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Turn your thinking caps on!

Turn your thinking caps on!
Turn your thinking caps on!
Judy O'Bannon

Summer is here, our children are graduating from school and vacations are spreading out before us. There is usually a sigh of relief at the end of a big push to master skills and ideas, but the end of classes in a school building does not mean it’s time to turn off the brains, in kids or adults. It is time to change the setting for learning.
There are a lot of things that can more easily be learned in a setting with non-traditional desks. Take language for instance. Grammar and writing are often better acquired with a book and a teacher. But, if you want to speak a new language, it is a big help to immerse yourself in a group of folks who speak in that tongue. How many of us can converse both in English and Spanish? I am afraid very few folks older than 20 are bilingual. Our Hispanic population in Harrison County may be relatively low, but the world around us is a different matter. And, if you can’t converse with another person, what do you do? You ignore each other ‘ and we do so at our own peril. Summer is a great time to find a Spanish friend to practice speaking Espa’ol with each other. Grandparents and their offspring might have a great time doing this together.
What about reading? If summer is to be a time of daydreaming and escape to different places and experiences, then reading is your avenue. You can go anywhere you want if you have the will to explore and some free hours with a book. There is nothing better than sharing a story or information with another person and then discussing what you have learned.
It doesn’t take big bucks to turn a family vacation or a day off into a productive learning experience. Just put your thinking into an expansive mode and look for this extra benefit in all you do. Now, I am not just talking about school-age kids; I mean all of us. Our world is changing so fast that all of us have an opportunity and a need to keep picking up new skills and information. Don’t give me that ‘I am too old’ stuff and don’t say you will leave all of the new ideas and actions to the young people. All people need to be stimulated to think, and older and younger people need each other for this.
We all make jokes about calling on small children to help when an adult can’t work a new technological device. But relying on jokes isn’t productive for long. Summer is a good time to form a partnership between a child and an adult that produces employment and pride for an underage child and a sense of control and independence for an adult. Then, when a child is at basketball practice or such, the computers in our homes can stay working.
In a valedictory address to her Perkins Institute for the Blind graduation class of 1886, Annie Sullivan, who helped Helen Keller, the deaf-and-blind girl of renown, said: ‘God has placed us here to grow, to expand, to progress. To a certain extent, our growth is unconscious ‘ but we also have the power of controlling the course of our lives. We can educate ourselves; we can, by thought and perseverance, develop all the powers and capacities entrusted to us, and build for ourselves true and noble characters. Because we can, we must. It is a duty we owe to ourselves, to our country and to God.’
I know a lot of older friends who have lost spouses, become retired or have declined in health who have also lost a positive attitude about life. They seem to be just occupying space until death takes them away. Now, I don’t exactly know that positive thinking or excitement about ideas or activities will make you live longer. And I cannot prove that sitting bored or disengaged will cut time off of your life. But I do believe that an active mind will make your hours happier.
Time’s a-wasting. Jump in and find a summer brain stretcher and a pal with whom to grow.

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