April 26, 2002—Ground
Zero Plus 227
Courage To Kneel To Vigilance
Editor, New York City Combat Correspondent News
GROUND ZERO, New York City, April 26-- Sister Lucy is
a tough older nun, one any Terrorist wouldn't want to tangle
with. I believe they make a big swath around her, looking
for much easier, weaker prey.
Sister Lucy runs a school that teaches a child how to fight
Terrorism by becoming Vigilant. She does it by teaching
the parents of the children how to have the Courage to be Parents
I didn't realize that until
last night when I attended a parent's meeting because my daughter
and her husband and my wife were attending a class together,
leaving me to become the "defacto" parent.
I packed up Matt, 5, and
Sarah, 3, and trundled through the rain to the school located
on 15th Street in the West Village.
Sarah attends the pre-school
now, and Matt did until this year when he shifted to a larger
Catholic School for his kindergarten. Getting into
schools in New York City is like applying for Top-Secret-Crypto
security clearances. Next to finding a good apartment,
finding and being accepted in a good school runs in a parallel
When you walk in the door of
the school you are met with a picture of Vice President Dan
Qyale, who visited the school. Sister Lucy lets
everyone know she is in charge, in a loving way, even in getting
top politicians to come to her children's hostel.
first, I wasn't impressed the kids were attending a Montessori
school. I thought it was a place where a kid could do
anything he or she wanted, kind of a free-for-all environment
that allowed a child to have total freedom.
Boy, was I wrong.
Sister Lucy is a tough
taskmaster. She was ground out of a mold on the
streets of New York City, and I'm sure carries a physical punch
as tough as her comments. She is what is commonly
termed a "no bullshit lady," with the grace of a queen
and the skill of a cobra. She says what she thinks
and doesn't think about what she says. When you
are in her "house" you take your hat off, and the
arms of discipline strip you of any sense of revolution that
may be brewing in your childish mind.
Around her are a pack of skilled,
loving teachers who have an iron fist covered in a silk glove.
They are not babysitters, but true teachers who recognize the
art of molding a child's character under their tutelage.
Dr. Maria Montessori, the first
woman physician to ever graduated from the
University of Rome, opened her initial child care center in
1907 for children of desperately poor families in the San Lorenzo
slums of Rome. Her mission, as it has been passed
down to all the teachers of her principles, includes the "training
of character and the preparation of the spirit."
She based her teachings on three
- Children are to be respected as different from adults and
as individuals who are different from one another.
- Children create themselves through purposeful activity.
- The most important years for learning are from birth to
Children possess unusual sensitivity and mental powers for
absorbing and learning from their environment, which includes
people as well as materials
Sister Lucy was going through an agenda of items the school
needed, primarily fund raising issues to install a better smoke
alarm system, and reviewing the requirements for each parent
that they offer 25 hours of help to the school as part of the
obligation they assume when their child attends.
This forces parents to be involved personally, as well as bonds
the parents and children as one with the school.
But then, during the discussion period
where parents asked questions, one mother raised her hand and
told of how frustrated she was trying to get her child to do
Sister Lucy's normally no bullshit
tone shifted to an angelic, motherly Voice. She
spoke softly, lulling the audience, extracting the maternal
and fraternal genes in each of us with her words.
"You must have the Courage of
Patience with a child," she said. "It
is easy to just tell a child what to do, to take away the authority
of the child to make the right decision for himself or herself.
You have to believe that inside the child is the right decision,
and the child knows what is right, and tests you by refusing
sometimes to do what you want. It is easy to demand
the child do things. It makes your life easier.
You're busy, harassed, tired, your patience is worn.
You can snap at the child, drive him or her to do what you want.
But it takes lots of Courage to understand a child's natural
instincts to rebel. You must get down with the child..."
Then Sister Lucy knelt down before
one of the parents so that her eye level was equal to the parent's
who was sitting...."You must get down...down to the child's
level...become equal with the child...remove yourself from your
authority of being taller, bigger, the mother, the father, and
become the child's equal.
You look the child in the eye, at his or her level, and you
speak from your heart...with the Courage of your Conviction...and
you explain to the child what it is you want the child to do,
and why, in a soft loving way."
A chill ran through me.
There was a stillness in the
Then another teacher spoke.
She was from India, a large warm woman, radiating a glow as
"Sometimes it takes us a
whole year for a child to blossom," she said.
"Every day we have to tell him or her to pick this up,
or put that away, or to not spill, or to not get angry, and
we know that the child is learning slowly how to control himself
or herself. It is very frustrating, I can assure
you," she stated, smiling. "But you must believe
the child is a flower with its leaves closed. One day
they will open. One day the child will learn to blossom
under your loving care. And when they do, your heart will
soar. You will see the child let go of his or her rebellion,
and when the child does this, all the times you knelt before
the child to explain why they must do a certain thing will pay
off. You will know your child has evolved."
It was then I realized
what the Montessori school was all about. They were teaching
inner trust by exhibiting outer tolerance to rebellion.
easy it is with a child to demand behavior, never kneeling down
eye to eye in a loving manner to express to the child the concern
one has for its development of self discipline. It is
much easier to set up rules and regulations and punishments
if they aren't followed, and robotically force a child to adhere
to certain standards.
It was the word Sister Lucy used--Courage--that
I hadn't realized how much courage
it took to be a Parent of Vigilance. It meant the parent
had to replace his or her Fear, Intimidation and Complacency
when in the presence of a child, for these elements of human
behavior tend to railroad over a child's needs.
Selfishness if all about my fear of taking time with a child
when I have other more "important" things to do, and
the child become a burr under my saddle. Answering
a child's repetitive question is a form of Intimidation, an
assault on my authority that I often don't want to bother with.
And Complacency, the most common of all, is that child isn't
getting the message, and I give up on trying to make the "flower
blossom," thinking the child is in a rut and nothing I
do will jerk him or her out of it.
I heard those words so clearly. It did take real courage
to replace my own selfishness with selflessness to kneel down
and talk with a child on his or her level, to explain why I
wanted the child to do a certain thing.
I thought of all
the parents who are in such a hurry to live life, and in the
mad rush to maintain themselves, neglect the child's hunger
to be loved. What if, I thought, all the rebellion
of a child was nothing more than a test of parental love, a
test to see if the parent really cared enough to kneel down
and softly, confidently share with the child on an equal plane
the reasons behind the request?
Did children test their
parents' love this way? Were their questions, their
their seeming inconsideration of certain habits and behaviors
just a ploy to see how much the parent really cared? Were
they nothing more than a cry from the child's developing soul
for the parent to care?
I decided they were.
Sister Lucy has had many children under her belt, perhaps thousands.
She was not one you would imagine kneeling down in front of
a three-year-old who refused to put a block away and explain
in loving terms why it was important to put that block away.
But I knew as she knelt and gave the eye-to-eye example of Vigilance,
that she had many countless times done what she was demonstrating
I left the school with
a lift. I realized the Parent of Vigilance has a
challenging job. It requires much effort to replace one's
selfish attitude of "doing what I say," to kneel down
next to a child and share with a child the simple task of putting
a block away.
But I also knew that by doing
so, the relationship between the lamb and
the shepherd was only strengthened, the friendship between teacher
and student only magnified by such an act of parental Vigilance.
Could a child who knew his or
her parents loved them enough to share with them on an equal
level their reasons let a child live in the Terrorism of thinking
they were not loved? I didn't think so.
Instead, I saw the child blossom as a result of such courageous
acts of parenthood.
I saw Sister Lucy as the Mother
Go To April 25--Some Heroes Have