When I was in fourth grade, our classmate, Billy, had to stand in front of the class and give his oral book report. Complete devastation…he was so nervous, he wet himself. We were made aware of Billy’s raw emotions as well as our own. 

We knew well enough not to smirk or laugh.  After Billy left class, our teacher put aside our oral reporting and taught us about compassion and mercy.  We were asked to put ourselves in Billy’s place! Not a comfortable feeling! We learned more from his unfortunate experience than we did from any lesson we were ever taught. Our teacher took a negative situation and turned it into a life learning positive experience. The old adage, “to walk in another’s shoes for a while” is an eye-opener. Billy survived and the incident was never brought up.

Another epiphany for me was in our (CCD) religion class. We were not allowed to chew gum in class. However, there were a couple of girls who forgot (?) to throw out their gum and Sister decided to take this gum-chewing experience and turn it into a disastrous teaching moment! 

Sister ordered Jeanette to put her gum in her hair and Gloria to put her wad of gum on her new sweater! They did as they were told! But Gloria got the better of Sister and her order! She put it on her button! Well, it was part of the sweater! And no way was Gloria going to ruin a brand new sweater. To me this had nothing to do with teaching religion; especially Christ’s teachings! What it taught me was cruelty! The incident was not positive nor humorous! It created feelings, within me, that I didn’t like.  

During one of my high school classes, our teacher was speaking and asking questions about the lesson. I was interested and ready to speak but I  became tongue-tied! Lack of confidence and unassuredness set in! I wanted to respond but I crumbled! Negative thinking ensued! I spoke to the teacher about my nervous reaction. He thanked me for being honest about the moment. We both learned something that day! Confidence in one’s self is a major learning point! 

These were key learning experiences for me. However, those awful or awkward moments can become relevant for life’s future times. Do you recall certain occasions when your feelings were stronger than the lesson?  Which feelings do you want to relive? I don’t ever want to relive the above moments! But those very negative lessons led me to create a program called CHAP; to help others feel good about themselves with calmness, harmony, awareness, positivity, and potential.

“Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.” Aristotle

My emotions get stirred up when I hear of circumstances where children or adults are put down or hurt; in any setting. With ‘time’, the negatives can be used in positive ways! I’ve learned that wisdom is showing good judgment. In my first story, our teacher showed much wisdom. In my second encounter; none and my last account I did gain wisdom and a good feeling about myself. For me, recalling the past is not a misuse of time; but finding the golden nuggets are worth repeating. 

After reviewing what I’ve written, I believe my experiences at Whittier Grade School in Lima, Ohio were valuable moments in learning. We were a very mixed group of young people. Some already hardened with life experiences. At the time, the government had transferred many Blacks from the South and Mexicans from the west and built Victory Villages for them. It was a good idea but some very bad things occurred in the Villages. Tolerance and empathy were non-existent among the Black and Mexican communities. During recess time, all students were on guard. Afraid that their coins (for candy after school ) might be stolen!

 A second-grade black boy was stabbed by a third-grade Mexican boy! All because one got ahead of the other as they climbed the steps on the slide! Also, in our playgroups, were young Jewish children from Germany. Our teachers not only had to keep to their teaching schedules but they had to teach us tolerance; differences in humankind and respect for life! Yes, those learning experiences in my young life have remained with me and taught me that “life is precious” at any age. Those lessons were not in our grade books.  

“I am still learning.” – Michelangelo

Recently, I viewed Maya Angelou’s life. What struck me was her whole life was filled with teachable moments. Some good but mostly sad.  Maya Angelou’s famous book, “I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings” depicts a sad story from her life. In her thinking, she believed she killed her mother’s boyfriend with her words; her testimony against him. He had taken advantage of Maya. He was murdered by Maya’s uncle but she blamed her “words” for his death. As a result, she stopped speaking for five years. She spoke only to her brother. It takes “time” to heal!           

“People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou 

Nancy Fraioli is a retired Benefits Asst. from Town/Village of Harrison, NY. She’s alive and well, residing in Sarasota with her daughter and family and enjoying the Floridian lifestyle daily.

Her passions are writing, reading books of philosophy, children’s stories and poetry. Her deep love is living, learning and sharing how faith, meditation, and music guide her daily life. And she loves to lunch with the ladies!

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