The Best Reflection Question E-V-E-R

10 May

Image“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.” 

― Søren Kierkegaard

This quote screams TRUTH louder than a Blue Whale’s lustful invitation during the mating season (200 decibels!).  Children are constantly searching for ways to understand their own world.  And as educators, it is our responsibility to facilitate this process.  When I was working toward my master’s degree in education at Columbia University, my professors loved to tout the importance of encouraging children to verbally reflect on their experiences in the classroom.  But that’s just part of the whole enchilada (or pizza if you’re more into the American/Italian clichés).  What about the other part of the reflection equation?  Like, um, me?  I mean, it’s all-good that we need to help kids learn how to reflect on their learning.  But don’t I, the teacher, need some reflection time as well?    YES! Because Teacher reflection + Children’s reflection = Super Awesome Happy Success Reflection!

But what are some good questions to ask the children and ourselves?  There are many of course.  But there’s one reflection question in particular that I hold in the highest regard.  I give this question Knight status.  Yeah that’s right.  It is Sir Question to you. I believe Sir Question is extremely vital to the quality of the satisfaction a teacher will feel in and out of the classroom. And the award to the most important reflection question goes tooooooooooooooooooo….

What did I (we) learn from this experience, and how will I (we) us this new knowledge to move forward?

You’re probably thinking, “Hey! That’s two questions in one!  Allen wrote an entire paragraph – and a circumlocutory paragraph at that – to make a big deal about how this one question was so important.  And then he put in a second question?!”  Ok maybe you’re not thinking that.  But I’ll bet you’re wondering what hell “circumlocutory” means.  I felt like using a big word to describe being unnecessarily wordy, so I went to and found it there.  Get the irony? A wordy word to describe a wordy paragraph? He-he.

Ok so anyway, back to this awesome question for teacher to ask.  I try to ask this question at least twice/per day: one time to the kids as a whole group, and one more time to myself after the kids go home.  Since I started doing it consistently, the positive impact on our learning in the classroom has been tremendous. 



The Sour Cream Incident

4 May

I paced up and down the dairy section of Topps Supermarket in search for sour cream.  Knowing that dairy products in Thailand make for slim pickings, I wasn’t necessarily expecting to find it, but still had a raging hope that the fermented pearl of lactic goodness would be hiding somewhere among the million other weird products. I had already decided that it would be there, especially after drawing up a beautiful schema in my head for why I needed sour cream that evening: you see — I was meditating at home earlier that day, and then my still mind decided to feed itself the psychological equivalent of heroin – it injected my heart with DESIRE.  I induced a tantalizing lust to bake my own fatty, unwholesome, scrumptious balls of grease.  And to validate this desire, I forced my mind into hard labor – I quickly devised a romantic scene from childhood of my grandmother, Luba teaching me how to make “ponchiki” – Russian doughnuts.  Then we would smother the sizzling doughnuts with spoonfuls of sour cream and sweet clouds of dusty powdered sugar.  A strict warning to all: if you have never tried this, it’s simply amazeballs!  DO IT!

I’m sure your mouth is watering by now, and so you can understand why my pacing up and down the aisle turned into a crestfallen dally, which quickly turned into a mope, and eventually turned into a blatant loitering session of despair.  I just couldn’t get myself to believe that the sour cream wasn’t there.  I needed a miracle – something to snap me out of my woe.

Miracle gently tapped me on the shoulder.  Her real name was Tasanee, as the pinned nametag on her polo shirt suggested.  Tasanee must have been sent by the gods who show mercy on grumbling nudniks like myself (Nudnik is a Yiddish word that means one who complains…I’m familiar with this word from years of personal experience.).  Tasanee was beaming at me with a look of commiseration.  I was sure she was there to pull me out of my predicament by helping me find the sour cream. But in fact she did something quite different.  Instead she politely gestured her hand with an open palm toward the girl who was promoting and serving up samples of Hagen Daz ice-cream.  She was perfect for the job: tall, skinny, pretty, killer smile, no speaking skills required, and she fit perfectly into her low-cut 1960s skirt.  I figured, it was time to give up my quest for sour cream and wait in this ridiculously long line for a small taste bud-teaser-spoon of ice-cream.   Seriously, it was kind of silly to observe the 6 or 7 shoppers shamelessly waiting in line for such a teaspoon.  I laughed at myself while I waited, since I was being just as silly.  When it was my turn, the ice cream girl quickly scanned me with her eyes, and then handed me two mini paper cups of ice cream!  I gratefully took both cups, but intentionally put on a look of inquiry.  Why two when everyone else gets one?  She responded with: “Khun Doo Sow Djai Mak!”  Which translates to: “You seem so sad!”  I glanced at Tasanee who was nodding her head with an empathic yet stern look of agreement, as if telling me, “Hmmm, yes, indeed, you look quite sad.  You’re better off with double rations tonight.”  And then the three of us all laughed together.

I was overwhelmed with feelings of gratitude and light-hearted cheer.  Two strangers went out of their way to respond to my feelings of sow djai.  Indeed, this sour cream plight of mine is quite trivial, yet I somehow feel a greater significance in the outcome of this story: an exchange of smiles and joy.  And those few moments of ice cream were sooooooooooo good.  I left the store with yogurt as my alternative to sour cream.

This story would be good fodder for the writers at Mentos Mint Company.  You know what I’m talking about, right?  How their commercials are super corny, and in the end, the protagonist and the other actors look at each other, tilt their heads to one side, and exchange dumb smiles.  That’s pretty much what happened here.

And now, off to bake ponchiki and smother them with yogurt and sugar! Sweet!

I’m Just a Kid

14 Dec

I sat on the bench at the front gate of my school for afternoon duty.  Almost every Friday, Yok, my fifth grade student, would arrive at 3:30 to hang out and keep me company.  I would sit on the bench and she would hop and skip around me, exuding her boundless reserves of positive energy.  Today was like any other Friday.  3:30 rolled around.  Like clockwork she came waltzing in. I felt a warm surge of joy to see her.  She sat beside me to begin our conversation about life.  Today we shared stories about all the times we broke or dislocated our bones, or when we did other stupid things to hurt ourselves in the past.   Then after 10 minutes I changed the subject during the first long pause of silence.  “Yok,” I said. “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

“That kind of talk is for grown ups,” she replied.  “I’m just a kid.”  She watched me in silence, studying my facial expression to her astute remark.  I waited for her to say something else.  I was hooked on the story of her life, and I was excited to find out what she would say next.  “And besides,” she said.  “The future is unbalanced.”  Her eyes trailed off into the distance along with the echo of her words that lingered in my mind.

“Unbalanced? What do you mean?” I asked.

“I mean the future is an unbalance.  By the time I’m your age I will have changed my mind 100 times. So what’s the point of thinking about it now?”

“You’re so right,” I said in excitement.  “Thank you for being such a good teacher.”  She humbly nodded and extended her hand to gesture a high five.

The future is unbalanced.  What a wise and beautiful thing to say.  Yok understands the sheer futility of living in the future.  I agree with her completely.  It’s so much easier to cut our delusions if we try to absorb ourselves in the holiness of the present moment.  After all, it is the only moment that exists in our whole lifetime.

And her comment, “I’m just a kid.”  She reminds me that I too, am just a kid, and will be forever.  Being just a kid has nothing to do with one’s physical attributes alone.  Being a kid is a way of thinking.  And like all kids, Yok’s thinking is an important teaching for us to live happier lives.  That’s what kids do!  And they do it with purity, sincerity, and compassion.  Thank you, Yok, for reminding me to make the effort to live with joy in the present moment; thank you Yok, for reminding me to always be a kid.

From Zero to Whitney in 60 Seconds

25 Nov

I stood in the crowded Skytrain as it zoomed me to my destination.  The LCD screens blasted continuous cheesy slapstick commercials; the local Thai Bangkokians were glued to their I-phones and tablets; the foreigners studied the electronic train maps; the white expats dumbly stared into space, and I carefully observed the utter monotony of it all.  The usual.  And then a short series of events occurred.  All of a sudden, the volume of the TV commercials became mute.  And there was this weird silence, as if everyone realized that we were all actually not real people but actors in a movie.  And then Whitney Houston waltzed right into the train car!  I’m fucking serious!  In the dead of silence, a beautiful voice of Whitney screamed into the air for all to admire:       


Where was it coming from? I looked around but nobody even cared!  WTF!  OMG! Whitney!  Why wasn’t anyone reacting to this situation like I was?  Finally a middle-aged Thai dude in ripped jeans and long black dread-locked hair, nonchalantly took out his I-phone, from which Whitney was singing.  His facial expression clearly spoke the following: “I don’t give a fuck what ya’ll think of my I-phone ring tone.” Still everyone was glued to his or her electronic devices as his phone blasted the pop classic.  Then he pushed the talk button; Whitney went away, and he proceeded to have a conversation with whoever called him.  Well I was impressed.  From boredom to Whitney in 60 seconds.  Awesome! 


18 Nov


I hid for nine months
From the masses who waited
For a chance to get faded
Off the novelty of being elated

Then suddenly from somewhere
So fast I couldn’t tell
G-d threw a candle my way
Into the light I fell  

And with no time to plea
He summoned for me
To take to the frontline
To leave immediately

For my first day as human
My call for duty was clear
To carry the light for the Madmen
Through the most painful chasms of fear

In the wake of tough love and compassion
Of mistakes that I failed to replace
I illuminate the way, for the Mad-Man – My Mind-Man
For his joy is my last saving grace

He visits my dungeon
My jailer, my savior
My Mind-Man embracing
Until I break
Promising me he’ll be back for another
Grand invitation for our great escape

He crept up behind me
Entered inside me
Then drew out a new path
Of a pure bodhi mind

Now embracing the pirates
My fantoms of terror
In one heart together
A step at a time


At Heart

3 Nov

It took me 7 years to write this song, with lyrics and guitar music and all.  Now the song is complete with the influences of my post-juvenile angst during my 20s and the present journey in my 30s.

Mind made up from the get-go
Now paying dearly for being me
For staying me
For sharing my deepest, darkest secretes with the world

It hears my cry, but it doesn’t listen
Because it can’t, why should it?

Because I cry to a world delusion
Because this world is mine
And it breaks my heart

I lost my way so long ago
And so long ago I thought that I would find it so soon
Lying awake, alone with a madman
The mind-man of sorrow
And he breaks my heart

He visits my dungeon
My jailer, my savior
My mind-man embracing
Until I break
Promising me he’ll be back for another
Grand invitation for our great escape

He crept up behind me
Entered inside me
Then drew out a new path
Of a pure bodhi mind

Now embracing the pirates
My fantoms of terror
In one heart together
A step at a time


I’m From

23 Oct

32 years ago  

The Universe planned

To hurt the crap out of my mommy

As I pushed out of her tummy


I began to grow up

In search of some acumen

Fixed to the fate of being born human


Then suddenly, finally, something dawned on me:

Being an Earthling ain’t meant to be dandy

It meant being burdened with dumb and stupid feelings

Of sorrow and confusion with no apparent meanings

Of poopy times and tears

Of sadness and despair

With fits of frustration

When you just wanna rip out all your hair

But all of that grief

Puts more hair on my chest

(Though I certainly hope it is different for a woman’s breast…cause a woman with a hairy breast would be gross!)


So when something seems wrong

In fact it is right!

Indeed, a cool concept

In fact, it’s hella tight!

“Hella” is a word that speaks to my home

With Minister Tony, Bro’s Jerome and Derrone


And that’s where I’m from:

From a sanctified past

That managed to transform

Into the here and now really fast


I’m from getting in trouble with Darren for prank calls

From Mom and Dad’s devotion to absorb all my falls

From G-d and His weirdness

Like, come on, G-d’s totally weird

It’s not like He just sits up there with a long nappy beard


I’m from Yom Kippur marathons

With Izya and Moisha

And having the privilege of being nicknamed “Kiddosha”

I’m from love love and more love

Love from my cat Smokey

Who I keep reincarnating into plants…okey dokey (I couldn’t find any good word to rhyme with Smokey)


I’m from the happiest moment of my life’s current bend

When my brother Mark, told me I was his best friend

I’m from travelling the world

With Robbie – (he may as well be my kin)

With all our adventures of “Shinsky and Hin”

I’m from laugh-out-loud sessions with Danny Bendett

From Desire’s writing – for which I have way mad respect


I’m from role models and teachers – the real McCoy’s

Such as Wilson and Paul: my deepest sources of sharing joy

From the building of temples, within and without

With Oom and her kindness, with her high Karmic clout


I’m from Luba and Izya, the best grandparents ever

From Luba’s growing radiance

And Izya’s sincere endeavor

To spit some serious wisdom

To teach my naïve mind

To be vigilant and clever

To cherish all that I find 


So what I’m really saying is

Listen to your teacher

Whose purity is clearly defined by one feature:

It comes packaged as a present

That is, this moment here and now

And wants to inspire

To draw from you a “WOW!”















Taking Buddhist Practice into a Taxi Cab

14 Oct

In my first three months in Thailand, I think I’ve learned most of my conversational Thai within the doors and windows of taxi cabs.  Throw your hand out anywhere along a busy street and within seconds a bright blue or pink taxi cab will come zooming up to you.  Step inside and here’s what you’ll most likely see: the interior of the cab adorned with shiny talismans, wallpapered with foreign currency, or plastered with mug shots of the driver’s favorite Theravada Buddhist master.  And most important (in my opinion), a cheery taxi driver with an affable smile and uncanny willingness to do his best to chat in English with you (I say ‘his’ because I’m yet to meet a female taxi driver.  Though I did get one lady, she looked so butch with arms bigger than my legs and spoke with a voice of a 70 year old man with Emphysema.  Sorry, that doesn’t count.  Ok fine, it counts!).  Show him that you’re making an effort to speak Thai and he will become your best friend.  I have made dozens of best friends so far.  And I plan on making more. 

I’ve got a soft spot in my heart for Buddhism, and I find that it can be beautifully practiced while staring at the back of my taxi driver’s head and making sure to say hi to him.  My idea of Buddhist practice is constantly evolving.  It seems like the less I talk about Buddhism and the more I do Buddhism it, the more I feel that I’m practicing it.  And therein lies the one element of Buddhism that never changes in my mind: one won’t find the wisdom or essence of Buddhism in a single book written about it.  I don’t care if it’s written by the Dalai Lama, Thick Nat Han, or G-d!  If you get sold on the teachings of Shakyamuni Gotama – AKA Da Buddha – then better get off the ol’ buttocks off the couch and start practicing them instead of just reading about them. 

 But there is something that absolutely must be read and enjoyed. In fact it’s the following story I’m about to tell.  One evening I got into the taxi and asked the driver to take me to my apartment.  Holding true to my own personal commitment to just say hi, I initiated the conversation by asking him where he was from.  He told me he used to be the owner and operator of a bar and nightclub on a small tropical island of Phuket.  Then the tsunami attacked from the coast and obliterated everything to the ground.  “One moment I have everything, one moment I have nothing,” he explained.  Then I asked him, “So why did you decide to be a taxi driver?” He said, “I chose to be a driver because I wanted to continue serving others.  When I drive, I get to serve.  It makes people happy.  It makes me happy.”  These words will deeply resonate in my heart for a long time.  In my eyes this man is the human prototype for a pretty decent way to go about life. 



Airport Shinanigans

24 Sep

“This is fucking ridiculous!” I yelled to the lady at the United Airlines ticket counter.  I was pissed, and the whole damn international terminal at San Francisco airport was gonna know it.  I’m a staunch proponent of avoiding the exhibition of anger at all costs, especially when other people are being affected by it.  But that didn’t change the fact that my check-in luggage exceeded the 50 pound minimum.  It didn’t change the fact that I was given an ultimatum by the ticket lady: “Pay us $400 for the excess weight or figure out a way to put some of your shit in another bag.”  I was told to step aside and figure out my problem and then return to the ticket counter when I was ready. It just so happened that I had packed another duffle bag into my suitcase. So I lugged my two carry-on bags and my fat-ass overweight dumb-stupid suitcase over to the side and began shoving stuff into the duffle bag..  It was mostly picture books, board games, shoes and a gallon container of Bumble and Bumble coconut conditioner (Laugh all you want; the books and games were for my 5th grade kids and the conditioner is the only hair product in the world that properly manages my Jew-curls).  I lugged my suitcase back to the counter and threw onto the scale.  The digital screen began the reading: 25 pounds..35pounds…45.……………….65…67.  I blurted out rudely: it’s still not 50 pounds! As if it were somehow her fault that I hadn’t read the disclaimers about maximum baggage weight on my confirmation email.  She calmly shrugged her shoulders and told me to shut my face and keep figuring out a way to get my bag to under 50 pounds.  I was livid, and then I spotted it: I saw my own Fuck-Face Mr. Ego marching right through the gates of my sanity and declare itself the dictator.  I thought United Airlines were so stupid for making these rules.  They just want to do it to make money.  Fuck them! 


I went back to my suitcase.  I was sweating like crazy.  I felt as if I were a separate airport exhibit with people saying, “Hey everybody, come over here and look at this tool; he’s losing his mind while he sits by his suitcase frantically throwing his underwear and socks all over the place.”  After a third try, I came back to the scale: 25…35…45…55.  “It’s 5 pounds!” I pleaded to the lady.  I was of course, rejected.  That’s when I yelled, “This is fucking ridiculous!”  Well that didn’t accomplish anything.  So I went back to repacking.  I knew quite well why my bag was so heavy: it carried two massive notepads of lined chart paper that I bought in America to bring back to Thailand for teaching (Thailand gets an A+ grade for being awesome in most areas; however I was saddened by the fact that it’s impossible to find lined chart paper.).   I made the most sobering and difficult decision of the hour: the chart paper would have to go into the trash.  So I took it out and went back to the counter.  The scale read 45.  The ticket lady then strongly urged me that I could still make it work with the chart paper.  “Just try,” she pleaded.  “Don’t throw it all away.”  The scene became comical all of a sudden to me: here’s this lady, who’s got a million other customers to deal with, counseling me through my traumatic airport experience. 


But she was too late.  I’d fallen into an irreparable chasm of despair and denial.  “No,” I said somberly.  “There’s no way to make it work.  I’ll just throw the chart paper away.  It’s fine. I just want to get to my plane on time.”  She looked at her watch and then back at me.  “You have an hour,” she said annoyed.  I felt 5 years old, but at the same time comforted by this woman’s unflinching resolve to put my needs before her own.  There was a powerful scent of motherly tough-love in her aura.  Her body language was clearly telling me, “You’re not going to just give up, are you?  Not on my clock you’re not.  Or wait…oh I see, maybe you’re just a big floppy vagina without an ounce of faith and fortitude. Get yourself together, man!  Then she pointed at the zipper of my luggage and firmly said, “Open it.  Take a few pieces of clothing out.  Put the chart paper back in the bag.  Don’t worry.   Like I said, we’ll make it work.”  I followed her commands.  The scale The scale began to drop as I removed articles of clothing.  As I did so, I looked at the lady for direction — physically and emotionally.  “Now take that shirt out,” she said pointing at my clothes. 59 pounds.  “Now take a few more.  We’re almost there.”  I complied.  Scale read 53.  “Ok that’s good enough.”  We’ll take it.


I was so frazzled that I didn’t even have the wits about me to show my gratitude to my hero.  I was still disarmed and embattled from the nasty war that had just occurred between my self and my ego.  In the end I had won.  But not without losses: I left the ticket counter with a heavy burden of guilt for having acted like such a jerk toward her.


Now I’m on the airplane flying back to Thailand, and I deeply reflect on this experience with an attitude of “It’s all good.  What have I learned from it?”  And I did learn a lot, actually. 


I learned first and foremost how happy I am that I have years of consistent practice in various modes of meditation, which helps me see reality for what it is, not for what I think it ought to be.  Yes, there were a few minutes when I was dazzled by the hypnotic allure of my ego, which invited me to indulge in a raging anger-fest, which caused me to be a dick to other people.  Good! I’m glad it happened.  And now I’ll use that experience as fuel to live a happier life.  I’ll do my best to see all circumstances for what they are without letting my negative emotions take over.  But if they do take over, then I’ll let them do their thing and then I’ll move on.  That’s the key for me right there – that’s why meditation is so awesome.  Meditation doesn’t help you never get angry or sad or fearful.  If you never got angry or sad or fearful, then there would be something seriously wrong with you…you’d be a freak of nature or something.  Rather, meditation helps you respond to and deal with your sadness, anger and fear from an objective point of view.  And it’s much easier to manage painful negative emotions when you see them objectively – without judgment or stupid conditional notions such as, “If only things were different, then I would be happier.”  Meditation helps solve the “So what do I do now?“ problem.  This is most important of all because it is our actions (what we do and say) that bring good old happy living to us and to others.  So go meditate, go travel on airplanes, and go say hi to strangers. 


And go get angry.  Go worry about bullshit all you want; go get sad and cry everyone a river.  But please don’t worry about your worrying.  And please don’t get sad about you getting sad.  And pretty please with a huge sweet fake cherry on top – don’t get angry at yourself for getting angry. For so many don’ts I have one special DO for you right here.  M-E-D-I-T-A-T-E.  Don’t know how?  Then stop bitching like I did when I was at the airport, and go figure it out! 

The Wanka Challenge – A la Allen

19 Sep

On the second day of school I decided it would make perfect sense to begin reading aloud Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl to my new 5th grade class in Thailand.  I raised the book high in the air for all 14 children to see, and then asked,  “Raise your hand if you ever read this book.”  The class was silent.  “And I’m’ sure you’ve all seen the movie, right?”  I asked.  To my pleasant surprise, only 3 or 4 children raised their hands.  And anyway, I found out that those 3 or 4 kids who claimed to have watched the movie saw the new version with Johnny Dep, which royally sucks ass compared to the original 1974 flick starring Gene Wilder. 

Anyway to prolong my elated surprise a the fact that almost none of my students read the book nor watched the movie, I re-asked just to make sure.  “Wait.  Hang on.  So, you kids are telling me that absolutely positively one-hundred percently none of you read the book nor seen the original Willy Wanka movie?”  The children stared at me with matter-of-fact facial expressions, basically saying, “Duh! That’s what we told you the first time you asked.”

I quickly stood up on an empty chair, raised my hand high in the air, gripping the book and displaying the colorful front cover to the kids.  Of course I didn’t have to make it all so dramatic, but part of the fun of being a teacher is to be dramatic, boisterous, silly, and overly excited about seemingly mundane stuff (It’s also part of my daily Buddhist practice). You know your dramatic play is working when you see children’s bug-eyed facial expressions implying the what’s-he-going-to-do-next attitude.  “Ladies and Gentle-people,” I announced.  “We are about to embark on a very cool journey. The story of Willy Wanka is not just a kid-tale of a boy who gets to visit a dude who makes chocolate. This story is the wisest, most twisted, hair-raising, at-times dark, at-times silly, at-times funny, and at-many-times scary adventure.  It just so happens that this book, which I hold in my hand, is my favorite book ever!”  I successfully completed phase one of my spontaneous show of inspiration.  That is, I threw the hook of excitement; every child took it.  On a psychological level, it pays to put in the effort to find creative ways to get kids excited about stuff from the very beginning.  The expression, “first impression is most important,” is very true when it comes to teaching kids. 

I read through two chapters that day and got to the sad part of the story where Charlie would only receive one chocolate bar once a year for his birthday because his family was too poor to afford anything else.  I read with a somber voice how Charlie would take just a small nibble every day, that that one chocolate bar would last Charlie for months.  Then I paused and asked the children, “Do you guys think you could save one piece of chocolate for as long as Charlie can?”  Most kids said, “No way! I could never!  I love chocolate too much!” 

Then an idea popped into my head.  “Ok boys and girls.  I am now going to make you an offer that you can refuse” Then I paused again and stood still for dramatic effect, scrutinizing the 14 pairs of eyes, which waited eagerly for me continue.  I am offering any of you the most delicious piece of chocolate you’ll ever have.  But first you must agree to take and successfully complete The Chocolate Nibble Challenge.  You must first bring one chocolate bar to school; then you have to show me that you can savor that one bar for a whole month, eating just a little bit of it every day. If you complete this challenge, I will reward you with a morsel of pure chocolate joy.   

Though many kids announced that they were up for the challenge, only Ada took the initiative to go through with it.  Ada is younger than the other children – technically in 4th grade.  She’s a gem – bright smile, very intelligent, compassionate, always optimistic, and eager to learn.  I became friends with her right away.  I would say that she is the leading seamstress for the positive social development of our classroom community. 

The next day, Ada came to me with a chocolate bar and a 30-day calendar that she created at home. She took the first nibble in front of me.  Then we put the rest of the bar in a Ziplock bag and I placed it in my desk drawer.  I gave Ada special permission to open my desk drawer once a day to take a nibble. 

Like clockwork, Ada would wait until the end of the school day, until all children were gone.  Then she would whimsically skip to my desk, usually humming a tune to some song, and take a nibble.  Now I could really get into the deeper meanings of this silly Nibble Challenge, such as friendship building, the practice of self-control and non-attachment to Self and one’s thoughts, and cultivating a shared experience of joy between a student and her teacher.  But I’m not going to get into it because, well, I just did.  I mean, I won’t write a million more pages about it.  All I will say is that I was so pleased at the whole shindigity process, beginning with my announcing the challenge up through 30 days later when Ada announced she had successfully completed the trial.  On day 30, she showed me her calendar, which displayed 30 boxes (one for each day) with an X drawn in each one. 

“You did it! Ada! You passed the test! You won!”  I exclaimed.  I purposefully used Willy Wanka’s (played by Gene Wilder) exact words and excitement at the end of the movie when he tells Charlie that he was the only child to prove his virtue as a sincere and compassionate human being.  I saw Ada in the same way as Wanka saw Charlie.  And in some weird way, I felt like I’d been playing the role of Willy Wonka since the beginning of the school year.

On the next day I went to the 7-11 store and bought a milk chocolate Hershey bar.  I gave it to Ada after school and said, “Ada, this bar is made by an American company, one of the first and oldest chocolate companies ever.  If this were a Wanka bar, then it would be Wanka’s very first invented chocolate bar.”  That last sentence didn’t make any sense to me as the words streamed out of my mouth.  But at that point, neither Ada nor me were operating at the level of words.  Ada was jumping up and down, smiling ear to ear, clapping her hands and squealing with her subtle Thai accent, “Allen!  Thank You Thank You Thank You! I never had Hershey bar before.  Thank you Thank you Thank You!” She hopped out of the room, yelping with frenzied elation,  “Thank You Allen!  Thank You!”  As her voice trailed off down the hallway, I took a few moments to sit quietly and allow myself the opportunity to just be in the present moment.  Why did I just want to be?  Because the last few minutes with Ada were very precious for me.  And I didn’t want to aimlessly shift my mind toward some other arbitrary thing.  I wanted to feel an understanding of what had just happened.  Whatever it was, it was beautiful. 

It was beautiful because Ada inspired me to be like her. To find bliss in the smallest nooks and crannies of everyday life; to find truth and joy in everything that happens in the here and now.  Ada reminded me the importance of seeking bliss in the smallest things in life.  She had found holiness – truth – purity – in every moment that led up to the enjoyment of a plain old Hershey bar.  

Later that same afternoon, I found a letter on my desk.  It was from Ada and it read:

Dear Allen,

Thank you so much for the Hershey Bar.  It was the most FANTASTIC chocolate bar I ever had.  I am so happy!  If it’s ok with you, I would like to take another Nibble Challenge for _________________ months (Allen: please write how many months).  You can put this letter in my desk and I will see it tomorrow.  Thank you!