This past Sunday I had the chance to lead Singing Time in primary.
I was a little nervous because a) I was called last minute on a very busy Saturday for us; b) I had never heard of one of the songs I was supposed to lead; c) I have never actually led Singing Time before, and d) there are 50+ kids in Jr. Primary and about 50 kids in Sr. Primary (seriously).
It all went without a hitch, thankfully, but that's not really what this post is about.
This post is about watching Primary kids watch.
Singing Time is the last 20 minutes of Primary, and is therefore preceded by Sharing Time. Since I was leading all music, I sat in the front for the entire duration, looking out at the sea of children. This week, Sharing Time was viewing 20 minutes of a Joseph Smith restoration video. So I got to watch the kids watching the videos that I could not see.
And boy did they watch.
Minus the very little ones who wiggled and picked their noses and counted their fingers.
I looked out and saw all of those clear, wide eyes taking in the light, sound, and story on the television. No--they weren't just taking it in, those kids slouching in their chairs and sitting on the floor were soaking it up.
You could almost see the wheels in their heads turning as they tried to put together the pieces of the story. I don't know exactly what the videos meant to them or what they gathered, but I do know one thing--they were believing what they were seeing. It was as simple as that. They were seeing something--it was right there in front of them--why shouldn't it be true? No hint of doubt or cynicism lurked on those faces; they weren't even capable of that. Just wide-eyed wonder and learning. Listening. Putting it together.
Seeing that really made me think. There are a brief number of years between the nose-picking, wiggling age and the know-it-all, cynical age. Those few years are pivotal in creating lasting beliefs, impressions, and feelings. And what they see and hear is what will shape those things. I realized as I watched those faces with innocence written all over them (however sneaky/naughty they may have been in class that day) that they were shaping the foundations of their beliefs right that very moment--and it didn't matter if it was good or bad or true or if they liked it or not--they were seeing it, and so they were believing it.
It hit me like a slap in the face what a responsibility I have to help my kids see and hear good things. The right things. So they have a solid foundation to shape the rest of their lives. Obviously I can't shield them from seeing and hearing things that aren't the best, but what will they see and hear and feel at home? What will I present them with to understand their worth and value? How will I help them gain a testimony? What can I do so they can see and hear and feel how to recognize and listen to the Spirit?
I can't get over those wide eyes just watching, watching that Joseph Smith video. What else do those kids watch and learn from the TV?
This also reminded me of some of my favorite Sondheim lyrics:
Careful the things you say, children will listen
Careful the things you do, children will see and learn
Children may not obey, but children will listen
Children will look to you for which way to turn
To learn what to be
Careful before you say, 'Listen to me'
Children will listen
So I guess what I'm saying is this: teaching children is easier than you think; and you are teaching children in more ways than you ever thought. And that is really scary. And also kind of amazing.
Let's help them watch and learn something good.