I received an email a while back from my kids’ school, informing parents about an upcoming field trip. It included the usual information - time, date, release form needing signature. But this time I found myself drawn farther into the explanation of the trip...
The email explained how each student had selected a character trait to examine. Part One was to define the character trait. Part Two involved a set of interviews. The first interview included the field trip to various assisted living facilities across the city. Students would conduct interviews with residents - listening and recording their stories, looking for examples of the particular character trait.
The email went on to say they’d been discussing interview questions in class, how to inquire with dignity and respect, and questions that might best facilitate their character study. Part Three involved an interview with us as parents, where they’d listen for any evidence of the particular character trait.
I was so blown away by the intentionality of the assignment, I emailed the teacher back simply to say how deeply encouraged I was by the approach. I commented on the layers of benefit within this project. Not only the opportunity to study character, but the value of exercising empathy, active listening, reciprocity and compassion during the interview process. All of this alongside the obvious benefit of learning about the lives of individuals who’ve lived through both World Wars, the Great Depression, and so many other significant moments in history.
My daughter and four of her classmates had the opportunity to interview and spend time with a woman who had recently celebrated her 109th birthday. My daughter described her as fascinating, kind, generous, and “with a wonderful memory!” She retold many of the stories this dear woman had shared about living a century of life - all that she had seen and experienced throughout that time.
I reminded my daughter that interviewing me won’t be nearly as fascinating. Yet, I’m already looking forward to the experience. I was struck by how easily we could weave these kinds of rich experiences into the lives of our kids. What would it look like to connect our kids more with their grandparents, elder members of our church community, or those living in an assisted living facility nearby? To hear their stories, to study character, to learn more about conversation and listening, to bless folks with a much needed visit and to be blessed ourselves in the process.