This past weekend, we had some missionary friends from Bolivia come and visit. We had a wonderful time together and the afternoon flew by much too quickly. I have such respect for people who are willing to deny themselves, take up the cross of Jesus and follow Him into into another culture for long term missions. It takes great fortitude, faith and humility to renounce an ethnocentric perspective, embrace a foreign language and adapt to the endless cultural differences.
In the midst of our conversation on Saturday, our friends’ five year old son picked up his father’s walking cane. What followed in the next couple of minutes absolutely fascinated me. Caleb slowly made his way across the room, cane in hand…and in the course of two minutes of play, he used that cane in about fifteen different ways – cane, rifle, pogo stick, baseball bat, golf club….the list goes on.
I must admit that I missed a chunk of conversation with my friends because i was completely mesmerized with the outcomes of Caleb’s divergent thinking. Despite the adults’ concerns about that swinging cane destroying something or hurting someone, Caleb continued showing us endless possibilities for the use of this object.
When I mentioned my observations to Caleb’s dad, he told me about a longitudinal study of 1500 Kindergarten children. They were asked, “how many uses can you think of for a paper clip?” Most people come up with between 10 and 15 uses. People who are really good at this can come up with over 200 uses. The protocol for this study was that if you scored above a certain level, you would be considered a genius in divergent thinking.
98% of the Kindergarten children scored at a genius level.
The same children were tested five years later (8-1o years old)……..50 %
The same children were tested five years later (13-15 years old)…….15%
These results astound me and Ken Robinson (world renown education and creativity expert) says the following: “These results show two things – we ALL have this capacity to be divergent thinkers and this capacity mostly deteriorates over time. Our children are educated in a system that doesn’t develop creative thinking. They are growing up being told that there is one answer – it’s in the back of the book but don’t look at it and don’t copy because that’s cheating.”
If you want more information on this study, see the following link:
So, this got me thinking……..the Bible says that we were made in the image of a creative God. I believe that God honors creative, culturally relevant ways of communicating and living out truth. Yet, we often don’t celebrate new ways of thinking – we get insecure and defensive…we get stuck and merely roll our eyes and tolerate.
Conformity is not necessarily taught…but it certainly is “caught” in so many arenas of life.
On Saturday, God used Caleb to remind me that it’s good to adapt and substitute and rearrange and magnify and revise and reconstruct and adjust and make mistakes and combine and minify and reverse and modify because behold – that’s how a new thing happens.
Thanks, Caleb….another life lesson from a five year old.