A child’s mind

Today is a new day, why not make it your intention to let go of the hurtful past? (above is a wonderful photograph sent by a friend)

I started to write yesterday about an experience that I had as a substitute teacher, and found myself off in a completely different direction, which is fine with me, but the memory of one moment, keeps coming up.

This particular day, I was assigned to a kindergarten class in Bolton Landing, NY. The teacher was out, but her classroom aide was  there…a fact that I was most grateful for since I knew nothing about running a class, and this was my first (and only) day at this school. My gratitude was short-lived however, because as I expressed it to her, and thought she’d be happy to show me the ropes, she said, “You are the teacher. I’m just the aide. I get paid to help out, not to run the class.”OK. Well, here I go, “teaching” a bunch of 5 year olds, all day, under the critical eye of this woman. I wasn’t looking forward to it.

I somehow made it through the morning. At snack time, everything changed. The kids pulled out their little bags of crackers and cut-up vegetables and  I went around to make sure everyone was eating. I stopped at a table where a boy and girl were talking, just as she was asking him if she could have one of his goldfish crackers. He responded by violently scooping them away from her, with the biggest scowl, and yelled, “No!” Less than a minute later, he said to her, “Can I have one of your….”(i can’t remember what she had as a snack but I remember her reply)… She looked at him with the sweetest smile and said “Sure” as she let him take some of her snack. I thought “My God, what I just witnessed was amazing. This little girl had no hesitation, resentment, no righteous indignation…”

There were many “memorable” moments in my few short years as a substitute teacher, but this stands out as one of the greats. If I could forget as easily, (as this little girl did), all of the petty (and not so petty) harms and slights that I had repeatedly remembered over the years, how much sweeter life could be. So often people will say to me, “I have forgiven, but I’ll never forget.” And I always think, “Then you are going to keep suffering, because every time we pull up an old harm, we have to re-live it, we re-feel it and that is a very hard way to live.

Forgiveness means letting go of the past“. Gerald Jampolsky

18 thoughts on “A child’s mind”

  1. “Forgiveness means letting go of the past” and isn’t that the truth, Mary and isn’t that the hardest thing of all to do. Nurturing past hurts in my mind is annoying and yet it’s like putting on a favorite sweater or eating comfort food. It nourishes or should I say, malnourishs a part of my soul and my mind in such a way that I know I should be letting go and walking past slights and hurts but where do I draw the line between letting people push me around and standing my ground. Two different issues here, I know, but both end up in the same basket. I get hurt, I nourish it, I attract it. Conclusion: I’m still struggling with it.
    SandyP in Canada

    1. Dear Becky, I must reply to your statement – I feel for you if you are having these feelings – I read the following in a magazine a while ago and it says: “Hanging onto resentment is letting someone you despise live rent-free in your head.” I have “let go” the negative feelings/energy I had for the two rapists (on two separate occasions) who robbed my daughter of her wedding night. I refuse to let anger live in my mind when there are so many good things to think about. I hope you can move forward and enjoy each moment of each day and put those other feelings in a garbage bag and throw them out. 🙂 I’m sending you a hug.
      Joan

  2. What a lovely story today Mary! I think we can all learn from this. Its sometimes hard to let go of old resentments and hurts but they will harm us and our happiness if we dont let them go. Its much nicer to live in a happy forgiving world. Thanks for your wisdom and for sharing it with all of us.

  3. I’ve always thought that forgiving IS forgetting…even though it isn’t always easy. How can we completely forgive something/someone if we’re still hanging on to the memory?

  4. Forgiving is one of those things I’m trying to understand for a long time. Because of this post I think I do understand it now, it came at just the right time. Thanks

  5. What a life lesson from that little kindergartner! Like you said Mary, our grudges come in all sizes…and they are hurts that just keep on hurting if we allow them to. I’m learning to hit the delete button in my head and heart for the past memories that sting when I let them. I love that the trash button on my laptop says ‘delete forever’. Reminding me that it is a conscious decision on my part to ‘delete and hold’ or ‘delete forever’. Much love to all…

  6. “I refuse to let anger live in my mind”, – wow, Joan, that statement is so powerful in lieu of what you and your daughter had suffered. Many years ago during Lent, we had a guest minister/speaker come to our church, also a wonderful author whose book The Art of Forgiving I read and have referred to many times since then.
    http://www.amazon.com/The-Art-Forgiving-Lewis-Smedes/dp/034541344X
    It is fairly impossible to forget, – after all we have brains and if we start to actually lose our memory, well, then we’re really in a bad way. But maybe when a painful memory flaunts its power in our mind we can say to it as Joan does, “you are not welcome here. Leave. Now.” – and imagine that our words and intention are somehow, little by little, neutralizing the hold the memory has on us still. You know how sometimes you have to wash a garment multiple times to get a stain out? Trying different products and remedies? Little by little the stain lightens, – and maybe it never truly disappears, but with time and intention, I do believe we can let it go. Not to do so is like cramming that badly soiled garment into a drawer, unwashed, and hauling it out every time we feel justifiably wronged by the past. Hard, hard to do. But it does all start with our intention. Blessings to everyone, and may we all let go of something today and think of that little girl in Mary’s class, now probably all grown up, with her sweet smile and her gracious reply, “Sure!” Take it, receive, be well.

    1. I love all that you have written here Susan. Thank you! I love the idea of “neutralizing” the hold the memory has on us. That is a really good way to put it…like it is there but causes no reaction in us any longer. Except to take up space which I know we would all like to free up for more positive things. I also like your stained garment analogy. So much to think about in your comments. When we compartmentalize hurtful things it is very much like cramming the dirty laundry into a drawer…here’s to letting go of something today! Wonderful comments Susan, thank you again!

  7. Forgiving ourselves is often the hardest, if we’ve bought into someone else’s plan for us, or internalized a poor message or expectation. Esp. true of our generation, when very few female careers were acceptable. I became a teacher just like they told me to, and taught everything from 2 preschools to university. I found my place in the community college & loved my students but not the evil machinations of cross-purposed administrations. I ran my programs the best I knew how & in the teamwork of other student services, but got out before admin. drove us mad.

    Whether in work or in love, accepting that our best is good enough is a tall order, but probably the best spot to be. It’s much easier now that I can choose how to spend my days & be gentle with myself and all others. Cheers to all!

  8. Forgiving not only things from the past, but I feel it’s equally important to forgive immediate discretions when they occur. My man and I are conscious of the importance of this in our relationship.

  9. Thank you Joan for the hug. My daughter could be the little girl in Mary’s
    classroom that day. She was kind and non-judgemental and forgiving, and
    many people in her short life took advantage of that. She was harmed in
    different ways by people in positions of authority. She trusted in the good
    within everyone. She is no longer with me and I can’t forgive those who
    hurt her and left lasting scars. I also find it difficult to forgive myself for the
    what-ifs and should-haves. I’ve been in individual therapy and now group
    therapy and, although I know the pain will never completely go away, I would
    like to see some much-needed progress. Please keep me in your prayers.

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