I received an E-mail the other day from a friend who included the following tid-bit about his two grandsons: The boys were out walking with their grandma on Shabbat and ran ahead to stand under a lawn sprinkler. Mommy will be upset that they got their good clothes and themselves wet, their grandmother told them. “That's ok,” Yehuda says, “we'll just take a longer walk and we'll be dry by the time we get home.” (It worked.)
When I read this I thought “When was the last time I had this kind of natural attitude toward a problem?" (By natural, I mean an attitude that frames problems as part of life, something you expect, challenges to be met). Or, despite my general upbeat approach to life, am I slipping into that well-honed, adult way of living which usually goes something like this: Problem comes my way. First, it must be seen as bigger than need be. Then, confirm – yes this is very much a problem. Next, note all the “buts" in solutions that will fail ... need I go on? And, again, this from a person whose positive attitude to life is often commented on by others!
So, I got to thinking: What happened to me – and I think to many of us all too frequently – in the process of growing up? How is it Yehuda at four would be someone I'd like to have with me if I were stranded on an island, rather than people who are 24, or 44 or all the other fours? In truth I can think of many times I'd have liked someone like Yehuda as a co-worker when I was stuck trying to figure out how to help some young person in trouble.
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Now what is it that I think Yehuda has that is so valuable? Aside from being a quick, practical and effective problem-solver, it's really his “no faze'em” attitude that comes across to me in my friend's description of his grandson. This is someone who is well-grounded:
he doesn't argue that his mom won't be upset (so he's a pretty keen observer of his world and who and what's important in it);
he doesn't resist his grandmother's alerting him to a problem (he's already astute enough to take information from reliable sources!);
he goes for a solution (he's not one to waste time on the negative – spends no time whining, denying, blowing up the problem);
he offers a do-able solution!
I'd give a lot to work with folks like Yehuda. I'm gonna give even more to making sure that I am someone like him – so that others will want to work with me.
Why do they call it growing UP when it seems too often that the older we get the DOWNER we get? More importantly, why do we change in this way – and how do I keep this change from happening? One thing I know about myself is that when I am in my non-Yehudian mode, there is some part of me that needs to prove something: I must be right, better, smarter, etc. I think it's called “oops, my self confidence just took a nose dive” – and, being human, there are a thousand and one things that can set that situation up.
Being a behaviorist at heart, this is my plan: I'm going to bring this little guy's story to my mind whenever I lose confidence and then I'm going to behave like a Yehudian! And you?