Each story in the Learning to be Wise series is based on an Aphorism (Af’ o riz’ ums). It’s important, therefore, to understand what Aphorisms are. Aphorisms are brief statements of principle or simple truths.
Aphorisms were first used in communication hundreds of years ago. They have evolved over time as these wise old sayings were adapted to changes in how people lived. Until recently, Aphorisms were commonly used by adults to teach children about life. They were helpful in developing values and instilling common sense in youngsters. People felt that if children learned the lessons contained in Aphorisms, there was a good possibility they would develop some wisdom as a result.
If people used Aphorisms as a teaching tool, it was because they had learned them as children from their own parents or grandparents. Then, when they became parents themselves, they used Aphorisms with their children. Eventually, these children passed them on yet again.
Today most children have never heard of Aphorisms. If they have, it might not occur to them to ask what these old sayings mean or why they were spoken. As a result, fewer and fewer people know what they are. And yet, the lessons learned and wisdom acquired through Aphorisms continue to be valuable. And so it’s the hope of the author that the stories will help to keep these wonderful old sayings a part of our daily lives.
HOW THE SERIES CAME INTO BEING
Several years ago, Sally was enjoying a quiet afternoon at home reading when her life suddenly developed new purpose. The book she was reading, Further Along the Road Less Traveled, was written by the late Dr. M. Scott Peck. Dr. Peck was a psychiatrist, lecturer and management consultant who wrote a number of books on psychology, spirituality, self-actualization, interpersonal relations, love, values and mortality.
In Further Along the Road Less Traveled, Dr. Peck was describing the time spent with his grandfather. Explaining that his grandfather was a man of few words, he did constantly repeat more than a few clichés, like ‘Don’t put all your eggs in one basket,’ and ‘All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”
Later in life, while practicing psychiatry, Dr. Peck was working with a 15-year old patient who was quite unaware of the existence of these phrases and had no idea of how to relate them to his own life. Dr. Peck described how astounded he was to realize these wise old sayings had virtually disappeared from use. He finished his thoughts on the subject with these words:
“I often thought that it would be saving if we could develop some program of mental health education in our public schools, but I know we couldn’t get away with it. People would object. But they couldn’t possibly object to a program to teach these old proverbs to our children, could they? I hope someone will start instituting such a program.”
This was the last of Dr. Peck’s words Sally read that day. She closed the book and said out loud, “I can do it. I will start such a program.” She went into her home office and immediately began to write. Within two hours, she had completed the draft of her first story; and based on this accomplishment, took it to mean that it was the right path for her to take. That’s just how powerful inspiration can be!
Aphorism and proverbs were familiar to Sally. Both her mother and grandmother used them, although she hadn’t really understood their value at the time. She and her siblings laughed whenever they heard one of the old sayings, and called them ‘Mary-isms’ because her mother’s name was Mary.
It’s peculiar how quickly the Universe responds to your needs once you develop passion and commitment for something important to you. One of the first questions she had to answer was, “How do I find out exactly what all of these sayings are and what they mean?” She went to a neighborhood bookstore and was surprised when she walked directly to a shelf where the only book on the subject was waiting for her, entitled, Wise Words and Wives’ Tales by Stuart and Doris Flexner. Sally was intrigued to learn that that book almost wasn’t published. It had lain unfinished after Stuart Flexner’s death until his wife Doris made a commitment to finish and publish the book in honor of her late husband.
Sally never ceases to be fascinated by life!
In the Learning to be Wise series, Sally gives considerable thought to ensuring the series includes a wide range of diversity, not only in race but also in culture, circumstance, religion, and even disabilities. By focusing on a variety of diverse elements, Sally delivers books all children can enjoy together.
In today’s schools, there are few opportunities available for elementary school teachers to integrate values, insight and common sense into their educational programs. These attributes are needed for success in our constantly changing world; yet no one expects resources to be allocated for this when there’s such a need for and focus on skill building in reading, math and science. On the other hand, without values, insight and common sense, it’s unlikely our educational system will turn out highly successful individuals.