Prescribing Joy: Finding Their Victories
Heather (To Teach Hope) surprised and delighted me when she sent in today’s post. Years ago, a martial artist named Heather contributed to my For This I Am Thankful guest post series. Her site disappeared, as did–for different reasons–her guest post from my blog. (D’oh!)
To confirm this Heather and that Heather are one and the same warms my heart. It’s a gift and a joy to know where to find her now, and to see where she’s been the last few years; for her heartwarming post in this series, I am profoundly grateful.
Finding Their Victories
I wearily slip behind the wheel of my car, finally done with work. Pausing at the edge of my work’s driveway, I consider my options. Turning right would take me home, and for a moment I am tempted. I’m tired, exhausted, and irritable. Surely, it would be best to go home – right?
But no. I turn the wheel to the left. I drive to my second home instead.
When I arrive, I retreat to the locker room to change. I step into my white uniform, feeling almost as if I’m stepping into another world. Around my waist, I loop the black belt twice around my waist before tying it so that my rank, name, and my school’s Master’s name stand out proudly. It’s taken me years to earn this belt.
But it’s not the belt that brings me joy. It’s not the rank that brings me back.
As I step out of the locker room, a little girl continues a game she created: she gives a loud yell as she sees me. “Oh no, oh no! She’s going to get me!” Then she turns as if to dash away – but not before checking to see if I took the bait.
A few minutes later, a boy tackles me with a hug. Another child grabs my belt from behind and starts tagging along behind me. Two other children join the line, creating a train behind me as I walk through the lobby.
Play ends as the classes change; it’s time for these children to take class, and time for me to start helping.
I shift gears, walking behind the lines of students as they go through basic drills. I tap on this student’s hand to remind him to keep it pulled to his side, ready to punch. That student, I mock-glare at her knees and until she grins and fixes her stance. I show several students that ridge-hand blocks need the thumb tucked in. I stay near another student who struggles with focus, gently redirecting his attention back to the head instructor.
A balance drill leaves most of the students hopping, wobbling, and tumbling to the matted floor. One student gives me puppy-dog-eyes as I walk by, and complains: “This is HARD!”
I solemnly nod. “Yes, it is. But you know what? You’re that good! You can do it. Try again.” I wait, watch for a moment when the balance clicks for the student, even if only for a split second, and then I grin. “THERE! You got it!”
I work one-on-one with a student who’s struggled with his form for the past month. As he finally flows through it, his shoulders lift with pride. I can’t help but to grin, feeling proud of his progress.
Classes change, and students bring their gear in for contact sparring. Today, I stay near the older students, who are usually higher belts. I know these students; they do better with pointed, teasing remarks than they do with gentle encouragement.
“What WAS that?” I give one student a teasingly horrified look. “Do we do sparring footwork like this?” I double over my own chest-guard, running backward with hands lifted up as if scared of the imaginary opponent. Both of the students crack up, laughing – but they return to proper sparring footwork when their match resumes.
I hear giggling behind me, and turn to find two girls had stopped sparring to laugh over something. I narrow my eyes at them in a mock glare. “Giggling? There is no giggling in sparring!” Which, of course, brings a fresh round of giggles. I shake my head. “Fight!” With a last chuckle, they resume their fighting stances.
At this point, I cannot imagine having gone home instead. Beyond the fact that these students learn that they accomplish more than they believed, I see so many other victories: A child who struggles to make eye contact meets my eyes with a smile. A teenage girl who refused to talk begins to speak up for herself. A boy who seemed angry at the world starts to relax. It is in helping these students find these victories that I find joy.