I recently came across this story for the first time in many years. It had a profound impact on me when I first read it, and I believe this story can help others as well. It’s part of the introduction from The Lakota Way: Stories & Lessons for Living, by Joseph M. Marshall III, and shares a grandfather’s wisdom about dealing with the cruel things that children sometimes say to one another.

Let the Wind Blow Through You

“A playground dispute in the fourth grade concluded with a barrage of epithets hurled at me, each one more stinging than the one before. I was called every derogatory name for Indians that two white fourth-grade classmates could remember. Stunned, I could think of nothing equally hurtful to throw back.

That evening, still hurting from the insults, I told my grandfather about the incident.

“Words can hurt,” he said, “but only if you let them. They called you bad names. Were you changed into the things they called you?”

“No,” I replied.

“You cannot forget what they said any more than you cannot feel the wind when it blows. But if you learn to let the wind blow through you, you will take away its power to blow you down. If you let the words pass through you, without letting them catch on your anger or pride, you will not feel them.”

My grandfather’s wise counsel has helped me through many storms in life. How his quiet, yet powerful comments influenced me, and still do, is one of my favorite stories. When I tell young people how my grandfather’s words helped me, I can feel those words going into their hearts.”

I find this story empowering. It’s a beautiful way to help face the reality that children and adults alike are capable of saying incredibly hurtful things. So how do we teach resilience? How do we teach children to cope with the inexcusable and inevitable cruelty that they will surely face at some point in their lives?

Values and coping strategies are taught in more ways than one. Sometimes a direct, discussion-oriented approach is helpful; teaching through example is even more powerful. But never underestimate the power of storytelling. When stories enter a child’s heart, mind and imagination, they teach vicariously and their meanings often expand over time.

What are your favorite “teaching stories”?

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