The Little Boy and the Tokens

The Little Boy and the Tokens

The little boy glanced up and saw an old lady struggling to juggle her two large bags of groceries. He looked at his momma, who nodded her head, then he rushed over to the lady and asked her if he could help.

“Why, thank you young man. What a sweet boy you are,” beamed the old lady.

After they put the grocery bags into her trunk, she turned to the little boy and said, “Your generosity and helpfulness have earned you this token. Come back and see me after you collect ten of these tokens and you will get a special prize.”

The little boy didn’t expect any sort of payment because his momma taught him to do the right thing just because it’s the right thing to do. She said a smile from a grateful person is worth its weight in gold. However, he was delighted to get the token and daydreamed the whole way home about the prize that awaited him.

As the next couple weeks went by, he noticed that the people who carried tokens to give to helpful children wore a yellow flower pin on their collars. The pins were small, but the boy grew able to spot them a long distance away. He sprinted to be the first person to help someone with a yellow flower pin, whether he was again at the grocery store, at church, at school, or even walking down Main Street.

The little boy’s momma was pleased with her son’s helpfulness. Their family had always valued the Golden Rule of, “doing unto others as you would have done unto you.” She was hopeful that the tokens he treasured weren’t becoming the sole reason for his good deeds. Momma knew that her boy would not be given tokens for his good deeds when he was a grown up. She earns the same paycheck as her grumpy co-worker.

One day, the little boy counted up his tokens and was surprised to discover that he had collected nine. He needed just one more before he could turn them in for that long-awaited prize. Oh boy! He felt like he was going to burst with excitement.

That same day, he went to the grocery store with momma again. As they exited the store with their bags, the boy scanned the parking lot for yellow flower pins. There were two people heading to their cars. One was an old man who looked like he was about to drop one of his heavy bags. The other was a woman carrying just one bag. He didn’t even see the old man as he spotted the yellow pin on the woman. He knew today would be the day he got that tenth token.

The boy didn’t look for his mom’s permission before running over to the lady. He asked her if she needed help, and she shrugged her shoulders and handed the boy her bag. After the bag was placed in her car, she thanked the little boy and got in her car and left. He stood there in disbelief.

He couldn’t believe that he didn’t get anything for his helpfulness. He scowled and kicked at the ground as he went back to his mother. He never looked up to see that the old man who was struggling with his bags had actually dropped one of them, spilling groceries, cans rolling all over the parking lot.

The boy wouldn’t give up his quest for his tenth token, and he did receive it that week. In anticipation he could barely contain, he gathered up his tokens and headed to the house of the old woman.

The old woman greeted him at the door with a smile and led him to a wooden chest. The boy was wide-eyed as she opened it. However, his grin turned into a frown quickly as he looked over the prizes. These were just trinkets, silly little toys that he could get from the dentist after getting his teeth cleaned. He had waited all this time and helped all those people for this junk?

He was too polite to say any of this to the woman, so he took one of the trinkets and walked home discouraged.

“I am never ever gonna help anyone again if all I get as a reward is junk!” the boy said to himself as he threw his prize on the table in his own house.

Momma saw his discouragement and anger and went to stand next to her little man, wrapping her arm around his shoulders. She whispered in his ear something he will never forget.

“The swell of joy in your heart as your kindness spreads a smile across someone’s face is the best reward in the world. It beats any trinket or even any paycheck. Kindness freely given builds people up and creates bridges across continents of sadness. Yours is a kind soul, and you need no prize other than the pride you feel by making someone’s day.”

Image source: HERE

 

 

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If I am being chased…I best hide

If I am being chased…I best hide

Running has taught me a lot of things…one is that if I am being chased, I best find a hiding spot.

I started running about seven years ago and I am not really sure why. Running just seemed to be the thing to do, and although I never thought I could run, I gave it a try. I started with a couch to 5K app, and kept challenging myself over the years to the point that now I regularly train for half-marathons.

I definitely don’t run because I think it is fun. I run because I like to eat. I run because I feel good when I am done running. I also run because it is a mental challenge for me, and because it has taught me a lot about myself. I have found running to be a metaphor for life.

So much of life is actually just a mental game. When I first started running, I couldn’t imagine running for twenty minutes. When I was training for a half-marathon, seven miles seemed so long, but then I was running eight, then nine, etc. until I was running over thirteen miles.

You know how it is, after you are running as much as thirteen miles, a six-miler seems like easy street. The crazy thing is that when I set out on a quick three-mile run, I am tired and ready to be done at the end of the three miles. But, when I set out for a six-mile run, I am going strong as I finish mile three, ready for more. If you dream it, you maybe can do it. If you determine to make it happen, and you are willing to put in the hard work, you definitely can do it.

Running has taught me that mental perseverance, patience, and just putting one foot in front of another can take you the distance. With any hard work, what is happening in the moment can seem so hard, but just holding out, pushing a little harder, results in gratification that is so worth it.

I also learned the power of negative thinking, and the toll it takes on your body physically. There are so many times where I was running down the road and found myself drifting into self-defeating and negative thoughts–about money, about future goals, about a challenge at school, whatever it might be–and all of a sudden I physically could not run anymore. I would have to take a walking break. I am aware of that problem now, and I can quickly identify the destructive path of my thoughts and turn my thinking around so I am focusing on problem-solving and what I can control.

Running is my meditation. I am a storyteller when I run, I tell the story of events in my life, and think through them from different perspectives. I dream about the future and set goals. I find myself “saving” something to think about for my next run. When I am not running as much, I notice that I have not been as reflective. I need processing time, and the distraction my reflection provides helps me forget how much I don’t like running.

I am not superwoman, but running has taught me that I can accomplish almost anything. I have the grit, and I know the recipe. Getting a little better each day–going just a little further–can help me reach goals that at one time seemed impossible. When I am training for a long race, I don’t just bound out of the house and run thirteen miles. I start with five, then go to six. Maybe then I will stay at six for a couple weeks before moving up to seven. Slow and steady wins my race.

Being slow is okayI may be slow, but I am thoughtful and calculating. I am a critical thinker and need processing time, but in the end, I will have looked at a problem from many angles and perspectives, which will lead to a better result. Taking the necessary time to think through things also helps me not act upon my emotions–to analyze things more objectively.

Although I am not really sure why I started running, I am thankful that I did. I am stronger than I thought I was and running has helped me hone me a mental strength that I didn’t know I was capable of. Although at times I consider switching my exercise of choice, I don’t want to lose the lessons that running has taught me. So I imagine that whether I like it or not, I will continue running for as long as I am able.

So I Am Having a Bad Hair Day?

So I Am Having a Bad Hair Day?

I tried out quite a few different types of jobs after high school as I figured what I didn’t want to be when I grew up. Before I discovered that I am a teacher, I tried my hand at being a bank teller. I had fun at that job because of the people I worked with, but I found it to be monotonous. Fortunately, I don’t have to ever worry about monotony as an elementary principal.

During my stint as a teller, there was one particular day when I decided to spice it up and do my hair a little differently. I got ready for my long 8-hours at the bank and headed into work. I knew my regular customers–the bristly ones, the kind ones, the funny ones, and so on. Shortly after the day began, one of those bristly customers came in.

This guy asked me to cash a check, and to make a long story short, bank policies would not allow me to cash it. He got frustrated with me after his attempts to persuade me to violate the policies failed. In his frustration, he said something that would make any insecure young lady cringe.

He told me that my hair looked horrible. Well…I’m not sure he said that exact word, it might have been a more colorful description, but this is a G-rated blog.

Ouch! I wanted to curl up in my little teller booth and disappear.

If only I knew then what I know now.

What that guy was telling me had NOTHING to do with my hair style. But, what was he saying to me when he made that comment about my hair?

I think he was saying, “I feel powerless right now. I need this money and I don’t think there is anything I can do to get it. I am going to try to regain some balance and power by insulting this young sensitive bank teller. Maybe I will feel better if I can make her cry.”

I find myself telling this story over and over as I work with adults and children alike to understand behavior. One component of understanding behavior is knowing that all we can ever get or give each other is information.

When someone insults me or says something mean in a half-joking way, typically it is saying more about how they feel about themselves than anything about me. I am not perfect and have many attributes worthy of insult, but people who feel good about themselves do not insult others. They may say things we don’t want to hear, but they try to do so in a helpful rather than hurtful way.

This truth applies to me too. Although I do a decent job of not saying or doing things to hurt others, sometimes I have a mean thought. Like I said, I am far from perfect. When I really look within, the thought is born from a place of jealousy, intimidation, or feelings of inadequacy. So, that mean thought is much more about how I feel about myself than it is about the other person.

Knowing that all we are ever giving each other is information helps me be a better person and hold myself accountable for my thoughts and actions. It also helps me depersonalize others’ hurtful behavior. Yes, an insult–even when framed as a “joke”–does cause me pain, especially initially. However, I can think through and rationalize the situation so the pain is not debilitating…so I don’t retaliate or act upon my emotions..so I can understand what that person is really telling me…and it is usually a lot about how they feel about themselves.

I dream of having a magic wand, one where I could just gently touch the shoulder of a hurting child to help him or her understand this. If children knew that bullies are saying that they feel bad about themselves, the bullies would have a very hard time getting the power they are after by preying on the weak.

This realization would help many adults too, especially when we we can make our lives look pretty perfect on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. Guess what? No one is perfect, everyone has struggles, and we may never know the deep pain that lies within those we envy.

Let’s all look at the “information” others provide to us with a different lens to understand what is really being said. At the same time, look within when callous thoughts or actions begin bubbling to your surface–what would your behavior say about how you feel about yourself?

 

Shout-Outs:

  • Dr. William Glasser, the late and great, taught this concept through his work in both Choice Theory and Reality Therapy.
  • My two co-workers at the bank who rushed out during their lunch break to buy me a “Having a Bad Hair Day?” card that fateful day.

Who Controls You?

Who Controls You?

Why do you answer the phone?

Because it rings, right?

Or, do you answer it because you want to talk to the person calling you?

Is all behavior purposeful, or are we simply responding to what is happening around us?

Let’s look at an example and see what we think.

A young woman, in her early twenties, was driving home from her first teaching job, fighting traffic. She stayed late at school planning for the next day and was starving, tired and really wanted to be at home. The person behind her was honking and inching forward until he was almost on her bumper. She was thinking a few choice words and wondering what the guy’s problem was. Didn’t he realize that everyone was anxious to get moving?

She raised her hand to give him a taste of his own medicine. She stopped with her hand in mid-air. What if it was one of her student’s parents? That would be so unprofessional, and the parent might recognize her. She put her hand down and took a deep breath.

What stopped this young lady from displaying an obscene gesture? She was angry and the guy behind her probably deserved it. What does her behavior tell us about why people do what they do?

We all have urges to behave, and typically our urge to behave is driven from a frustration signal. We behave because we want something. We might eat because we are hungry, or bored, or sad. We yell because we are angry or frustrated. We select our behavior from a recipe book of previous behaviors in our head in our best attempt to meet a need to calm the frustration signal.

So, if we behave to meet a need, and we select our behavior in our best attempt to meet that need, does that mean that the only person who has control over our behavior is ourselves? That is empowering! And a bit frightening—does it also mean that I cannot blame my behavior on how someone else is making me feel?  I am responsible for my own behavior all of the time? Woah, mind blown.

What about my feelings; who controls them? Sometimes, I feel sad when I don’t want to feel sad. Or mad, or stressed, on and on. How can I “control” my feelings?

Let’s go back to the young lady. Instead of reacting and making an irresponsible choice, she took a deep breath. What might happen if she then called her best friend? How might she start feeling? Do we think she would forget about the grumpy guy and enjoy the conversation with her friend? Or, what if she turned on her favorite song and started to sing along—how would she feel then?

We do not have direct control over our feelings, but we do have indirect control. How we behave and how we think has a significant impact on how we feel. We are not Jeanie from I Dream of Jeanie, so we can’t wiggle our nose and magically feel better. The good news is that there are things we can do to feel better.

In our example, the young lady listened to some music, sang along, and all of a sudden began feeling happy and looking forward to the rest of her evening again. If instead she had sat in silence and thought about how horrible the drivers are, she would have continued to be frustrated and angry. Therefore, we can surmise that we can change how we feel by doing something, especially something we enjoy.

I find that taking a walk can help me feel better almost every time. When I take a walk, I do something that I call “peeling the onion”. I may be feeling bad about something, but I cannot pinpoint the exact root of my feelings. When I peel the onion layer after layer and get to the source of the concern, it is typically something that I have no control over. Identifying the source, realizing what I do and do not have control over, and making a plan helps me feel so much better.

The next time you feel like unleashing on someone, pause and think about how you would handle this exact situation with your boss sitting next to you, or with your grandma there. Picture someone you love and admire there with you. What behavior choices would you make then, and what does that tell you about who controls you?

Please note:  This blog post is based upon the teachings of Dr. William Glasser and Choice Theory. I learned about Choice Theory and Reality Therapy through training with The William Glasser Institute and reading many books written by Dr. Glasser. I was even able to spend some time with Dr. Glasser–one time I bought him a bluegill dinner at Hofbrau restaurant in Interlochen, MI.

If you are interested in learning more about the work of Dr. Glasser, I recommend reading Choice Theory (Glasser, William. Choice Theory: A New Psychology of Personal Freedom. , 1998. Print.) or visiting www.wglasser.com for training opportunities.