Sunday, September 30, 2007

Building v.s. Wrecking

Pin It In our lives, we all are faced with decisions; it is these decisions that make us what we are. It was Steven Curtis Chapman who once said,

“We are who and where and what we are…for now.
This is the only moment, we can do anything about.”

There is a poem I heard a few years ago that really hit me hard when I first came across it. The poem illustrates the two types of people that are out there…builders, and wreckers…

The Builder

I passed one day though a busy town,
and saw them tearing a building down.
With a “Ho, heave ho!” and a husky yell,
they swung a beam and a side wall fell.

I asked the foreman, “Are these men skilled?
The kind you’d hire if you had to build?”
“No,” he chuckled. “No indeed,
the common laborer is all I need.
I can easily destroy in a day or two,
what builders have taken weeks to do.”

I thought to myself as I went on my way,
which of these roles have I tried to play?
Am I a builder who works with care,
strengthening lives by rule and square,
shaping my peers to a well-made plan,
helping them do the best they can?
Or am I a wrecker who walks the town,
content with the labor of tearing down?

- Author Unknown

The more often we make one certain type of decision, the easier it is to make similar choices in days to come. Like a trickle of water which entrenches itself deeper and deeper into layers of ancient sandstone—one day to form a canyon—so are the type of actions we choose day to day, that cut their way into the sandstone of our habits, forming our character.

“Always be a little kinder than necessary.” ~James M. Barrie

One of the choices we make in this life is how we will treat those around us, whether they are our friends, family members, coworkers, or acquaintances. We can make a decision to be kind, or to be unkind. We can choose to build them up, or to tear them down. Like an artist’s painting which may take days, weeks, or even months to complete, building up of others can happen, however, this work takes time. Yet, it only takes a moment to destroy the priceless masterpiece—it is so much easier to tear a person down than to build them up.

“How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving and tolerant of the weak and strong. Because someday in your life you will have been all of these.” - George Washington Carver

A few years ago I had a student in my class whom I’ll call “Joey.” Joey was a bit behind his classmates in academics as well as in sporting ability. He was not a perfect kid. Joey was also a little bit different from his classmates and this made it hard for him to make good friends.

You see, many kids would look at him on the outside, and judge him based solely on this. So often, they’d merely hear something about him from somebody else and take this as being truth. They wouldn’t try to get to know him, but instead let somebody else’s ideas become the new reality of this boy. Many kids would tease him because he was an easy target, tearing him down, and making fun of him for the things which were different about him.

I watched with anguish as this boy made mistakes, and then would be teased by those around him. I tried to help, but unfortunately you cannot control the spiteful actions people can sometimes do…I saw him slowly being worn down by his peers—his classmates, those who should have been his friends.

I hoped that things would get better for Joey in middle school, that with a larger group of kids he would be given a fair chance and have the opportunity to make more friends. Unfortunately, this was not the case. His “reputation” followed him, spurned on by the cutting remarks by those who’d known him in grade school. In middle school he still had a problem finding good friends…people that could truly see the boy who was there.

“Be kind. Everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” - T.H. Thompson

This last week, Joey came by to say hello. He shared with me that he only has one friend now in school and that it’s hard for him. When I asked him what could be done, he said, “Nothing. People just don’t give me a chance…they won’t even try to get to know me.”

When he left my classroom I did a lot of thinking about this boy. I also have thought a lot about the things I have chosen to do in my own life. I am forced to look at myself and ask the hard question…who have I often chosen to be? Have I been a builder who works with care with all those around me? Or have I chosen to be a wrecker who tears down? I guess there have been times in my life where I have been both of these. It is my goal to try to be the person who builds, rather than he that simply destroys…we are all works in progress and need to remember that tomorrow is another day, another opportunity to do better than we have before.

It's time for letting go, of all of our “if onlies”
Cause we don't have a time machine.
And even if we did, would we really want to use it?
Would we really want to go change everything?

Cause we are who and where and what we are for now
And this is the only moment we can do anything about.

- Steven Curtis Chapman

My goal is to seize the “miracle of the moment” while it is yet mine.

“A person who is nice to you, but rude to the waiter, is not a nice person.” - Dave Barry


annette said...

I love your quotes from Carver and Thompson. I have known people with many and various gifts, but I believe the gift of empathy is one of the greatest. I wonder if others are mean because they either feel misunderstood or don’t realize the pain they cause. Or both.

“A person who is nice to you, but rude to the waiter, is not a nice person.” - Dave Barry
This is so true. But what do you do if it’s your grandpa? It was embarrassing! He wasn’t out and out rude, but he was blunt and a bit demanding. Then he only left his “signature” $2 bill as a tip, no matter the bill. (We would always make up the rest when he wasn’t looking!) What’s a granddaughter to do?

A while back, I went out to lunch with a friend who left a 25% tip! “She was good, but not that good, was she?” I remarked. She replied, “True, but I always tip 25%. It’s only an extra dollar or two, but I know how hard they work and how little they get paid. I used to be a waitress.” Empathy again. Now I leave 20%, thanks to her.

I used to hate being the last one picked for sports as a kid. But knowing how that feels has made me kinder to others. I hope the same will prove to be true for Joey.

You are a builder. Maybe one of your dreams isn’t to be a builder, but as far as one of the greatest things for anyone to accomplish, gifts and talents included, a builder must be in the top 10. And you have that one already under your belt.

Teachinfourth said...

If I remember rightly, there is a lady out there who does an awful lot of building just who could that be?

Thanks for everything.

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