Spiritually Speaking with Kathy Chaffin: Bravely learning lessons

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 27, 2007

I was sitting in a doctor’s waiting room this week when two women walked in with a little girl.

I could hear them as they were coming in the door. A class of hearing-impaired students could have heard them as they were coming in the door.

The older of the two women went immediately back to see the doctor, while the younger woman, who I presumed to be her daughter, sat down next to me.

Within seconds, the girl’s bookbag, books, homework and coat occupied different chairs.

Within minutes, the girl, who looked to be about 8, had kicked off her tennis shoes, and the mother began hollering — or at least it seemed like hollering to me — for her to put them back on.

I sighed. I had already turned down the blaring television set as the only other person in the waiting room at that point was reading like me.

Having lost my place in the book, I looked up, watched the girl begrudgingly put her shoes back on, then continued to read. A paragraph later, I heard, “Do your homework!!!!” in a voice tone that startled me.

Once again, I looked at the mother and daughter, trying my best to appreciate my new neighbors in the waiting room.

The loud dialogue continued. I wondered to myself how the girl would have responded had the voice been kinder and not quite as loud.

After 10 more minutes of this, I put down my book, got up to check out the selection of magazines, picked one up and sat back down a seat further away from them. The girl seized the opportunity to put some papers on the empty chair.

I flipped through the magazine, trying my best to ignore the demonstration of ineffective discipline going on beside me. I gathered from what I wasn’t able to tune out that the girl had finally finished one homework assignment.

Several minutes later, a nurse came out and asked for the mother. She got up to go with her, then turned to her daughter in the loud voice and said, “Do your sentences!!!!”

She couldn’t have been out of the room three seconds before the girl kicked off her shoes. One landed a few inches away from my left shoe. She left it there.

Now I need to tell you that I truly love children. I think they are the greatest teachers in the world, but this had been a particularly difficult week and my patience was growing thin.

Deciding the thoughts running through my mind were too harsh, I began to watch the girl. She wiggled, squirmed, pulled on her clothes, played with her pencil and began to make really strange noises, contorting her mouth in some fascinating ways.

Her hair was sandy blonde, long and unruly. She had on a shirt with words on the back that she was never still enough for me to read and jeans with a flower design made out of jewels.

Realizing she wasn’t making much progress on her homework, I spotted a list of vocabulary words beside her and recalled her mother’s parting words, “Do your sentences!!!!”

“Are you supposed to make a sentence out of each word?” I asked. She didn’t respond, but moved her notebook closer to me so I could see what she had written.

The first vocabulary word was “bravely.” Her first sentence was “He is bravely.”

I tried to explain that bravely was an adverb and that she needed to word her sentence differently. She looked at me with a lost look on her face, so I tried again.

After another creative attempt to explain the purpose of adverbs, I finally said that her sentence was incorrect. A proper use of the vocabulary word, I told her in little girl terms, would be, “He lived his life bravely.”

She looked directly at me, studied me for a bit and began drawing a picture of a strange looking creature. I gave up my ill-fated grammar lesson and went back to my magazine. At least, the artist in her was quiet.

A few pages later, the mother came out. Before she had a chance to say anything, the girl shouted, “She (pointing to me) gave me a sentence.”

I was stunned and slightly amused by her excited announcement.

The girl’s mother, who was helping the older woman who I presumed to be her mother, smiled at me. I smiled back.

The girl packed up her things, put on her shoes and got up to leave. She stopped, looked back at me and said, “Thank you for the sentence.”

“You’re quite welcome,” I responded, then watched them leave.

Suddenly, the waiting room was lonely, and I reflected on the lesson I had learned.

Some of us are quiet. Others are loud, but perhaps we all do our best to live our lives bravely.

Contact Kathy Chaffin at 704-797-4249 or kchaffin@salisburypost.com.