Thursday, January 29, 2015
It was just a passing comment. We were discussing volunteer opportunities and how to fit the opportunity to the person. I was talking with a group of students about a project I am having them complete. I have had this group before in other classes. I know them. An instructor develops a fondness for those repeat students. There is a certain closeness that forms.
The rest of the class had been dismissed. This small group and I were discussing how they might live the life THEY are here to live rather than simply performing as they see others perform. If I choose to work out, for example, I feel an intense pressure to join a gym. If that is not my thing, however, I am going to be miserable, going to make those around me miserable, and very likely going to fail to follow through. If, however, I am one who loves people, loves to talk and interact and gather like-minded souls together in a cause, if I have a strong sense of interconnectedness, empathy, and compassion, I might choose, instead, to gather a group of friends and train to run for a fundraising effort of one kind or another. I might lead my group in raising dollars for diabetes or Alzheimer’s or heart disease. I am still working out, but I do not carry a gym bag or a key card to do it. So, then, I share a story of personal example with this group.
When my children were younger, I used to enjoy volunteering in the schools. One teacher had me stapling bric-a-brac to bulletin boards. She asked me to make copies and to cut construction paper Pilgrim hats. I was alone in the hallway with nothing but my scissors, my stapler, and my multi-colored papers. I was miserable. I hated it. I never looked forward to going to school. I don’t care much about bulletin boards. I don’t care if they’re pretty. I don’t care if they’re blank. Bulletin boards could fall off the face of the earth and my life would be no different for it. Instead, I am moved by motivating. I like to lift and inspire. I like to show others the potential I see when I look their way. I like to teach them how to take every single great thing that’s inside of them and to throw it out at the world to make that world a better place. THIS is my thing.
I shared that the teachers I liked helping best were those who would allow me to take a student out into the hallway and to work with that student on reading or math. We would sit there, the two of us, alone, together, learning words, learning strategies, learning how to believe in one’s self despite every message to the contrary.
One student from my repeat group looked at me. He seemed quiet and reflective. “You’re one of those angels who helped me get through school.” I must have looked confused, because he continued. “You are one of the angels who helped me when no one else would. I was one of those kids.” I smiled, passed off the remark, and with a flippant air said simply, “I don’t really remember the kids that I helped. It was fun. I enjoyed it, but I don’t remember them.” And then he looked me in the eyes and said, “THEY remember YOU.” Tears. Instant tears. I was humbled.
And then I thought how many times do we take our actions for granted? How many times do we fail to consider the impact we have on a life? For good or for bad. That thirty minutes twice a week, for me, was nothing much more than a way for me to support my children in their education. For HIM, and for other students like him, it was the world.
Teacher became student in that moment. I ask myself now how I can be more intentional in my actions, how I can consider the positive that I throw out, the negative I inflict. It was just a passing comment, but what a vivid lesson learned.