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Human lives matter…

 

If you are as disheartened as I am, you definitely understand the tornado of feelings in my mind. Is it disappointment? Is it sadness? Shock? Frustration? Anger? Maybe all of them at once.

Depending on my personal experiences, I can easily say that the picture of our country from a far is very different than the one we are living in. I always believed that this country is a safe haven for many of us. Human rights, freedom of speech,  freedom of expression and so on so forth. Melting pot, a place where people from around the world live together. Families, friends, neighbors, co-workers… how rich and how wonderful!

Well… lately I am having difficulty to comprehend the reality. Reality that is so uncomfortable, annoying, upsetting and unsettling. On TV, in newspapers, social media and on the street there is this picture of fear, anxiety and worry with all the “what if? how? why? really?” We all have different opinions as to why people have become so violent, cruel, uncaring, hurtful, and self centered. What I am trying to understand is “when” did this happen?

A child remarked at the news as they were showing the horrific things that were happening in Virginia last weekend: ” I thought this was happening in the very very old days. Like… REALLY old days!” ” These people may need to go to the doctor. They may be ill and that is why they are hurting people around them.” I took the opportunity to talk about the things we must do. It was a short list but it was a thoughtful conversation.

  • Respect every human being.
  • Explain your point of view without disrespecting theirs.
  • Do not respond hurtful acts with hurtful acts. Two wrongs do not make a right.
  • We all are different. Accept differences and learn to work with them.
  • Your freedom ends when the other person’s freedom starts.
  • You do not have the right to hurt another being just because you disagree with him or her. Speak! This separates humans from other living things. We can think and communicate.
  • Your goodness is in your heart and your mind. You are judged by your actions, not by the color of your skin, the language you speak, the religion you practice, your gender or the way you look on the outside. If you are, speak up.
  • Ignorance does not help anyone.
  • Human lives matter.

Appreciation

You wake up every morning, go to work, complete your tasks and probably start new ones… Is it all for money? Can money be the full satisfaction? My answer is a definite no. I work because I like the feeling of being productive. Helping people, making a change in their lives and being a cause for many to steer the wheel towards a better path. The taste of achievement and success is priceless. Noone can pay me enough for that. But I would never turn away a thank you. After all, this is the best way of someone appreciating my work.  

Flip the coin. You wake up evey morning, go to work, complete tasks and start new ones so and so forth. You get paid a lot of money to do your job. But you are criticised often, people around you think they can do a better job and they have no problem treating you in any which way they are pleased to. Sometimes out of the professional frame work. You tirelessly continue to work thinking that you are going to make a change and your work will be appreciated by your superiors and even the clients. Until you realize that it is a brick wall you are hitting and there is not even a crack. Well, this is when you decide to change gears and your path. In the end, you need the feeling of accomplishment and appreciation. Though it comes a little late and you are even offered more money as if IT is the problem, you make a decision to change the gear. Because money cannot fill in the gap and it sure cannot buy respect and trust.

Most bosses and or employers think that money solves all the problems. On the contrary, it is the approach and appreciation that is verbalized before the train leaves the station that makes the difference. Working with people face to face, expecting quality work, dedication and building trust is not about money but it is about relationships. Life is about relatioships no matter what role you have in any given setting. 

There are values in life and these are gained in time with mutual respect, recognizing one’s authority, work and product.It is the best thing to objectively assess where you are within this relationship. Professional and personal ones. I made it an intentional process to observe myself and others. I thrive to take the time to verbally appreciate the good and even the effort no matter what the outcome is. I know that noone and nothing is perfect and we all are in the process of achieving better outcomes and reaching higher levels. A little appreciation goes a long way before the opportunity is missed.   

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Integrity, Honesty, and Principles…

Values are building blocks of an individual. One exists with his own values that he forms as he continues his journey in life. This is why we teach our children to make good choices and to differentiate right from wrong.

First we teach them to be honest even during the toughest times. We instill in them the importance of integrity and working hard.

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  • Do your best and stand by what you do.
  • Stand up for justice and advocate for the less fortunate and underprivileged.
  • Be a leader and do not follow the wrong doers.
  •  Lift up others around you and appreciate them with all the differences and the similarities you have.
  • Hold on to your principles and defend what you believe in.

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  • Choose being kind.
  • Do your best to see the good in everyone because no one is all bad. There is light in everyone, try to see that.
  • Share what you have and what you know. Keeping it to yourself does not do any good.
  • Cherish what and who you have in your life and let them know.
  • Be bold enough to share your feelings and to show your emotions. Remember, emotions make you human.
  • Take responsibility and own your mistakes. Know that it is part of life to make mistakes. Learn from them.
  • Keep in mind that every situation, no matter how positive or negative it is, is an opportunity to learn and grow as long as you open up your mind to it.
  •  Communicate, do not assume.
  • It is easy to find mistakes, faults, flaws. No one and nothing is perfect. Instead, choose to focus on the highs, the good and success and try harder to improve the ones you can. Just make sure you give your all.

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  • Accept the fact that you cannot make everyone happy at once. Needs, wants, ideas, opinions are different. But make sure everyone gets the chance to taste happiness at some point.
  • You will not get what you want when you want all the time. Be conscientious of this. This is part of growing, understanding life and growing.
  • Be mindful that no one is above or below you. Treat everyone with dignity regardless of their age, role, title or status.
  • Do your job right from the beginning, not because someone is watching you but because you have self respect.
  • Do not try to prove yourself to anyone but you. Others will naturally see what you are about.
  • No quitting until you try every single way to reach your goal. Accept failure and use it as a stool to move you up one more step.

Do all of this, only then you will be a good person and true happiness and success will come to you. Only then you will become a strong adult and goodness will surround you.

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TEAM WORK

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We talk about team work and how important it is in our personal and professional lives but not all of us know the true meaning of “team”. In other words, we talk the talk but have hard time when it is time to walk the walk.

After many days of planning the field trip and a picnic, they were cancelled on the morning of due to rain. Children were disappointed, parents who planned to volunteer were frustrated and some of the teachers were upset because of this cancellation. I was confused as to why everyone showed such negative reaction. We cannot control the weather and we must keep children’s safety and well being at the top of everything else. Should we have taken the children out in the rain? Should we have allowed them to sit on the wet grass? What would be better than cancelling the events?

You hear a teacher saying to a parent “Oh well, they just cancelled the trip on us!”. What do you think? How does it make you feel?

  1. Is this teacher being a team player?
  2. Is the teacher blaming the decision maker for making this call to keep children safe and healthy?
  3. How could the teacher share the not so happy news with the parent?
  4. Does the teacher prefer children getting wet and catching a cold in a 42 degree day?

It is important to think before saying things in any situation but it is a must especially when people are frustrated and or disappointed. It is crucial to know what to say and how to say it so that you are being a team player. Let’s rewind the video:

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“After many days of planning the field trip and a picnic, they were cancelled on the morning of due to rain. Children were disappointed, parents who planned to volunteer were frustrated and some of the teachers were upset because of this cancellation.” The teacher approaches the parent who is frustrated and says “I know it is disappointing but WE had to cancel it due to rain. WE will come up with a future date and let you know. WE are sad as well”.

When you are part of a team, you need to be in it all the way. Highs, lows, in between. Success, mistake, failure. Easy and difficult no matter what the situation is, you stand by your team. If not, you are not part of the team and no one in the team can and will trust you. When you work as a team as in “one band, one sound” the taste of success is sweeter, the experience is richer and the benefits are greater.

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Another analogy I like is the “puzzle”. Think about the puzzles in your classroom or your home. If one piece out of 20, 100 or 500 piece puzzle is missing you cannot complete the picture. Most likely, you need to throw it away because it no longer makes sense to keep it. It is the same with the team. All members need to work together and complete each other. It is not about the individual pieces but about the big picture each piece creates by connecting with another.

If you have a team member who is having hard time understanding the team concept, reach out to them. Model and explain how it really works. Focus on their positive sides and pull them in and up. This is also an example of team work.

Learning from experience…

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I picked up my son from school yesterday and rushed to the grocery store for a couple of quick items that I forgot to purchase over the weekend. Knowing that snow was on the way I was trying to be proactive by not waiting for the last minute. Almost every parking space was taken yet I did not allow it to discourage me. As I picked up my items in less than 10 minutes, my son asked for seltzer water. Normally I never allow him to carry anything in glass container but I was so determined and focused to get out of the store and head home before snow started coming down hard, I allowed him to carry the bottle. He knelt down all tired after a long day at school and “BOOM!!” went the bottle. Apparently he was walking and shaking it not realizing it is fizzy and the pressure would cause it to burst into pieces.

There I was… scared, frazzled and checking his face and hands praying that he did not get hurt. I notified the store right away, paid for the items and left the store. As we got on the elevator he started crying. I then realized how scared he was. We rushed into the car and I tried to calm him down. The bottle shattered into pieces so close up to his face and he was not expecting that to happen that his pupils were dilated in fear. He did not understand why it happened.

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After he was calm and no longer crying, I asked him if he remembered me telling him to be careful with fizzy drinks because I knew he loved bubbles. I explained to him many times how dangerous pressure can be and to let the bottle, plastic or glass, rest a bit before trying to open it. He said he remembered it but he did not know it could be this dangerous. I asked him if this experience was enough for him to learn and remember for the next time and his answer was a quick “YES”. I comforted him saying “your Guardian Angels were watching over you. You could have gotten seriously injured. Let’s be happy that you are fine”. After a nice hug and a couple of kisses we headed home.

I have done it, you have done it, we all have done it at some point of our lives. Our parents, friends or people we work with said things, warned us, shared their life lessons and we still wanted to live through it. Unfortunately, we learned the “hard way”. But I guess, it is just how life is.

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I have heard many things about myself from people who know me. Realistic, protective, perfectionist, serious, responsible, emotional, organized… One thing I can add to this list is “proactive”. I am a firm believer when it comes to learning from mistakes and or experiences. I do not believe in making the same mistake twice. I like to take advantage of what I learned and implement it into my life, both personal and professional. Why go through the same pain twice when I can avoid it in the first place? Why not share my experience with others to help them out? Though I realize you cannot force anyone to learn from someone else’s experience I still cannot give up trying.

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Life is about experiences. Good ones create good things and bad ones make us stronger and wiser. I hope we never encounter situations that we cannot recover from. This is all I can hope for all the people I care about and the ones I have not even yet met.

Do you believe in experiences? Have you ever encountered a situation that was a learning experience for you?

 

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Our Imperfections

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What I love the most about our country is the diversity. I remember my childhood as I watched movies and read books saying ” Wow, it must be great to have people from all around the world in one place. A melting pot. Can you imagine the food, clothes and languages? So rich and fun”  As I grew up I figured out that diversity is not limited to food, clothes and languages. It is much deeper than that. It is also about living in peace with all of our differences and imperfections. It is about respecting these differences and about accepting one another the way we are. It is about setting limits for our wants as to not invade the place of others and to forgo our needs so that we can compromise and live happily.

Is it wrong to be a perfectionist? Depending on the situation and the level of “perfectionism” it may be. Are you perfect? Is there a perfect person? Not really. We all have our strengths but we still are not perfect. What IS perfect? Let’s think about some situations:

A perfect spouse, a perfect child, a perfect dish, a perfect house, a perfect book, a perfect movie, a perfect car…

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Perfection is subjective and therefore it depends on the person who is judging what ever subject we are talking about. In my opinion a perfect house may have a large yard with fruit trees, five bedrooms, a spacious basement for my exercise equipment and a three car garage. Think about a person who does not exercise, who does not drive and is allergic to trees. Would this house be perfect for that person? In your opinion a perfect child may be the one who always listens instructions, does not question adult authority, cleans his room everyday and is an all A student. What if you have a child who possesses all these qualities except cleaning the room everyday or he has 6 A’s and one B. Does it mean he missed the chance to fit in your “perfect child” definition?

 

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My “perfect” is to be able to live with the imperfections. To cherish the beauties, to count the blessings and being thankful for the circumstances I have. To remember that it is good to strive for the “perfect” while enjoying the imperfect things and people in my life. To value the individuality and the special things the person brings to my life. It is perfectly fine not to be perfect. I don’t live in the clouds because the sun is not shining. I would hate to miss what life has to offer when I am looking for the perfect. Now is perfect. People I have in my life are perfect. In their own ways.

How many perfect things do you have in your life? How many imperfect people do you know and you love them anyway?

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COMPARING CHILDREN TO THEIR PEERS

 

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 As parents we always want the best for our children. We do every possible thing to be good parents and caregivers. We know “every child develops at his or her own pace” because we have heard it and read it over and over again. But it still may be inevitable for some of us not to compare Johnny with the friend’s child Matthew. It can be even tricky when we look at a 14 month old toddler and compare him to the developmental milestones. It is not as easy as following three milestones and drawing a conclusion as in “Johnny is fourteen months old and he cannot say as many words as he should at this age. Red flag!!”.

Take a moment. Calm down. A child’s growth does not follow a cookie cutter timeline. Milestones guide us but they do not tell us that Johnny and Matthew will follow the same pace or pattern. If Johnny can produce 15 words or even sentences this does not mean he is smarter than Matthew. It also does not mean that Matthew is less smart. It just means that they both are following their own biological pace.

How would you feel if your boss compared you to your coworker? Susan gets the job done quicker than you do. She writes better than you do. What if your child compared you to his dad? He is more fun. He takes me to better places than you do. He gives me more money than you do. Wouldn’t you feel hurt? Frustrated? Wouldn’t you envy or even hate that coworker?

It is important to accept the individuals in our lives the way they are. It is more positive and fair. We need to celebrate the people around us. We need to embrace our children the way they are. We need to see the strengths in them before we see the weaknesses or the things that are not so inline with the norms. I have seen so many children who were late talkers, late walkers. In the end they talked and they walked. They even ran. Sometimes faster than the children who walked according to the norms.

Keep in mind that children excel in different areas. One may draw wonderful pictures while another one may write stories and another may have amazing dance moves and can follow the beats. Each one of them is worth celebrating.

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Share the Joy!

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Another year has passed. Same season, different year, same world problems… In the meantime, we are trying to enjoy this time of the year with family and friends. Children make their lists for Santa, parents rush to get things done before the holidays. Shopping malls are crowded, post office is busy, some take time off from work, some have to work and some do not have a job.

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I love this time of the year. I particularly love Christmas. Growing up, New Year’s Eve was the most joyous occasion for me. Family members would gather at my parents’ house. 23 people total, sisters, brother in-laws, nieces and nephews. When I was in college, no matter what, I would go back home to spend time with family and welcome the new year together. Well… As years passed by and I grew older and busier, I lost the joy. Partly because my extended family is almost six thousand miles away across the ocean and I am only with my son and husband, partly because I work so hard that I do not get the opportunity to slow down and take it all in. I always think about people who do not have anyone to celebrate this lovely season with. People who are out in the cold, trying to figure out how and when they will get their next meal. People who lost their loved ones and now they are lonely. What is joyful if you are alone? What is the meaning and what is to celebrate?

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How do you keep the spirit alive when you hear so many killings on the news almost everyday? Other than being thankful for another day that is given to you by God or whatever high being you believe in, what is to be happy? The only way to enjoy the holidays is to find a purpose. Make someone happy as this will bring joy to your life. It will feed your soul. Forget about spending hours and hundreds of dollars, maybe thousands, to buy presents. Give your time to make someone happy. Homeless, children with no family, an elderly who is forgotten in a corner of a senior home, next door neighbor who lost his or her spouse… Find someone and do something positive for him. Take him out of the loneliness and sadness and share the joy. Find meaning in random act of kindness. Remember a friend who you have not talked to for a while and pay him a visit or make a call to say hello.

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There is always someone out there who needs a little cheering up. Be that person who puts a smile in his face and bring the goodness out. Be that person who reminds others that there is more to life than material things. There is a whole big world right outside of our door. In that big world there is someone who needs a person to reach out to them to remind that life is happening and it is worth sharing. Be the light to someone who is in darkness.

Happy holidays…

 

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What do teacher candidates learn in college nowadays?

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US. Department of Education recently published the Notice of Final Rulemaking for the teacher preparation regulations. The purpose is to bring transparency to the teacher prep programs and to provide them continued feedback so that each teacher is ready o go into a classroom. This readiness is different and more than obtaining the degree itself. According to research top performing teachers generate minimum five months of more learning opportunities for students.

It may sound a bit weird looking at the title but I am really curious. I have been interviewing teacher candidates for a long time. Over the years I have had the chance to speak with many candidates who are in school or who recently graduated. In both groups of professionals, I see a trend. No matter how many years pass and how much the field changes including requirements for teachers working with young children, the understanding seems to be remaining the same.

Here is a sample dialogue…

Q: Please tell me about some of the activities you do with toddlers. Paint me that picture I would see if I am in your classroom.

A: My toddlers know their colors, numbers, shapes and they started to learn the alphabet.

Wow! These little people are either all geniuses or the teacher thinks they are learning but actually they are just repeating and memorizing. I cringe when I hear this type of answer and try really hard to keep a straight face hiding my disappointment. Here I am sitting across from this person who has been working with children, who is also in college, or working on her or his graduate  degree or has completed a four year degree in early childhood, child and family studies, or human development or psychology. You name it. Yet, there is a big piece missing from the picture. Developmentally appropriate practice. NAEYC has brought so much attention to DAP and best practices that it is almost impossible not to know the basics of child development, expectations and how children learn the best.

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A toddler does not need to know his or her shapes or the alphabet. They do not need pictures and flash cards to memorize “green-blue-triangle-square…” Is this a big joke or are we really failing in our higher education courses? What are we teaching in these classrooms? Why are our educators focusing so much on the academics and the product? We are definitely doing something wrong. The sooner we figure it out the sooner we can resolve this issue. The sooner we resolve this issue the more I can hear a different answer to my initial question:

Q: Please tell me about some of the activities you do with toddlers. Paint me that picture I would see if I am in your classroom.

A: I am on the floor. Building with soft large blocks. I am dancing with the children to the music. We are playing the instruments. Some children are painting on the easel or the table standing. They have several colors to pick from. A couple of the children are pretending to eat fruit or the food teacher pretending to cook. I may be reading with the children. We may take turns singing and clapping. We may look at the family pictures and describe who they are and how they are feeling……….We are having a lot of fun together.

Great education interviews for the Local News tonight, including Humboldt Stepping Stones 1 yr. anniversary!:

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Well, this sounds very age appropriate and developmentally expected and needed. These are the moments children get to hear a story or a song over and over again. This is the way they hear and develop language skills. Not by memorizing what a letter looks like and what it is called. This is how they naturally learn to share, take turns, play together, talk to each other and imagine.

I visited an early learning program and as I was walking by the window of the infant classroom I saw handprint turkeys with feathers on them. In fact, the teacher who was giving me the tour said “Look, aren’t they cute? Parents will love it!”. I was devastated but did not want to ruin her spirit. I went along with it saying ” Oh I see. They are colorful”. I could not get myself to say “Oh yes, they really are cute”. I took ten minutes or so to gather what and how I would say so I was honest and constructive at the same time. I ended up asking her what she wanted her babies to learn from the activity. She could not answer. She stared at my face smiling. Then I said ” maybe the texture of the feathers and the coldness and wetness of the paint?” She nodded as if she found an escape. I continued ” What a great idea! We all know it is about sensory experiences for infants and especially if you talked about how each of these materials felt, you just nailed it. How much fun it is to help babies feel it and look at you in amazement” I took advantage of the moment and tuned it into a teachable one for the teacher. I could tell she was puzzled and the wheel started turning in her head. I was happy because I accomplished my goal for that particular moment.

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Going back to my initial question, what are we teaching in higher education classrooms and what aren’t we doing quite so right? What is missing? Maybe the solution is identifying high quality programs and assigning students to observe and even work in the classroom. Allowing them to have hands on experiences before they graduate. High quality and hands on experience are the key components for us to create well trained and educated work force. Expectations and practice need to be correlated with the age and developmental level of the children.

 

Perception is the reality…Is it?

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Not long ago I was in a meeting with a stakeholder. He said that perception is the reality. Out of respect, I did not disagree with him. However, not speaking up bothered me deeply. I could not sleep the entire night.  In my world and on my mind, perception is just perception. It is the understanding of the other person and it does not make anything the reality.

I cannot count how many times I spoke with someone only to find out they did not look at the situation 360 degrees. You see a snippet of a situation and start making judgements and maybe reach a conclusion. The person on the other side of the table is staring at you in awe. This is why we ask “did you do your due diligence?”

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Science defines perception as the neurophysiological processes, including memory, by which an organism becomes aware of and interprets external stimuli. Another definition is that perception is a way of regarding, understanding, or interpreting something; a mental impression. It is clear that perception is subjective. How can it be the reality?

The way we see the reality is affected by the way we focus on the subject. It is the same as seeing the glass half full while the other person is seeing it half empty. The reality is that the amount of water in the glass is equal to 1/2 of the size of that glass. Our personal choices, implicit biases, and beliefs effect our reality. On the other hand, our reality may not be the reality of others. It may not be the reality at all.  How does this happen? It happens because we see what we want to see. Our brain starts searching and focusing on the things that support what we believe in. Psychology defines this as “confirmation bias”. As we talk about the importance of anti-bias approach in education, how can we make sure that we are doing everything to be objective? One way is to check the facts in hand and remind ourselves to be objective.

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Our life experiences shape our realities. If you see John as a trouble maker, every time something goes wrong in the classroom you may think it is John’s fault. If you lost trust in your significant other, you may question everyone who presents similar behavior or who looks similar to that person. If you were bullied by a tall boy with big muscles, you may be scared each time you see a person who looks like that. Does this make you right? No. You are biased and your perception is influenced by your negative experiences.

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I watched an episode of Daredevil. A nine year old boy becomes blind after getting hit by a truck. His life takes a turn after this. His father dies, he starts hearing voices, pretty much everything around him even the things that are blocks away. Some people think that he is getting worse and is about to lose his mind because he is out of control with all the stimuli. He thinks he will not be able to live like this. Until an old blind man talks to him about his blindness being a gift. After listening to the old man the boy says ” until now, I have never thought of this as a gift.” Perfect example of perception. Our own beliefs and life experiences create our realities but they may not be the reality itself after all.