Some years ago when Jack was just seven, his primary school decided they were going to form a school council with two representatives from each class. This was announced in the morning at school assembly and the students were told that anyone who wanted to be considered would have an opportunity after lunch to speak in front of their class to be considered for nomination.
Jack relayed this to me at the end of the day when he told me he was among the candidates nominated from his class. I asked what he’d done and what he’d said that resulted in his success at this initial stage, and he said, at lunch time he’d found himself a quiet corner in the playground and thought through what he might say, but when he stood in front of his class and saw everyone staring at him, he froze and couldn’t remember what he was going to say. I asked what he did then, and he said “well I just started talking and I don’t remember what I said but at the end everyone clapped and I was nominated”.
He was on a high and went about developing his campaign strategy. Then one day when he came home from school he seemed quite subdued and when I asked what was wrong, he said “Today Owen (one of his opponents) brought cookies to school and gave one to anyone who promised to vote for him”. He asked his dad and I what he should do but we just looked at each other and wondered if we should perhaps go out and buy chocolate for Jack to give to his friends. We didn’t do this, nor did we have the answer to give Jack and so he went about working on his campaign.
At the time Jack was into both The Simpsons and The Rugrats and he made up stickers, leaflets, posters and banners, saying ‘Vote for Jack’ using these cartoon characters, he had the whole family involved in his campaign. Jack took himself away from the immediate problem of how to compete against Owen and his cookies by busying himself with his campaign.
Then the morning of the election came and when I dropped Jack at school, I asked what he was going to say in his election speech and he said he didn’t know but he was concerned that his classmates would vote for Owen because they would get another cookie. I waited with baited breath all day, hoping he wouldn’t be too disappointed if he wasn’t successful. When I picked him up in the evening, I asked tentatively what happened. And Jack said “oh yeah I was elected” in a no big deal sort of way. ‘But what did you say I asked.
Jack answered: ‘“Well I stood up and everyone was staring at me, and I said Owen has promised you cookies if you vote for him, these cookies will last a couple of minutes, I can promise to help make your dreams come true, these will last forever” My god Jack I asked where did that come from? I don’t know he said it just came to me.
Therein lies my belief that whether we’re 7 or 97 if we have a question, or a problem that we think we don’t have the answer or the ability to cope with, we actually do and quite often the solution comes to us when we take ourselves away from the immediate problem and busy ourselves with something perhaps related to the issue as Jack did by working on his campaign, or we may just need to distance ourselves from the issue. I find I have my most inspirational thoughts when I go for a walk or visit an art gallery or museum, or take in a film or a theatre performance.
At the time Jack was successful in being elected to represent his class at the school council he loved Jackie Chan films and earned himself the nickname among his classmates as ‘Jackie Chan the first school council man’.
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