Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Given the Keys

I arrive at all-belts, curious about what will be happening this week. Master Hughes is out of the country for a week, after being gone most of last week when his mother was dying and for her funeral.

Ms. Pryor passes me in the hall. She is wearing jeans--obviously she's not teaching tonight.

When I'm dressed and ready, I enter the dojang. It's lively with the sounds of people talking and laughing. There's a lot of energy there, but it's unfocused. On one side of the room is a clump of younger teens. They're kidding around pushing, laughing, teasing. At the other end of the room are the adults, some talking, some already working on forms or stretching.

As I enter, Stephanie and Alyssa look up. I'd promised to put their picture on my blog, and they're excited when I tell them I have my camera. "Yes!" They jump up and practice some kicks.

They decide on a picture of them kicking at Paul, another middle-schooler. Cute, isn't it? Paul's being a good sport; I think he likes the attention.

But after I take the picture, I begin to wonder if taking this picture was a good idea. Fun, but should I be documenting silliness?

I guess I'm questioning myself because I've felt for a while that there's a bit of looseness to our focus at the dojang recently. Master Hughes has been gone a lot in the past month for various reasons. I've been missing Master Hughes's presence--a presence that helps the whole room focus.

Seems like we're unraveling a bit.

Even on this Monday night, as Chelsea leads the class, though individual people are working hard, I don't feel the singleness of purpose that we often have in class. Chelsea knows her stuff, and she has obviously thought of a plan for the class. But as a younger person, she doesn't really have the presence and authority to keep us completely together. The younger kids joke around a bit, the adults strain to hear Chelsea's commands.

But Master Hughes won't be back for a while. We're really on our own.

It reminds me of another story of a Master, a generous Master, who has to go out of town for a while. Before he goes he leaves everything, EVERYTHING to his servants. To some he leaves more, to some he leaves less, but everyone gets something.

Some of the servants use the gift he's given them and make more of it. Others don't--they hide their gifts away.

I believe that in our dojang, we've been asked to make much of our gifts while Master Hughes is gone. Tonight Ms. Pryor makes that completely clear. She offers to us the chance to use our gifts to keep the dojang running during Master Hughes's absence. She has a chart with class times for the next week. There are blanks for people to sign up to teach. I ask if there's any time they need another adult.

"We can use an adult on Tuesday to unlock the building and help Patrick lead a class," she tells me.

She gives me the keys to the dojang.

We've all got something now, whether it's keys, or the ability to help others with forms, or to make people feel welcome, or to practice with the kind of focus that is an example to others. We could also hide our gifts, just goof off the whole time, work with half our energy.

Is there some way I can use my gifts, whatever they are, and encourage others to use theirs, too? I hope so. When Master Hughes returns, I want him to think "well done, good and faithful students."

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