My job, which consists of performing a bunraku-style puppet show for 4th graders about bullying and stereotyping, has led to some interesting moments with kids and how they perceive certain issues.
Here are some interesting answers to questions we pose to the kids during the closing of our shows.
"If a bully doesn't get help for their problem, and grows up to be an adult bully who fights and hurts people, what can happen to them?"--we're generally looking for, and usually get, "They'll go to jail."
These kids had different ideas.
"They will get a gun and go on a shooting rampage and kill everyone."
"They'll become a bad person and abuse their kids."
To further illustrate the consequences of anti-social behavior we ask,"What happens if that person is disrespectful and always putting people down at their job?"--looking for,"They'll get fired." (during rehearsal I would answer,"They'll get promoted to upper management." hehe)
"They'll get fired and lose their health insurance."
The earnestness of answers, such as these, is usually heartbreaking. The more specific the answer, the more likely the child has some sort of experience related to it. This becomes really evident when we are in the inner-city, and the kids start correcting each other about the difference between jail, and prison. They know the difference because they probably have a relative who has been through the legal system and is serving some time.
The little boy who made the remark about health insurance most assuredly has someone in his life with medical issues who really needs that insurance. That, or he is a young fan of Michael Moore.
In the midst of it all, I am struck by their innocence and openness.
After one performance, a boy, with a slight speech problem, asked me,"How do you know if someone is your friend? If someone is really nice to you when you're together, and then is really mean to you when you're both around other people, are they your friend?"
I tried my best to encourage him to let his friend know how the teasing hurt him, and see if that helped the problem. Sometimes people are unaware of the effect of their words on other people.
"What if he still does it?" he asked.
"Well, then, you might need to find some new friends. "
They lay themselves bare, unafraid, lacking self-consciousness. They only want to say what's on their minds, and maybe have a troubling question answered, without being encumbered by what those around them might think.
I wish that I could always do the same.