“I believe in kindness. Also in mischief. Also in singing…”
– From Evidence: Mary Oliver
Took a morning walk through the woods with poet Mary Oliver today, through the paged trees of her poetry books stepping on the stones of words so my feet didn’t get wet or muddy. What a fine human being Ms. Oliver is, one who knows her place in the community of living things, who has tasted her share of bitter and still comes up praising the sweetness of the world. And her language— so sparse, so clear, so conversational, but each poem crafted with the 70 hours of work she says it takes her to drag it out into the light.
Like these simple lines above, that don’t wag their finger at you like a stern lecture, but open the window to further thought and consideration. They struck a chord with this fellow mischief-maker striving to be kind and singing about it most every day, usually with a hundred children. A few of these thoughts:
Kindness: Well, why not? We are all the walking wounded, all at least partly broken by the sledgehammers of life, scratched by the thorns while trying to smell the roses, beaten down by those scrambling to get ahead of us. And so we are the stern judges sentencing without compassion the driver who cut us off in traffic, the colleague who said something hurtful at the meeting, the idiot endorsing political insanity on mainstream TV. Always room for critiquing behavior, but the person who carries it is also deserving of a moment of kindness, especially once you know his or her story.
Mischief: I love this! Yes, moral, upright citizens are worthy of aspiration, but without some humor and a touch of naughtiness, they’ll be caught in a sleazy hotel. I was a troublemaker in school and paid my dues with detention, but never regretted a single moment! And never wholly stopped.
As a young adult, I sang in a chorus rehearsing at someone’s house. One night, the women practiced their parts in the kitchen, the men in the living room and as we were done first and getting bored, I suggested we take off our clothes and leave them on the chairs like disembodied people and hide in the attic in our underwear. We did and waited restlessly for some thirty minutes before the women finally looked in to see what was going on. They were not impressed. But we had fun!
As a young teacher, I played Sardines with the kids and decided to scoot up a ladder to the roof of the school. When a few kids found me, they followed and soon all of us were clomping around up there. In the room below was an important meeting with the head of school and some possible donors listening to our feet. They were not impressed. But we had fun!
And then a few months ago, I snuck off with a group of kids in our Southern field trip to the Waffle House. We didn’t get into trouble, but we had fun! Hooray for mischief!
Singing: Well, I’d rather sing about singing than talk about it. “A song for every occasion” is our unofficial school motto and that includes songs that we make up on the spot just to release our excess joy.
Kindness. Mischief. Singing. A trio to live by.