Friday, July 22, 2011

On Being Useful

The boys and I LOVE listening to Adventures in Odyssey. For those of you who have never had the pleasure of listening, AIO are radio dramas put out by Focus on the Family. AIO is broadcasted on the radio (and has been for like 25 years) but you can also buy (or check out from the library!) the various albums.

Anyway, the "shows" follow the citizens of a town called Odyssey and they always teach a lesson. Some of the episodes deal with deeper topics such as evil (they have two "sagas" that are pretty intense), divorce, death etc. Most of the episodes deal with elementary topics however such as cheating, lying, stealing, bullies etc. Over the 25 years the writers have showed great variety in their presentation. Sometimes it is story telling form from one character to another, some are historical with characters traveling in "The Imagination Station" and some are narratives by a character.

I love when the Barclays move to Pokenberry Falls and the 2 part episode is a parody of "It's a Wonderful Life". I love "The Secret Room" where the bad guy has sleeping darts in his cane. I love the Novacom Saga and the evilness of Dr. Blackgaard and the patheticness of his twin brother.

But the episode that is stuck in my mind right now? It is a less popular episode called "The Girl in the Sink". In this episode Bernard (local window washer) tells Tamika (local girl) a story about when he was a child. What leads to the story is Tamika talking about how God should send an angel to help her widowed neighbor. Bernard's point is that we can all be useful- the neighbor doesn't need a bona fide celestial being- she just needed someone who was willing to be useful.

This concept of "being useful" has been flipping around in my brain for months now- and I always come back to that episode.

"Being Useful" is going to be the theme of our homeschool and home this fall. I want to see opportunities to be useful and to take them (despite children) and I desperately want my children to be able to start detecting opportunities for themselves to be useful.

Because when you think about it, people who are well liked and who succeed are those who are useful. My favorite coworkers are not the ones who are the smartest, the best in a code or the ones who have the drug book memorized- my favorite people to work with are the ones who know how to make themselves useful, seeing what needs to be done and doing it.

And I really believe there are two parts to usefulness. First, you have to be able to see the problems and the opportunities. I think this is a learned skill. (it is NOT useful to always have to give people step by step instructions for everything you need them to do). Second, you have to take the opportunities and actually BE USEFUL!

I haven't quite decided how I am going to attack this with the boys, but I think I am going to start with pointing out when they do something useful, so they can start recognizing it. For example, (sorry Elise! I am going to use your daughter!), the boys cousin didn't want to leave the park the other day. I had Roman walk with her so she wouldn't feel so lonely and then when he came back I pointed out how it helped his cousin. In situations like that I am going to start using the word "useful".

I can see how it could be a problem that the opposite of "useful" is "useless". If my kids aren't being "Useful" I don't want them to jump to the conclusion that THEY are "useless". I am going to be careful to make sure that they don't feel that way, but I think this practice is going to be good for our family.

I want my kids (and myself) to "see the good they ought to do and do it"- whether it be big things like helping feed starving children, opening doors for people with packages, distracting a sad child, cleaning up a spill.

So that is our overreaching goal for fall:

To be Useful.


Tonya Johnson said...

I like it, Julie. I've heard a lot of Adventures in Odyssey, but not the one on being useful. I'll have to see if I can track it down. Anyway, I really do like your idea, and I want to work on that subject with our own family. You really do inspire me in your blog, so thank you for sharing all your thoughts and ideas. You're an amazing woman! By the way, do you still find time once in awhile for a game of Catan? :-)

The Three 22nds said...

Thanks for the comment! We do not play Catan nearly as often as we used to. We were just talking the other night about how sad that is
:( It is a season of life thing, though, and I think that as our kids get older we will play more once again!
Right now we are playing a game called SURVIVE which is a fun game for us, and one that Deacon and Roman can both play.
Hope you guys are doing well!

Tonya Johnson said...

We are doing really well, thanks. And apparently I like to use the word "really" a lot! I asked the kids about that episode, and they have heard it on a CD from the library.
Anyway, we just moved (move #8 for me and Justin!) and I feel kind of like I'm playing a game of "Survive". I don't know anything about the game you mentioned, but maybe I'll look into it.
When you have a minute, what is the home school curriculum you use/like best?