Isn't it funny how a child can teach you in five minutes what you have struggled to understand and teach adults for decades?!
So Wesley has been raising one of his grandsons since the spring of this year. Leon is an extremely bright 10 year old, but to say that he has been neglected in multiple ways over the course of his young life would be the understatement of the year. That said, when Wesley got him, Leon got to go to a new school. Nothing against his old school, but between a miserable home life, inattentive parents/guardians, and a less than mutually beneficial relationship between his parents and his school...well, clearly he was one of those kids that gets lost in the system through no fault of his own. There is no doubt that he was behind, and there is also no doubt that he could improve...but he had a long row to hoe (so to speak). One of those challenges was in the area of reading, and as every adult knows (especially parents and teachers), reading impacts every other area of school. Wesley and I must have spent upwards of $750 on books for Leon. Wesley reads both from the Bible and another book (currently Huckleberry Finn) every night at bedtime. We were "doing" all of the right things, but I am not sure either of us felt like we were having a huge impact on him. Like most 10 year olds, he is interested in IPods and Wi games (I am so uncool...I don't know if I even spelled those two words right.) and has asked for one for Christmas, and the other if he gets all As and Bs this semester. There are no books on the wish list.
This past weekend, Hilde and her family, Wesley, Leon and myself spent the entire weekend together in Fayetteville. Hilde's kids are all big readers, and I like to take partial credit for that fact because I would never buy them toys...only books (even when they were as young as 1 year old) for every birthday, holiday, etc. All three of her kids are phenomenal readers and love it. They read far above their grade level...heck sometimes they read above my level. :)
So, it was no surprise that this weekend Jon had his nose in a book all weekend. ALL weekend.
Obviously, Leon took notice.
When we got in the Jeep to head home, the pestering began. "Please Pops can we stop at a flea market so I can pick out books? Or at a bookstore? Please...please...please." It was constant. Finally, Wesley found a flea market that was open on Sunday and we stopped. Inside, I am bent over looking at an antique bowl when Leon rushes up behind me hollering, "Heather, Heather look what I found!" He had found four Louis Lamour paperbacks. I was stunned. I questioned him, "Are you sure you can see those words okay?" I mean I didn't want to dampen his enthusiasm, but those were tiny words and lots of them. He said, "No, I can see them. Look." and started reading to me. "Do you think Pops will get them for me?" "Yes, honey, he will." He was beaming!
As soon as we got in the Jeep, he said, "Which one should I read first?" After he picked one, he immediately started reading to himself in the backseat. Wesley and I looked at each in simple disbelief.
We had to pick up Wesley's truck on the way home, and Leon stayed in the Jeep with me. He read all the way to church. When we got there, and I turned off the Jeep, Leon says, "I know why Jon reads all the time now...I don't want to put it down." Really?!?
I have to say that in re-telling the above story to everybody last night, I did do a little bit of my jig of joy (which is not necessarily attractive). I was so thrilled though, and I wondered how was it that Jon was able to do over the course of a weekend what Wesley and I had worked on all summer without nary a nibble?!
I am reminded once again that everything that you need to know about people, you really can learn from watching children interact with each other.
It was also a good reminder that peer pressure (used for good and not evil) is a beautiful thing. I have had it used on me significantly over the course of my life (in school, professionally, etc.), and I have used it when leading teams. The thing to remember is that everyone has strengths and weaknesses. It is also critical to hook people up with a variety of potential mentors because you never know which one is going to ignite their own personal fire inside.
For Leon, for whatever reason, it was seeing Jon this weekend with his nose in a book that triggered something in him, and once he tried it...well, it was magic.
If you don't have someone that pushes you to do more and be better than you believe possible. If you don't have a mentor that pushes you beyond your limits. Keep searching and pushing yourself to find both and keep them in your life. You never know what you can do or what you might like, until you reach out and try something new....and sometimes it takes peer pressure to create the necessary spark.
Sunshine Dreams to You ~ Today and Every Day! :)