The Gesture of Giving and the Gesture of Taking

Yesterday was Halloween, one of my favorite days of the year. I love the sight of children roaming freely through my town, (even if their parents walk behind or with them or, with older ones, drive along slowly near their children). I love the idea of children feeling safe in knocking on the doors of strangers and being able top express a trust in the goodness of the world that isn’t always apparent on a day to day basis when we don’t greet those whom we do not know.
One of the things I was struck by last night was the difference between a child being given something and a child taking something. A friend was here when a small group of very young children came to the door. She took the basket of treats, knelt down and offered the basket to them to choose from. I watched with interest because I would never have done this – I always give the children their treats. Again, later in the evening, my 15 year old son answered the door. Like me, he selected some treats and gave it to the children, either into their hands or into the bags they opened toward him. Again, I watched with interest.
My friends gesture and voice were filled with love and warmth as she offered the treats to the children.  That’s not the question. What I really wonder about is the difference between an adult giving and a child taking. It seems to me that our culture, ridden as it is with the primacy of the idea of choice is good period, sometimes does not pause to consider the value of being given instead of choosing to take.
There’s a subtle difference here. And there is no doubt that there are many times that offering a choice is the right thing to do. But for me, as part of the wonder of something like Halloween, where strangers interact with children in a way that is usually not possible, the gesture of giving  seems to be the right gesture, as opposed to letting the children  take. To be given a gift from a stranger – or a loved one – carries a very different soul gesture than encouraging a child to take something.
One of the most important aspects of Waldorf education is developing flexibility of soul in children. In our gestures, words, mood and intention, we as adults carry the ability to help children learn how to respond and intuit into the right mood and gesture at the right time. There is a time for noisy play – an outbreath. And there is a time for quiet receptivity – an inbreath. Respect, gratitude, awe, solemnity and acceptance are all allowed to grow as soul capacities in the child when we find these qualities within ourselves and share them – not as moral lessons – never!!! – but as something that lives in us and which we surround the children with. And so I think it is important for us to consider the small, subtle but highly significant opportunities we have in life to bring different soul gestures and moods to our children. The receiving of a gift – the having to wait in anticipation – is an utterly different gesture than of moving forward to choose and take.

Posted on November 1, 2008 in Family Life and Parenting

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