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Posts Tagged ‘Newton’s Cradle’

A hurricane deposited this tree which, years later, still sits on a nearby beach:

Uprooted

Click here for more twists on “Twist.”

Last week in a therapy session, a little child messed up my Newton’s Cradle (metal ball pendulum) by playing too roughly with it– it was a hopeless, tangled mess, like the tree roots above.

It was not the first time this happened to the pendulum, but certainly was the worst tangle I’d seen.

I tried not to show my dismay to the child, who picked up on it anyway and apologized profusely. “It’s okay, it was an accident…it can happen so easily,” I consoled.

I confess my first thought after dismay was to throw the mangled mess away. I didn’t believe I’d have the time, patience or hand-eye coordination to fix it.

Indeed, even WikiHow for “How to untangle a Newton’s Cradle” suggests the following for step one:

“1.  Ask yourself if you’re better off just buying another one for ten bucks or so. If it is tangled so badly, it may not be worth spending time and money trying to fix it. If it is not tangled that badly though, or if you want to challenge your mind and dexterity, continue reading.”

But deciding it would be a therapeutic exercise for both of us, we set about trying to fix it.

pikdit.com

It was WAY worse than this…

I carefully held the balls in my palm, lifting them to visually separate their knots and trying to discern which ball to move first and where.

I enlisted the help of the little spare pair of hands with me, to assist further; I had the child position a tiny push pin in one of the tightest knots which ultimately helped loosen some of the other knots.

The two of us sat there in mostly silent shared time with our joint mission, speaking only to utter an “aha” or a “here, try this one through there.”

Otherwise, we could hear each others’ every breath, breaths which were mostly held as one wrong move of the fingers could further twist up the balls.

The largely unspoken thoughts were ones of futility, hopelessness, despair, impatience, irritation and doubt.

Yet little by little, our shared persistence yielded success – first one ball freed, then another and the rest, until all five hung freely in their restored state. Once again, the pendulum swung as it should.

We hugged, high-fived, fist-bumped and did happy dances. We took the pendulum to the nurse’s station to show off our victory.

Later in the week I reflected on this child and this therapy session. This nine-year old child is locked up in a psychiatric hospital because his behavior was so extreme he could no longer be maintained in a classroom or at home.

The child has daily tantrums, curses out peers and adults alike, enjoys tipping over furniture and drawing obscene pictures on walls, is hyperactive, steals food and periodically tries to kill himself.  An orphan, he has bounced from placement to placement.

He takes medications for all of the above. But really, they’re just chemical band-aids it seems, for things that might have been prevented in the first place.

On the plus side, the child is tremendously creative, sensitive, is a whiz at math, makes his bed perfectly every day, knows how to catch fish with his bare hands and has a smile that melts the heart – when you can get him to laugh.  Oh, and he can DRAW! Yes, great pictures other than obscene ones.

Someday he hopes to be a teacher; he wants to teach math, drawing or run a charter fishing boat and teach people to fish.

That is, if he still believes in himself. And if others can still believe in him.

I can’t figure out which one of us got more out of that therapy session.

Like the twisted pendulum, how many grown ups had already given up on this child and thrown him away, or passed him to someone else to untangle the mess?

How many people get no further than Step One of WikiHow? Look at something that is so messed up, they don’t even know where to begin and stalk out of the room in exasperation? Or pass it off to another or discard it because it appears hopeless? futile? or don’t even try?

A job? a relationship? a project? a building? a neighborhood? a planet?

This child reminded me that a little patience, a little persistence, a little teamwork and a lot of prayer can untwist just about anything.

Thanks, God, for putting twists and turns into our lives – entanglements that help build our stamina, creativity and endurance.

God, please grant us the virtues necessary to approach anything and to experience it as a solvable entity…because if we can’t right it, You can and will, no matter the mess.

Thank You for that.

P.S. God – Thanks, too, for the twists that aren’t meant to be untangled – the ones that exist solely for their beauty, intrigue and sheer complexity.

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