May 22, 2011

Two Quiet Kids at the Temple

Inspired by the kids at the Hare Krishna Temple in downtown Brooklyn, allow me to write about two of them here. I will not write their names for they know who they are. The youngest fills a room with a thirst for knowledge. I had to get her attention, distract her from a college admissions brochure so she would join the group. Kids in NYC fight for recognition. So many kids too few teachers. So much potential. M is a quiet fighter. There are other kinds of fighters, which I aim to adumbrate. M tells me her part in the play being rehearsed at the temple tonight is of a reporter. Her line is, "It's a conspiracy I tell you. A conspiracy!"

At the temple on weekday nights Steve, an inspiring, nutty professor, gathers a group of bright, ambitious kids to rehearse action plays illustrating the life and stories of Krishna.

Another Actor, S, is quiet as well, not absorbed in thought, but in an observant quiet one finds in municipal judges and guidance counsellors. Tonight she rehearses the role of Yamunacharya, a prince who has fallen away from dedication to Lord Krishna. While M is reflective quiet, S is a quiet observer. The difference is one of quality of quietude. Don't you think people are different in their quietness? The latter, S, is attuned to the activity around her, an animated recording device with the capacity to take rigorous notes. S will listen quietly then act. M will listen and think.

We need both. The quiet observers and and the quiet thinkers. If the quiet thinker or the quiet observer is not engaged sufficiently she will become lost in thought and remain there; or simply remain absorbed, or stagnant. How do I engage the quiet?

The problem is we do not engage the quiet. We pass off the quiet as passive. As sullen. Quiet kids have something to say. To engage is to ask a question. "What are you thinking?"

Or, in some cases, a more specific question works. Never ask a quiet person too general a question. They may think you just want to engage in small talk. The truly quiet never "small" talk. There is not enough time in the day for small, empty, insignificant talk. Too much observing to do. So, ask your questions true!

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