School (s) of Hard Knocks and Soft Touches

If you can learn from hard knocks,

you can also learn from soft touches.

Carolyn Kenmore

[Daily Peace, Washington, D.C.: National Geographic Society, 2015, March 3]

Your mother and father smiling at you from your first day in this world taught you what it meant to be human and loved. Your grandmother helping you plant seeds in a garden taught you to see the beauty in earth’s bounty. Friends and siblings teaching you to play checkers, dodgeball, Sorry, and Clue gave you the chance to learn how to win and lose with grace. Walking, talking, tying shoes, using a fork and knife, and going to the bathroom – the basics are best learned from soft touches. It isn’t just handing on a skill, it’s a gesture of love and care that reminds you that you are special and you are loved.

The school of hard knocks isn’t the place to learn the basics – shame is a lesson often learned alongside. But once the basics are known, hard knocks provide the opportunity to learn and practice patience, determination, and judgement. You learn to answer such questions as these: when is enough enough? how does this experience help me understand and help others? where is God in all of this mess?

Hard knocks are powerful teachers if they aren’t ways of disguising cruelty or abuse. You and I don’t have to seek hard knocks, nor do we have to visit them upon others. There are enough difficult things that will come along without any help from either of us.

Soft touches are powerful teachers if they aren’t ways of covering up reality or avoiding difficult truths. You and I can learn their lessons, and employ them to teach in ways that honor and foster the human spirit. How else can we share the love we’ve been given with others?

If you google Carolyn Kenmore, you will find lots of pictures, a few book covers, and several quotes in many different fonts. I had never heard of this model and writer before today, and I had never come across this quote – learning about new writers is one of the benefits of the new daily readings books I’ve been given this year.