Thursday, December 5, 2013

Who's Afraid of the Big, Bad Wolf?

So, who was the bad "guy" in the story of the three pigs?  On the face of it, the standard answer is the Big Bad Wolf!  However, there is another perspective. It's a bit of a stretch. O, okay ... It's a LOT of a stretch! 

Just suppose that Mr. Wolf has the best of intentions and is only trying to visit his new neighbors........  I said it is a stretch!

Well, I was teaching a class today on persuasive writing. I was trying to think how to make it interesting and the pigs seemed like a good idea. There's the standard same old, same old story of the pigs who set off to make their fortunes, meet a man with straw and a man with sticks and a man with bricks. Each pig chose a different building material for his new house, and they went to work constructing their domicile. The way the story goes is that Mr. Wolf creeps along, spies the new construction and starts dreaming of ham sandwiches.  He does his best to make his dream come true by huffin' and puffin' and blowin' two houses in. Brothers Pig 1 and 2 end up at Brother Pig 3's door escaping by the hair of their chinny-chin-chins. 

Then, there's another angle on the pig story. What if Mr. Wolf isn't predatory at all but rather just a friendly neighbor who wants to borrow a cup of sugar?  O, I forgot....Mr. Wolf also has a terrible head cold so he sneezes a lot. How can he help if the sneeze comes on just when he's trying to get into a pig house?

Well, that was my challenge to the class. Persuade me!  Write an essay. Have a topic sentence, 3 supporting points and a conclusion. Take the side of the pigs or the wolf or another original angle from the story and do your persuasive best.  I haven't read the essays yet, but the students seemed totally engaged and were working industriously.  We'll see how persuasive they are!  The jury is still out on that!

That started me thinking about persuasion and perspective.  The way we see a situation makes all the difference, doesn't it?  There are the half glass people - some see their glass half full, others see their glass half empty.  It is a matter of perspective. The truth is that most of us can talk ourselves into a lot of different ways of thinking depending on how we choose to look at something.  The sad fact is that we make assumptions based on what we know or think we know that may or may not be reality!  Then we make a judgment based on our assumption.

My husband and I flew to South Carolina last week. In the Charlotte airport going through security a family of two boys, mom and dad came up behind us. The mom was quiet and sticking pretty close to one son. The dad was trying to manage all the luggage and get everything lined up and taken care of.  My husband likes to talk to strangers so he struck up a conversation with Dad.  Meanwhile the son hanging close to Mom started getting pretty agitated. I don't know if he is somewhere on the autism spectrum or not. It looked like he might be. That's not my point here. My point is about perspective and persuasion.

I wasn't chatting with the folks behind us. I was watching the people around us. It made me very sad. Obviously this little family had some challenges in getting through security and to their plane. The only friendly face this family saw - as far as I could tell - was my husband's. The more agitated the son got, the more people stared. It kind of made me sick before it made me sad before it made me mad until I got sad again!

We live in a "Three Little Pigs World"!  We think we know how "the story" goes and that's how we see the world around us. And, yes, the Big, Bad Wolf probably really is big and bad! BUT there's always another perspective. Maybe Mr. Wolf has just gotten very bad press all these years. Maybe he's just a good neighbor like State Farm - not likely but maybe!

What about that family in line behind us? I don't know. They were flying to Boston and we were bound for Pittsburgh so we didn't see them again. I hope they got home okay. I hope they saw some other friendly faces along the way!  I hope they didn't meet the "Big Bad Wolf" in just about everyone they encountered.  It's certainly worth thinking about! 

Sometimes we need to think outside the box. Sometimes we need to put ourselves in another person's shoes and wonder what it would be like to be that other person!  Sometimes - like my students today - we need to be challenged to see through another lens, another perspective!  It matters!  It matters a LOT!

No comments: