasn’t.
Pinky’s favorite song “Big” was playing in his earphones. Suddenly, he stopped his music and took off his earphones. He muttered to himself “I’m not big.”
Metro looked down at Pinky and said, “No you’re not!” she said with a smirk on her face.
Pinky said to his sister, “Yea, but sometimes people can be too tall, you know!” He felt a little better after teasing his sister.
Now Metro wasn’t feeling so good after what Pinky said about her height. She looked back into the mirror and tried to change her height by stooping lower but that didn’t work.
Pinky was watching and said, meanly, “Maybe we should get a taller mirror so the top of your head would fit in the mirror!” It was probably the meanest thing Pinky ever said.
The words were hardly out of Pinky’s mouth when Mount rolled over and said, “Oh! Pinky, I have two questions for you!”
Pinky looked up at Mount and said, “Ready!”
Mount said, “How did you feel when you were looking in the mirror today at yourself, listening to your favorite song ‘Big?’”
Pinky looked a little sheepish and said, “I felt like I was too small to have friends.”
“ OK, question number 2” said Mount. “How did Metro feel when you said that she was too tall?”
Pinky stopped and had to think for a minute because he wasn’t used to thinking about how other people might feel. Finally, he said, “Maybe she thinks she’s too tall to have friends.”
Mount said, with some satisfaction, “Now we’re getting somewhere.”
Pinky blurted out, “But Metro is wrong. She might be tall but I’m her friend.”
Mount smiled broadly and said, “Well here’s the second most important lesson.
You are loved like everyone else.
All of a sudden, everyone else perked up and was listening intently.
Pinky, feeling a little better, asked, “Well is Thumper loved more than me because he’s bigger and stronger than I am?”
“Nope” said Mount. “Everyone is loved the same! It’s only fair.”
“ Well if that’s the case,” Pinky said, “it doesn’t matter how high we are in the mirror!”
And with that, Mount said “YES!” and did a little wobbly happy dance, rocking back and forth.
3. Always remember other’s feelings
Quatro was limping along, minding his own business. He had recently gotten banged up and was hoping to feel better soon.
“ Hey Quatro!” Thumper called out. You don’t look too good. I’d say you look like a train wreck so I’m giving you the thumb down for the day.” Thumper stood on his head, giving his usual negative posture.
All of a sudden, there was more laughter and a lot of voices were calling out things to Quatro. It was Fist.
Fist called out, “Hey Quatro, you’re not like us! You look different! None of us are wearing band-aids. And …”
“Wait a minute!” Mount said. Mount came closer and continued. “Fist, … you spread out. Look down and turn around!” (Fist did turn around and everyone stood up and faced everyone else.) Mount continued, “It looks like it’s time for you to hear the third most important lesson.”
Quatro said, “Yes, maybe you should remind us of the first two again.”
Mount said, “You’re right. When you turn your back on others and bunch up, you’re all bunched together as a Fist. But you can’ t look at yourselves. Stop and see that you’re all connected. You should remember that you are loved like everyone else. But there’s another thing.”
“What’s that?” Metro asked.
Mount paused. In fact, Mount paused so long, it was making everyone a little nervous.
Thumper was impatiently thumping sideways and finally hopped up and said, “I don’t like this waiting around. What is the third most important lesson? … We haven’t got all day here!”
Mount smiled and spoke.
Always remember other’s feelings.
“That goes for you Pinky, Pointer, Quatro, Metro and especially you Thumper.”
Turning to Thumper, Mount said, “Hey Thump! Do you know you can do a trick other than standing on your head and saying something bad about someone else?”
Thumper looked up at Mount and said, “That’s the only thing I know to do.”
Mount slowly said, “Well try this. It will make the day better for you and everyone else” and with that, Mount rolled over and showed Thumper the thumb up.
Mount said, “You should be really good at this Thump. I know you can do it! But you have to say something positive.”
Thumper smiled, hoping to get Mount’s approval. He said, “Yes, I can do it” and rolling on his side, Thumper gave Quatro the thump up. He said “Say Quatro, I like your band-aid. It’s kind of like a t-shirt. Why don’t we all wear band-aides?”
Within minutes, everyone had decorated their own new band-aids and went out to play together.
Mount breathed a sigh of relief and went out to play with everyone, just as soon as Mount had decorated a band-aid.
4. Do your best at whatever you do
One day, Metro was looking at Quatro and noticed that it was a ring day for him. Quatro would wear his ring whenever he wanted to remember his special friend. Quatro, as it turned out, was good at being a good friend.
But Metro was a Gnome from the city. She had Gnome friends who were in a band but unlike her friends, she could not play an instrument or sing. Metro felt that she wasn’t good at anything special.
Metro knew she could not flip through a stack of papers as fast as Pointer.
Metro knew she couldn’t reach into tiny places like Pinky.
The only thing she could do was listen to music on her iPod.
Quatro noticed that Metro was feeling bad so he asked her, “What’s up, Metro?”
Metro turned up her iPod music and said to Quatro, “I’m feeling like I’m not good at anything, but listen to this. This has some beat. I wish I could play music” she said as she bobbed and rocked to the music.
Mount sat up beside them and said, “Metro, Metro, Metro. Remember the first three most important lessons.
· Remembering we are all connected brings wisdom.
· You are loved like everyone else.
· Always Remember other’s feelings.
Now it’s time for the 4th most important lesson.”
Metro questioned, “Is it that you have to be good at something?”
Mount said gently, “Almost, Metro, but everyone already is good at something. Here is the fourth most important lesson.”
Do your best at whatever you do.
But Metro looked down and said, “But I don’t think I know how to do anything.”
Pointer, who heard her, said, “I’d like to point out that you’ve really got the beat there, Metro. For a Gnome, you really know how to rock.”
Thumper jumped in and said, “Yes, I think you can do something with your sense of rhythm.”
“Mount said, “Tell her your idea Thumper.”
Thumper said, “Metro, with your good sense of rhythm, you could help your friends in the city band keep the beat as they play. You could wave back and forth and help them make music together.”
Pinky said, “You know, we all live here in the city and since we are all connected, we are all Gnomes. We should have our own band and you can lead us, Metro.”
Thumper gave his thumbs up and added, “We’ll call ourselves ‘The Metro Gnomes.’”
Just then, Mount got out a saxophone and started a jazz piece. Metro kept the beat going. The party began and the band played all night.
After Their Bed Time Reflections For Adults
The Four Most Important Lessons is what you want to teach your children or grandchildren, enabling them to live their lives with integrity. This section is an explanation of the thinking, philosophy and theology behind the four children’s stories. In the simplest form, the stories attempt to convey the core values in ways kids can understand.
I wish I was an illustrator. Failing that, I took photos of my own fingers for my characters. I used Photoshop to draw facial features. Sometimes, all you can do is use what you have.
Your life’s philosophy. Consciously or not, you live by it. If you had just a few minutes before you died, what advice would you give to your children or grandchildren to take along with them for their own path in life
Perhaps an inspiring teacher once suggested you write out your own obituary. The assignment quickly got you in touch with your values.
What do you value most?
I’m laughing to myself as I remember some of the lines from comedies. “Think Plastic!” That was the answer in the movie: The Graduate. “Buy late, sell early” said a Wall street tycoon. “Riley, do you love me?” Peg asks and Riley responds, “Well, I live here, don’t I?”(from the sitcom “The Life of Riley.”)
We discover our values with emotional experience. This usually happens when we face the brevity of life. “You can’t take it with you” echoes through our minds as we hear of the demise of the rich, famous and the powerful.
What is it that we are passing along to those who follow us? How would we present our values so that a child could understand what is most important to us? Do your loved ones know what is most important to you?
We’ve actually spent our whole lives teaching others our values. Consciously or not, we’ve already taught those around us what we value most. We’ve done this in the way we use our power around the house and neighborhood. What is most important to us will be told in the stories about us after we are gone. “Remember the time when …?” they’ll say.
Our children have seen the theater play of our lives for years as we’ve acted as the central actor of the script we’ve written. We have reduced our children to subordinate characters in the novel of our life. Sometimes we’ve assigned them only walk-on parts. Unwittingly, we have forced them to be our understudies.
Fortunately, our children always move on to other stages in their lives. Thank goodness, parents are not the only show in town. Our children will take on new roles and challenges without us. They will insure there are new actors on the stages of their lives. Thankfully, they’ll abandon most of our worn-out and antiquated values. They will quickly replace our prejudices and ignorant opinions that we have neglected to update with the wisdom of our time.
What values script are we following as our life’s character goes through our daily scenes? Wouldn’t it be nice to have a copy of Cliff’s Notes of Most Important Life Lessons For Dummies?
· But I am who I am!
· That’s just who I am.
· I know what my parents taught me but I don’t want to be like them!
Every day we live in certain ways in relationship with those around us. How we interpret and respond to our world corresponds with what we believe is most important. Whether or not we have written them down, we have our prioritized values. Our values come to us from two sources: our pain and our passions.
To some extent, we have experienced sadness and suffering in life. We know what we do not want. These things motivate us to pursue what we do want. How we were treated and the circumstances we have encountered have brought us challenges and sometimes hardships.
We have also grown from finding healing and renewal in life. The variety of life’s colors and textures fills our conversations at the water coolers, in the classrooms and around the kitchen tables. We know what we’ve endured. We also know the people that have enabled us to survive and become whole again.
The second source of our values comes from the heart. Within us resides the possibility of wonderful and meaningful connections with others. We want to be helpful to others as they have been to us. We strive to be welcoming, nurturing and affirming. We wish the best for everyone.
We also want good outcomes for those who live their lives in fear. We wish the best even for those who violently lash out at others whom they believe threaten their seeming control over their possessions or power. Majestically and irrationally, we hope for their happiness, despite their misery and the suffering they inflict on others.
People are more good than not. Each one of us embodies a spirit of beauty, creativity, intelligence and compassion. We can look at an artist’s drawing of a finger with a little smiling face and take it in with a childlike innocence. We attribute a sense of trust and joy to such a drawing. We envision these things from a place within ourselves and from others. Maybe the last smile we saw on a child’s face etched itself into our soul?
1. Remembering we are all connected brings wisdom
The pathway to wisdom is through our inter contentedness.
Where is God in all this?
Those who are devout people of some religious tradition might already be working on their ulcer halfway through this first most important lesson. “How could you talk about what is most important with no mention of the word “God?”
The nature of a living and personable Deity is a little complex for kids. But by the very way we treat our children, in the short time ahead, they will clearly understand our sense of the existence or non-existence of a Divine Being.
If we are involved in the lives of our children, what are they perceiving God’s nature to be? Is the ‘God’ they see in us somehow compassionately involved or distantly removed? Children know more about our theology than we think.
The words of the theologians resonate with me.
God is a Spirit who is infinite, eternal and unchangeable in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness and truth.¹
¹ See question 4 of The Westminster Shorter Catechism. The Westminster Assembly, a gathering of English and Scottish theologians and laypeople in 1647.
Some of the ancients felt that the Divine Presence was so holy that they dared not say the word “God.” It was not that they were superstitiously afraid of being struck by lightning. It was because they took the clues from the so-called ‘wisdom literature’ which suggested, a couple thousand years ago, that the “reverencing of God (fear in their original wording) is the beginning of all wisdom.”²
² Proverbs 9:1
How do you get from a reverencing of our Maker to a bunch of connected smiling-faced fingers dangling from a common hand? And don’t think for a nanosecond that I have forgotten your original question of where God might be in all this.
The presence of the Divine in these stories is the character “Mount.” The pronouncements, of what is most important, emanate from the Mount character. Notice that in the various incidences, where there is despair, Mount shows up. Mount intervenes with words of wisdom. Perhaps words by which to live.
Then there is the concrete thinking of children. Mount is only a metaphor of spoken wisdom. If we were to be exposed to an actual sighting of the Divine, what would the Creator’s appearance be like? That’s an interesting question to discuss with your kids. Ask your children to draw a picture of God. If they happen to believe in the reality of a Supreme Being, what would happen if this Being showed up and spoke with you and the kids at the breakfast table?
Are you remembering that we are connected? How does that relate to reverencing the Divine in order to start gaining wisdom?
My take on it is that if we sense that God is in every one of us, it means that we are all connected. We are all part of a unified whole of the best and worst traits of humankind. It is the sense that despite humanities’ fear and violence, each person, deep inside, embodies the spirit of love, compassion and life-giving nurturing for all other living forms. It is the sense that what is truly reverent and holy in human life is all of the goodness, kindness and love that resides in each of our souls.
If we are mindful of that alone, it would nourish our mystical connection with everyone. If God’s presence is kept in mind, it impacts how we respond to someone else who is doing something incredibly stupid. Remembering that helps us be mindful of how we all are connected. It is never a matter of “us verses them.”
Consider the frantic behavior of Pointer in trying to have the “best” hat. The alienation and isolation of our rabid materialism is the product of our pursuit of “better” material things. Good, better and best. We desperately hope that our money can somehow replace any loss in life.
Think of the damaging outcomes of hoarding and not sharing in our culture. Look at our nation’s disregard for the poor. Xenophobia, racism, sexism, chauvinism, and hetero-sexism. All of these behaviors are no less stupid than Pointer’s obsession with hats.
Where is God in the world view of the haters?
Where does “holiness” and “reverence” exist in our lives?
Bob Dylan once sang,
Disillusioned words like bullets bark
As human gods aim for their mark
Made everything from toy guns that spark
To flesh-colored Christs that glow in the dark
It’s easy to see without looking too far that not much is really sacred.³
³ Bob Dylan “It’s Allright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)”
What do we have in our lives that we consider sacred?
What is wisdom?
How do we obtain wisdom?
Try talking it over with our kids. They probably have new insight on that.
2. You are loved like everyone else
Help others feel they are worthy just as they are.
We are worried about our worthiness, consumed by our fear. We live in fear throughout our teens, through the career-climbing twenties and into our family-building years. We can spend much of our lives without ever changing. Sometimes we never get out of that “us verses them” mentality.
In the story, Mount confronts Pinky with ‘feeling questions’ — putting him in touch with how he feels inadequate about his own height. Mount’s second question forced him to come to terms with how Metro feels about her sense of being too tall.
Try this. Think of some people whom you distrust. The ones who frighten you. You know, “them.”
You sadly see this alienation played out in the activities of Congress and the boardroom. You see it in our conversations in a car or at a neighborhood picnic. What would happen if the words coming out of our mouths (about people of other races, nationalities, sexual orientations or personality types) were put on billboards? What would happen if there was a video clip on television’s Comedy Central of what we think about others? Would we be embarrassed?
Try discussing empathy and compassion for others with your kids. Fred Rogers did it for years on the TV show “Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood.” Do our children think these compassionate traits are among the most important things in life? There are many acts of human kindness our kids encounter every day. Are we teaching our kids to be kind persons? Consider reading the helpful book UnSelfie by Dr. Michele Borba.
Here’s a tip to get you the best most personal medical care if you ever become institutionalized. Be the patient who is the most caring to the staff. When you ring the bell for help from a nursing assistant, it will be a no-brainer whose call for help is answered first.
3. Always remember other’s feelings
Empathy is central to a meaningful life.
When everyone turned their back on Quatro they formed the character “Fist.” Everyone making the Fist character was fearful of someone who was different. It drove them to be fearfully alienated.
Being different is usually interpreted as another person’s lack of conformity. One wonders if all the carbon-copy white droids working for the Star Wars demon Darth Vader symbolize the fearful rigid lock step conformity of the fascist regimes dictators create.
Perhaps this needs no further commentary. ‘Do to others as you would like them to do to you.’
On one hand, our competitive and striving culture has taught us to “Pull ourselves up by our bootstraps.” To be independent, self-reliant and successful. Supposedly, we should strive to be “outstanding.” We should be in a domain of our own, untouchable and invincible.
Inhuman, isn’t it? Think Ayn Rand’s The Virtue of Selfishness and her passionless Social Darwinist books. Social Darwinists may be the most pitiful human beings on the planet, not the poor and the disabled. They will likely go to their graves with their conspiracy theories, ignorant of the pain and alienation they have caused.
Then there is mentoring. Think through our own lives when we were particularly inexperienced. Remember the few people who patiently extended themselves to help us out? Remember those who were more mature and patiently waited until we became more mindful of the feelings of others.
We may have had a teacher who taught us that it is OK not to know something. Perhaps we had a computer instructor who laughingly reminded us that no one has a photographic memory. We were relieved to hear that something would be wrong if we didn’t get “information overload” after hearing too many instructions to digest. If we were lucky, that instructor frequently reminded us that we don’t remember everything. This is because we haven’t been given training that is appropriate to our job responsibilities and our personal learning style.
Companies who use technical staff who have no teaching abilities are setting their employees and customers up for failure. No one should ever feel ‘stupid’ in learning how to use technology.
The true mentors in our life were guardian angels who happened to take human form during our time on earth. They were the ones who always made sure we didn’t feel ‘stupid.’ They had compassion and empathy. They showed us how things worked — as often as was needed.
I like how Anne Lamott puts it.
Essentially, all of us are regular customers of God.⁴
⁴Anne Lamott, Stitches, A Handbook on Meaning, Hope and Repair (Riverhead Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA), New York, 2013
4. Do your best at whatever you do
Strive for excellence in what you are able to do.
Metro felt inadequate when he compared himself with others. Have you noticed how we try to master the entire waterfront? We tend to throw ourselves into everything and magically expect that we should excel in whatever we try. But we are not able to excel in all things. This all-or-nothing approach quickly forces us to take on fewer things at a time.
I have had to face this with cooking. My problems are mostly from laziness. I need to focus on following the directions in the recipe. I also have to discipline myself to plan the meals and the required shopping.
Rather than an all-or-nothing approach to 95% of our lives, we should grade ourselves on the curve. Maybe we need to allow ourselves to be just average at most things in life.
You can take what I know about wine and put it in a thimble and still have room for your finger. I like Pinot Noir but I am content to listen to those who know their wines while I slurp down what is in front of me.
Maybe the Six Sigma formula works here. We shouldn’t try to change and improve EVERYTHING. We don’t have the resources or enough years in life to try. We can best serve by figuring out what skills we do have and use our few resources for the greatest good. Like Metro who could only keep the beat. She used what she had and the beat went on. She didn’t have to know Photoshop, French wines or particle physics.
We are called to use the abilities we do have and keep the beat going. We may not be up ahead leading the marching band and the parade with a big shaggy Ugg’s-looking hat with tassels flying.
What matters, though, is if we sometimes take the hand of someone near us. If we can work at being authentically present with as much and as little as we know or can do, the parade will be a lot more fun.
Choosing values we hope will endure is a lifelong task. It is ageless. It must be embodied in our DNA. We are moral creatures. It is who we are. It’s in the Spirit of our very existence.
That is why we struggle when we contemplate the certainty of our death. We struggle with life’s brevity in psychology, philosophy and religion classes. We agonize after we’ve been given a discouraging diagnosis from our physician.
We ask ourselves “What is the purpose of my life?” “What will people say about my life when I’m gone?” We ponder this but keep it to ourselves because talking about it might sound self-involved. The whole idea of trying to write down our most important values is new ground for us.
We may not have clarified our values because we thought we cannot make any money doing it. It certainly would not pay the mortgage. Whatever values we would assemble would seem like a drop in the ocean of religious and philosophical writings. Shouldn’t we leave such things to the professionals like Jesus, Buddha or Mohamed?
Yet we try. We join with all those before us in our search for meaning.
Writing Down Your Values
Try jotting what is most important in your life. No one will ever know you tried it. It is only for you.
Difficult, isn’t it? That’s what I did when I tried writing these stories. For me, though, it will always be a work in progress. In time, my most important life lessons might become five or six. One thing or another might be replaced or modified.
The take away from these stories is a reminder of your own life’s story. It is a beautiful one. You’ve had hard times. You’ve experienced healing and profound beauty. So rejoice that all that you have been is embodied in those who know and love you. Your essence will outlive you.
About The Author
Philip Siddons was a literature major at Wheaton College. He received his M Div at Gordon-Conwell and D Min degree at Colgate-Rochester where his work was focused on feminist studies. His first book was originally published as Speaking Out For Women by Judson Press, 1980. It was republished on Amazon as Jesus, Feminism and You.
Philip served as a minister for 15 years but migrated to using his communication skills in technology training, marketing, advertising and computerized publishing. Along the way, he tried to respond to the people he served, whether they were paying customers, readers or parishioners. He thinks any life work requires the same sensitivity and commitment to create a meaningful presence with others.
For updates and information on his other publications, go to: http://FlyByNight.us.
The best way to reach Philip is email. Try Philip@Siddons.us. You’ll find a kindred spirit.