Saturday, November 30, 2013
Today is the last day of November and I have been remiss in posting why I am thankful. My friends seemed to have it covered with family, children, friends, sunshine, peace and the likes. I certainly hope I convey my love and thanks to the people in my life on a regular basis so that I don’t need November as a prompt for making a declaration. But here are some things I am extremely grateful for and take for granted on a daily basis. I think I could name one for each day of the month, but that would be terribly long and I think you’ll get the idea.
After long weeks at work I look forward to my Saturday shower. Last week I stood, just stood, under the spray of hot water and let myself bask in its warmth and felt myself relax. I realized I was a little thirsty so I turned my face to the spray and let some of the water fill my mouth and relieved my thirst. That’s when it hit me what a luxury we have and take for granted. Water - you never think about it, but we bathe in it, wash with it, cook with it, drink it, swim in it, water our grass and sometimes just let the water run and play in it. I have been known to use my hose in the summer to wash my driveway on a hot day rather than sweep. We never really think about where it comes from or how it gets to us, and we only rarely have to worry about if it is safe. But over 780 million people in the world DO NOT have access to clean water. I am thankful for water.
It’s holiday shopping time and the stores are crowded, which means full parking lots. I have never been one to sit and wait for someone to pull out of a parking spot, or circle the lot looking for an up-close spot. Except that is, when I used to take my mother out. Bless her, my mother was blind and had a leg amputated due to diabetes. Her remaining ankle had been shattered when someone ran a red light and hit her in a cross walk. Her foot was attached to her leg with a steel plate and pins. This gave her very limited mobility. But my legs work. They work even when they are tired. They work even when they are bruised. My knees bend, my feet flex and even when my shoes are too tight, I can walk and climb stairs. I remind myself regularly that God has blessed me with legs that work and don’t sweat parking in the outskirts of the parking lot. I am thankful for legs that work properly.
I am thankful that I have never had to go hungry. Sure, there are many times I felt hungry. But I’ve never had to go hungry. I have never had to worry if I would get to eat tomorrow. I have never had to beg for food or scavenge through other people’s scraps. Many times I’ve stood in front of the open refrigerator or cupboard door and thought “we don’t have anything to eat.” But of course, that is never true. There is always something that could be eaten. Just not something that suits my craving at the moment. What a difference. Open a can of green beans for breakfast? Peanut butter on a spoon for dinner? A bowl of white rice or plain pasta as a meal? How ridiculous that we throw away left-overs because we are sick of eating the same thing for more than a couple meals. My friend calls these “first world problems”. I don’t know what it’s like to be truly hungry and I hope I never learn. I am thankful for having food to eat and to feed my family.
I am an information junkie. I wonder. I ask questions. I like to know things. I may forget them quickly, but when a question occurs to me, I like to get an answer right away. I like that instant gratification. So I am grateful for the internet and Wi-Fi connections. Social media aside, I absolutely love having the world at my fingertips. I have a hard time disconnecting, not because of the social aspects but because there is so much information out there. Yes, I am aware that much of it is false. Occasionally I am taken in by a false story. But I think I’m a pretty level headed and analytical person and can cut through most of the bull. I can’t imagine not being able to get the answer to my questions instantly any more. I remember when you had to go to the library and search for the answers to your questions. Each question was a lengthy search and sometimes you just never found what you were looking for. Remember when you would change the topic of your research report to fit the information you could find? I have to admit I did that more than a few times. I am in awe of the people who create internet search programs that make it possible to find the right information with just a few key words. I am thankful for the internet.
These are just a few of the things for which I am thankful. They are things that I don’t often give much thought. I could certainly list others such as electricity, books, pets, and more. But I think you get the idea. What do you take for granted?
Saturday, May 4, 2013
Saturday, March 30, 2013
Sometimes you just have to yell:
Monday, August 27, 2012
Thursday, August 23, 2012
Friday, February 17, 2012
Later that morning I passed a former student with his vision specialist working in a small office. He is especially bright and has very sophisticated critical thinking skills for a second grader. So I explained that we had been watching the movie and asked him to tell her what he learned from it.
Very slowly, in his stuttering kind of voice he said "Well, I.. I learned. I learned..." We waited anxiously for his insight, certain it would be brilliant as he is. "I learned...never go to a school with all white kids." (ah, innocence)
We laughed, of course, and explained that he missed the point of the movie. But did he? Maybe it is we who are missing the point. Our school is 99% African American, 75.5% free and reduced lunch and not likely to change any time soon. We have no supplies, no ink for printers, no toner for copy machines, few workbooks, few textbooks. There are no noon hour aides to watch over the kids at lunch, no lunch recess; no vocal music, no art. We share a violin teacher with 5 schools and consider ourselves very fortunate. When she retires this year, she will not be replaced. There is no nurse. The ceiling leaks in many classrooms, including mine, only half of the lights in my class are working. The list could go on and on. The threat of closure looms over our every breath.
Now that I think of it, Brandon is very insightful indeed. He gets it so much more than we do. Not much has really changed, has it?
Tuesday, August 16, 2011
Words are powerful. We’ve heard it before but it can never be said enough. Well thought out words can make you dream of possibilities you’ve never considered. They can make you feel like you’re the most important person in the world or they can convince you that you are worthless. Words are powerful, and yet at times we throw them around like rice at a wedding. They fall scattered among the listeners. We may not even be aware of where they’ve landed or in whose ears.
Words are powerful. That’s what our mothers were trying to tell us when they admonished “if you can’t say anything nice, say nothing at all.” Words can bless, uplift, humor, provoke deep thoughts or gratitude. They can also inflict pain, humiliation, anger and fear. The same person can spend inordinate amounts of time agonizing over which words to use when writing. And yet when they talk, their words are careless, thoughtless, causing unexpected and unintended reactions.
The words we use in our classrooms, as in our home lives, are absorbed eagerly by those that look up to us. How are we using our words to show that each person has value; that although we are different and may see things from different perspectives we can speak and treat each other kindly?
Words are powerful. I’ve been listening to a lot of words this summer, words on the television news, kids programs, and radio shows. I’ve been reading lots and lots of words, particularly on the internet, in the blogs I read and posts on social media sights. I’m discouraged by the words I hear. The words are often hateful and insulting. Even in children’s programming the laugh tracks are heard after insults have been strewn. Only occasionally do I hear or read words that inspire me. And sadly, when I do, they are words that were spoken many years ago and just replayed over and over.
It seems to me that we have more opportunity to make our words heard than ever before in history. Yet, it's as though everyone is talking and no one is listening. Is it because in the rush to have our words heard we aren’t thinking about them anymore? There is a popular saying these days that if you just keep repeating something often enough and loud enough people will begin to accept it as the truth. Are we in a struggle to see who can establish their words as the truth? I wonder.
How are we using our words to create change rather than just noise? Words are meaningless unless they are followed by actions. Do our actions support the words we speak? Those children’s shows that insult and create characters subject to repeated pranks are often followed by public service messages that denounce bullying. Twenty minutes of programming versus a 60 second PSA. Politicians slinging insults at each other during primary elections hold hands and become running mates after election night, hoping we will forget the venom they spit just 24 short hours ago. What message are they sending about the importance or reliability of their words?
Words are powerful indeed. We now have the technology to capture every one of our written and spoken words. Words that can be pulled out from mothballs, manipulated and repeated out of context. And in doing so, someone can create an image of you that is not truthful. Yet, the people who know you will remember you best by your actions. What will your actions say about you?
I was prompted to think about the effect words have while watching an episode of How I Met Your Mother last night. The setting of the episode was the funeral service for Marshall’s father. Each family member would talk about the last words spoken to them. Most were loving, touching and inspiring. But poor Marshall was agonized by the fact that his father’s last words to him were a movie recommendation. In turn, he prompted each of his friends to recall the last words spoken by their own father if they turned out to indeed be the final words spoken.
Ten years before he passed away, my father suffered a massive stroke. As a result, he lost his ability to communicate with us beyond grunts and a few gestures and soon gave that up as well. I tried to recall my father’s last words to me before that fateful blood clot traveled to his brain. I just couldn’t. Instead, like Marshall, what I discovered is so cliche – that actions really do speak louder than words. The lessons our fathers (mine real, his fictional) set for us by example are what makes us who we are. Without speaking it, my father was able to demonstrate how to treat people kindly and with respect. He taught me about charity by helping others when they needed it. Even though he lacked an education himself, I knew how much he valued mine by what he gave up to see that I had one.
It would be rare for someone to know which words will be their last. Or to have the time to carefully craft something that lives on in the minds of our listeners. Words are powerful indeed, but it just may be that actions are more powerful still. And when the two can live up to each other, imagine the legacy that will be left behind.
Click the link to see the episode that inspired these words.
How I Met Your Mother: Last Words