We're currently in the last chapter of the Morality textbook. It's called "Living the Truth in Love" and it's centered around the 8th commandment: Thou shall not bear false witness. This is no ordinary lesson in not telling lies, this is about our responsibility to bear witness to The Truth. It's the reason for our existence, the purpose of our being -- to communicate the love of God to one another.
The text explains the four principles of communication:
- We communicate verbally and non-verbally
- We are always communicating
- We are continually participating in feedback loops (action and reaction)
- We can't avoid influencing others.
As we read from the text I got an idea - "So here's your homework," I said spontaneously to immediate groans. "Twenty-five easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy points - all you have to do is smile!" Now I had their full attention. Huge gaping grins and confused grimaces stared back at me.
"All we have to do is smile?"
"Yep. Just look people directly in the eyes and silently acknowledge they are a child of God, and smile. At everybody. Teachers, students, parents, people you don't know, people you don't like. Smile. All day. Then write a paragraph about your observations."
I had misgivings right away. You're too easy on them. You're giving away points. No one will take it seriously. Then came the realization that I was going to have to grade 49 papers! Normally I dread this. It takes an inordinate amount of time and they're often redundant, predictable and plain dull. Jesus loves me. God is good. Lying is bad. Blah-blah-blah. I was sure they would make something up and write it down while I was taking attendance in the morning, turning in drivel for a few points in the almighty quest for the holy grail of grades.
Boy was I in for a surprise. These papers were sweet, funny, touching, and inspiring. They made me smile. I quickly got the impression that this was one of the most affecting things I've done in my short career as a teacher. The kids loved the assignment. They smiled at little old ladies in the grocery store while everyone else around them snarled at the inconvenience of being slowed by the elderly; They smiled at parents, who sadly looked away; They smiled at teachers who wanted to know what they were up to; They smiled at students who looked sad or who were visibly mad, and at students they didn't know; As instructed, they even smiled at people they didn't like.
And they were surprised by the results. They tasted the incredible power of altering someone's mood, lifting someone's spirit and changing the world around them. "Through our communication we create the world we live in," the text says. Who would have thought it? Something we all do, all day, everyday. In fact we can't avoid it. So just what is it we're saying?
We're busy. We're tired. We're fearful. We're distrustful. We're disconnected.
Yet all it takes to change the world is a smile. Is it really that simple? Could it be? Are we living a lie by telling ourselves that it's so hard, it's too complicated? Are we bearing false witness by refusing to acknowledge the beauty in those around us? Are we deceiving ourselves about the value of the gift of the life we unwrap every day?
This is what my students had to say about it:
- "It's surprising how it made me feel."
- "It makes a difference in someone's life."
- "It changed the day."
- "It's amazing to see what a difference it makes."
- "It feels so good to brighten someone's day."
- "When I took time to notice the people around me it made me feel happier."
- "It's like an ongoing chain that will make everyone smile..."
So here's your homework - S M I L E ! We're gonna rock the world today!
All my love and His, ;-)
10th Grade Theology