“Oh, the Thinks You Can Think!” sings the Cat in the Hat at the beginning of Seussical the musical, the beloved production based on the works of Dr. Seuss.
It’s a refrain that could well be every parent’s message to their children. It speaks to the possibilities that exist every day in our lives if we allow time for dreaming, exploration, and discovery.
In Seussical, Jojo, the Mayor of Who’s son, is admonished by his parents for thinking “thinks” — imaginary thoughts that disrupt his school classes and anger his teachers.
When Jojo’s parents lament, “Oh, where are the instructions on how to raise a child?” they speak to a universal question of parenting. However a parent chooses to answer the question, is it not common sense that opportunities for creative expression, trying and erring, and daydreaming be allowed and encouraged?
I’m reminded of a story told recently by Alberto Rios, whom the Governor has appointed as Arizona’s Inaugural Poet Laureate. He recounts, in an interview on KAET’s Horizonte, that, as a child, he was punished by his teacher for “the egregious crime of imagining.” He blesses his parents for not reprimanding him. He thanks them for seeing the possibilities within him and not stifling those creative juices that have made him today a notable literary figure and teacher.
I have had the privilege of working with nonprofit organizations such as Free Arts of Arizona, Phoenix Boys Choir, and Valley Youth Theatre and watched in awe as children from diverse social and economic backgrounds, with different personalities and temperaments have been transformed by the power of imagination. On stage, their talents are unleashed, their inhibitions dissolve, their fear or anxiety morphs into creative energy and expression, and they experience collaboration. And they are encouraged!
When you read a report such as that recently published in The Arizona Republic that Metro Phoenix has the highest rate in the nation of youth who are disconnected from work and school, you have to realize how unnecessary and unacceptable such idleness is — especially when pathways for transformation exist through our non-profit organizations and religious institutions.
Perhaps, all of us…parents, corporations, and government…ought to adapt and adopt Cat in the Hat’s refrain and proclaim, “Oh, the Thinks We Can Think, and the Thinks We Can Do,” to open doors to creative thinking, imagination, and productivity for all children!”