Tuesday, January 25, 2011

You Be Mr. Han

A little under a year ago, one of my 7th grade students and I went to see the new Karate Kid, starring Jaden Smith and Jackie Chan. Sitting in the theater together, my heart went out to this kid beside me--a young man who has energy, joy, and hope, but who also seemed to be constantly misunderstood.

I kept hitting his knee--a bad habit of mine when I watch a movie with someone--saying, Wow! Check that out! See what he just said there?! I don't know why, but it's like when I watch a movie, I want to constantly tell the other person what amazes me, and I want their eyes to glimmer and glow and say, You're right! So cool!

In any event, we watched the movie and I loved it. Now, I am completely against male bravado. I hate the idea of male toughness. And my all-time most noble example of what it means to be a man lies with Atticus Finch, from To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.

So what I love most about Karate Kid is not, in fact, the karate. Instead, it's the relationship of a boy who doesn't have a dad and a kind, wise, older man who society sees as something to laugh about. But their relationship infuses a sense of purpose in each and, eventually, love.

A month ago, Jennifer had surprised me with the UK DVD of the new Karate Kid--the same version I had seen with my student--for my birthday this past December. Like his Dad, Tyler started enjoying watching a clip of the training scenes with the karate kid and Mr. Han--his mentor and father-figure.

Tyler loves it. He loves watching the breathtaking clips of China in those training scenes, and the way the karate kid falls asleep on Mr. Han's shoulder on the train ride home from their day training in the countryside.

Before Jen left this morning, she helped tie a swath of toilet paper around Tyler's head. "Now, you are karate kid!" Jen told Tyler with excitement. His reply: "I karate kid!"

Then, Tyler walked over to me and said, "You be Mr. Han."

Now, readers of this blog will already know that my heart jerks around far too easily, and this moment certainly provided a wave of emotion through my heart. Tyler then went back to Jennifer and said, "You be Mr. Han too, Mommy."

Before long, the three of us sauntered around our home wearing swaths of toilet paper on our heads: one karate kid and two Mr. Hans.

And this morning--now that T man is sleeping peacefully after a bit of a rough go of it to get into the nap-stage--one reason why I love the Karate Kid story so much crystallized in my mind: because it's like Mother Teresa.

If you're still with me, you're probably saying, Hey Luke, buddy, I know you titled this whole blog-thing Intersections so that you could make connections between all kinds of stuff. But Karate Kid and Mother Teresa? I don't think so, bro-ster.

But here's the thing: Mother Teresa said, "We can do no great things, only small things with great love." And in this new version of Karate Kid, there's a great scene where Mr. Han makes his mentee practice taking off his jacket, dropping it on the floor, picking it up, then hanging it up. he practices it thousands, hundreds of thousands, of times. Just when he starts to lose it, calling Mr, Han and his methods stupid, the great teacher shows him what, in fact, he has already learned: powerful methods for the art of karate.

A small thing. Very, very small thing. With the jacket. But its effect was to teach, through repetition, a beautiful ability.

I wonder how often I refuse to do small things with great love because I think they are insignificant, or because their worth seems infinitesimal. Mother Teresa always did the small--the tiny--things, and she did them with great love.

As Jennifer and I chatted last night, so many of us claim that we want to do big things. BIG things. If we're following faith, then we change it a little and say, we want to do big things for God.

But Mother Teresa's plea was different. her goal--her only goal--was to "do something beautiful for God."

It's not about the size of the result; in fact, it's never about size at all. It's about the great love that propels any tiny thing we do in this life. And the only actions that ever change hearts--whether one heart or a million hearts--are those actions that are done with great love.

However infinitesimal they may seem.