At the end of almost every school year my sons would bring home a sack full of miscellaneous art masterpieces, essays and worksheets that they had created throughout the year. I don’t know why the teachers sent these treasures home on the last day instead of during the year, but most of the time they did.
Drew had just finished 5th grade and he brought home the usual paper sack with drawings and papers that he’d done in the past nine months. I took each one out and marveled at my boy’s achievements. He’s smart. He’s creative. He’s a good boy.
Down at the bottom of the sack was a little booklet with a yellow cover and a hand-drawn title.
5th Grade Words of Wisdom.
I couldn’t wait to thumb through it. Surely my son had added to this collection and when I read his words I would surely laugh with glee or most certainly beam with pride. However, after looking through all 161 responses, I didn’t find even one by Drew.
“Why didn’t you write something?” I asked.
“Don’t you have words of wisdom to share?”
“Yeah. But I was out that day and by the time I turned mine in, Ms. Dhindsa had already finished the book.” He shrugged again and ran upstairs to play video games with his brother.
Okay. Well, I would toss it into the trash with the other “keepers” and look forward to next year at this time when I would get the next installment of treasures and decide each one’s fate. But before I threw the book away, I sat for a moment and just read a few of the entries. I was expecting things like historical facts, or geographical discoveries, or even new vocabulary words that the kids had discovered. I was wrong. It seemed as though Ms. Dhindsa had asked her students for insights rather than facts and figures.
I saved the book and tossed the rest but recently I rediscovered the booklet while cleaning out a filing cabinet. Here are a few words of wisdom I gleaned:
Crystal wrote, “I’ve learned that whenever we have to line up tallest to shortest, I’ll always be last.” I can relate.
Stephanie wrote, “I learned that the older you get the more clothes you get for Christmas.” True that. She also added, “I learned that cats don’t always land on all fours.” You’ve gotta try that to discover that.
Grace wrote, “I learned to never rollerblade backwards down a hill.” Again experience tends to teach.
I laughed out loud at Sean’s words. “I learned that if you stick a fork in a light socket you will get a new hairdo.” Ouch. Poor Sean. I always thought he seemed affected.
Megan wrote, “I learned that the more you mess with your hair the worse it looks”. Not a truer word…
And Jeremy writes, “I learned to never try to ride a Rottweiler like a horse.” Whoa! And Emily said, “I learned that short jackets only keep you warm from your waist to your neck.”
There were others that were funny or clever or just down right profound. Like this one from Lindsey: “God will answer prayer when He thinks it is time.” How can a 5th grade girl know that unless she’s been speaking to the Almighty about something she needs?
And there were others that were just as deep like: “You don’t always get what you want, but you need to be thankful for what you have.”
“If you look a person in the eyes while you’re talking to them they will trust you better” and “God is always watching.”
I’m not sure where any of these kids are now or where Ms. Dhindsa is teaching, (I hope she’s still teaching) but these parcels of wisdom can’t be learned in a classroom. In fact, Ms. Dhindsa was wise enough to know that there is a huge difference between knowledge and wisdom. I believe there is room for both but sometimes I think that wisdom (because it comes from experience) is the more valuable. In fact, Ms. Dhindsa added her own comment. She said, “I learned that you can learn a lot from a fifth grader.”
The dictionary says that wisdom is the quality of having experience, knowledge, and good judgment. But this presumes that experience and knowledge will lead to good judgment. It’s a choice, I guess, to allow failures to teach us, disappointments to mold us, and successes to humble us. But never let any one of these experiences define us.
Author William Arthur Ward put it this way: “We can choose to throw stones, to stumble on them, to climb over them, or to build with them.”