©Arlene R. Taylor PhD
A drop of salty perspiration rolled lazily down Mrs. Wentworth's nose and spattered on the wooden handle of her dandelion digger. The red ribbon around the crown of her broad-brimmed hat was frayed, but the matching rose on the band looked surprisingly chipper.
I just must think about the loveliness of this lawn without a single offending dandelion, she told herself determinedly. If I don't, I won't last much longer out here in this heat. At that moment, the sound of squealing tires stayed her hand in midair. That must be Paul on his new ten-speed, she mused. Paul, the neighbor’s son, was a great kid. Every cell in his twelve-year-old body was packed with energy. Oh to have his vim and vigor!
Sure enough. Paul zoomed through his garden gate and screeched to a stop on the patio. "Hey, don’t drop those batons!" he called to his younger sisters who were practicing their latest routines. As if on cue, both batons crashed to the ground.
"You did it again," the twins yelled. "You made us mess up!" Crestfallen, Paul headed for the house. The twins brushed angry tears from their eyes; tears that mingled with the perspiration on their freckled faces.
Mrs. Wentworth called out, "Hi y’all. How about coming over for a frosty bar?" The faces of the girls brightened. Shawna, Sheila, and Paul scrambled toward their neighbor’s shady gazebo.
Tempers soon cooled as they all sat together enjoying the icy refreshments. Mrs. Wentworth broke the companionable silence. "I believe you meant to encourage your sisters," she said, looking directly at Paul. He nodded, weakly. "And I think that sometimes," she continued, glancing at the twins, "it seems as though Paul's help doesn't help." They nodded, vigorously.
"Paul," the woman asked after a moment, "Do you recall what you were thinking the first time you tried to ride your new bike through the garden gate?" The boy smiled wryly. "I was thinking that I didn't want to hit the gatepost and I ran into it anyway." Mrs. Wentworth grimaced. It had not been a pretty sight. Paul had pulled splinters from his arm for a week.
"What do you think about now?" she persisted.
"I don't think I think about anything," Paul replied.
"We all think all the time," Mrs. Wentworth said. "We don't always think about what we are thinking, however."
Paul chewed on his frosty bar. The twins watched him intently. After a moment’s reflection (a long time for Paul!) he said, "I tell myself to aim for the middle. It works."
"Of course it works." Mrs. Wentworth smiled. "It's one of the laws of the mind."
"Laws of the mind," retorted Paul. "I’ve never heard of them. So Mrs. Wentworth explained how the mind creates pictures from our thoughts. Positive pictures can be a powerful force in helping us to achieve positive outcomes. The opposite is true, as well. "When Shawna and Sheila heard, don't drop your batons, their minds created a picture of the batons falling,” she said. "They then had to imagine the reverse, unsuccessfully as it turned out. It's much better to create a positive picture to start with.”
"Grab your batons. This time Paul can use positive-talk pictures," Mrs. Wentworth suggested.
Paul’s face turned into a huge question mark. "Uh, what do I say?" he asked quickly.
"Oh, something like, catch those batons," his neighbor suggested.
The twins began twirling their batons. Paul took a deep breath. "Okay, nab those batons." He held his breath. Wonder of wonders, Shawna and Sheila caught the batons, without a hitch, several times.
Paul jumped to his feet. "This is magic! Does this mean they won't ever drop them again?"
"Heavens no!" said Mrs. Wentworth. "Creating positive pictures doesn't mean we won't make mistakes. It does usually help us to make fewer mistakes, however."
The twins ran back to their patio. "Thanks Paul," they called back to him.
Paul sat like a statue on the gazebo bench, then he opened his mouth a couple of times, but no sound came out. "What is it, Paul?" Mrs. Wentworth asked.
The boy hesitated another moment and then suggested, "I bet you could teach me how to shoot baskets."
"As in basketball?" Mrs. Wentworth chuckled. "I'm far too old to play basketball!"
"But you could teach me how to make pictures," Paul persisted. "I’d like to beat my cousin just once when he comes on vacation later this summer." His eyes sparkled at the very thought.
Now if there was one thing Mrs. Wentworth enjoyed, it was teaching young people how to make positive pictures. It wouldn't do to appear too eager, however.
"You have a deal, Paul," she said finally. "I can begin helping you after school tomorrow." With a yahoo that could be heard a block away, Paul dashed across the yard toward his house, the back door slapping shut behind him.
Mrs. Wentworth jabbed the digger at a recalcitrant dandelion. There’s every chance, she thought to herself, that Paul can significantly improve his game this summer.
Tomorrow would be fun. She could hardly wait!