As I was driving from Calgary on Sunday, several flocks of birds circled above the highway. If it had been one bird, I wouldn’t have noticed. It was the astonishing unison and acrobatics of the flock that caught my attention. Individuals moving as if a single entity. They swooped down, changed direction – once, twice and again – until descending for a landing simultaneously. Synergy.
I witnessed the same synergy at our school today, and the days leading up to today, as we prepared for Leadership Day. I was privy to the sharing of ideas, the behind the scenes work, the attention to detail and the willingness of each individual to contribute in whatever way possible. We said ‘this’ needs to be done and the hands went up: “consider it done.” Individual strengths surfaced as the day came together.
Typically we notice the collective effect of the stars in the sky. Yet without the contribution of the individuals, the effect would not be spectacular.
I credit each member of our staff for making this day spectacular. “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” Helen Keller
Do you ever question why people stand in the middle of a grocery store aisle seemingly oblivious to the fact that they are blocking your way? Do you wonder why students sometimes wield unkind language towards their peers? Do you wonder why some parents seem to make a mountain out of a molehill?
When we encounter people – children or adults – who act or react in ways we don’t understand, we can be quick to cast judgements. And yet most individuals are doing the best they can with the skills, circumstance and knowledge they have.
After taking my grandmother out for her 91st birthday today, I was reminded how much our life experience shapes who we are. These experiences are hidden to most others. Though we may see the choices someone makes, we cannot see what leads them to these choices, positive or negative.
Perhaps the stranger at the grocery store is distracted by a recent medical diagnosis. Perhaps the student hurling words at a classmate, heard those same words directed at him that very morning. Perhaps the parent is dealing with her own insecurities and fear. Perhaps we will never know ‘why’ as the answers lie deep within the past.
What I do know: today I will do my best and that is all I can expect of others.
I recently finished reading The End of Your Life Book Club. Will Schwalbe recounts the final years of his mother’s life; the chemotherapy treatments, the countless medical appointments and the many ‘lasts’ one experiences when confronting death are punctuated by the books they read. The books themselves span the gamut from humorous to spiritual, mystery to memoir, classic to contemporary.
On the last page of the book, the author sums up his mother’s feelings about the printed word: “She never wavered in her conviction that books are the most powerful tool in the human arsenal, that reading all kinds of books, in whatever format you choose – electronic (even though that wasn’t for her) or printed, or audio – is the grandest entertainment, and also is how you take part in the human conversation.”
While reading the book, I kept thinking, I’d love to converse with the author and his mother. I wanted to join in their discussions and debate. I wanted to share their love of words and books.
When I closed the cover one final time, I realized I was doing just that. Through the act of reading, I was part of their conversation. I was sharing with them their love of words and books.
Reading allows us to enter the human conversation which defies both time and distance. Reading reveals possibilities not otherwise considered, changes our thoughts, cultivates empathy and expands our experiences. Reading is one grand conversation.
As Will asked his mother, I now ask you, “What are you reading?”
Last week when we returned from Spring Break the students were ecstatic to discover that a cavern had formed under the snow leading to several tributaries. Thank goodness for rubber boots! The other night, my four year old niece let loose and danced her heart out. Her giggles and exuberance were contagious. A few days ago I brought a pomegranate to school for my ESL students to try. I was thanked as if I had brought them each a suitcase full of cash.
Children have the ability to live in the moment, enjoy nature’s surprises and relish new experiences. They radiate pure happiness. How lucky we are to be surrounded by them each day!