There are a few crystal clear memories that stick with each of us from childhood. For me, an experience from second grade moved me and started me on a journey to begin to shape my personal belief system. This was not a “lesson” in which the teacher told us the information she wanted us to learn. This was an experience–and because we participated in it (rather than just listening to it), we learned so deeply that day.
Miss Omartian sat us all cross-legged on the floor in a circle. I remember feeling giddy because we were not sitting at our desks. Something different was about to happen. We were all whispering and wondering.
Our teacher took a rock out of a crumpled brown paper bag. It was about the size of her palm. She asked us to look at the rock, and she passed it around so we could each see it. We passed it from one to the other rather quickly. She asked each of us to describe the rock.
We started to giggle, and scrunch our foreheads, as she wrote the words we gave her on the chalkboard: “It’s gray”, “it’s bumpy”, “it’s just a rock”. “it’s dirty, “ “it’s not very heavy”. “it’s ugly”, it’s nothing”. She made a list of our comments on the board.
“What would you do if you saw this rock along side of the road?”, she asked. My friend Paul blurted out, “Kick it!”. Everyone laughed. “Yeah, I bet I could kick that thing far!”, said another boy. Miss Omartian asked, “Would you even notice it if it were just laying on the side of the road?” “You might even step on it…”
Yes, as I sat in that circle, I could picture myself skipping down a dirt road and kicking the rock, or stepping on it without much thought. Or, just passing it by, because there are so many rocks, and there was nothing special at all about that one.
Then, she did something very strange. She put the rock inside a white athletic sock, and pounded it once with a hammer. She didn’t say anything, and neither did we. To my surprise, she called me up to reach my hand inside the sock. As I reached in, I heard rock pieces jangle. I felt around to get the largest piece of rock I could find, and pulled it out.
The class was amazed at what was in my hand—it looked like sparkly diamonds on one side with the ugly old rock on the back! The room burst with excitement. The children pushed their way up to see the jewels. Miss Omartian settled us down and gave everyone a turn to see, hold and feel the precious gems.
“Now, how would you describe the rock?”, she asked. And she went back to the chalkboard to make a second list. “it’s sparkly”, “it’s like glass”, “it looks like ice”, “it looks like glitter”, “it’s beautiful”. “Can I take a piece home to show my mother?” “I want some.”
She then told us that this was a special kind of a rock called a geode, and that they can be found in various parts of the United States. My mind wandered…I wondered how many rocks I had kicked that were filled with jewels? I wanted to run out side and start splitting open rocks!
She then asked us to look at the two lists of words we made “What if we had never cracked open the rock?” She taped a piece of paper over the list of words describing the inside gems. Silence.
A quiet girl, Ann, raised her hand: “Then we would never have known there was something beautiful inside.”
Miss Omartian said, “Think to yourself about the children in our school. You don’t have to say anything. Have you ever not played with someone because you thought they looked ugly on the outside? Maybe no one else played with that child either. So he or she stands alone on the playground every day. Maybe the other children kick this child and tease him.”
We all sat and thought for a moment. Some of us started to get the message. “Maybe they are beautiful on the inside! You have to look inside!” “What do you mean, their guts and their bones?”
During our discussion, we figured out that the geode taught us that each person is beautiful on the inside. And, if you don’t take the time to get to know someone, you might just miss the jewels, or, what is so special about them.
I have recreated and shared this experience over and over again with young children, in the hopes of awakening in them an interest in the uniqueness and the beauty in each person they meet. I teach it each year at The Peppermint Tree Child Development Center, as one way to begin to build an anti-bullying foundation in our very young children.
I am honored to be providing this experience for young children at the upcoming Voyagers’ Peace Conference in Asbury Park, June 22-23, 2012. To find out more about this momentous conference, addressing Peace from many viewpoints and in all parts of our lives, go to:
I encourage you to share this meaningful experience with the young children in your life.