Saturday, July 12, 2008

A friend of mines thirteen year old son had disappointed a person and hurt their feelings. My friend asked me if I had any ideas on what could be done to make up for the disappointment. Well it got me to thinking. Sometimes the best thing is the simplest. I think a simple letter is almost always the nicest thing that can be done. Teaching a thirteen year old how to put their feelings down on paper is anything but simple, just disconnecting from the electronic world is a major feat. Unplug this, turn off the cell phone, shut off the ipod, minimize the screen on the computer, well you know the drill, you can shut down a 747 aircraft in less time.
Now to actually engage the mind and write something from the heart is no small task for a teen boy. But it is a very important skill to acquire. I have found initially kids are at a loss as what to say, but with a lot of help at first, they can turn out a pretty good letter.
This is the technique I have used – I have the child imagine that the person they are writing to has suddenly gone; alien abduction, sudden war, death, whatever it takes to get them in the frame of mind to begin to remember. So, then I have them imagine themselves walking in the person’s house, finding it empty and abandoned, and I ask them, ‘what comes to mind as you enter the family room, or the dining room, kitchen or back yard?. What are the memories each place brings to mind? What did you do together that was fun, meaningful, silly, scary and of course heartfelt. Now, make a list of those things’. It may be games, movies, beach trips, backyard tag, picnics, confiding in one another or whatever they think of in association with this person. I try and focus on the things that they will think about in the years to come.
Now with this list of, say, ten or more things begin to use these memories to weave a simple letter that may look something like this ---

To my cousin Bill,
I’ve been thinking about you and I, and all the things we have done together. Like the night we snuck out to Old Mr. Rodgers house and filled our bellies with his grapes till his dog heard us and chased us off! We have had a lot of good times together. I remember last year when you fell into the river and it was so cold you could barely breathe!
You know, you have been like a brother to me and I just wanted to let you know how much I value your friendship. I acted like a jerk the other night and I hope you’re not mad at me.
Well, gotta go, my ipod needs charging,
Cousin John

As the child matures, and with the basic skills we teach them, and as they practice more in school writing short stories, essays and the like, hopefully by the time they are an adult, they will have communication skills that will go on to serve them for a lifetime. Many young adults don’t have a clue about communication, and they, as well as those they love, will suffer because of it.

Painting by William Bouguereau


Mel said...

What marvelous advice! I'm going to remember this, and tuck it away in the resource folder in the filing cabinet in my mind to use when I and my children face situations like this. Fred, you're awesome! :)

I'm really, really enjoying this season of connecting with you and Joseph in a special way through blogging. To me it's a great illustration of how God can and does use anything and everything to build God-honoring relationships. I don't know how long this season will last, but I want you both to know how much I value you.

FCB said...

You are a peach Mel, and I enjoy it as well.