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The Stuff of Kindergarten Classrooms

By , Woodmere, NY
At age five, while my classmates were caught up in their carefree kindergarten lives, I was, each day, confronted with the tiresome task of carefully contemplating what I could create out of the pliable Play-Doh solemnly staring back at me. Play-Doh is not much, just flour and water. However, when paired with imagination and patience, Play-Doh offers magical possibilities. It is, some say, the material from which man was created.

Looking back at my childhood years, I realize that the human condition is, in many ways, molded by the countless hours spent at a table crowded with crayons, finger paint, glitter, and glue. Molding the Play-Doh taught me that I was destined to shape both my character and my environment from the limited raw materials available to me. Thinking back upon my preschool playmates, I recognize that the paths before us were many. As we grew, some of my friends left the finger paints untouched for fear that their hands would become dirty. Others mixed the colors of Play-Doh in haste until they were unable to separate them, and found themselves - like the haphazard lump in front of them - frustrated and confused. Many were afraid to glue the Popsicle sticks together, lest they subject themselves to the torment of cruel companions who would cast a critical eye upon the castle that was created. The great majority of my classmates expended tremendous energy on viable projects that remained unfinished, simply because they lacked the discipline and patience to complete the tasks they had started.

While other kindergarteners saw a lifeless lump of green clay whose eventual shape was limited to the molds manufactured by Hasbro, I saw Gumby. As I matured, I learned to approach the canvas with a vision. Where most people saw a blank parchment, I imagined a starry sky behind snow-covered mountains whose foaming stream ran by a glowing cottage that had smoke billowing from its fireplace.

The way in which I played with Play-Doh as a toddler was to play a large part in my approach to life. Any goal that I was to achieve in the future would be limited to the materials the teacher – in this case, God – would make available to me. As a child, I would think hard about how the form could be molded before shaping the dough into a dinosaur or doughnut; as an adult I study the road map and choose the proper vehicle prior to taking an unknown on-ramp onto life’s highway. I endeavor to have patience to complete any realistic venture that I initiate, and I am not dissuaded by the comments or ridicule of others, so long as what I have set out to accomplish lies within the framework of Jewish law.

The most important lesson that I learned from shaping and reshaping the Play-Doh is that in order to thrive in life, a person must pattern himself after the Play-Doh. He must be like the morass from which he was created. As the clay is shaped and reshaped at the will of the Sculptor, a person must be able to adapt his lifestyle to his changing environment, and redefine himself in accordance with the resources and the opportunities that he, as an individual, is afforded.

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