Gentle Teaching is not about anyone’s behaviors; it is about our values and our moral imaginations—what do we see as decent and good and what are our basic values. I believe that is why I agreed with the young caregiver when she told me to go out and work hands-on with the people.
Another old memory that sticks in my heart involved my first visit to a psychiatric hospital. All of us have heavy sad memories intermingled with joyful ones. In our own lives the weighty ones often encompass feelings such as separation, death, divorce, abuse, neglect, addictions, obsessions, and on and on. These old memories are counterbalanced by others that lift us up and give us hope such as the birth of a child, a grandchild, a relationship in which love nurtures, words of encouragement and praise, and on and on. In my own life I vividly recall a few sorrowful memories, but meaningful new memories as well. My grandma telling me, “Johnny, always help the poorest of the poor…” The teacher who said, “John, whatever you do love your neighbor…” Such memories form our moral development and guide us in our life-journey. Marginalized and alienated individuals are weighed down with the shackles of heavy, burdensome, and grinding down old memories. These are hard to ignore or escape from. Some need help in forming new memories that re-orient a life-purpose.