Friday, July 1, 2016

The Happiness of Children

It’s July. The only wholly school-free month and the chance to dive deeper into Summer.
For me, it starts here on the last day of Orff-Afrique in Ghana and will end on the first day of  the International Orff Course at Hidden Valley in Carmel, California. Bookends to more Orff courses in Spain, Salzburg and San Francisco, with real vacation in Sicily. (Note the S theme here.)

Remembering my opening blog about luggage, I’m thinking about some related closing remarks to the group. Something like this:

“We all came here with our own baggage and what we brought was the lens through which we saw everything here. If we did our job and kept our suitcases open, we should go back with more new things that simply the new shirts and dresses the tailor made, the adinkra stamps and kente cloth and drums and bells. Of course, we will carry back with us new songs, drum and xylophone and flute pieces, the new dances and games that we will share with the students we teach. We will have new friendships with both fellow students and the many Ghanaians of all ages we met and spent time with.  We will carry back the stories of the snake and the long lunch and the magic show and the stiltwalkers and the marketplace shopping trip and so on.

But I hope that the most valuable thing we carry in our suitcases back that the Customs inspectors will never see is new insight into culture, education, children’s abilities, human community, more light brought into our dark ignorance about Africa and our narrow view of what children can accomplish, more understanding about what they need to be happy and what they need to be alert, responsive, curious, intelligent, eager to learn. Maybe finally we will realize it’s not computers, it’s not making sure their every whim and fancy is given freely to them. Having seen children here with far fewer material goods, but far greater smiles and laughter and extraordinary (to us) abilities in music and dance, with both warmth and openness with us foreign adults and respect for their elders, we might re-consider what we are expecting of our children and what we do to them when we shove them off into a corner with their video when we take them to the concert or Orff workshop. The children here are so thoroughly children, playing freely outdoors the way children are meant to while also understanding (as one of the speakers at the Nunya Academy Festival told them) the three rules of success as an emerging adult: 1) Discipline 2) Discipline  3) Discipline.

Having seen what we have seen and heard what we have heard and experienced what we experienced, we now have a responsibility to take these first-hand stories back to our respective countries and shed a little light on the world’s dark ignorance of Africa. I hope we balance the stories about the disappearing credits at the bar and the slow Internet and the air-conditioning that didn’t work with the extraordinary beauty and energy and spirit and warmth and generosity we have witnessed in so many of the people here, the non-stop invitations to the dance, the open-hearted welcomes, the gifts that a culture committed to music and dance every day and for all has to offer the world.

When people talk about the poor starving children in Africa, show them the photos of the kids you have met and tell them their names. When they talk about war and revolutions and danger in Africa, tell them how safe you felt here while hearing the news about Orlando or Istanbul. When they ask what famous sites you saw, tell them about 7-year old Selom dancing ten complex dances with such energy, joy and intelligence. Tell them about a sight more wondrous than any site, more inspiring than the Taj Mahal, the Pyramids and Notre Dame combined. Tell them about the happiness of children. “

1 comment:

  1. Doug this is so beautiful. You are a poet! May I read this entry to the students at The Nueva School when I give a presentation about our trip to Ghana next month?


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