Recently I took a beginning tatting class. I have long wanted to learn, but could not figure it out from books and there was nobody who did it, let alone taught it. The five of us in the class were guided by our instructor, who showed us the basics as a group, then individually time and again. She showed patience, humor, and was good at slow-motion demonstration. I now think it is possible and doable! But I definitely will need follow-up as I try my hand at this new skill.

I started thinking about all of the things difficult or impossible to learn without someone you can watch, ask questions, and receive guidance as you practice. Crafts and hobbies: could one learn fly-fishing or woodworking, clog dancing or saxophone playing?

Branching out to other areas of life: if one was abused as a child, how do you learn how to discipline without either giving in to all demands or exploding and battering? If you never were around infants and toddlers growing up, how would you know what is normal, and what is an unreasonable expectation? I once talked to a man who had severely beaten his three month old son for not obeying him and for being disrespectful. According to him, children needed to be taught to show respect and obey “from the very beginning.” Admittedly, common sense should have guided him that infants are too young to learn. But given his ignorance, could watching other fathers interact with infants have taught him without words? And maybe after a friendship and trust were established, having a safe way to ask questions? (I am thinking about inevitable toddler challenges, like how to handle it when your two year old “doesn’t mind” and keeps throwing their spoon onto the floor. How do other parents handle that?) There are so many things common to all: to use a cliche, why should each have to reinvent the wheel?

Expanding that: learning how to live a balanced, healthy life throughout your life. In one church in Utah, a member was a high-ranking executive in a national company. Consequently, he traveled a lot. Yet his job was not his life. One of the gifts he gave his two sons was that, when he was home, once a week he would take each son out for breakfast before going to school. He made the time. Ninety percent of the time they simply ate and discussed sports. But in the other ten percent, the son had some private time with his father to talk, share, with no interruptions or other family members listening. An invaluable gift, no expertise required. And that gift had a ripple effect, as other fathers tried their versions of it.

Now think in terms of ethical living, standing up for the poor and against wrong. Or what a life of faith looks like, of actually having a positive relationship with God. For most of us, seeing first hand teaches more than watching a video or reading. What if, while watching, we had the chance to talk, ask, learn? And what if our “experts” turned out to be as human as we are, not infallible or omniscient, yet still showing that there is a way of living that gives light in darkness?

We don’t have to be experts. Are we willing to share so that those watching can learn? And maybe by showing patience, humor, and admitting when we also find something difficult, end up helping others realize that they, too, can learn and do? Coming full circle, think of all of the things that enrich and strengthen our lives that can only be learned if someone is willing to show how. If not you, who?