I have to confess a love of well-told stories that centers on the kind works of fairies, tomptens, and other small helpers who take care of a household when the humans are sleeping. But, no matter how much I enjoy the story, real life has a very different reality. Tinkerbell doesn’t live here.
I find it interesting that so many people are unaware of this fact. Here are just a few observations to prove the point. After a huge homeschool event, the crowd quickly melts away leaving only a handful to do the vacuuming and put away the chairs. After the church potluck, only one or two women are left in the kitchen putting things to rights. After an extracurricular event that benefited many people, only a couple are left to wrap up the job. After Mom has spent all day teaching, cooking dinner, and generally making everyone’s life work, the kids are out the door leaving dishes unwashed and paraphernalia scattered. I’ve watched this phenomenon for years and am still amazed.
While our social institutions will probably survive this cluelessness (after all, there is always some humble servant around willing to do the hard stuff), I’m not sure our collective character will. When everyone values their time above that of their fellow man, an arrogance is introduced into the demeanor of the slacker that will eventually corrupt. When young people expect that life is a paved highway meant to be taken at top speed, it is easy to be totally undone when they find obstacles in their path in later life. When people routinely take advantage of others so their own lives flow seamlessly, their ability to see and discern eventually becomes handicapped.
We read a lot these days about developing “grit” and “resilience” and “kindness” in our children. I would like to suggest that this is the place to start. When we teach our kids to pay attention to the work that needs to be done, we are developing a heart of compassion that puts the needs of others above their own. A child raised to be aware of the situation and lend a helping hand is light-years ahead of most of his generation.
However, there are also many other benefits. Learning to contribute to the group effort also teaches them to be team players and work for the good of the whole, always a great thing for school projects and later professional collaboration. Interestingly enough, the person who pays attention is also developing leadership skills when they practice meeting a need and organizing others to fill that need. These types of skills take years of practice to hone to perfection. I think you will find that the many of the leaders you admire were trained in this way.
Thankfully, projects like this don’t always go according to plan and thus help our kids develop perseverance. With enough practice at failure, they will also learn to be tough. When we teach our kids to be a part of the solution, we are training their work ethic and ensuring that they actually have the ability to provide for themselves in the future.
We do our offspring a disservice to raise them with the false idea that the world revolves around them. Save the fairy stories for bedtime and help the kids understand early in life that Tinkerbell doesn’t live at your house or anywhere else for that matter.
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