Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Are you smarter than a 5th grader...

I woke up feeling off today.  Not like anything is wrong, health-wise at least, just off key.  Out of balance.  Not balance like I have too much of one thing to do and not enough of another thing....out of balance....with the universe, or something like that.  I was a little concerned feeling this way, and then we had my 5th grader's literature assignment.

She read a little story by Leo Tolstoy, a Russian author for those of you who have ever heard of him, of works like War and Peace.  It's called The Three Questions and is about this king who is looking for someone to answer three questions for him:  1) Who is most important person to you? 2) When is the right time to do something? and 3) What is the most important thing to do?  

Wow, when I read that, I thought, "man, could that be any more precise than if I wrote them myself?"  I/we have been struggling with #2 & #3 pretty adamantly lately.  When raising a family, these are very common questions we as parents ask.  And if we knew the answer....if we only knew the answer.  

Well the king was determined to find the answers.  And when he didn't get them from his people, he left to seek out an old wise man to help him.  (This was too familiar and freaky to me because feeling so off-kilter this morning I had a passing thought while I was eating breakfast that maybe I should talk to a psychic.)  He took off his cloak and his crown and left them at his horse and walked up to the hut of an old hermit.  This wise old hermit was busy digging holes in his garden and would not answer his questions, though, so the king took the shovel and began digging for him.  He finished digging the holes and then asked the questions of the hermit again and no answer.  Then a man came running at them with blood coming from his chest and his hand covering a wound and the king stopped the bleeding and took care of the man until he fell asleep.  The king himself was so tired he, too fell asleep. 

The next day the injured man woke up and told the king to forgive him but the king had nothing to forgive him for.  Turns out the man had set out to kill the king because his brother had been killed and he could no longer afford the taxes so he had followed the king into the forest but got caught instead by some knights who attacked him.  The king, however, this deed unbeknownst to him, took care of him and saved his life. 

So the king then asks the hermit again why he won't answer his questions and the hermit tells him that the king has answered the questions himself already.

I'll skip a short explanation here and end the story with the last paragraph:
"Remember then: there is only one important time---Now.  It is important because it is the only time when we are masters of ourselves.  And the most important man is he with whom you are, for no one can know whether or not he will ever have dealings with any other man.  And the most important thing to do is to do good to him, since it is for that purpose alone that man was sent into his life."
 Somehow this story put some balance back into me.  I can hardly explain it, but having this discussion with my daughters about what this story means to me, at my ripe old age, helped me teach a lesson to them that I really felt was meant for me.  And hearing them repeat the lesson to me in their own words was priceless to me.  Now to grasp this is a whole new level of learning.  Because I never thought I'd be searching for these answers at this point in my life.  But I know that what matters is the present time.  And whether we are by ourselves or with someone, we must give that person our best of who we are because we never know if we'll get another moment with them or ever meet them again or what their story is.  It's not everyday that I wake up excited to teach homeschool, I'll be honest.  And today was one of them.  But I am so glad I got to be a part of this lesson.  This lesson I will continue to learn, the rest of my life.


  1. Wow. That's a pretty awesome lesson. I'm glad that you shared it b/c I took quite a bit from that!

  2. Ditto to Holly: WOW! Some days you really make me wish I was homeschooling my kids! (Of course most days I wish YOU were homeschooling my kids!) Honestly, that's why I love teaching... I continue to learn from my students...they have a way of teaching us - sometimes when we most need it! :) I love you!