Charles Ames Fischer

Teacher • Author • Consultant • Mentor

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Mentoring Excursion

Posted by Charles Fischer on October 18, 2010 at 2:27 PM

I was asked recently about the mentoring program I do for teens, so I thought I would include a little story about the last meeting we had:

 

 

I planned an excursion in a small town for the students. I asked them to show up with a roll of quarters. Of course, when they arrived they were curious, but I didn't say anything yet. I read a poetic letter attributed to Gabriel Garcia Marquez, where the author found out he was dying and wrote a poignant letter to humanity about what he had truly learned now that he knew he was dying.


 

Then we did a very special value exercise that I was shown this summer where you add up all of the values for something and keep going until gems emerge. The connection to the letter was: How can we value something more if we aren't on the verge of dying? It's easy to hear advice like: Live as if this is your last day on Earth, but it's much harder to actually do. So, we practiced the value exercise with random objects.


 

Then out came the quarters. I heard a story once where a gentleman used to hide coins where only kids could find them so that they could experience the joy of discovery. So, we walked around the town hiding quarters where we thought only young children could find them. (The idea was that the joy from finding a quarter for a young child is MUCH more than 25 cents). So we were sneaking them under bushes, up in trees, and behind benches. Great fun!


 

Then an already magical excursion became even more magical and inspiring...

 

We were walking up the street still looking for places to hide quarters, when a woman made a direct beeline for us. "Excuse me," she said, "I'm practicing random acts of kindness and I'm giving away 50-cent pieces, please take one." !!!!!!


 

I laughed so loud that I must have startled her. "What?" she said, "are you practicing random acts of vandalism?"


 

"No," I said, "We're giving away quarters!" We exchanged quarters and 50-cent pieces and then went on our separate ways.


The woman called back, "Glad to meet kindred spirits!"

 


Wow, is all I had to say.


 

P.S. There are many translations of the letter, but this one seems good:


 

 

The Puppet

If for a moment God would forget that I am a rag doll and give me a scrap of life, possibly I would not say everything that I think, but I would definitely think everything that I say.

 

I would value things not for how much they are worth but rather for what they mean.

 

I would sleep little, dream more. I know that for each minute that we close our eyes we lose sixty seconds of light.

 

I would walk when the others loiter; I would awaken when the others sleep.

 

I would listen when the others speak, and how I would enjoy a good chocolate ice cream.

 

If God would bestow on me a scrap of life, I would dress simply, I would throw myself flat under the sun, exposing not only my body but also my soul.

 

My God, if I had a heart, I would write my hatred on ice and wait for the sun to come out. With a dream of Van Gogh I would paint on the stars a poem by Benedetti, and a song by Serrat would be my serenade to the moon.

 

With my tears I would water the roses, to feel the pain of their thorns and the incarnated kiss of their petals...My God, if I only had a scrap of life...

 

I wouldn't let a single day go by without saying to people I love, that I love them.

 

I would convince each woman or man that they are my favourites and I would live in love with love.

 

I would prove to the men how mistaken they are in thinking that they no longer fall in love when they grow old--not knowing that they grow old when they stop falling in love. To a child I would give wings, but I would let him learn how to fly by himself. To the old I would teach that death comes not with old age but with forgetting. I have learned so much from you men....

 

I have learned that everybody wants to live at the top of the mountain without realizing that true happiness lies in the way we climb the slope.

 

I have learned that when a newborn first squeezes his father's finger in his tiny fist, he has caught him forever.

 

I have learned that a man only has the right to look down on another man when it is to help him to stand up. I have learned so many things from you, but in the end most of it will be no use because when they put me inside that suitcase, unfortunately I will be dying.

 

 

 


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1 Comment

Reply Jandy James
1:22 PM on October 19, 2010 
Back in '89-'90 I brought my 4-year-old out every day to hide/place a quarter where a child would find it. Together we would decide on a good spot and she often climbed to the top of the slide in the public playground to leave the quarter. Once we dropped it in a child's empty shoe while he played barefoot. The original exercise involves doing it without ever telling another soul but I am sure the exercise helped shape Madeline's character.