A Seed of Greatness

(an excerpt from Robert Fulghum‘s book, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten)

All I really need to know about how to live and what to do and how to be I learned in kindergarten. Wisdom was not at the top of the graduate school mountain, but there in the sand pile at school.

These are the things I learned:

  • Share everything.
  • Play fair.
  • Don’t hit people.
  • Put things back where you found them.
  • Clean up your own mess.
  • Don’t take things that aren’t yours.
  • Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody.
  • Wash your hands before you eat.
  • Flush.
  • Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.
  • Live a balanced life – learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some.
  • Take a nap every afternoon.
  • When you go out in the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands and stick together.
  • Be aware of wonder. Remember the little seed in the Styrofoam cup: the roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that.
  • Goldfish and hamsters and white mice and even the little seed in the Styrofoam cup – they all die. So do we.
  • And then remember the Dick-and-Jane books and the first word you learned – the biggest word of all – LOOK.

Everything you need to know is in there somewhere. The Golden Rule and love and basic sanitation. Ecology and politics and equality and sane living.

Take any one of those items and extrapolate it into sophisticated adult terms and apply it to your family life or your work or government or your world and it holds true and clear and firm. Think what a better world it would be if we all – the whole world – had cookies and milk at about 3 o’clock in the afternoon and then lay down with our blankies for a nap. Or if all governments had as a basic policy to always put things back where they found them and to clean up their own mess. And it is still true, no matter how old you are, when you go out in the world, it is best to hold hands and stick together.

I mentioned yesterday that I would post more details on the basic elements of character that would benefit any and every child regardless of race, creed or color. Robert Fulghum did an excellent job at clothing these qualities and rather than guild the lily on this topic I propose that we venture a little further into the matter of drawing forth the inherent strengths of our children so that we might shape a better and brighter future.

Let’s begin with an assumption. I am convinced that there is greatness resident in each and every human being born on this earth. Given the right conditions, proper nourishment, a safe and nurturing home and the development of fundamental social skills every has a chance at bringing something valuable to the table.

In my field of work I come across doctors who work with children who have some type of developmental or behavioral disorder and I hear regularly that even the most challenging children provide opportunities for learning, sources of inspiration and reason to hold to the idea that there is a seed of greatness in everyone.

Great is the person who can look past the coping strategies, the defenses and offenses worn by others both young and old and recognize the seed of greatness deep inside. Rare is the person who can effectively maneuver around the same and water that seed without alerting its possessor.

Education to me is more about the process of drawing forth than it is about stuffing children full of facts and figures. While knowledge is an important part of education, a little or even a lot of knowledge can be a dangerous thing when put in the mind of someone whose inner seed never took root.

This isn’t so much a matter of finding what you love and doing it or “following your heart” as is so often said, but instead creating learning environments that encourage creativity and imagination while fostering self-expression.

Such environments start with the family and extend out in progressive spheres of influence. As the child grows, so too should his or her scope of influence. In my experience there were times of growth and expansion followed by period of compression and collection and I feel that shepherding children through such oscillations is one of the most important jobs of both parents and teachers.

I’m not so sure that everything I need to know I learned in kindergarten. I do know that anything I didn’t learn in kindergarten was much harder to learn later in life. That said, rounding out the flat spots in your experience is within your reach. It’s likely not so much a matter of going back as it is moving forward on a new basis.

Most of the problems in the world today cannot be solved by the application of more knowledge. Most, I would venture to say, require a healthy dose of of the sane, balanced and reasonable thinking that only comes from someone whose inner greatness was given stage by people who possessed sufficient care and savvy to let it happen.

Take the time to water a seed today!

7 thoughts on “A Seed of Greatness

  1. jaymorrow

    Drawing forth instead of stuffing it in, what an interesting point of view. Our educational system is so inadequate. I’m not an educator but I am a parent and I was a student. It seems test taking to qualify for federal money is the bottom line. It seems to me the desired result is determining the methods.
    Sane balanced and reasonable thinking is a habit. Our kids learn it from us. How do we react when we face a challenge or a disappointment ? I think for the most part children have mirrored their parents. I do agree with your thought that if we didn’t develop certain character traits it is never too late.
    I like your subjects and how you develop your ideas. Sounds reasonable to me!


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  3. ceraluce

    Very touching. For those of us involved in early childhood development particularly, it is emphasized in more exaggerated ways how every day counts and the time goes quickly by. Your post provides an excellent checklist for making sure we are making the most of our opportunities to plant and grow a worthy and abundant future.


  4. Kolya

    People are amazing, whether children or adults. When you are able to see what’s really special about someone (looking past any foibles – which we all have, by the way), it can be surprising, rewarding, inspiring and utterly delightful.

    Reading the comments on your blog has been a great example of this. I’ve been impressed with the quantity and variety of intelligent, thoughtful perspectives on each topic.


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