Just Do a Different Trick.

Shane wants to be a magician, so he enrolled in a week-long magic camp. This morning, he was showing me a trick he learned.

He fanned out a deck of cards on the floor. Then he waved his hand dramatically over them. “Tell me when to stop,” he said.

“Stop,” I said.

He kept moving his hand until he got to the card he wanted to pick. “This one?” he asked.

“No,” I said, “I told you to stop back here.” I pointed to a card 20 cards away from the one he’d picked.

Shane started to cry.

Shane doesn’t wail or even sob. Tiny tears form in the corners of his eyes and his mouth turns into a slight frown. He sits very still and makes no sound.

It’s the saddest thing I’ve ever seen.

I had no idea what I’d done wrong, but if Shane was crying, something must be seriously bad. Or – and this was also true – Shane might have been hungry because he hadn’t eaten breakfast yet. Even when he was a baby, he cried more readily when he was hungry.

“What’s going on?” I asked him. “Why are you crying?”

“I can’t talk when I am crying,” he said.

“Okay,” I told him. “There are two reasons why people cry. One is because you’ve lost something you had. The second reason is because you don’t have something you want. Are you crying because you lost something?”

Shane’s face pinched, his eyes got scrunchy, and he nodded. Visible tears fell and he got up to get a Kleenex.

“Can you write what you have lost?” I asked.

“I think so,” he said.

I gave him paper and a pen. He wrote, in his child-style printing:


1. the secret of the trick

2. my appricciation for the trick

Then he went to get another Kleenex. And we talked about tricks, and how sometimes they don’t work out the way you want them to work.

“Luckily,” I said, “you are in magic camp this week with a magician! Let’s ask him what you can do if a trick doesn’t work. Because in your show, if a trick doesn’t work, you will need to know what you can do!”

So we went to camp. “Go ask your teacher,” I said.

He went over in the same general area as the teacher, and stood stock still about 20 feet away. “I don’t know what to say,” he muttered. After much prodding, Shane wouldn’t even open his mouth. He was considering crying again.

Finally, I explained the situation to the teacher. “So what can he do if a trick doesn’t work out?” I asked.

And the teacher very kindly said, “Then you just do a different trick.” Then he showed Shane what to do if something doesn’t work out the way he has planned.

I never know what will stick, and what will be forgotten almost instantly. But I am hoping that this will be not just a magic lesson, but a life lesson.

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